Ancient Egyptian Signet Ring
This signet ring belonging to a person call Sa-Neith, who held the following titles: ‘Prophet and Divine Father’, ‘Director of Chapels (of the goddess Neith)’, ‘Priest of Horus’, ‘He whose two Diadems are Great’, ‘Lord of the City of Letopolis (in the delta; possibly the city of origin of the owner of the ring)’.
The Egyptians primarily used signet, or seal, rings, in which a seal engraved on the bezel can be used to authenticate documents by the wearer. Egyptian seal rings typically had the name and titles of the owner deeply sunk in hieroglyphic characters on an oblong gold bezel.
Originating from the Latin word “signum” meaning “sign”, signet rings originated amongst religious leaders and kings. These rings were used to mark and seal documents by pressing the face which were historically marked with a unique family crest, into hot wax.
The ancient Greeks were more prone to use rings simply for decoration, and in the Hellenistic period the bezel began to be used to hold individual cabochon stones, such as carnelians and garnets, or vitreous pastes. In Rome rings were an important symbol of social status.
In the early centuries of the Roman Republic, most rings were of iron, and the wearing of gold rings was restricted to certain classes, such as patricians who had held high office. But by the 3rd century BC the privilege of wearing rings had been extended to the class of knights, or equites, and by the 3rd century ad, during the Roman Empire, practically any person except a slave was allowed to wear a gold ring.
Late Period, 26th Dynasty, ca. 664-525 BC. Made of solid gold. Now in the Egyptian Museum of Barcelona.