October 26, 2021

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The Fascinating History Behind the British Royal Family’s Favorite Ring



Meghan Markle talking on a cell phone: Royal from Prince Charles to Meghan Markle wears this defining jewel. Here's what to know about the history of signet rings.


© Max Mumby/Indigo – Getty Images
Royal from Prince Charles to Meghan Markle wears this defining jewel. Here’s what to know about the history of signet rings.

Since the mid-1970s, Prince Charles has worn the same gold signet ring on his left pinky finger that bears the crest of the Prince of Wales. The importance of this ring is underscored in The Crown, where his character often appears sheepishly twirling the jewel, perhaps because it signifies the promise that, one day, he will be crowned king. Last worn by his uncle, the Duke of Windsor, who was the Prince of Wales before he ascended the throne, the ring dates back 175 years. It’s Charles’s power piece—and it never comes off.



Prince Charles, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall are posing for a picture: Prince Charles wearing his signet ring on his wedding day to Camilla.


© Tim Graham – Getty Images
Prince Charles wearing his signet ring on his wedding day to Camilla.

It’s not just Prince Charles who is loyal to the signet ring. While the style is often considered a gentleman’s ring, it’s favored by royal women, too: Princess Diana wore a signet ring given to her by Charles before their wedding, and Meghan Markle and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, both have their own symbolic signet rings.

Naturally it’s a style that’s been prevalent in royal families for centuries, but it’s especially symbolic to Prince Charles, who was given his signet ring by his mother when she gave him the title of Prince of Wales. The jewel is engraved with a crown with feather and the phrase“ich dien,” which translates to “I serve,” a reminder of his service to the country. Since marrying Camilla, he’s worn it stacked with his wedding band just as his wife does with hers.

Even Kate Middleton’s family started wearing signet rings after the Queen bestowed them with an official Coat of Arms before the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were married. It was a sort of ‘welcome to the family’ gesture. The Middletons didn’t waste any time getting their newly appointed crest emblazoned on signet rings that are frequently worn by Kate’s parents and her siblings Pippa and James.



Pippa Middleton sitting in a car: Kate’s sister Pippa wearing a signet ring at the 2012 US Open.


© Clive Brunskill – Getty Images
Kate’s sister Pippa wearing a signet ring at the 2012 US Open.

Signet rings date as far back as 3500 B.C. when Mesopotamians wore cylindrical seals that they stamped in clay or wax to approve documents. In the Middle Ages, the rings were also used as a sealed signature which identified a person’s coat of arms and political allegiance. Once a person died, their signet ring was usually destroyed to avoid any forgeries. Through the 19th century, the style was mainly worn by royalty, aristocrats, and government officials whose status and heritage were engraved in a gold or silver ring. But by the 20th century, the ring’s purpose as a source of security was no longer required, and more gentlemen adopted the tradition of wearing signet rings, which are also called ‘gent’s rings.’

You don’t need to be a royal or marry into an aristocratic family to get your own family crest or coat of arms. The Rebus jewelry store in London has stacks of old books with family crests and symbols that anyone can adopt. The Rebus team will even help you track down a similar likeness to your family name or origins and engrave it on gold or silver rings, or they will help you design your own insignia.

The signet ring is a style that has taken off recently as people look for more personalized pieces. Some new styles have a vintage spirit and are engraved with initials, while other contemporary versions are framed in diamonds. Here are some of the best new signet rings that can define your status.



a close up of electronics: Rebus Stone Set Cushion Signet Ring


© rebussignetrings.com
Rebus Stone Set Cushion Signet Ring

$1170.00

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Establish a new family tradition with Rebus’s customizable signet ring, offered in a range of stones and carved with any letter or motif–even a family crest.



a close up of a pair of blue shoes: Castro Smith Heart Ring


© castrosmith.com
Castro Smith Heart Ring

£2200.00

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Castro Smith’s hand-engraved rings add a pop of artistic color to any wardrobe with bright ceramic images of nature and historical and mythological references.



a close up of a game: Tiffany & Co Gold Signet Ring


© tiffany.com
Tiffany & Co Gold Signet Ring

$2800.00

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A timeless accessory, a gold pinky ring is an elegant layering piece.



a close up of a hand: Golden Eye Chevalier Ring


© ileanamakri.com
Golden Eye Chevalier Ring

2465.00

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A playful pinky ring with the Greek designer’s signature evil eye is also a form of symbolic protection.



a close up of a necklace: Letter Signet Ring


© jadetrau.com
Letter Signet Ring

$2600.00

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The chicest monogram is emblazoned in gold and surrounded with a circle of tiny sparkly diamonds.



logo, company name: Checker Signet Ring


© alisonlou.com
Checker Signet Ring

$950.00

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A playful take on a classic, Alison Lou’s checkered signet rings in bright combinations of red and blue or pink and mint are the perfect summer jewel.



14kt Gold Signet Ring


© mateonewyork.com
14kt Gold Signet Ring

$750.00

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A minimalist gold signet ring is the kind of classic that you can make your style signifier.



a close up of a necklace: Gold Open Heart Signet Ring


© missoma.com
Gold Open Heart Signet Ring

$115.00

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It’s Meghan Markle’s go-to pinky ring, and it symbolizes love and friendship



a close up of a clock: Big Daddy Signet


© foundrae.com
Big Daddy Signet

$4675.00

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Engraved with a compass, Foundrae’s signet ring is designed to serve as a reminder for its wearers to “keep adjusting course to align better with their purpose and beliefs,” says its designer.



a close up of a logo: Love Signet Ring


© retrouvai.com
Love Signet Ring

$3290.00

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The kissing cheetahs are a symbol of love and are a part of Retrouvai’s Alchemy series, which includes hand-engraved motifs that represent transformation and creation.



White Gold and Diamond Signet Ring


© stanleykorshak.com
White Gold and Diamond Signet Ring

$6125.00

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A diamond signet ring with sparkling stars delivers a regal image.



a necklace on a table: 19k Gold Bee Cushion Ring


© neimanmarcus.com
19k Gold Bee Cushion Ring

$4450.00

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Inspired by ancient rings, Elizabeth Locke’s 19-carat gold cushion ring is hand-engraved with a bee.



18-karat gold, turquoise and diamond signet ring


© net-a-porter.com
18-karat gold, turquoise and diamond signet ring

$3100.00

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Sorellina makes it easy to customize signet rings in a range of colors with diamond-studded letters and symbols.



Gold Signet Ring


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Gold Signet Ring

$3520.00

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The chunky brushed gold ring appears like a family heirloom with a great history.



Petrvs Bee Signet Pinky Ring wth Black Onyx in 18K Gold


© davidyurman.com
Petrvs Bee Signet Pinky Ring wth Black Onyx in 18K Gold

$2700.00

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David Yurman’s genderless signet rings are engraved with images inspired by ancient artifacts.



icon: FAMILY SIGNET RING


© jenniferfisherjewelry.com
FAMILY SIGNET RING

$3500.00

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A classic gold signet ring engraved with letters and symbols and set with a wearer’s birthstone is an elegant, personalized expression.



9-karat gold, lapis lazuli and diamond ring


© net-a-porter.com
9-karat gold, lapis lazuli and diamond ring

$675.00

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The French designer scouts vintage flea markets for ideas for her stylish pieces, like this colorful signet ring.



a close up of a logo: Ancient Greek Bee Coin Ring


© brokenenglishjewelry.com
Ancient Greek Bee Coin Ring

$12000.00

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An instant heirloom, Halili set this rare coin in a weighty gold pinky ring.



Substantial Bloodstone Intaglio and Yellow Gold Unisex Signet Lion Seal Ring


© 1stdibs.com
Substantial Bloodstone Intaglio and Yellow Gold Unisex Signet Lion Seal Ring

$1404.23

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Strong and bold, this vintage ring is an empowering talisman with a symbolic lion engraved in stone.

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