Opinion: Selling signet rings

Being more proud of tradition at King’s

A signet ring (Photo: Matt Stickland)

A signet ring (Photo: Matt Stickland)

It’s around this time of year that graduating students start to think about how best to commemorate their time and education at King’s. Sweaters are a good idea but often can go threadbare with use over the years. Mugs are good, and relatively permanent, although often succumb to sudden exposure to gravity. So, many students decide to commemorate their time at King’s with a ring.

King’s Co-op Bookstore has a wide variety of rings with the university crest forged into the face of the ring.

These types of rings have a long and proud tradition, in much the same way King’s does. They were used to mark the authenticity of a document. Rulers or other holders of office would wear a ring worn on their pinky finger, emblazoned with their family crest, or crest of office. When rulers needed to ensure their missives were not read or tampered with they would place hot lead or wax on the sealing edge and press their ring into it, sealing the letter, and ensuring privacy

Over the years there has been some evolution to these rings; oval forged rings for women instead of a circle. Churches and other religious intuitions also adopted a more oval seal. Any text in these rings was written backwards so that when pressed into wax the words would be legible to the receiver of the message.

Using a ring to seal a letter mostly started to fall out of favour once anyone could just buy a ring with their trade or family crest engraved into it. For official documentation, notaries have moved on to pressing into paper or rubber stamps.

There are still some institutions that sell rings with official crests as a marker of a proud tradition. Although, most of these places have realized that no one but me actually uses wax to seal envelopes, so they have started selling signet rings that are not mirror images. They’re not able to be read if used as a stamp, but they look better day-to-day.

A little bit of pulling back the curtain is now required. This story was originally pitched as “why doesn’t King’s sell true signet rings, the mirror image version, if tradition is important?” As someone who owns this type of ring, it was deemed worthwhile to try and get a picture of a real signet ring, beside a “fake” one.

To do that permission was needed from the advancement office. In the debate that followed, the advancement office was adamant to say they don’t claim to sell signet rings; the rings are marketed as crest rings. Which is kind of like saying there’s a difference between President’s Choice “Eat the Middle First” cookies and Oreos or PC Fruity O’s and Froot Loops.

The advancement office also wanted to make it clear that if someone wanted a real signet ring, they could get one through the advancement office.

If real signet rings are available for purchase, and we are proud of tradition, why aren’t we marketing the rings as signet rings, which even if backwards, they technically are?

Hell, Oxford does it, why don’t we?