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The people of Mesopotamia were probably the first to use signet rings starting around the year 3500 B.C. Initially, softer materials like ivory and softer gemstones were used in signet rings, but as technology progressed, harder stones were also used.
Signet rings were usually engraved with a crest in a mirror image. The ring was pressed in hot wax to officiate documents relating to trade and politics, and this crest was engraved in either the gold of the ring itself or in a semi-precious gemstone that was set into the stone.
Today, people don’t need signet rings for that specific purpose, yet the ring is still very popular. For men, it is a very accepted piece of jewelry to own next to their watch and wedding ring. The crest is often replaced by engraved initials or a faceted or cabochon (semi-precious) stone.
Although usually worn on the ring finger opposite the hand with the wedding band, some men prefer to wear their signet ring on their pinky. Therefore, a signet ring is sometimes also referred to as a "pinky ring."
When a new pope is selected, a signet ring is made especially for him, depicting Saint Peter in a fishing boat and the pope’s name. Although he doesn’t use his ring to officiate documents anymore, one of the first things that is done after his death is still to destroy the ring
Signet rings were always passed on from father to son when he took “reign” of the family. This tradition is still held in some families
One very prominent man who wears his signet ring on his pinky is Prince Charles of Wales