When you look at a picture of my grandmother and you forget the type of clothes she wears she is like my identical twin. A bit scary, to be honest. We look alike and we have the same character: playful and we like to laugh. When she turns 18 years old her father gives her a signet ring with her initials F&L of Florence Linssen. And since we have the same first name and the L is the second character in the name Florence, I inherit that ring. Not only because I like the ring, but also because she told me that ‘a signet ring shows the world that you are powerful’.
He has the ring, but I keep the power!
And I could use that power. In my childhood I have polio and I need the power to walk and to study. The power to do the things I want to do, and do them myself. The signet ring represents the feeling ‘Florenceje selluf doen’ or in English ‘Florence wants to it herself’.
The sad thing is that this golden signet ring with her initials is stolen. The thief cannot do anything with it then melt it for the gold. Well, he has the ring, but I keep the power!
What is a signet ring?
A signet ring or a seal ring is a very old ornament and dates from the Antique Times. In those days only priests can read and write, which makes them very powerful. They have a great influence on the kings and other noblemen, but there is one thing they cannot do. And that is deciding on state matters.
They can write a letter or contract. Maybe even they can write something that the king does not want, but does not notice because he cannot read it. And when the kind cannot write he cannot sign the papers, there is no signature in those days.
The solution is a signet ring.
Carve in relief and use hot wax
The workmen carve in relief a kind of signature in stone. The king closes the letter and puts a little hot wax on the closure of the letter. Then he presses the stone with his ‘signature’ in the hot wax and that is the proof that the letter comes from him.
The ‘signature’ contains some symbols of the king’s family. And his name. All in relief or intaglio so that the receiver can read from whom the letter is.
The history of…
In Ancient Mesopotamia (the country between the Eufrat and the Tigris, now Iran) they use carved cylinder seals that people wear around their neck on a string. The reason why is not known to me but I think it is not very practical. You lose that cylinder and take the cylinder off to use it. Well, in times the cylinder turns into a ring which is easier to use when you want to sign a paper.
Since the 15th century BC the Pharao’s and people in high places (mostly the priests) in Egypt use signet rings. Made of turquoise in the shape of the holy animal, the Scarabee. Their name and the symbol of their family are on the signet. The Scarabee is beaded on a pin and attached between the actual ring. You can turn the stone around. So on one side, there is the scarabee and on the other side your ‘signature’. And they use the signet ring also as a kind of passport. With the ring you show the authorities who you are.
The ring on the pinky finger
The rings are made of iron, silver, or gold and the stone is made of quartz, ivory, or chalcedony. That is any gemstone that is a bit softer is used. In Roman Times the shape of the ring is oval and not too big. And it becomes custom to wear the signet ring on the little finger of the non-dominant hand. So when you are ‘right’ you wear the ring on the left pink.
It stays in the family
Actually, until today people wear signet rings. Of course today it is not necessary to sign with the ring. Now it is more a piece of jewelry that is in the family for ages. Prince Charles, Duke of Wales, has a signet ring that is 175 years old. He wears it every day together with his wedding ring on one finger.
Even President Franklin Roosevelt has a signet ring, that he inherits from his father. And his father gets it from his father. Sometimes the signet ring is a symbol of brotherhood. Like every graduate from a certain year has the same signet ring. Most of the time the ‘rings of the family’ have an inscription and the ‘brotherhood’ ring only a plain seal, made of a gem.
The signet ring as a symbol of power.
From the Antique Times on the signet rings are used by people that send letters and contracts. Consequently most of them are kings and noblemen and maybe priests. That ring is a symbol of power and it is important that the ring does not come into the wrong hands.
For instance the Pontiff’s ring of the Pope is a signet ring, made of gold. When the Pope dies her servants destroy his ring (that is the story, but in the video there is another explanation). And nobody uses it anymore. The new Pope gets another ring, with his signature and symbols.
Sneaky signet rings
Since a long time signet rings are also used to identify a spy. In WOII the pilots have a signet ring with a hidden compartment under the stone. In that compartment they hide a small message or stuff to commit suicide when captured. The jewelers in Regent Street are very surprised when MI9 order signet rings with a compass in it, to use for espionage.
My grandmother knows that the signet ring gives me power. Therefore she gives this ring to me. In history, it is obvious that the ring is a symbol of power and identity. A long time the signet ring is a piece of jewelry only worn by men. But my grandmother, way ahead of her time, shows with this ring that is it time that women start wearing a signet ring. To give them power and their own identity (when necessary).
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Hugs, Florence of FlorenceJewelshop