Bronze Signet from Antiquity
Once a used as signature or a form of legal authentication, and later as identification as to different types of work or hobbies when pressed into sealing wax, signet rings have been long been one of the most functional rings throughout history. During ancient times through the 19th century, they also featured family crests, rebuses, monograms and religious symbols in different colors of metal, gems such as amethyst, garnet and sapphire and hard stones. They were signifiers of identity and offered insight in the people that wore them. Today they do not have the function of sealing a letter or authenticating a document but they are still linked to who we are and are a stylish form of revealing what we believe and imagery and symbolism to which we are drawn.
Sealing Wax Stamp from 18th Century
Signet Ring with coat of arms dating back to approximately 1535
Sapphire inscribed signet with the saying Read what is hidden, hide what is read’
On November 2, 2021, Rachel Church, curator, author and authority on rings of antiquity through the present and uber talent hand engraver and jeweler Castro Smith will explore signets throughout time and in the modern world. Over the past five to ten years, they have become of the most popular styles of rings to wear and collect, whether they are designed by diverse range of jewelry designers, who like Castro, are reinventing these styles of rings in a contemporary context or they are original antique and vintage styles which attract an audience devoted to the authentic and rare rings of the past centuries.
Castro Smith hand engraved contemporary signet ring with inspiration
Castro Smith modern hand engraved signet ring
he event is entitled Style and Signature: Signet Rings Through Time and if you are in London, you can see it live at the Goldsmith’s Centre or you can sign up for the Zoom version. A wide range of examples from the permanent collection of V&A Museum as well as other museums such as Rijksmuseum of the Netherlands and a selection of Castro’s rings will be shown throughout the program in person and on Zoom .
Rachel Church shares a titbit of what she will be speaking about: “Signet rings are probably one of the earliest forms of rings and have proved to be long lasting. Even in an age of email and text, where no letter will ever require sealing wax, they continue to be stylish jewels – a way to showcase your good taste and identity on your finger. Signet rings could be decorated with initials, skulls, coats of arms, devices and even a portrait of your pet dog – there is no limit to the possibilities of design.”
Castro Smith at his bench engraving one of his signet rings
And Castro Smith explains, “Signet rings have historically an essence of masculinity, but my engraved rings are equally embraced by women. I don’t make men’s rings or women’s rings, but powerful designs with equally powerful imagery. They are a canvas for my creativity. I am delighted to be sharing my passion for signet rings and tell the story behind my pieces at the Goldsmiths’ Centre’s upcoming talk.”
The event is what Charlotte Dew, Public Programme Manager at the Goldsmiths’ Centre: explains,” is a hybrid event and is being done in partnership with Fellows Auction House. We are delighted and excited to feature such esteemed speakers as Rachel Church and Castro Smith which guarantees a fascinating insight into the signet ring”
Alexandra Whittaker, PR & Communications Manager at Fellows Auctioneers says “I am thrilled that Fellows is partnering with the Goldsmiths’ Centre for this riveting signet ring talk by Rachel Church and Castro Smith. The Goldsmiths’ Centre’s reputation for innovation and education is strongly aligned with our own mission to demystify the auction process.
Signet ring for Archbishop William Thomson
We have been lucky enough to hear Rachel speak at our events in the past – her knowledge about rings is second-to-none. I am personally a fan of Castro’s work and I think our attendees will be too. This talk is not to be missed, particularly for jewellery lovers and fashion aficionados. I’m so glad that we can offer this talk as a hybrid event. People can join online from the comfort of their own homes or in person, making it very accessible to the jewelry community.”
Why not attend which ever way you can and then decide on which style signet rings wins your seal of approval and offers your mark of distinction?