Men’s Signet Rings: A Stand-Out Accessory With Tons Of Style (And History)

by   |  in Style Tips

For many guys, a watch is the only accessory we wear. If we’re married, we get a ring. Other than that, accessorizing just isn’t something we talk about often.

Here’s the thing, though: it all comes down to the subtle details. A well-placed bracelet or necklace can set you apart from the crowd.

Gentlemen, today we’re going to talk about the mack daddy of all accessories… the signet ring.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • what exactly is a signet ring,
  • how to wear one, and
  • where to buy the best signet rings…

…so you can add another stunning detail to your wardrobe today.

What is a Signet Ring?

Signet rings have been around a long time. Let me rephrase that… they’ve been around a looooong time.

A Brief History of Signet Rings

I’m talking since 3500 BCE, when Mesopotamians were using limestone rings to print worship scrolls for the Sun Gods.

Total ballers, those Mesopotamians.

Throughout the Middle Ages, people in power used signet rings to seal official documents. The engraving on the ring, when pressed into melted wax, created a signature. Hence the term “signet.”

Signet Ring of John, Imperial Spatharios, 10th century, Byzantine, from Metropolitan Museum of Art New York
via Metropolitan Museum of Art

While a signet ring doesn’t carry the same official weight it used to, wonderful little clubs like biker gangs and Freemasons still make use of them.

The signet ring can still be a symbol of power, as when worn by the head of a family. In some cases, rings are passed down from generation to generation, symbolizing a priceless family heirloom.

Why You Should Start Wearing a Signet Ring

Not all of us (probably none of us) have an heirloom signet ring. But does that mean we shouldn’t wear one?

Of course not.

Signet rings are a perfect balance between bold and understated.

rebus signet ring on middle finger with vintage turquoise signet ring on pinky finger

On the one hand (no pun intended) it’s a large ring, so there’s bravado and a little bit of peacocking attached.

But at the same time, it’s a ring, so it’s likely the smallest accessory you’ll be wearing.

Nothing says masculine and “in charge” like a signet ring, so if you want to play off those vibes, you should definitely consider rocking one.

Where Can I Buy a Custom Signet Ring?

I’m going to assume we’re on the same page and are going for the “quality over quantity” approach here.

Sure, you could pick up a cheap signet ring from, say, Etsy, and that’s totally fine if you want to experiment with the look and need something affordable.

But if you’re ready to make big moves and want to add a handsome, high-quality signet ring to your jewelry collection, I suggest going with UK-based Rebus.

Rebus Signet Rings

Precious metal signet rings die-stamped, handmade and hand engraved at their in-house workshop in Hatton Garden, London’s famed jewelry quarter.

Shop Now Learn More

The Style Of Your Signet Ring

Signet rings come in all shapes and metals. The most common shapes are:

  • Round
  • Oval
  • Oxford Oval
  • Octagon
  • Cushion
signet ring shapes from rebus
Different signet ring shapes, via Rebus

Consider your finger shape before buying. If you’ve got larger, rounder fingers, ring shapes like the Oxford oval or square cushion will help visually lengthen your finger.

If you’ve got skinnier fingers and want to add a little optical bulk to them, round and oval shapes are your best bet.

And as far as precious metal choice, Rebus gives you options in white gold, yellow gold, rose gold, and platinum.

The metal color you choose is totally up to you. I’d consider the color of the other jewelry you wear, and buy something similar, so that all your metals match.

The Best Engraving For Your Signet Ring

Let’s chat engraving really quickly. When you’re customizing your signet ring, there’s a right and a wrong way to go.

A lot of companies out there will laser etch a custom logo or design for you on the ring’s surface, which looks cool, but isn’t the traditional way to do it. We prefer the old school method of reverse seal engraving.

gold signet ring with wax impression example from rebus
Reverse seal engraved knight on gold oval signet ring from Rebus. The engraving is in reverse so when pressed into wax, the seal is right side up.

If your goal is to create a piece you can use and enjoy today, while eventually becoming an heirloom you can pass down as part of your legacy, we definitely recommend seal engraving over any other method.

man engraving signet ring

I encourage you to read all about what makes the creation of Rebus’ signet rings special. There’s a lot that goes into it, and frankly, it’s fascinating.

They’ve been making custom rings for 39 years and employ some of the best goldsmiths and engravers in England. Their handwork is fantastic and the look is something you can’t reproduce with a machine.

If you’ve never compared a mass-produced, computerized laser etching with bespoke hand engraving, you’ll have to trust us here, but the difference is huge.

rebus traditional hand engraved initials into cushion signet ring
Can you believe this was engraved by hand? Insane.

If you love the idea of having a custom design but you’re not sure what to choose, they have a huge database of family crests, monogrammed, initials, and talismans.

I typed my family name “Barton” into their database and here are some of the possible family crests that came up:

A few options for the Barton surname in the Rebus catalogue

Are you kidding me? Griffins, owls, dragons… an ACORN!?

SO cool.

Signet rings from Rebus start around $730, and the precious metal combined with the quality (not to mention meticulous attention to detail) of the hand-engraving, you’ll have a fantastic piece you can pass down to the next generation.

Rebus Signet Rings

Precious metal signet rings die-stamped, handmade and hand engraved at their in-house workshop in Hatton Garden, London’s famed jewelry quarter.

Shop Now Learn More

How to Wear a Signet Ring

There are a few ways to crush it when wearing a signet ring, but be careful because it’s easy to overdo.

A classic placement is the ring finger on your right hand.

A ring on your left ring finger means “taken”, so even if you’re not married, reserve that space because you don’t want to give off any unwanted signals.

Signet ring with formal attire

One of our favorite examples is James Bond in A View to Kill.

via GQ

He pairs a simple gold and black ring with an all-white getup. He’s wearing the signet ring on his right hand ring finger. Oh, and this particular ring also happens to be a high-tech spy camera.

As symbols of power and class, signet rings fit in perfectly with formal attire.

Signet ring with business casual outfits

Don’t have any black-tie events coming up? No worries.

Signet rings look great in business or business casual outfits, too.

via Instagram

So even if you’re not in a full suit, you can wear your signet ring just as you would any other accessory.

If anything, adding accessories like a signet ring will only improve and elevate your overall look and will show that you’re a man that pays attention to the little details 😉

Casual outfit with signet rings?

Check this out: You don’t even need to dress up at all just to wear a signet ring. For instance, check out pro-photographer-turned-YouTube-fan-favorite, Peter McKinnon.

peter mckinnon signet rings
Photos via Peter McKinnon

Peter has a more rugged, casual street style, and in general, is much more laid back (think jeans and a hoodie).

But as you can see, bold signet rings fit right in with his style. So if you have a similar casual look you sport on a daily basis, know that you, too, can pull off a great signet ring.

“How many signet rings can I wear?”

We suggest never going beyond two signet rings at the same time. Adding a third becomes a bit distracting.

You can add a third or even fourth ring (on a different hand), but they shouldn’t be the bold signet ring style.

The key to timeless style is balance.

If you’re wearing a watch, bracelet and a signet ring all on the same side, you’ll need to balance out the other hand. Switch your bracelet over for a much more even look.

Rebus Signet Rings

Precious metal signet rings die-stamped, handmade and hand engraved at their in-house workshop in Hatton Garden, London’s famed jewelry quarter.

Shop Now Learn More

“Which Fingers Should I Wear My Ring On?”

You can wear your signet ring on any finger. You’ll notice that in this article’s photos, each person wears it on different fingers.

Barron wears his on his middle finger (see below).

When you wear your ring on your pinky, it traditionally means you have an affiliation with whatever organization or club the ring comes from.

rebus signet ring with wedding ring and black dial rolex watch on left hand

So if you have a class, championship, or another organization ring (think Elk’s club, Shriners, Masons) those go on the pinky.

But other than that, there isn’t any tradition or special significance to wearing your ring on any other finger (besides the left hand ring-finger—that’s for marriage). So go ahead and wear it on any finger you want.

Put a (Signet) Ring On It

Gents, we don’t have many opportunities to accessorize. Beyond the watch and the wedding ring, we’re pretty strapped for options.

But with the lack of options, there’s a surprising opportunity.

Because most guys don’t wear a bold accessory like a signet ring, putting one on gives you a signature look that’ll make you stand out in a crowd.

Whether you want to rock a single signet ring, or toss a few on for real boss vibes, do yourself a favor and check out Rebus.

Their fully customizable rings are perfect for customizing your own unique look that’s unapologetically you. Plus, you’ll be creating an heirloom worthy of passing down to future generations.

So what do ya’ say? I think it’s time to revive the old signet ring tradition.

Rebus Signet Rings

Precious metal signet rings die-stamped, handmade and hand engraved at their in-house workshop in Hatton Garden, London’s famed jewelry quarter.

Shop Now Learn More

A note from Barron: Thanks to Rebus for partnering with us on this informative article. I’ve been wanting to write an article about signet rings for a while now, and Rebus made that possible. I’m proud to partner with THE standard in custom signet rings. So if you’re looking to invest in a custom signet ring of your own, please consider Rebus! More info here.