Men’s rings without the bling

Signet rings are gaining in popularity – both on the high street, and with collectors, says Chris Carter.


This signet ring will set you back £41,000

Not everyone is a fan of jewellery for men, but those who are have been gaining in number in recent years. No piece of jewellery better represents this trend than the signet ring. Once a marker (quite literally) of wealth and standing, "in 2017 wearing a signet ring might not announce you as a baller aristocrat to your friends, but it will let them know you're the type of guy who knows his way around some man jewellery", says Liza Corsillo on the website of the American edition of the men's magazine GQ. "This season there's a new batch of the classic rings that favour minimal design and a streamlined silhouette think more biker than Ivy League-educated banker."

Closer to home, the idea that jewellery is something that is personal and can be passed on has had something of a renaissance among successful, fashion-conscious men. After all, "men's jewellery has a rich history among the well-heeled", says Stephen Doig in The Daily Telegraph. "Noble families would seal their family crest in the form of a signet ring to pass down for generations."

Castro Smith is one such modern British engraver and jeweller who has been gaining currency in this field. His signet rings, with designs based on the landscape of his native northeast, sell from £810 at the fashion retailer Dover Street Market in London's Mayfair.

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE

Get 6 issues free

Sign up to Money Morning

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Sign up

Still, it's the examples from the heyday of the signet ring, the 14th to 16th centuries, that matter most to serious collectors. Prices have been inching up in the past 10 to 15 years, Jean Ghika, Bonhams' director of jewellery for the UK and Europe, tells Ming Liu in the Financial Times' How To Spend It magazine. But new collectors can still pick up "fantastic rings" in the £2,000 to £8,000 range. One standout ring a gold oval armorial ring from the second quarter of the 16th century that featured an unusual quartered shield outstripped its £6,000 estimate when it sold for £7,800 at Bonhams in 2011.

Signet rings don't often come up at auction, says Liu. A better place to go is Berganza in London's Hatton Garden. One listed at £41,000 on its website ( is a gold and black signet bearing a skull along with the initials FG (pictured). Dating from around 1675, the ring was "reputedly discovered in Chichester and is likely to have been commissioned as a memorial ring commemorating the death of Francis Goater, an important merchant and alderman who served as mayor of Chichester in 1668", says director Justin Daughters. That's one ring that should appeal to both the bikers and the Ivy League-educated bankers.

Toys for kidults

Monsta Munny stands four-feet tall, looks like a squat monkey with a giant head and doubles as a chalkboard. It also costs $5,000. Is it a toy, or is it art? asks Gregory Schmidt in The New York Times. Kidrobot, its maker, leans towards calling it art. Either way, the Colorado-based designer toymaker is a pioneer in a market that, along with other collectable toys such as playing cards, rose by a third last year, according to the NPD Group.

Typically made from vinyl, resin or wood, most designer toys for adults have their roots in pop culture. Larger figures are limited in number, making them "highly valuable" to collectors, while smaller figurines, called "Dunnys" in the Kidrobot range, are often sold in "blind" packaging, so that buyers don't know what they are purchasing. That's led to the craze of "unboxing", involving videos posted online of excited fans ripping open the boxes.

Each Dunny, street slang for "devil bunny", is printed with a design from a "young, urban artist", which is where their value lies as collectables. But Kidrobot's biggest coup came when the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts gave the company a licence to use Warhol's artwork. For Frank Kozik, Kidrobot's chief creative officer, a child of the punk era, the pop artist was a natural fit. Kidrobot has now broadened the line to include plush figures, Campbell's Soup cans that contain mystery figurines, and a higher-end reproduction of a Warhol artwork called "Invisible Sculpture".




A Patek Philippe Calibre 89 in yellow gold (pictured above) is expected to make between $6.5m and $10m (£5.1m-£7.8m) when it goes under the hammer as part of Sotheby's "Important Watches" sale on 14 May in Geneva. Created for Patek Philippe's 150th anniversary in 1989, it was meant to be the "ultimate expression of the watchmaker's art", says The Daily Telegraph. It has 33 complications nine more than a Graves watch that sold for $24m in 2014. The set of four, with one of each made in yellow, white and rose gold, and platinum, was reportedly purchased by Prince Jefri Bolkiah of Brunei. The yellow gold version fetched CHF5.1m (£4m) at auction in November 2009.


Last November, a stainless steel Patek Philippe Reference 1518 wristwatch broke the record for the most expensive sold at auction, when it raised $11m at Phillips in Geneva. Only four of the watches were made, all of them in the 1940s.

Chris Carter

Chris Carter spent three glorious years reading English literature on the beautiful Welsh coast at Aberystwyth University. Graduating in 2005, he left for the University of York to specialise in Renaissance literature for his MA, before returning to his native Twickenham, in southwest London. He joined a Richmond-based recruitment company, where he worked with several clients, including the Queen’s bank, Coutts, as well as the super luxury, Dorchester-owned Coworth Park country house hotel, near Ascot in Berkshire.

Then, in 2011, Chris joined MoneyWeek. Initially working as part of the website production team, Chris soon rose to the lofty heights of wealth editor, overseeing MoneyWeek’s Spending It lifestyle section. Chris travels the globe in pursuit of his work, soaking up the local culture and sampling the very finest in cuisine, hotels and resorts for the magazine’s discerning readership. He also enjoys writing his fortnightly page on collectables, delving into the fascinating world of auctions and art, classic cars, coins, watches, wine and whisky investing.

You can follow Chris on Instagram.