A signet - from the Latin "signum" translating to "sign" - is a style of ring with a long history. Dating back as far as Ancient Egypt, signet rings of yore featured a family crest or distinctive emblem that was used as a seal on important documents and correspondence. The tradition of these rings continued into the more modern day in Great Britain and were used for their intended purpose (as an authoritative signature) well into the 19th century. Even as the days of sealing wax were left behind, the signet ring continued to be worn as signifier of identity, and later as a prestige piece and and a gentleman's ring. This vintage English signet ring is modeled in 18k yellow gold with an undulating six-pointed star shape and the motto "Jours Propi[o]."
RETRO (1935 - 1945)
World War II marked the shift from Art Deco to retro, as yet another war (and the subsequent materials rations) dictated what was available on the jewelry market. Platinum was reserved for military use, so jewelers began relying heavily on gold and experimenting with colored alloys and different finishes. Retro jewelry designs are marked by asymmetry, motifs borrowed from industrial design, and exaggerated scale.
Thanks to a hugely successful advertising campaign begun in the 1940s and funded by De Beers, the phrase “a diamond is forever” was coined and diamond rings were touted as the ONLY acceptable type of engagement ring. Carefully worded ads instructed men on how to choose a stone, and what to spend (“two months salary!”). The Gemological Institute of America developed the so-called “4Cs” of diamond grading, which was a scientific system for measuring the color, clarity, cut and carat weight of every single diamond.
The costume jewelry industry, having only been established a few decades before, began to flourish. Centered in Providence, Rhode Island, and surrounding New England towns, companies like Trifari, Monet, Hobe, and Vendome prospered as consumers gobbled up inexpensive machine-made jewels.