Photo by Salt Water New England

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Heraldic Signet Rings?

 

Dear Editor, 

What is the community’s opinion on heraldic signet rings, in America, across the pond, and on the continent. Is it considered affected, especially under a certain age?  And which finger is it best worn on?

Happy New Year! Thank you! 


48 comments:

  1. If class rings quality for your survey, my undergrad class ring I always wear when out and about.

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    1. They do qualify, thank you for the reply.
      -OP

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  2. In my line of work only bishops have that privilege, so not for me.

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  3. I see no issue with coming up with your own crest. For context I'm 28, American, southern born living in the northeast. It's a little affected, sure, but that doesn't bother me. Every family crest was invented at some point, it's nice if it's handed down to you but if you go back far enough, one of your ancestors was the first to use it. If I lived in a place where crests had genuine historical meaning and context, I might feel differently. But I don't, and I don't see an issue in making your own because you want one. There's a jewelry designer in NYC named Kim Dunham who will design individual crests for clients and make signet rings with them. I think that's pretty cool. I don't condone taking an existing crest that doesn't belong to you, though.

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    1. OP here, my question was more about rings specifically (not creating a crest) since I have already inherited a coat of arms. Although I 100% agree with you about creating your own, nothing wrong with it. Cheers

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    2. Thank you for this information about Kim Dunham.
      It is much appreciated.

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    3. I am trying to tread lightly here, but I want to explain to you the etiquette of family crests. They are not just 'created'.....they are something that was 'granted' to a family and then 'certified.' That doesn't happen in this country. You can do whatever you please, but it comes off as very parvenu-ish. I am trying to say this as politely as possible.

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    4. https://www.thoughtco.com/family-coats-of-arms-1422009

      I strongly suggest you read this for more information.

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    5. Speaking as someone who inherited a centuries old coat of arms, if you do not live in a country with a current heraldic authority (UK, Ireland, Canada, Belgium, SA, etc.), there is absolutely nothing wrong with creating (correct term is assuming) arms. There are many heraldic societies that do this, as well as register inherited arms. All traditions started at some point, why not start yours. All this should be done with a strict adherence to heraldic rules and customs of course.

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    6. https://www.americanheraldry.org/education-resources/grants-and-registrations/heraldic-registration-in-the-united-states

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  4. Speaking as a European-American, I can confirm that these days, it’s seen as an affectation, best to be avoided to prevent ridicule. That is, unless one comes from a noble family or one belongs to a venerable society, or one is an Oxbridge don. It’s usually worn on the pinky. I come from a distantly noble Spanish family myself and am almost 60, but even I avoid wearing one.

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    1. I'm an Oxford graduate, and I never encountered a don who wouldn't have been laughed out of town for wearing a signet ring.

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  5. I have worn a ring with my initials in block, deeply engraved, since the late 1970s. I wear it on my right hand on the ring finger. It never draws comment, good or bad. The initials face me, not you. I am closing in on 72. I wear my wedding band on the other hand. I had it put it on on July 12, 1975, and have never taken it off. The two rings are the same color.

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  6. As someone mentioned earlier, I wear my graduate ring from university. I do so because after closing my previous business, I went back to school and received my graduate degree, and I feel rather proud. I feel such rings are OK and have their place.

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  7. Sure, if your father gives it to you as his father did as his father did...

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  8. My brother received a ring with the family crest (we have had the crest for centuries and were some kind of clerics back in the day when it was created). He preferred to wear it on his ring finger rather than the pinkie.

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  9. I have a family crest ring, belonged to my grandmother, used it with sealing wax as a child to seal thank you notes after Christmas. I wore it for years, but my fingers are too fat now for me to wear it. I should get it resized.

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  10. Everyone is of course entitled to their own opinion, and I hope I am to mine... I can trace my family to the 1200s and during the years, some family members have been “titled”, some not. But we have a family crest and I am proud to use it even if I do not have a “title”... I was at one time told that one wears a crest ring on the left ring finger (closest to the heart) and then shift it to the opposite hand when married. However the “rules” vary from country to country... If this ring offends anyone... so be it...

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  11. My simple signet ring, with my 3 initials has been on my little finger for as long as I can remember. Thank you!

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  12. As an American with nearly 400 years of heritage as an American, with ancestors who sacrificed in every way possible why would I not wear a ring displaying my family crest. Be worthy of your Heritage.

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    1. https://www.thoughtco.com/family-coats-of-arms-1422009

      I am worthy of my heritage which means realizing I was born into it and did absolutely nothing to deserve it. There are many, many rules of etiquette for displaying/wearing a family crest. I strongly suggest you read the above article on the truth behind 'family crests'. My family has also been here since the beginning. I am in every lineage group and also suspect my families entrance into the Social Register has much to do with that lineage. Being 'worthy' of it, to me, simply means to be a good
      American.

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  13. My brother always wears the gold family crest ring he inherited from my father and he plans to leave it to his son. So, to me, it seems a quite normal thing for a man to wear. (Don't remember which finger though.)

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  14. In the french nobility a woman wears her crest ring on her little left finger, a man on his left ring finger. As practiced by members of Association de la Noblesse Francaise (ANF). It is of course considered old-fashioned, which can be positively or negatively understood...

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  15. The diversity of opinions speaks to the diversity of readers of this blog which is wonderful. No-one in my family wears a signet ring, but I have had friends who did. They wore it on their pinky finger (although I can't remember which hand). I feel that if you are proud of your heritage and want to wear a ring, go ahead. We are surrounded by built-in obsolescence. From software to electronics, clothes to kitchens, our society has become habituated to throwing out antiques and heirlooms for the latest trend. If people see you as affected or outdated, that is their business. I spent a lot of my teenage and college years playing down my background to make other people comfortable, and as a result, I didn't always embrace my heritage. If you have the opportunity to embrace yours, in a way that makes you comfortable, you should do so.

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  16. Unsolicited advice from the Peanut Gallery:
    From the original question asked, with the words “considered affected”
    I gather this is not about any ring worn. Nor regulations of (a perpetual change).
    Is this about reactions, lack of respect from others/society when worn? If I may, I would reply- your respect to yourself matters far more than reactions of tiny-minded people, whom lack respect speaking up against, when such ring is worn.
    I would rather one would be far more constructive, tell you if or ever your fly was unzipped, not any putdown.

    Gerunt ea in caritate, salutem et felicitatem!

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  17. In her book "Watching the English," Kate Fox talks about signet rings as an indication of a Englishman's social class:

    "Any rings other than a plain wedding ring indicate that the wearer is probably no higher than middle-middle. Some upper-middle and upper-class males might wear a signet ring, engraved with their family crest, on the little finger of their left hand, but these are also often sported by pretentious middle-middles, so they are not a reliable guide. A signet ring with initials on it rather than a crest, and worn on any other finger, is lower middle."

    Of course, this is not the U.K., where those deemed worthy can apply to the College of Arms for a personal coat of arms and then have the crest (which is the device at the top of the coat of arms--like a knight's helmet or some such) engraved on a ring. Purists will have the reverse image engraved so it reads properly after being pressed into sealing wax.

    The Preppy Handbook mentions signet rings for men on page 144. It approves of "either family crest or school crest" worn upon "the fourth finger of either hand." But then on page 170, it shows the "young executive" wearing a signet ring on his right pinky. So there you are.

    I think think the best approach is to inherit a signet ring--and the coat of arms that goes with it--and then leave it in the sock drawer to admire in private moments.

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    1. My grandmother came from an upper-middle North Shore of Boston family and by the time she was 16 her parents were tragically deceased and she went from having the help to being the help. Her betrothed, a first generation Greek immigrant, gave her a signet ring with her initials engraved as an engagement ring. That ring was cut off her swollen fingers when she was pregnant with her first born. Shortly after here death, at age 101, my mother gave it to me and said that my grandmother wanted me to have it. I wear it on my left pinky finger because my 50+ old fingers are not slim enough to wear it on any other finger. I also wear my mother engagement ring, my mother-in-laws wedding ring, and the ring that my husband gave to me. I love looking down and seeing three generations of marriages on my hand. I don't care if it is low class. And, if you like a ring, so what if it is affected. Where what makes you feel happy, like yourself, and don't if someone judges you for it, well, they have no class.

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    2. anonymous at 5:07.....that's beautiful.

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  18. List of acceptable men's jewelry: wedding band, wristwatch, cufflinks and studs when called for. That's it.

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    1. J. Press, a favored prep purveyor, often features tie bars. I prefer more sprezzatura.

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    2. Tie bars are OK, but should only be worn with a clip-on tie, short-sleeved shirt, and a pocket protector.

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    3. If you're going to pull off this tie bar look...need to be old & have some gravitas with a dose of mojo & snap...ie Fred Astaire & James Stewart. Same with collar clasp. Of course, I violated my own advice as a young professional in the early 70's. ..collar clasp with B2 Club Collar Shirt.

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    4. U.S. Marines are issued tie clasps.

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  19. I wear my grandfather's signet ring with his initials. It was also worn by my father and they were Senior and Junior. I am not the 3rd--no one is--but I was given the ring and wear it whenever it occurs to me. I will pass it on to my nephew at some point (who has another set of initials).

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  20. I inherited my Grandfather's ring with our family coat of arms. It was hand engraved in the 1940's by Cartier, I wear it only while sporting black-tie. I can't bring myself to wear a pinky ring while wearing chino's with an OCBD. Feels like oil and water.

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  21. On occasion, I would wear my father's signet ring, which he had made in Egypt during WWII, while fighting under British command against the "Nasties". I suspect it was purchased at the khan al khlili market in Cairo. Dad was the second of three sons, and so his eldest brother would have inherited "the ring". That brother was killed at Auschwitz, as a political (read:resistance fighter) prisoner. The ring I inherited from my father is simple, though interesting, with a scale pattern around it, and his initials carved in relief on top: first initial in the middle, with the surname initial in the background. The whole thing's made from 24k gold. He had two made - which I have. I've worn the smaller one, as note above; Dad had markedly larger fingers. Mainly, however, they sit in a safety deposit box. That kind of bling is a bit much, except on special occasions, which are becoming fewer as time marches on... Mainly, I wear my wedding band - a Haida original in silver and gold - and a nice Swiss watch. No need for anything else. I'll pass the signet rings down to my nephew when he marries, along with a watch (a family tradition on my Mum's side).

    Your intrepid reader from north of the 49th parallel,

    Banacek

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  22. I wear a simple platinum wedding band daily. I wouldn’t purchase a signet, but inherited two family rings with crests. Like an earlier anonymous, I appreciate mine but they spend most of their time in a drawer with miscellaneous family rings, watches, studs, watch chains, etc. I find all of it a bit affected but they carry sentimental value that outweighs the melt value. The one time I did break it all out was for a wedding I was invited to in the UK—it worked wonderfully with morning attire and I wasn’t the only one all kitted out.

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  23. What seems an eternity ago, I encountered a British colleague wearing a pinky ring bearing a crest. I asked him about it, and he answered - with a degree of false modesty that I found disengenuous - that it was only about two hundred years old. We got to talking about our respective families, a bit, and the discussion went smashingly until he discovered his was junior to mine. We haven't spoken since. I suspect - in his case- it was all about the affectation. It's not the symbol that matters, as much as what it means to you - the wearer. Affectations rarely succeed. My father's signet holds a sentimental meaning for me that outweighs our various extant family coats of arms, bling aside.

    B.

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    1. Which shows that people look for any and all excuses to elevate themselves above others. Even in DAR women are so snobbish about the rank of their Revolutionary patriot, always looking for one-upmanship. I find it absurd.

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    2. ^ Yes, Tom Wolfe argued many years ago that what Maslow missed in his hierarchy is the need for status.

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    3. All well-said above. My mum's family has a family crest from Spain, but I have never felt any desire to wear that on a ring, to display that on a wall, or even refer to it amongst friends other than in passing when relevant. I want to stress here that it is a personal opinion of mine: I am proud of my own family's heritage; not because I can trace it back to a very long time ago, but because I have had a couple of very admirable ancestors. I just don't have the need to flaunt that sort of thing because it would imply that I need status, and I do find it irrelevant and meaningless. I accept that a signet ring may be worn because of a sentimental family attachment, but more than that would be an unfortunate affectation, particularly here in Europe. I would be prouder of a family legacy that empowers or helps people much more than what cachet or prestige a name or coat of arms could bring.

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    4. ...my antecedents were of two schools: the first is comprised of fine individuals with high principles and formed the bulwark of the societies they inhabited; the second were roguish, though also highly principled. I too am proud of them (both of them), and hope that in some small way my life has reflected their values (writ large, despite our differing life experiences - as much a product of geography as culture). ...couldn't agree more with your comments about public service. It's the true measure of nobility. As long as its focus is on the betterment of others, and not one's self (afraid I've seen a bit much of the latter, including in public service); self-aggrandisement isn't pretty...

      Cheers,

      B.

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  24. I have a school ring which one might call signet (the school emblem, but not a beaver :-) but it isn’t heraldic. I wear that on one ring finger and my wedding band on the other. This practice seems quite common in North America.

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  25. "I wear the Ring" - Pat Conroy, The Lords of Discipline

    Graduates of The Citadel, V.M.I and the U.S. Military Academies have long placed a high value of pride on their class rings. I don't consider these "signet rings" though.

    I wear mine as I have everyday since I received it as a senior cadet nearly 20 years ago. I often meet other Citadel men or graduates of other military colleges and we instantly recognize one another from our class rings. I've seen many so well worn that they are almost a plain gold band after decades of faithful wear.

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  26. With all due respect to the varied opinions expressed here, it you have to ask a group forum what their opinion is on wearing legitimate heraldic signet rings, you probably don't have the confidence and comfort required to wear one.

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