Ruffs Workshop circa 1938

This is a photograph that has always fascinated me.  Set behind an impressive shop front in Stoke Road, Gosport, it features my grandfather, Cyril Norman Aubrey Ruff (the bespectacled gentleman looking at the camera), sitting at the bench with three other clockmakers. It is difficult to say whether he was actually working at the bench or simply sitting there for the purposes of the photograph, which I understand was subsequently used for promotional purposes.  From the perspective of our digital age, it is surprising to note just how many clocks can be counted in the picture!  This was a time prior to the advent of the wristwatch and they plied their trade repairing bedside table, wall or mantelpiece clocks, which were the everyday way people told the time in those days.  It is hard to imagine now how anyone could afford to employ as many as three craftsmen under the one roof.  Presumably, the clocks went wrong sufficiently often to justify the expense. World War II was just around the corner and I know that my father came back from a tour in Palestine in 1947 on a fraction of his reasonable army pay and a mountain of clocks to repair.

A Heraldic Pun

As I write below, heraldry is a fascinating subject and the signet ring and wax impression above illustrate this notion perfectly. At first glance one would be forgiven for thinking that one is looking at “a Mouse rampant proper” – to give it the proper heraldic description – which of course it is! What is remarkable and amusing is to learn that the crest comes from a Grant of Arms, evolved at the College of Arms in London and petitioned by a successful player in the IT world.  The Mouse rampant is a reference to the computer mouse that we all push around to work our machines.  It’s a fine example of what I call “the heraldic pun” and can also be seen in my own coat of arms that puns on the ruff bird – a wader that can be seen locally at Titchfield Haven and is a very attractive bird with its puffed up ruff!

Folland Marquise

I seem to quite often start my blog by stating that such and such an idea was suggested to us by one of our customers. This either means that we are short of our own ideas or as is most definitely the case, our customers themselves come up with some superb takes on our core product: the traditional signet ring.

This is beautifully illustrated in the photograph above which displays a rose gold marquise-shaped ring engraved with an Owl.  Our customer came to us before Christmas last year and especially wanted a marquise-shaped ring. As Danielle explains, “I chose the marquise design as it is a very unique shape and combines elegance and class”. Innovation didn’t end there because she also opted for the ring in a rose gold: “To add to the uniqueness I have had it made in rose gold, which by far suits my skin tone, but more importantly is actually my favourite colour.”

Clearly, we have no control over what we are asked to engrave but it is always a delight when the artwork is so interesting.  Danielle’s crest is no exception. The surname is unusual and is Norwegian in its origin.  There is a village in Norway called Follant and Fowler, Fouler, Fouller, Flora and indeed Folland all derive from this little place. The word means a hunter of wild birds. This Owl is a magnificent creature and doesn’t it stand impressively on its wreath? The motto, “Sapiens qui vigilat” (He is wise who watches), was not included on the face of the ring but sums the bird up perfectly. I believe we have captured this quality in our engraving.

We are especially proud to have executed the work on Danielle’s signet ring.  Not only is she about to pass out of Sandhurst as a commissioned Officer in Her Majesty’s armed forces but the ring was a gift to mark the occasion from her Great Grandfather, Grandad Kimberley.  This lovely old man would have like to have presented his own sword to his great granddaughter but sadly this has long since disappeared.  Very, very sadly Danielle’s great grandfather died during the course of the making of the ring.  Danielle wrote: “Unfortunately at the time of creation I lost my great granddad Folland who was nearly 104. So to be able to carry on the Folland name and crest for years to come will be an amazing privilege” My thanks to Danielle for helping me compile this.

Good Will Hunting @ Chewton Glen

We went to see Good Will Hunting (1997) in the glorious grounds of the Chewton Glen Hotel as part of the Rick Stein endorsed Pop-Up Picture Company tour. Stein talks in a preamble to the film about matching his food with appropriately watchable movies. I suppose my problem with this idea – as a student of Film and a lifelong foodie – is can you really mix the two: film and food?

We were invited to purchase/order any drink we might want beforehand. The hotel, presumably, had chosen a small selection of reasonably priced wines and we chose a white wine as an aperitif and a rose to appear at the intermission.  We had been asked to arrive at 7.30 and the film was to begin at 8.15. In the absence of sufficient seating, outside of the tended viewing space, it might have been better to start the film slightly earlier but then people had travelled from all around and so perhaps the three quarters of an hour was actually, very sensible. It was a beautiful warm and sunny evening and so standing chatting, with a cold glass of wine, was not too much of a hardship.

The film duly began as the starters were arriving. Caroline and I had chosen the cold, garlic soup, which was excellent.  I was already getting into the film, directed by Gus van Sant (he of the frame by frame re-make of Psycho fame) I know the film quite well although I haven’t see it for some time.  I particularly remember it as having been scripted by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, who also star in it, of course.  It was a real breakthrough film for them both and their careers have taken off thereafter. Soup, is a simple thing to have in this context. Easy to consume and no need to take one’s eyes off the screen. We were seated at the front, by the way, on comfortable sofas with blankets provided for when it grew dark and the temperature dropped.


Caroline and I then shared a gorgeous fish pie and peas. This too was simple to eat with just a fork as I became more and more absorbed in the film. Robin Williams is riveting as the apparently second-rate university teacher who tries to help the difficult Matt Damon character.  The process of winning over this troubled but brilliant soul is captivating and I had finished the fish pie before I knew it – and herein lies the problem.  It registered as “gorgeous” certainly and melted in the mouth but I ate it without really noticing it.  You could argue that Mr Stein had fulfilled his brief but, in many ways. I would have preferred to enjoy a Rick Stein meal – and we have famously in Padstow – and to watch a film of this quality as two separate treats.

In the interval, the waiting staff came around with ice-creams. They presented them as usherettes did back in the day with a tray slung around their necks. A lovely touch and the ice-cream, by Tom Kerridge, was exquisite.

All in all, this was a truly enjoyable experience – shared with my wife, one of my daughters and her partner – and a memorable time was had by one and all. Applause at the end of a move is rare but always indicative of something special.

Ruffs Ying Yang

As is often the case, and as I wrote several times in the last newsletter, a lot of the ideas for our more unusual work is presented by our customers themselves. This is certainly the case for the two-coloured double Heart ring above. At first glance this could be mistaken for one of our signet rings but, in fact, it is an engagement ring! Our customer sent us an e-mail with a very rough sketch of what he had in mind and we knew at once that we could achieve this. He wanted two hearts entwined - very much like the well-known Chinese symbol of the Yin and the Yang - and the one heart in 18ct white gold and the other in 18ct rose gold. Given the finger-size, we worked out the dimensions of the face and the model maker went about carving it. It went down remarkably well at the first attempt and then we cut it in half! The one half was then cast in white gold and the other in rose gold. The two halves were then soldered together and the clean line through the middle inscribed along with the tuck of the heart. We were really pleased with the end result.

Strictly speaking, the sterling silver enamel and engraved cufflinks above are not new work. They were made by us originally some 15 years ago and comprised the enamel shield side, seen above, and an enamel rendition of the crest on the other side. They are now being recycled for grandsons and so, for the first set, we have paired the enamel shield with a new blank oval which we have subsequently engraved with the crest. The second set will comprise the enamel crest which we will team up with an engraved shield side. The result: two delightful sets of enamel and engraved cufflinks!

Heraldry is a fascinating subject and the use of enamel and therefore colour makes it especially so. Note the shield above where there are three Boar’s heads. One is depicted in blue on a white background; the second is in white against a blue background; while the third, slightly larger, falls in the middle of a blue and white background and is therefore defined by being half white on blue and half blue on white. It’s a small detail in a small space but the enameler has acquitted himself well, I would say.

As I write above, heraldry is a fascinating subject and the signet ring and wax impression above illustrate this notion perfectly. At first glance one would be forgiven for thinking that one is looking at: “a Mouse rampant proper” - to give it the proper heraldic description - which of course it is! What is remarkable and amusing is to learn that the crest comes from a Grant of Arms, evolved at the College of Arms in London and petitioned by a successful player in the IT world. The Mouse rampant is a reference to the computer mouse that we all push around to work our machines. It’s a fine example of what I call “the heraldic pun” and can also be seen in my own coat of arms that puns on the ruff bird - a wader that can be seen locally at Titchfield Haven and is a very attractive bird with its puffed up ruff!

But not necessarily out with the old as the title may suggest. As the age of social media, big data and mobile sets upon us, it is with great pleasure that I can begin to share the Ruffs baton with my eldest daughter, Ali. With a background in retail and management, through her managerial positions at Calvin Klein and successful completion of Philip Green's very competitive Arcadia retail management training programme, it is clear she is a perfect fit for the ever evolving and growing Ruffs brand.

With a business whose core lies with family it is pleasure and an honour to be sharing the company with one of my own kin. Indeed, over the past couple of years it has been brought to my attention that the company has been growing much faster than I could ever have anticipated. Having nurtured Ruffs over the last 28(!) years and watched it grow up, the ability to trust somebody else with my, now rather mature, baby was almost impossible. Though when I was presented with the opportunity to put my faith in one of my children this anxiety was soon alleviated.

This is a huge step for Ruffs but absolutely a work in progress. The transitional phase will allow us to expand our business through diversification. Our latest venture is in women's cufflinks. With two of my daughters about to embark on corporate jobs in the City I am inspired to introduce a line of women's cufflinks to our repertoire. Figures such as Coco Chanel and Gillian Anderson (The Fall) are also hugely influential. With this in mind we have begun developing a range to suit the modern business woman of which Ali will be taking sole charge.

Some of our best work starts from ideas suggested by the customer. Our task then is to translate the idea into something workable and perfect it. This was certainly true of a platinum ring we made earlier in the summer. The brief, from a very good customer in the Middle East who had commissioned rings and notably blazer buttons with a coat of arms previously, was for a heart-shaped ring for a young woman, seal-engraved with the same coat of arms, and in platinum.

The trick was to create a basic ring that was both elegant and sufficiently large to take the considerable amount of engraving. No easy feat. The ring itself is carved by hand in wax before it is moulded and than cast in the metal of choice. Although stage one was accomplished very successfully, the application of the coat of arms was not a straightforward exercise, given that the engraver would normally be working within an oval frame that will, of course, encompass most heraldic devices. However, after one of the most painstaking undertakings for quite some time, the end result was pretty awesome….

The customer was kind enough to write and I quote: ”Ring arrived and I LOVE it! Exactly what I had in mind….I am SOOOO happy with it!!”

Some several months ago I tweeted that I had had it with plastic collar stiffeners - they either broke in the washing-machine because I had omitted to remove them before laundering or they disappeared because I had remembered to remove them! - and had put an order into the workshop for a set in sterling silver.

Anyone watching that space would, I’m afraid, have been disappointed because it has taken until now to create, engrave and photograph the result. In case you think this is a poor reflection on the workshop, I hasten to add that the workshop always puts a paying customer ahead of any of my peculiar whims!

There is nothing so very special about the Ruffs sterling silver collar stiffener, being based on a top Jermyn Street shirtmakers original, except for the details (and maybe the price tag). It’s all in the detail, the detail, the detail. For example, one side has been hallmarked with my grandfather’s initials, CNAR (our maker’s mark); 925 to indicate the silver content (92.5%); a Rose for the Sheffield Assay Office, who tested and marked the piece, as they do all of our work; and finally the date letter, a lower case P, for 2014. The other side has been inscribed with our Ruffs logotype that can be seen at the base of our rings. Lastly, and for me, the crowning glory is the surface-engraving of our crest, the little ruff bird, such as would appear on a set of cufflinks only slightly smaller necessarily.

What I really, really like about all this is that no-one will ever be privy to such extravagance or whatever you want to call it! The stiffeners are hidden from sight in the little pocket on the reverse of the shirt collar. It reminds me of a story I heard as an undergraduate about the famous Russian theatre director, Constantin Stanislavski. In one production, a precious necklace was a prop that was locked away in a safe and never seen throughout the play. Naturally, if it was never actually seen, no-one in their right mind would put a real necklace in a safe for the duration. Stanislavski insisted that not only was it in the safe but that it was both real and precious!

The price tag I mention would be £250 + VAT per set which would include the addition of an individual’s crest in place of our ruff bird.

This year so far we have had two very notable puffs in articles in both the The Times (Saturday Magazine) and the New York Times (blog). On both occasions, the subject of the articles was cufflinks.

The first of these appeared earlier in the year, 8th February 2014 to be precise, in Hilary Rose’s burgeoning series of pieces in The Times’s Saturday Magazine cleverly entitled, “If you mean business, you need cufflinks”. Click here to see the article.

The thrust of the article gently said that men should maybe try a little harder and suggested ways of achieving this. We were then mentioned as a provider of “straight-down-the-line silver and gold options” with a direct link to our cufflinks web site. Thank you, Hilary Rose.

The second appeared only earlier this month (4th September) in a blog on the New York Times web site by Felix Salmon entitled, “In defense [sic] of Chain Links” with the subheading, “As old-school chain cufflinks face an existential threat, one man makes a stand for true closure” Guess that’s means me!  Click here to see the article.

The thrust of this article bemoaned the almost complete lack of chain-linked cufflinks and bear in mind this is New York! Felix Salmon writes a passionate argument for the chain-linked cufflink as opposed to the bar variety. As an aside, I always remember a large order from one of the directors of the then British Steel which was predominantly for the bar type, with one proper version for himself. He explained that the majority were corporate gifts that the recipients would find easier to put in their cuffs but he wanted one chain-linked set as he was fortunate enough to have a valet to get him dressed. (This was some time ago!)

Felix then concludes that all is not lost because “Ruffs of England has an extensive range of lovely, brand-new chain cufflinks. Thank you, Felix Salmon.


The Flying Pig
As I wrote previously, some of our best work starts from ideas suggested by the customer. Our task then is to translate the idea into something workable and perfect it. Exactly the same could be said of the signet ring that has come to be called, “TheFlying Pig”.

As we all know, pigs do not fly but it is an expression - “And pigs might fly!” - meaning utter skepticism of a given idea or situation. NatWest used the idea in a series of advertisements a few years ago which made me smile and it is a concept that has always appealed to me. I was therefore thrilled when we were asked to create a signet depicting a Pig flying. The customer gave us one or two images he had trawled on the internet and we took off, as it were, from there.

Initially, we produced a pencil sketch, which with the removal of the wreath at the base, essentially appeared on the final product. This is a glorious example of our work having been made in 22ct gold. Although the higher carat is softer than the more normal 18ct, 14ct and 9ct, the fabulously rich colour offsets this for those customers who choose it.

Chinese Ciphers
We are lucky enough to receive a lot of work from both the Middle East and the Far East but this was our first venture into a Chinese cipher proper. Having worked with complex Arabic calligraphy in the past, this was not so very difficult to execute but what makes it special - and again the customer’s own idea - was setting the cipher directly into the context of a bone fide heraldic shield.

I greatly admire the end result created in 18ct yellow gold, with the device cut as a seal, as shown in the photograph below. We are hoping this might be our entry into the Chinese market….

Contemporary Feel
I have been conscious for many years that we produce a very traditional product and that innovation is probably quite inappropriate. I find this frustrating because surely it is innovation that drives companies forward?

That conceit aside, we are often asked to produce something that has a more contemporary feel to it and often our two-tone signet ring provides the perfect answer. However, not everyone wants two coloured golds on their finger and that was the case with this particular customer.

In this instance our customer was sufficiently close to us geographically to travel down one day and have a look at a variety of samples we can provide. After some discussion, two key choices were made that, for me, makes the signet ring below strikingly modern. The first was the decision to have the ring made in 18ct white gold. We use an alloy that has a deep dark colour to it and we find that, in time, the engraved area tones back to a darker hue than the polished surface (which is an aesthetically pleasing extra). The second decision - and perhaps the masterstroke - was to choose an octagonal shape. As it happens, this suits the engraving of the Hunting Horn rather well and I think the photograph of the end result below gives a fine example of a signet ring with a contemporary feel to it.

Not a Load of Old Balls
Many years ago we evolved a whole range of Game Bird and Gun Dogs ( which were, and still are, very successful. However, we have found that creating new and original designs with a sporting theme is not so easy. Recently, we hit the right note with our Rugby Balls ( and we believe we have struck gold again with our new Tennis Balls.

I was deeply moved by the passing of Elena Baltacha and perhaps that made me focus harder on the task in hand. Like all good design, the answer was very simple and we have created a tennis ball proper in 3-D and made 4/5 of the sphere the feature side and the remaining segment the reverse side. We have captured the texture of an actual ball and the links come in sterling silver and all manner of gold. 18ct green gold is especially unusual!

We hope to work with the Elena Baltacha Foundation and offer these cufflinks in charitable promotions. We also anticipate doing something similar with our Rugby Balls with the Matt Hampson Foundation. Watch this space, as they say.

AUTUMN 2013:

Is social media the way forward? Can I reduce my advertising bills?! To be honest, I don’t know. Anymore than I’ve understood advertising all these years. As the old adage goes, 50% of our advertising is working; 50% isn’t. The problem is we don’t know which! That’s probably no longer the case in today’s world but there’s something in it, I often think.

Anyway, we’re going to suck it and see and now have two Twitter accounts you might consider following. The first is primarily the business - @RuffsEstd1904 - and the other is my own personal account - @MrMarkRuff. My daughter, Harriet, is running the business account and in these early days is following her nose; while I pontificate mainly on films and television series and occasionally on my children.

By way of an incentive to follow either or both of the above, we would like to offer you a 5% discount off your very next purchase and we are making this offer available for 12 months after you signing up.

You might also consider joining me on LinkedIn. I grasp this one less than I do the rest but it seems to be a useful platform for airing the odd thought to the select few. If you subscribe to LinkedIn yourself and would like to join me, please send me an e-mail and we will take it from there.

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a young post-graduate student at Newcastle University who had found one of our rings and wanted to return it to the rightful owner. He had discovered the ring inside a tumble-dryer where it transpires it had remained idly hidden for a number of years.

This honest young fellow had looked on the inside of the shank of the ring  and discerned our maker’s mark as CNAR. This is mark we have used since we started manufacturing our own product many years ago. It is simply my grandfather’s initials, Cyril Norman Aubrey Ruff. Armed with this vital piece of information, he had consulted the National Association of Goldsmiths, of which we are of course members, and the mark was easily identified as ours.

The next step - contacting us - was easy but how were we going to recognise the engraving amongst the numerous rings we have made over the years? I am pretty good with the various devices, although I say so myself, and was confident it would ring bells when I saw it. A modest photo of the ring was e-mailed to me and, lo and behold, it meant nothing to me other than putting Tommy Cooper and his famous fez in my head!

However, the question was then put to the workshop and my own take on the nature of the device had been exactly how it had been filed electronically at the time of the engraving: Tommy Cooper with Fez! A name had been ascribed to the crest and, as good luck would have it, the customer was immediately contactable via e-mail. A quick note established that the ring had been lost six years earlier by her son who was then an undergraduate at Newcastle. Although the address didn’t match up, it was observed that appliances can be shifted around different rented accommodation. The signet ring, beautifully clean, has now been reunited with its owner! What a lovely story.

Earlier in the year we were thrilled to be asked to make cufflinks for the world famous Leander Club. The cufflinks have been constructed out of sterling silver. Four blanks are pressed out of virgin silver sheet: two are plain blanks; while the other two have a recessed space to take the enamel. Lead jump rings are soldered to each blank. We have to use hard solder because the enamel sides are subsequently subjected to high temperatures in the enamelling process (firing). The connecting chain is then assembled from silver wire. We find five rings make for a perfect distance between the two faces. The chain is not fitted at this stage.

The links then go over to the enameller who starts by applying a white background into the recess. The white is built up slowly and the link might be fired two or two three times. The outline of the Hippo is then painted onto the white background and the link is fired once more. The next phase is the application of the distinctive pink, which might take two or three coats, with firing between each coat, and with each coat getting darker to give shape and form to the Hippo. When the enameller is happy with the rendition, the well is slowly filled to the brim with clear flux and it could be fired two or three times more. The clear flux is finally stoned to a polish and it acts as a protector to the painting below.

Back to the silversmith, the faces have their connecting chain attached and soldered up before going off for hallmarking. Our work is sent to the Sheffield Assay Office where our maker's mark is struck along with the other marks indicating the quality of the silver (925 = Sterling), where it was assayed (Sheffield) and the date year. They are returned to the finisher for their final polish.

Ordinarily, the hallmarking would be done prior to the enamelling stage but in this case there was some urgency to have the prototypes readied for photography and we accelerated the process by by-passing the hallmarking, getting on with the painting and having the links laser-marked as opposed to struck (with a hammer!).


We had the pleasure of making two beautiful rings for two brothers back in the summer. There were a number of considerations and after a process of exchanging e-mails, one brother chose an octagonal bloodstone-set signet and the other an oval cornelian. The one I would describe as contemporary and the other traditional.

Both rings have a solid back to the stone whereas normally our rings have an open back. There is a school of thought that believes the filled back is more comfortable. Interestingly on the surface, you would hardly know these rings were solid: for sure in the case of the bloodstone, an opaque stone, no light can get through; if you study the cornelian, being a semi translucent stone, there is a charming play of light coming through at certain angles from the polished base.

A fascinating discussion took place as to the layout of the motto on the octagonal ring. Should it follow the outer edge, as the oval cornelian does, or should it be an oval shape within the octagon? Finally, we decided we like the way the oval is offset by the octagon and vice verse.

Interesting to reflect on the choices three of my children have made for their signet rings. We gave the three girls, on going to university, an all-gold, straight oval signet ring which is undoubtedly the most usual and indeed traditional and classic choice of the majority of our customers.

Subsequently, Ali decided she would like to ring the changes and chopped in the all-gold ring for a stone-set version. She was attracted to lapis lazuli and, knowing we have some quite beautiful lapis in stock at the moment, went for this exquisite stone. Unlike the rest that feature the Ruff badge - a free-standing Ruff bird - she opted for the addition of the wreath below thereby making it a crest. She is very proud of this tiny disparity!

Ali has now descaled her job as a Manager at Calvin Klein and works three days a week for them which enables her to work two days a week for me. You will be hearing and seeing more and more of Ali in the months to come.

I have no idea why but I offered the two boys (twins) carte blanche in what they had. Maybe it was because I sensed a little reluctance to wearing a ring for the first time and I thought giving them the choice of whatever they wanted would get over this possible problem. Perhaps I indulge them too much!

Anyway, William, older by one minute, was much taken by a ring we made earlier in the year and that we featured in a previous newsletter. This was an octagonal shape in red gold with black onyx. William loves this contemporary shape but chose the discreetness of white gold. I think he thought it might read as silver and therefore less plutocratic on his finger. The thoughts of an 18 year old! Black and white go hand in hand and the Ruff the goes well in the frame. A great success.

William now studies Digital Photography at Ravensbourne and only last week had his first assignment photographing the Launch Party of the new arts magazine, Avenir Magazine ( Have a look at William’s own web site:

Edward, even more concerned than his brother about something looking too expensive on his finger, nonetheless chose his new signet ring on purely aesthetic grounds. For a number of years, he has been taken by the sardonyx we have promoted and loves the contrast between the lighter top layer and the colour below. He also went for a delicate rose gold to set off the baby blue of the top layer of the sardonyx. Thus we have three colours interacting here: the blue, the black of the base of the stone the red gold mount. Very attractive.

Edward suddenly decided to defer his place at Brunel to study Sports Science and may well change tack altogether. At the moment he is looking forward to learning to surf in Morocco for three months as of January. Tempted to join him!

Reflecting on the trio as a picture, I realise we couldn’t have chosen a more diverse range if we had set out to. There is a variety of golds (yellow, white and red), a diversity of stones (lapis lazuli, black onyx and mid blue/black sardonyx) and two different shapes (straight oval and octagon). Food for thought?


Here’s an insight into how things develop. I am wanting to create a set of cufflinks depicting Rufus Ruff. Rufus is the hero of the Ruffs Christmas card these last few years and you can revisit him on our FaceBook page.

I especially like the painting of him that Simon Menzies evolved to kick the whole thing off some 10 years ago. This is a moody portrait nestling nicely in our sitting room. From it - and its sister portrait of Lady Robyn Redbreast - has come the series of Christmas cards. There is something about this version of Rufus that I have always admired. Perhaps it is the jauntiness of it.

Based on this, Karl Rudziak, who has also produced the cards for the last five years, has cleverly mocked-up two ideas for cufflinks for next year. These are going to work as enamel paintings in the same vein as our existing Heraldic range that can be see on our cufflinks web site:


In 2009 we designed and launched a new cufflinks web site and this year we have updated our existing signet ring web site to compliment it. As before, it has been designed by gifted artist, Karl Rudziak, and it contains dozens of new photographs and infinitely more information on our rings.

In an age where companies are always evolving new designs and where the fashion industry, for example, brings out new collections seasonally, Ruffs did see the need for creating a “new” signet ring until it dawned on us that the signet ring is a truly traditional product and should be left well alone.

Quite by chance, however, we came upon a new and exciting design. We had made a signet ring with an engraved bloodstone for a young officer in Her Majesty’s Forces and, given the nature of his profession, it wasn’t long before he had smashed the stone to pieces!

On being asked to replace it, we presumed to wonder if it wouldn’t happen again and perhaps we should re-think the stone. Working in conjuction with our customer we suggested that the stone should be substituted with a metal tablet of the same carat as the 18ct yellow gold ring but of a different colour for contrast. Thus the two-tone gold signet ring was born.

It is a design we have repeated for several customers and has been so very successful that we can created one of our own with the Ruff bird and it can be seen on our web site as a moving image....

Ruffs were thrilled to be commissioned by leading estate agents, Knight Frank, to produce a set of cufflinks to commemorate their partners serving either 15 (silver) or 25 years (gold) with the company. Knight Frank were founded in 1896 and specialise in high quality residential and commercial property throughout the world, with 207 offices in 43 different countries.

Frank Knight Cufflinks

“Designing a set of corporate cufflinks is not always easy”, explained Mark Ruff, “because, when a company spends thousands of Pounds having a logo designed, the thought that they might one day want cufflinks based on that design is hardly in the brief. At the outset the logo is used on letterheads, promotional material and in their advertising as the company endeavours to build itself up as a brand. Only later will it be used more extensively”.

“Quite often a corporate logo lends itself immediately to cufflinks and I can think of the Owl we evolved for the International Herald Tribune or the S of the superb logo used by British Steel once upon a time”. The one involved creating a die and pressing the Owl out within its own oval frame; the S of British Steel lent itself particulary well to being interpreted in blue enamel”.

“The Knight Frank logo is somewhat esoteric and required quite a lot of thought. We considered a number of approaches before settling on a design that is carefully engine-turned on to an oval link. The technique worked especially well for the set we made for senior partner, Rupert Johnson, who chose a rose gold to echo the red version of their logo and no doubt his Patek Philippe rose gold watch!

Mike Tindall asked Ruffs to produce sets of cufflinks for himself, his Best Man and five ushers for his recent marriage to Zara Phillips in Edinburgh. Apart from being England’s current rugby captain, Mr. Tindall also enjoys shooting and for this occasion chose Woodcock cufflinks, which form part of the Ruff Shootin’ range of jewellery for the countrysportsman.

Mike Tindle Cufflinks
These links were made extra special through having a plain oval side, as opposed to the straight bar of the standard Woodcocks as seen on the web site, which was then engraved with each individual’s initials.

The RUFF SHOOTIN’ range evolved slowly but surely following a one-off commission for a pair of cuflinks to celebrate and I quote a “Right and Left at Woodcock”. (Double Dutch to a Townie!!)

A “Right and Left at Woodcock” is the expression given to shooting one woodcock with one barrel and another woodcock with the other barrel without re-loading. It might sound a simple enough feat but the woodcock is a solitary bird and one rarely finds two in sufficiently close proximity.

The initial set was carefully researched at the local library and a model painstakingly carved in wax. Woodcocks were so well received by the client that they were re-made for Ruffs general range of up-market jewellery.

The response to subsequent advertisements in the likes of “Country Life” and “The Field” confirmed their attraction not only to achievers of the “Right and Left at Woodcock” but also to shooting people everywhere.

At about this time Woodcocks were shown to Tony Jackson, then editor of the specialist magazine, “Shooting Times”, and he was impressed enough to give mention of them in that publication and in particular to members of the newly formed Shooting Times Woodcock Club. They have proved popular within the club but, it should be stressed, they are not solely for achievers of the “Right and Left at Woodcock”.

One of the first purchasers of Woodcocks invited us to make him a matching set of Grouse cuff links. Through strong ties with the STWC, we were able to seek the advice of Colin McKelvie at the Game Conservancy at Fordingbridge, down the road in Hampshire and where we had access to more specialised reference books on the subject and one or two stuffed examples. Grouse are made extra special by being made only in red gold or red gold plate on sterling silver.

Partridge and Pheasant were the obvious successors and the same amount of meticulous research and carving also went into their creation. The result is four sets of very unique cuff links, each pair of which is still finished by hand.

Alan Titchmarsh, the well known gardener and television presenter, was recently appointed High Sheriff of the Isle of Wight and successfully petitioned for a Grant of Arms through the College of Arms in London. To commemorate this he commissioned signet rings for himself, his wife and two daughters from Ruffs, the bespoke signet ringmakers.

Alan Titchmarsh

The College of Arms in Queen Victoria Street, London is the official body in England to grant Coats of arms. Any eminent subject of the crown is entitled to be granted a new Coat of Arms. Each applicant upon making contact is assigned a Herald who will see the project through from start to finish. In Alan Titchmarsh’s case, the particular Herald was Mr. Thomas Woodcock, Norroy & Ulster King of Arms. The College Heralds have carried out their work on the present site since 1555 and there are three Kings of Arms who sign off new arms and crests depending on their location in the UK. The Heralds and Pursuivants are on duty on a rota for one week at a time and it is a matter of luck which Herald receives an individual’s call or application. When not looking after would-be armigers, Heralds’ other duties include leading the Queen into the State Opening of Parliament, or being in attendance at the Garter Service. Heralds also carry out much historical detective work investigating peerage claims, and coats of arms on silverware for example.

Arms can include any number of facets relating to the applicant’s life and these elements are then cleverly and graphically woven into a design. Such elements might include honours from the Crown, civil or military commissions, university degrees, professional qualifications, public charitable services and eminence or good standing in local life. Often applicants are asked to submit their curriculum vitae to help the Herald piece together the strands of a person’s life from which to construct the design.

The Arms will comprise a crest, a helmet, and a shield. This is all enveloped by mantling and there is the option of a motto and badge. The badge can duplicate the crest but is an opportunity for another device.

Alan Titchmarsh’s, crest is a Lion rampant leaning on a garden spade, as a light-hearted nod towards his most well-known occupation. The shield shows three robins – each singing and clasping a white rose of Yorkshire in its claw – a reference to gardening, music – another love – and Mr Titchmarsh’s birthplace. His motto is et stylo et rutro – by pen and spade.

Once approved the text is engrossed by a scrivener and artist, signed and sealed by the King of Arms and it is put into the official College registers. The Letters Patent, as the document is called, then becomes the property of the Grantee.

Alan Titchmarsh now had an official, ratified coat of arms from which he wanted to take the crest element alone and commemorate it on a signet ring as a lasting memento. Alan is a Country Life reader and, as he says, “Country Life read by the gentry and me” in his typically self-deprecating manner.

It was in Country Life that Alan spotted an advertisement for Ruffs, bespoke signet ringmakers. Based in Hampshire, Ruffs has a history dating back to 1904 and a reputation for creating bespoke jewellery especially signet rings.

The commission to Ruffs was for a set of four signet rings: one for Alan, his wife and two daughters. Each client is special to Ruffs and they are treated as such by first gaining an accurate finger-size and then choosing the shape of the ring taking due account of the engraving to go thereon. From the classic straight oval to the round, or the Oxford or even a more modern octagon, there are many different styles to suit all tastes.
Once the basic ring is decided upon and made, the engraver then translates the artwork into a three-dimensional carving in reverse. It is cut this way so that an impression can be taken from the ring by pushing it carefully into warm wax. Although this is of little practical use in the 21st Century, it is nonetheless the traditional way to engrave a signet ring. Each new ring comes with its own unique wax impression - the proof of the pudding, as it were.

Mark Ruff commented: “We make rings for people from all over the world - many using devices handed down through generations - and so it was especially pleasing to work on a brand new Grant of Arms, containing as it does that lovely heraldic joke of the rampant Lion leaning on a spade!!”

Ruffs (Estd. 1904) Tel +44 (0)1489 578867 or e-mail: