How The Signet Ring Became The Men’s Jewellery Trend Of 2020

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How The Signet Ring Became The Men’s Jewellery Trend Of 2020

Words by Ms Molly Isabella Smith

26 February 2020

Signet rings are important because they’re giving you a sign of legitimacy, but also they are giving you privacy

The signet ring is also wrapped up in ideas of identity. In many ways it became an extension of yourself. “There’s this feeling that [signet rings] are very business-like,” Ms Bide says. But, she adds, they were also used to define relationships, both formal fraternities – such as the freemasons – and in more informal situations. Fathers would pass their signet rings to sons, wives would give them to husbands and vice versa, but men also used them as a kind of “friendship” ring. “You have men exchanging signet rings as a sort of marker of their esteem in the 19th century, but before that as well,” Ms Bide says. “This is quite a significant thing, because the signet ring is so personal. Whatever the design – whether it’s a coat of arms or your initials or a symbol that is pertinent to you – giving your signet ring to a friend is an important act.”

An example that sticks out is Mr John Everett Millais urging fellow artist Mr William Holman Hunt to purchase a signet ring with their initials intertwined before he set off for a long stint in Syria. “In truth I don’t think I should have the strength to say goodbye… I cry like an infant over the thought that I may not see you again – I wish I had something to remember you by, and I desire that you should go [and] get yourself a signet ring which you must always wear…” he penned to his friend at the time.

Which brings me back to Jack, who tells me I’m not the first person to ask, however reluctantly, why he wears a signet ring. We’ve been taught that obvious displays of affection between men are inappropriate; that men should stifle their emotions and to prompt them to do otherwise is bound to make everyone feel a little uncomfortable. But those assumptions are fading fast; as our definition of what it means to be a man changes, menswear’s rules and restrictions are slackening, too.

Is it a leap to say that our evolving and expanding definition of masculinity is responsible for the recent rise of signet rings? Probably. But while the cause might be hard to pin down, it’s hard to deny the correlation. For Mr Andrew Bunney though, a jewellery designer whose MR PORTER-stocked collection includes an array of signet rings, it’s more straightforward. “It is a timeless article,” he says. “As a style, it is easy to wear and a good mix between casual and formal. It’s nice to have something permanent and long-lasting.”

How to wear a signet ring

Thinking of investing in a signet ring? Our Style Director, Mr Olie Arnold, has some words of wisdom to keep in mind

01. Stick to one

“Less is definitely more when it comes to choosing pieces to wear alongside or with a signet ring (unless you’re a blingy kind of guy)”

02. Match your metals

“I also like to keep to one kind of metal, too. So, if I’m wearing a gold ring, I’ll ensure that my watch and bracelet complement it.”

03. Size matters

“The size of the signet should also be in proportion with your hands. If you have slim hands, opt for something smaller and vice versa. Larger hands suit squared-off or oval shapes, whereas smaller ones will be able to carry off round bezels.”

04. Nail it

“Finally, keep your nails in check. There’s nothing worse than someone showing off a new purchase and their nails are chewed to bits.”

Signet of the times