The Signet Ring. Symbology, tradition, contemporaneity. Spotlight Artworks by Klimt02

Published: 18.10.2023
The Signet Ring. Symbology, tradition, contemporaneity. Spotlight Artworks by Klimt02.
Klimt02, Cécile Maes
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As a large ring with a broad bezel engraved with coats of arms or initials, the signet ring has always been a symbol of heritage and tradition for generations.

We are happy to launch a new content called Spotlight Artworks. Our idea is to connect different themes with powerful artworks which have marked the history of contemporary jewellery and pieces featured on Klimt02.
Passed down from one family member to another, the signet ring represents clan or family affiliation and carries deep symbolic and historical value.

Originally used to authenticate official documents, this iconic jewellery typology has transcended centuries, worn by ancient Egyptian nobles, embraced by religious orders with the renowned Papal Fisherman's Ring, associated with the mafia in the previous century, and now adopted as a fashion statement by the bling-bling generation.

But where does its enduring symbolic weight indeed reside? Is it in its substantial mass or simply in its form, invoking collective references? Several artists have embarked on reinterpreting this classic jewellery item. 

Here we feature for you a special relevant Signet Rings selection.

In 1987, the artist Gerd Rothmann created the artwork Siegelring, representing a modern and conceptual reinterpretation of the traditional signet ring. By imprinting his own marks, Rothmann reintroduces individuality and intimacy into a piece of jewellery that had lost these qualities.

Gerd Rothmann: Siegelring, 1987. Gold. Private Collection.
   >>  More about this artwork and the author   

Noam Elyashiv, by reducing the archetype to a neutral formal silhouette, employs hollow fabrication. The imprint of the seal, once left on an adversary's cheek, now resides solely in its evocation.

Noam Elyashiv: Square Top Signet Rings, 2000. 18k Gold.
    >>  More about this artwork and more artworks by the author    

Karl Fritsch, the contemporary master of rings, challenges the historical traditions of jewellers to question their meaning with his characteristic nonchalance. In 2017, Du bist so toll used the image of the signet ring to highlight its contemporary ambiguity. The ring became a space for individual expression, whether meaningful or not.

Karl Fritsch: Du bist so toll, 2017. Gold. Sold by Ornamentum Gallery.
   >>  More about this artwork and the author   

Zhipeng Wang, one of the winners of the 2021 Preziosa Young Design Competition, explores the concept of jewellery as a carrier of cultural identity. His rings, made from coffee and tea, mirror the evolution of the signet's significance, paralleling how tea and coffee rituals, once tied to nobility, have become part of the Chinese and world's everyday life.

 Zhipeng Wang: Identity, 2022. Chinese tea, German coffee. Photo by Wanying Xie.
   >> More about this artwork     ON SALE    and the author    

The artist Esther Heite, with Signet Antique Tantallum ring, builds a shape made of a flat surface, which creates the typical shape of the signet ring and forms the basis of the whole structure of the piece of jewellery. 

Esther Heite: Signet Antique Tantallum, 2021. Tantallum 999. 
   >> More about this artwork    ON SALE     and the author   

The idea of The Out of Focus Series by Kim Buck emerged when the casting of a silver ring went wrong. The form is that of a signet ring, and an out-of-focus ring of this type is the opposite of what we associate with people who wear signet rings. 

Kim Buck: Series Out of Focus, 2019. Silver and oxidised silver. 
   >> More about this artwork      ON SALE     and the author   

The last one of our selection is Mixed Feelings signet by Stefanie Verhoef contrasts with the massive traditional shape containing a void.

Stefanie Verhoef: Mixed Feelings signet, 2023. Silver. Photo by: Josephine Verhoef.
   >> More about this artwork    ON SALE    and the author   

   >> Discover more Signet Rings at Klimt02   


About the author

Cécile Maes graduated from ENSA Limoges in design specialising in Contemporary Jewellery. Her interest in jewellery grows from the human relationships games it involves. Social object, jewellery creates narratives and becomes a sign. Investigating classical typologies, her work is a re-interpretation where historical references and everyday exploration connect ideas to speak about jewellery, the reasons why we wear it and the meanings we give to it.

Instagram: cilce_maes