Chevalier ring, an accessory rooted in history
A jewel, but not only: the chevalier ring is a symbol rich in meaning and history, whose roots go back to the ancient cultures of Mesopotamia. Also called a ‘signet ring‘, this jewel has left behind its peculiar functions of the past, becoming exclusively a ring with aesthetic value: let’s take a look at the history of the chevalier ring, as well as how to wear it in the right way.
Chevalier ring: history
The earliest chevalier-like rings can be dated to around 3,000 BC: seals of this type have been found among the remains of ancient Mesopotamian civilisations. However, it is known that the importance and diffusion of the chevalier ring increased later in Ancient Egypt, where this jewellery was worn not only by members of the aristocracy, but also by the pharaohs themselves, to emphasise their prestige.
The chevalier ring thus traverses several epochs, ending up in the Middle Ages. Here, the signet ring partly changes its meaning: it becomes a symbol of the power of an entire family, and as such is handed down from generation to generation, from father to son. It must also be said that it was precisely the seal inlaid on the ring that made it possible to validate important documents through the use of sealing wax: from this point of view, it is therefore possible to recognise medieval chevalier rings as important instruments for giving legal validity to contracts and the like.
The chevalier ring today
Today, the chevalier ring no longer has any function as a validation tool. It retains its prestige and charm, however, in the face of other changes. While the signet ring used to be solely a male piece of jewellery, today it has become genderless, with various fashion houses proposing year after year female models of the most diverse designs. Just in the last few years, the chevalier ring has come back into fashion, a touch of class in an elegant, sophisticated and distinguished outfit.
Certainly the meaning relating to a certain affiliation or lineage has disappeared. Nevertheless, the chevalier ring still remains today a peculiar means of affirmation, emphasising a very precise style – also of life.
Chevalier ring: gold and other materials used
The typical chevalier ring is made of gold, from time to time yellow, white or pink. Some examples have a flat head, ready to be engraved, while others are embellished with precious stones, sometimes covering the entire head. Zircons, brilliants, onyxes: when it comes to chevalier rings, maisons do not set themselves any limits, neither in terms of materials nor in terms of patterns, paying attention not only to the workmanship of the ‘seal’, but also of the ring itself. In certain models, in fact, the ring loses its typical smooth surface, accommodating careful workmanship of various kinds.
Where should the chevalier ring be worn?
Many people who have never worn a chevalier ring may legitimately wonder which finger of the hand it should be worn on. At one time, this signet ring was worn by noblemen – men only – on the little finger. The current tradition is that it is worn on the little finger in the case of women, and on the ring finger in the case of men. Since this ring is so personal, however, transgression of the rules is not at all uncommon, with chevaliers wearing it on their index finger.
Undoubtedly, when speaking of a particularly challenging ring, the general advice is to wear the chevalier on a bare hand, thus without any other rings or bracelets to distract attention from the ‘star’.
Chevalier rings and celebrities
Over the centuries, thousands of knights, nobles and aristocrats have worn a chevalier ring. Looking back to recent times, the most famous wearers of this jewel include Winston Churchill, who used to tap it heavily on the armrest of his armchair in moments of nervousness: the grooves of this custom can still be seen today. Remaining in the United Kingdom, King Charles has for decades sported a chevalier ring originally belonging to Edward VIII, bearing the seal of the Prince of Wales. And other great figures of the recent past who habitually wore this jewellery were Steve McQueen, Frank Sinatra and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.