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Signet Rings

5. Signet Ring Engraving

The finishing touch to any signet ring is the engraving. Bentley & Skinner are proud to have access to the UK’s finest hand engravers, ensuring your signet ring represents the ultimate in unique character and beauty.

Engraving the ring

Tools & Process

When engraving a signet ring with the likes of initials, crest or coat of arms, the most commonly used tool is called a graver. A hardened steel graver is used to cut lines that expand or shrink in the metal, depending on the angle that is used. The graver can be used with hand pressure alone or with a small lightweight hammer.

Engraving hard stone signet rings involves cutting into the surface of the stone. However, in some cases the lower layers of stone can be different in colour to the top, giving a beautiful contrast and extra dimension to the engraved design.

When engraving a signet ring with the likes of initials, crest or coat of arms, the most commonly used tool is called a graver. A hardened steel graver is used to cut lines that expand or shrink in the metal, depending on the angle that is used. The graver can be used with hand pressure alone or with a small lightweight hammer.

Engraving hard stone signet rings involves cutting into the surface of the stone. However, in some cases the lower layers of stone can be different in colour to the top, giving a beautiful contrast and extra dimension to the engraved design.

Fine hand engraving

Deep Seal Versus Surface-Cut Engraving

Deep seal hand engraving on a signet ring gives an engraving with a deep relief similar to the signet rings of past centuries, when the ring would be used to emboss sealing wax on letters and documentation. The design is carved deeply and in reverse into the precious metal or stone. Whether you choose to use your ring as a seal, or seek a traditional look, deep seal hand engraving gives a striking and authentic result.

Surface-cut engraving is undertaken in much the same way that a copper plate is engraved to produce prints. Surface-cut engraving looks very effective but is not as long wearing as deep seal engraving.

Fine deep seal hand engraving

Wax from fine deep seal hand engraving

Fine surface hand engraving

Deep seal machine engraving

Wax from deep seal machine engraving

Surface machine engraving

Hand Engraving Versus Machine Engraving

In the digital age, it is increasingly rare to find traditional hand processes at work. Hand engraving is a time-consuming process, reliant on the skill of the craftsman, whereas machine engraving is a fast, efficient method to create uniform results.

When our seal engraver engraves a seal onto a signet ring, he dusts the surface of the ring with a fine layer of powder and using a feather, draws the design in reverse onto the head of the ring. When satisfied with design, our engraver then draws a more permanent design onto the ring, using a scriber. For the classic signet ring, he then uses a hand-held wooden handled graver with a steel blade handcrafted to fit the specific job to carve into the precious metal.

Engraving a stone-set signet ring is a different skill. Instead of cutting into the ring with steel tools our engraver uses miniature wheels, which are attached to a lathe. He holds the stone head of the signet ring against the turning wheel and, applying pressure carved away the stone.

After many hours of skilful work, the completed ring is pressing into soft modelling clay to show an impression of the finished engraving. The ring is brushed, cleaned and two final wax impressions are taken, one for you and one for our archives. The head of the ring is lapped on a wheel made of an alloy of led and tin until the surface is highly polished to produce a mirror finish. Finally the ring is held against a spinning mop of layers of calico cloth applied with jewellers’ rouge to ensure a beautiful deep glow.

Although we offer both types of engraving we always recommend that your signet ring engravings is carried out by hand, as we believe the precious and individual qualities of a signet ring should be reflected in the unique nature and character resulting from hand engraving.

Engraving Crests, Arms And Mottos

Traditionally used as a way to rouse the spirits and bring people and communities together, crests, arms and mottos have long been used to represent the origins and values of families, institutions and groups and were previously worn by knights as a form of identification. At Bentley & Skinner we have a comprehensive catalogue of crests and associated mottos within which we can research for your signet ring engraving.

Engraving Monograms

Monograms allow you to use letters to create a unique mark, overlapping and combining the letters into a decorative design. Traditionally name initials, the monogram could even combine the first letters of a personal motto or profession – created with two or three letters.
The design of your monogram can be unique, and we can guide you through styles and ideas to create a monogram signet ring engraving that is one of a kind, and a perfect personal representation of you.

Engraving Talismans

Every picture can tell a story and a talisman engraving on your signet ring can be a powerful portrayal of your character, beliefs and passions. We invite you to submit artwork for your special talisman with its own symbolism and meaning.

Engraving Inner Shank Inscriptions

As a final touch in the personalisation of your signet ring, our expert engravers can add an inscription of up to twenty-four characters in Roman block or script lettering to the inner band. This could be a significant date, name, initials or motto for example, beautifully and discreetly placed as a unique and personal reminder or memento.

Fine deep seal engraving

The Bentley & Skinner Signet Ring