Modern signet rings are pieces of jewelry usually engraved with the wearer's initials or other personalized designs. The bands may be very ornate, with Celtic or Egyptian influences, or rather plain. Designers often present an array of fashionable but blank bands and request engraving information from the customer. Class rings with initials on a flat bezel may be considered signet rings.
Today's signet rings are largely ornamental, with personal initials replacing the intricate coat of arms found on antique rings. Historically, they were used by politicians, religious leaders and wealthy citizens as a form of official signature. Documents and decrees were often sealed with wax or soft clay to prevent tampering, allowing the bearers of signets to press their distinctive seals into the material. For this reason, they are also called seal rings.
One important difference between antique signet rings and their modern counterparts has to do with these official seals. In the past, authentic rings were functional as well as ornamental, so they had to be readily recognized as official. The engravers would create a mirror image of the wearer's coat of arms, initials or signature, so the seals would not contain a reversed image. Modern forms are not used as official signatures, so the engravings are no longer done in mirror style.
Antique signets are highly collectible, primarily because of their scarcity. Only a few authorized copies of these rings were ever created, in order to reduce the chances of fraud. Quite often, the official rings of popes would be ceremonially destroyed upon their deaths. Surviving signet rings of political leaders or other notable personalities would most likely be found in museum collections or under strict lock and key.
Modern signet rings can be ordered through retail jewelry stores, catalogs or online shopping outlets. In general, a blank band is selected first and then the various fonts and script lettering can be chosen. Custom designs are often generated from detailed photographs or drawings provided by the customer. They are not usually decorated with large stones, relying more on the intricacies of the band and the engraving for their visual appeal.