Now that we've gone over why I'm adding a signet ring to my everyday jewelry rotation and the composition and style points I'm looking for, I want to go over the fun stuff - the engraving! In this post I'm going to share the different options for engraving types as well as the designs available and ultimately which I've chosen and why.
ENGRAVING TYPES - MACHINE, HAND & LASER
To kick things off, let's go over the types of engraving available. Generally speaking, there are three types of engraving and each offers a different end result to suit a customer's preferences and budget. In my research I've seen more than these three but for the sake of this post I'm only going to showcase these as they seem to be the most common. These types are machine engraving, hand engraving and laser engraving and I've outlined a little more about each one below.
- MACHINE ENGRAVING: First up is machine engraving. This method of engraving is very popular among many well-known, mass producing jewelers and much like the name suggests, it utilizes a machine for the engraving and I've seen it frequently tied to surface engravings. To create this type of engraving, the ring or pendant is secured in place and an engraving tool executes the inscription or design while the engraver or designer traces the pattern. As you can imagine, this method can be limiting because the machinery is only capable of producing the templates it is equipped with so you have to choose what's available and are left with no room for creativity. Also, as with most mechanically produces items the engravings tend to be very precise and neat with very little (if any) variation from piece to piece and the engravings aren't very deep so they may not last very long before needing a touch-up.
- HAND ENGRAVING: Next up is my personal favorite - hand engraving or seal engraving as it is sometimes referred to. Much as the name suggests, this type of engraving is expertly executed by hand, often in reverse to suit the original use of signets, and is an art form that has been around for thousands of years. As with anything done by hand, no two pieces are exactly alike so you can ensure a level of uniqueness to your piece when you choose this method. Also, because of the time and expertise required to perfect such an engraving, hand engraving tends to take longer and justifiably cost more than the other two options. Another major benefit of this method is the freedom it allows. Rather than being bound by the restraints of a machine's templates, hand engraving allows for virtually any design under the sun and is 100% customizable for each person. This method also results in a deeper engraving that lasts for generations. Plus, it's absolutely gorgeous!
- LASER ENGRAVING: Last but not least, laser engraving is very similar to machine engraving in that it also uses a machine to execute the design, but it offers more flexibility. In this case, a design is programed into a computer and produced by a laser (machine). Unlike machine engraving that is limited to only a set number of templates, laser engraving allows for more customization but just like machine engraving these designs are often very precise and neat and have little to no variation in each cut which ultimately creates a very uniform looking design. Another benefit of laser engraving is the variety of metals that it can be used on other than gold - such as titanium and stainless steel. This allows for more options to suit your individual budget and personal preferences.
ENGRAVING STYLES & DESIGNS
Now that we've gone over the types of engravings, I want to touch on the styles and designs you can choose from. As you can imagine, your design choices are often dictated by the engraving type you choose, but traditionally speaking signets are engraved with either a heraldic symbol or family crest, personal monogram or custom design. Here I've outlined a little more about each.
HERALDRY: First up is heraldry which is essentially "the system by which coats of arms and other armorial bearings are devised, described, and regulated." As you can imagine, there is an incredible amount of history housed within the study and use of heraldry and to have a deep understanding of both heraldry and heraldic symbols can take years. For the sake of this post I am only going to lightly touch on the two main categories that are often utilized in signet ring design.
FAMILY CREST OR COAT OF ARMS: A coat of arms or crest is a heraldic design that represents a family or families, person, state, organization or corporation. Given the historical purpose of a signet ring, you can imagine that these are a very popular choice for engravings. Often times in this instance a customer will go into the signet ring process with their crest already available, but if you're interested in this route and don't know your crest the best signet ring designers will help you find it! In the case of Ruff's Signet Rings, Ali explained that they "have books of crests available (Fairbairn’s and Debrett’s) and are always happy to help customers find a crest." Ali also shared that "there isn’t a crest for every name and sometimes there are tens of crests for one name!" If you don't have a crest though, not to worry because "you have a great opportunity to create your own design and should never be put off a signet ring due to lack of crest!" So wonderfully said and I completely agree! Which brings us to the next category - heraldic symbols.
HERALDIC SYMBOLS: Technically, family crests are heraldic symbols but here I want to go over the use of individual symbols such as birds, crowns etc. When it comes to symbolism there are countless options with different meanings to suit everyone and it's my personal favorite for engravings. As a lover of symbolism, I'm fascinated by the meanings behind different flowers, animals and figures and it's something that I love for personalizing jewelry, accessories and housewares. Even though the study of symbolism is varied and diverse, a simple google search will often suffice to help you narrow in on the symbols that best represent you and your hopes, dreams, values and characteristics.
MONOGRAM OR INITIALS: Next up is a monogram or initials and is another fan favorite when it comes to signet rings. I love the personalization that comes from having your monogram etched into a signet ring and I think that it's a wonderful way to customize not only your jewelry but also your clothing and decor - in moderation of course. Much like symbols and coats of arms, the design options are endless for these and especially if you work with a designer who will be hand engraving your signet, you can choose just about any font under the sun.
CUSTOMIZED, ORIGINAL DESIGN: Last but not least (for the sake of this post) is a 100% original customized design. I LOVE the idea of an already personalized item being customized even further and have seen designs that range from sentimental to funny and each one tells a story unique to the owner that makes it so special. Plus, if you work with a truly stellar signet ring designer liker Ruff's, they can help you design something unique. I asked Ali of Ruff's this very question and I'd love to share her response with you now.
Q: I love how customizable signet rings are. If a customer wants an original engraving that isn't a family crest, monogram or heraldic symbol, can your team help them design something unique? We certainly can. We have some talented artists at our deposal who can turn the most basic sketches or even verbal idea into something really special. When customers are designing something themselves we ask them to think about what's sentimental to them. Maybe there’s an animal or a plant. It may be that a heraldic image of this already exists or we start entirely from scratch. Either way the result is always beautiful. These rings are often my favourites and you can see some great examples of these on our Instagram feed.
WHAT I CHOSE & WHY
When it came time for me to choose the engraving for my signet, I knew I wanted something memorable but was initially overwhelmed by all of the choices. Should I try and track down my family crest? Should I get my initials? As I scoured the internet and Pinterest for ideas, I asked my sisters what words, feelings or animals came to mind when they thought of me. Almost immediately, they agreed on a bumblebee because they're small but strong and efficient.
I instantly loved it so I began searching for bumblebee engravings and fell more in love with every image. As if that weren't enough though, I also uncovered that the bee is connected to the sun and often represents brightness. The bee also symbolizes community, cooperation, hard work and personal power - how cool is that?
What's more, many sources claim that the bumblebee serves as a reminder to pursue your dreams, no matter how great they seem and to also extract the sweetness of life. These lessons are exactly what I strive to get out of life every day and I couldn't be happier about having a delicate reminder on my hand.
When it comes to my exact engraving, Ali at Ruff's sent over a selection of traditional bumblebee engravings and each were incredibly beautiful - which didn't make it any easier to decide!
Ultimately though, I picked the image to the left because I love the dainty bee and cluster of roses - my favorite flower because of their divine smell and the fact that they represent love, passion and devotion which are also characteristics I strive for in life.
Also, when I asked Ali what the symbolism behind the twisted rope was, she explained that it's actually what's known as a wreath and it's what all crests sit on - how cool! You can of course have this omitted if you prefer the design without it.
And there you have it! Now that I've decided on every detail that goes into a signet, the ring is off at the engravers and I can't wait to share the final product with you in the coming weeks. I couldn't be more excited about the entire process and Ali and the Ruff's team have been a complete dream to work with! I want to take a moment now to thank them again for such a remarkable opportunity and I am over the moon with excitement for the final product. When that time comes I'll of course be sharing loads of pictures and uploading a video on YouTube that will summarize everything we've reviewed so that you can easily reference it for your own signet. I'll also of course be sharing few styling tips to round it all out.