The Story of a Signet Ring Commission
If you’ve ever wondered how a signet ring gets made – from initial consultation to finished piece then read on.
When commissioning a signet ring, most clients will come to visit us in our boutique in the Burlington Arcade to discuss their options face to face. However, we also have many customers who don’t live in the UK and those people will typically contact us via this website or via email to begin the process of creating a signet ring. One such gentleman recently got in touch from the Netherlands to enquire about commissioning a ring featuring his family crest.
He knew he wanted yellow gold but also liked the idea of having a hardstone inlay to add some colour to the ring. We offer both 9ct and 18ct gold in this style of ring and after weighing up the different factors of each, 18ct gold was decided on for the warmth and richness of the colour. When it comes to hardstones we have several different options to consider including pale blue chalcedony, vibrant orange carnelian and the beautiful dark green quartz hardstone known as bloodstone. This gem gets its name not from its green body colour but from the little rusty red coloured spots that are speckled throughout it. Thought to resemble drops of blood, these are caused by tiny inclusions of an iron rich mineral which create a striking and unusual effect. This green and red hardstone is perfect for engraving and is the one the client decided upon.
The next step was for the client to send us a large, clear image of the crest he wanted to be engraved. We forwarded this to our engraver to check that there would be enough room on the clients chosen head size for him to capture all the details of the crest and for them to be clearly visible. This is the point at which he can advise us of any small tweaks or modifications that will allow the crest to make best use of the shape of the ring.
This is the image of the crest that was sent to us.
Once all the details had been agreed, our workshops were able to get to work. The ring itself was made in recycled 18ct gold in our classic Oxford oval shape and the hardstone was cut and polished to be inlaid in to the head of the ring. The engraver carefully hand engraved the image of the crest using a technique called ‘seal engraving’. This is where the image is carved deeply into the stone and crucially, it is done so in reverse. This is so that when the ring is used for its traditional purpose of sealing letters and documents by pressing into hot wax, the resulting impression will be the correct way round. The image below shows a ring part way through being engraved.
All our signet rings come with a wax impression of the engraving so that the client can see exactly what it looks like. Whilst some people fully intend on using their ring as a seal, most do not, so the wax provides a means for them to see what the engraving looks like when viewed the right way round. Here is the wax impression for this particular ring.
You will notice the slight difference between the original crest and the engraving. It was decided to slightly curve the basal foliate motif so that instead of being straight across, it followed the curve of the bottom of the shield. This allowed for best use of the full area of the oval ring head meaning the engraving filled the space perfectly and uniformly.
And here is the finished ring! On arrival back from the workshop it was carefully checked over and then put in one of our Hancocks leather signet ring boxes. After being wrapped, packed and whisked overseas to the Netherlands, it arrived safely to its new home where the client was delighted with it. He said “I’m ever so thankful for your guidance and patience needed for the completion of this excellent ring.”
If you are interested in commissioning your own signet ring, please don't hesitate to get in touch.