Signet Ring with Family Crest


Families with a family crest (or coat of arms) traditionally wear a signet ring with an engraving of their family crest. The different manifestations of carvings of family crests in signet rings are very diverse, depending on a variety of factors, including whether the wearer of the ring is male or female. In this post we will discuss what a coat of arms looks like in a signet ring and what the different possibilities are.

door Guido van der Eerden

Centuries-old tradition

Some people have had a family crest in their family for a long time, others have designed one only recently. A coat of arms is part of an ancient tradition and shows a connection with previous and future generations. It shows, at a glance, what family the person who carries it belongs to. Does your family have a coat of arms? If not, we can design one for you. We can also restore old (usually incomplete) family crests.

Recognisability through symbols and colours was vital on the battlefield

How a family crest looks like on a signet ring

You can see an example of a signet ring with a family crest below. This picture shows the ring and a print of the ring in sealing wax. The engraving of the ring is always engraved in reverse (if it is to be used for sealing - some prefer to not actually use the ring for seals and choose to have it engraved in the proper form), so that the wax seal is displayed correctly.

Signet ring with coat of arms and its wax seal

The above coat of arms consists of several parts that often are reflected in a (full) family crest. Though elements differ from country to country, and even from family to family, in most family crests you can see some identifying elements:

  • The crest: often a reference to an element of the coat of arms.
  • The torse: a rolled up (‘twisted’) cloth on top of the helmet - on the one hand intended to absorb blows of the enemy and on the other hand to mask the (often less attractive) attachment of the crest.
  • The helmet: a grating helmet, often executed with a medallion. This particular helmet is 'seen from the front', instead of the frequently used 'turned' position (facing left - or in rare cases facing right).
  • The mantling: the cloths, fastened at the back of the helmet in the colours of the family.
  • The shield / escutcheon: the central element of recognition of the bearer of the crest.

Colours are displayed hatched in the signet ring

In addition to the elements and figures in the coat of arms, the colours of the coat of arms are determinative for the recognition. In this way, everyone on the battlefield could see to which party someone belonged. This is where the expression “showing one’s colours” comes from. Colours are clearly visible on a painting or a banner, but no colours can be applied to a signet ring. The solution that is traditionally used for signet rings is to work hatching into the engraving - provided there is space available in the engraving. Each hatching represents a different colour. Thus, based on hatching, a full coat of arms can be restored in the correct colours, even if there is only a seal imprint or signet ring present in the family.

Seal wax of a signet ring with in the shield a checked hatching, which represents the heraldic colour black (sable)

The official heraldic colours are: blue (azure), red (gules), green (vert) and black (sable). Furthermore, there are two types of precious metal, shown with yellow for gold (or), and white for silver (argent).

Some of the various hatchings of heraldic colours

Engraving depends on various factors

The most important part of a family crest is the shield. The symbols and the colours of the shield are the most characteristic. How the family crest takes further shape may vary by application. A coat of arms may look different in a painting, a banner, on cloths or in a signet ring – as long as the colours and symbols of the crest are recognizable.

On a signet ring, there are several forms of a family crest as well. A gentleman’s engraving looks different from a lady’s engraving; for women it can also determine whether one is married or unmarried (see below). Moreover, the coat of arms may look different because the heraldic artist adds a certain artistic freedom when processing the coat of arms. This always makes an application personal and unique. Even when applied in a signet ring, a family crest can take many forms.

Many variations in a lady’s engraving

Family crests can take various forms on a signet ring. The shield, for instance, can have a different shape, such as a late-Gothic rounded shield, or a brace shield (often used in the United Kingdom). Especially for lady’s engravings in signet rings, there are many variations available.

There are various views on what would be the most suitable lady’s engraving in a signet ring. Because of this, in practice, there are many manifestations. An unmarried woman generally has a shield in the shape of a diamond, with the family crest of her own family. Regarding married women, we see various forms in practice:

  • a diamond shaped shield, with the family crest of her own family;
  • an oval shield, with either the family crest of her husband or the family crest of her own family;
  • an oval shield, with a divided shield (composed crest of husband and wife);
  • an alliance family crest, which displays both the family crest of the husband and wife;
  • a full family crest (from her husband or her own family).
Full coat of arms, with some examples of lady’s engravings

In addition, there are some variations of the diamond shaped or oval shield, like the shield surmounted by::
  • nothing;
  • only the torse of the family crest;
  • the torse AND the crest;
  • the helmet, torse and crest.

Tradition determines engraving

In some families, and among heraldists, there is some debate which variant of a family crest is proper for a signet ring. For example, there is a view that a (knight’s) helmet does not suit a lady and therefore should not be used in a lady’s engraving. Others argue that this also applies to the crest, because this sign wasn’t worn by women in the past either. In addition, some married women choose a diamond shield, in order to make clear that it regards the family arms of their own family.

What choice is made for an engraving of the seal ring depends first and foremost on the tradition in the family. All forms are available - even in noble families. The use within the family prevails.

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."


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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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