How to Wear a Signet Ring


Did you ever wonder how a signet ring should be worn? On your left hand or your right? And which finger: on the ring finger or, maybe, the little finger? Should the design face you or outward, so others can see it more easily? We'll cover all of those for you here.
by Guido van der Eerden

Wearing a signet ring: which hand, which finger, what direction?

When wearing the signet ring it is primarily about the following questions:

  • Signet ring hand: Do I wear the signet ring on my left or right hand?
  • Signet ring finger: Should it be on my ring finger or little finger (pinky)?
  • Signet ring direction: Does the engraving go facing toward me or outward?

Signet ring hand - on left or right hand?

More often than not, we see that the signet ring is worn on the left hand. The reason for this is not entirely clear. There could be several causes but the most plausible explanation is that the seal ring is worn on the non-preferred (or least-dominant) hand. This is a practical consideration as the signet ring is often worn continuously and is then less of a nuisance. Because most people are right handed, taking the reasoning above into account, the signet ring is worn on the left hand by most people.

Another explanation for wearing the signet ring on the left hand is that it is customary in some countries (like the Netherlands) to wear the wedding ring on the right hand. To prevent wearing two rings on the same hand, the left hand is chosen for the signet ring. This explanation, however, is limited in reach because wearing the wedding ring on the right hand mainly applies to Protestants, while Catholics (and followers of many other faiths) usually wear the wedding ring on the left. (In fact, a random piece of ring history: the Protestants did not wear wedding rings at all for a long time, because they considered it to be a form of vanity. Only in the 19th century did the Protestants reintroduce the use of a wedding ring.)

Signet ring finger

If you have decided on which hand you wear the signet ring, the next question is, "What finger?" In general, a signet ring is worn on the ring finger or little finger / pinky finger. In the Netherlands, most choose the ring finger, but there are also many people who wear the signet ring on the little finger. In England, it is actually very common to wear the signet ring on the little finger.

As a practical consideration for the ring finger, it is commonly argued that the ring (and particularly the seal stone) is better protected against impact, because it does not sit on the outside of the hand. The little finger is often chosen from a practical point of view when other rings are worn on the ring fingers - or simply because this is found prettier. And it goes for both fingers: often it is examined whether there is a (family)tradition which could be followed.

Direction of engraving: towards yourself or facing away from you?

A signet ring with engraving can be worn on the finger in two ways: toward you (viewed from the wearer with the engraving turned down) or away from you (viewed from the wearer with the engraving turned upwards). In practice, both directions are encountered, whereby away from yourself (the crest, or monogram, is visible to others) is the most common.

An exceptionally persistent misconception is that the signet ring should be worn facing outward because, historically, this would be more convenient when sealing letters and documents. The reasoning given for this misconception is that when the ring is used for creating a seal in wax, it is more practical if the ring faces outward so that when the fist with the ring on is put down on the wax, the seal is correctly (i.e., with the top up and bottom down) applied in the wax. However, practice shows that the ring was not historically used this way, since the wearer could easily burn his or her hand in the hot wax if they were to keep the ring on. In common practice, a signet ring will always be taken from the hand, before it is used for a wax sealing.

In certain social groups, the direction of the engraving has a special meaning. An engraving facing away from a person states that one is unmarried, while an engraving facing toward the person means that the wearer is married. However, this indication cannot be fully trusted, since this is not a solid rule and only applies to certain circles. A wedding ring seems a better indication.

For most wearers, however, the wearing of the signet ring is a matter of following personal preference – and, of course, in some cases, family tradition. In terms of personal preference, we often hear that the signet ring is worn for a person’s own pleasure (engraving facing himself) or to show others the engraving (engraving facing outward). Additionally, some consider wearing it facing toward others a courtesy – similar to handing someone a picture, where you give the picture in a way so that it faces the receiver which makes sense, because recognition is, from a historical viewpoint, an important function of a coat of arms.

How to wear a signet ring: tradition and personal preference

When wearing a signet ring, some past choices have been made more than others – through which some traditions were born. For example, as referenced above, in the Netherlands, the seal ring is mostly worn on the ring finger of the left hand, with the engraving facing away from oneself. While a fine tradition, this manner of wearing a signet ring is certainly not a rule for all, and in practice, there are many exceptions- mostly driven by specific family traditions or wearer’s personal preference. So, please, do not fret if you prefer to wear yours on the pinky finger of your right hand. It’s all about how you want to see your signet ring or present it to the world. No one can tell you it’s wrong. Please let us know how you wear your signet ring - and why- we'd love to hear from you!

Article by Guido van der Eerden
is heraldic jeweler and partner at Signet Ring BV (Zegelring BV). Together with his colleagues, Guido helps customers with perfectly handmade custom signet rings. Carefully selecting the most beautiful signet rings and the best heraldic craftsmen from around Europe - and delivering signet rings worldwide, Marlies guarantees high-quality signet rings that you will treasure forever. Every signet ring is created by a partnership between heraldic jeweler, goldsmith, engraver and heraldic experts. "A signet ring really is a personal piece of art - handmade to the millimeter."


About us

Signet Ring (Zegelring BV) is an exclusive heraldic jeweler. Our specialized knowledge of signet rings, family crests and traditions guarantee a personal piece of jewelry that you wear endlessly. All our rings are handmade in Europe and shipped world wide.

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