Signet rings have been around since the time of the ancient Egyptians and go as far back as the 14th century BC, and they have served both an aesthetic and a practical purpose. Having played the role of an official seal in many civilizations, they left their mark throughout written history. Vintage and antique signet rings are highly desirable items, as they symbolise wealth, power, and authority.
Vintage vs. Antique
When it comes to signet rings, no special rules define the boundaries between vintage and antique. Generally speaking though, any from 20 to 100 years old can be considered a vintage signet ring and those older than 100 years are antique.
15th to 19th Century
Earlier on, only males of royal families and the wealthy possessed signet rings. As they were meant to exhibit status and wealth, coat of arms and initials were common engravings. It was not until around the 19th century did men of various social statuses start wearing them. Men's signet rings selections, including gold and silver, are thus much vaster than women's. Prominent stones were bloodstone, garnet, ruby, and cornelian. Those made of pure metal were silver and gold signet rings. Platinum was not often used in the 18th but came back later on in the 19th century.
Victorian Era and Art Nouveau
1837 to 1901 encompasses the Victorian era. During this time, nature inspired designs predominated, and gold features in most jewellery. Near the end of the period, you can find star and crescent motifs. The latter part of the Victorian era overlaps with the Art Nouveau movement, which incorporated Japanese influences in jewellery, with curved and dynamic lines, as well as a continued interested in natural themes, particularly snakes.
Edwardian Era and Art Deco
The Edwardian era and Art Deco represent the border between antique and vintage. The jewellery from the Edwardian era is known for delicate and feminine designs. This leaves room for you to find a women's signet ring or at least one that is not distinctly masculine. Platinum over gold is the signature style of this era, and it is usually combined with diamonds. Platinum and diamonds continue to be trendy even during the Art Deco period, which saw angular and geometric shapes incorporated in the designs along with the use of coloured gems.
The 1950s and 60s saw the production of many jewellery pieces inspired from times past. Signet rings with a coat of arms, crests, and shields meant to replicate this classic jewellery piece are available.