Hot Topic- Signet Rings
I shot a signet ring the other day. I shot it on a massive Cohiba with a bunch of other rings. Quite fancy a signet, so I’ve been test-wearing a silver one (see cigar, third from left) to see how it felt. I don’t ever remember an issue of style soliciting such polarised views from people, including anger and disgust. There is way more to this than style. It's class, aspiration and a comment on modern status all wrapped up around your pinkie. Mental eh?
For those that don’t know, signets rings are for signing off waxed sealed letters with your family crest via a ‘seal engraved’ (reverse image).
Double barrelled signets-
A noble, well-bred Scottish pal of mine wears two, one each for the maternal and paternal sides of his family. Despite being from a notable dynasty, he’s rather relaxed about the whole heritage angle. “It doesn't have to be a family thing - after all, tradition has to start somewhere.” He told me. Nice sentiment Bobby, and on that basis have decided to get involved.
I’ve commissioned jewellery designer and best pal Toby McLellan, AKA Stretch, to make me a white gold signet. His house signet style is shield shaped. I visited him at his bench to get my finger measured. His ideas about design of crests are modern, unfettered and very image led. His personal crest is the distinctive diamond and hand grenade motif. Street code dictates that a man wearing a signet on his right pinkie is putting himself up as a player , I’m told. Pimp style.
I’ve been collared by a couple of posh people who’ve spotted me wearing one almost straight away. On the whole, they’re quite disgusted. ‘What on earth have you got one of those on for, is the gist of it. Then they check to see what is on there: nothing, and then laugh in my face. (You’ll see a pattern emerge there).
I pitched the subject to one of my editors and got told ‘Signets were for either Sloanes or Chavs’. And that’s it, right? I couldn’t agree any less. Things have style moments and I don’t give a monkeys about tradition, I want one. What am I supposed to do, bow out gracefully and agree that they’re not for me. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, misappropriation is everything in style.
A fully blown posh person rounded me when she saw what I was wearing. I explained I was gonna get my emblem done on it, and she was furious saying that people's crests evolved from family battle insignias emblazoned on shields. History is where they stem from, not just invented on a whim. I do apologise, but I’m almost certain my ancestors were scrabbling about in piles of pony at this point, and not thinking about family tradtion at all. She’s posh enough to be explaining to me that Prince Charles wears his wedding ring next to his on his pinkie and that’s quite popular move in those circles. She told me that if I must get one it should be gold. I said it wouldn’t go with most of my watches. The whole notion of it ‘going’ made her laugh out loud at me. (Ahem). Maybe we’re getting to the crux of this. It should also be noted that many of the people eligible to wear them, don’t. They don’t want to be seen like that. They’re also a bit ageing. A bit trad’ maybe. Certain young Sloaney girls are doing them again at the moment. There are parallels. I’ve heard plenty of people laughing at Toffs when they tried to do street, or slum it. Acid House Sloanes were rather entertaining as I remember it, as are Hip Hop Tarquins. The incongruity is the flip reverse. I’m trying to stay neutral for now.
I slipped by Armour Winston Ltd. in Burlington Arcade to look at the scene. I asked the man for a price to get an engraving done. He said he couldn’t possibly tell me. Not an estimate even? He actually got angry with me, saying “This is what we’ve done for years. Depending on what you need engraved we send to off specific people. We don’t do estimates’’.
Christ this is contentious stuff. I might get a fucking anarchy symbol and have done. It is expensive I believe. Hundreds of pounds and way more than the ring itself interestingly.
I’m still thinking about my heraldic arrangement. I’m gonna research it. I believe there was some horse painter or other that I might be related to. I bet he had some crest action going on. We’ll see what feels right anyway.
For now am committing the double heinous crime of wearing one without anything on it. A blank signet. (Its also supposed to go back the shop. Soon Gieves, soon).
There’s a metaphor for ya. Alluding to an empty meaningless life illustrated by lack of substance in jewellery form worn only for show.
And with that I launch the Style&Error franchise, ‘Metaphor of The Day’,