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Rebus, Signet Rings & Emmet Smith

One of the great things about London are all the little centres that make up this great city. SEEN was in Leather Lane, which itself is part of Hatton Garden, London’s great gem and jewellery quarter. In a sort of way it’s a microcosm of life here; precious metals and gems comprising so much of the world’s trade.

SEEN navigated the plethora of street food stalls in Leather Lane itself and entered the glamorous portals of Rebus the signet ring specialists. Emmet Smith, the founder, explained how, after his apprenticeship and period of working for R. A. Smith, he saw a gap in the market for bespoke, highly personalised signet rings for men (and ladies). It is, like so many good things in London, an experience to design a unique piece of jewellery. Customers give it considerable thought (as Emmet said, rather like thinking of having a tattoo), discovering the company online then making an appointment at the shop to discuss their ideas for the designers to take away and render. The shop itself is beautiful, designed by Manolo Blahnik’s collaborator, Nick Leith-Smith.

“We love what we do and we wanted to create a space that is very much a living workshop that allows us to tell the story of signet rings and everything that goes into them rather than create a simple retail space,” Emmet said.

Emmet showed SEEN some excellent books of design dating from Victorian times. You look up your name and then you can reference the heraldic sign for it from exquisitely detailed images. Heraldry is, of course, an old and venerable tradition that is been in British culture for a thousand years. Indeed modern designs can incorporate many modern emblems and languages, making each ring deeply personal and unique to the wearer; tattoo imagery is definitely on the rise. Customers also like to use their signet ring as a seal for wax – there’s something very well finished about receiving a letter with a seal that you have to break.

Emmet also likes to make a feature of the hallmarks; they’re larger than usual, elegant symbols in their own right with a particular history of assay culture. The rings can be made from gold, rose gold and platinum, with one or two shapes available in silver. They’re hand-engraved at Rebus, though many processes can be farmed out locally. That’s the great thing about Hatton Garden, all the skills needed to produce a fine piece of jewellery are to hand. Make no mistake, these are heirlooms, but there’s no wallowing in styles gone by, the signet ring has been reinvented for the modern age.

67 – 69 Leather Lane
Hatton Garden