Antique Wax Seals

The Wax Seals of old were a step ahead of what they are today. When you reach as far back as the Victorian Era you will find a multitude of beautiful Wax Seals from solid silver masterpieces to gold gilding and intricately carved ivory handles. But it's not just the fancy, elegant pieces that are the most eye-catching. There are some Wax Seals which may not look much from the outside but they tell a fascinating story of its ownership and history.

 

Our Private Collection

Over the years we have collected a handful of antique Wax Seals, all of different ages and from a variety of different places. A lot can be learned about the future of the Wax Seal by studying the past.

Let's take a look at some of my most favourite pieces to date:

1. First off we have this stunning inlayed Mother of Pearl handle which is believed to have belonged to a Russian painter. The stamp head is made from silver plated brass and has a hand-engraved monogram with the initials CM.

 

2. These two seals are the most extravagant pieces in our collection and are both of a similar period / style. The one on the left has a hallmarked silver stamp head with the most delicate and finely detailed decoration of a swan. Both pieces have either Ivory or Bone handles and despite the source of such materials being highly frowned upon in modern society, it was fairly typical of late 19th century craftsmanship. The one on the right has a very similar style of monogram which dates to the late Victorian / early Edwardian period. A redeeming feature of this seal is the bronze Regina Cœli a.k.a "Queen of Heaven' coin which is embedded into the handle.

 

3. This is my personal favourite. It's a handmade seal constructed using various pieces of shrapnel from the Serbian trenches of WWI. The main component of the handle is a brass shell casing, most likely from a heavy machine gun. The entire thing is put together very crudely and is not particularly wonderful to look at, but it absolutely oozes history. Imagine a brave soldier sitting in a cold, damp trench scavenging around for pieces of metal to seal the letters that he would send to his family back home. You will see that the initials 'CK' are most definitely engraved by hand and it looks to be somewhat unfinished.

Photo credit: Forgotten Weapons

Where to find them

If you are interested in collecting Antique Wax Seals the best place I would recommend you to start would of course be eBay. However, with eBay you need to be aware of fake materials and slight misrepresentations. There are many listings which will not display the dimensions of the actual seal and so it is important to check with the seller beforehand as a lot of antiques are much smaller in real life. Also, I have seen many sellers advertising what they believe to be a 'Blank Wax Seal' which turn out to be old Telephone Diallers. They look similar but they almost always do not have any engravings and are normally slightly longer in length.

Wax Seals on Pinterest

All of the pieces in our collection are relatively modern i.e 19th century onwards, but there are some which predate the Victorian era and have the most incredible 3D engravings. They are notoriously hard to come by, however if you search 'Ancient Wax Seals' on Pinterest you will find pages and pages of inspiration.

What's most incredible about these seals is that they are all hand carved. We have spent the last year or so trying to replicate the same techniques using modern machinery and I can tell you that it is no walk in the park! Even with today's technology we struggle to replicate some of the finer details that they were able to achieve by hand.

Our new 3D Collection

 

 

Although we are still not anywhere near the level of detail of ancient hand-carved seals, we are at least one step closer to achieving it with our new 3D collection. These are not your average ‘multi layer’ designs. As you can see they have multiple contours which allow us to display a greater breadth of detail than a regular flat engraving.

I'd like to point out that this is not a new technique, however we are excited to bring more designs to this collection as time goes on.

1 comment

Very nice to see people interested in the ancient art of sigillography ! I am enjoying your collection very much. I have been into the collecting of seals for many years, this is the one thing of all of the things that I collect that my poor wife does not understand ! She says "It’s just old wax " !! I can’t believe that people want this !! I am in love with it ! I have sought out many an old seal from all over the world. Just something about the historical significance and the beauty which intrigues me. I am lucky enough to own over 400+ seals as well as the matrix’s. My favorite is the seal of Sir Walter Raleigh 1584 when he was governor of Virginia. I purchased this in England from a private party. Just today I received the matrix of the wedding of Queen Victoria & Prince Albert from 1839.

It is in perfect condition, and made of English walnut. Just a beautiful piece, I am so lucky to be able to own such history. Thankful that I can preserve for future generations this beautiful craftsmanship that is rich in forgotten art and symbolism.

Craig Allyn Tompkins December 11, 2018

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