Seals and signets are gaining popularity again as more and more people rediscover the elegance and beauty of handwritten letters. Some also use seals on their wedding invitations or for scrapbooking.
Luxurious and timeless brands have also been incorporating seals in their packaging. Gourmet Pilgrim’s Italy edition dons a golden domed seal giving the book cover a touch of extravagance and an air of intrigue.
Where did seals originate?
The Ancient Past
The first seals were used by figures of authority in the ancient world, particularly in Egypt, Babylonia, and Assyria. Attaching a seal to a document or possession would signify authenticity, ownership or authority.
These were usually set in hard substances like stone, metal or crystal and were pressed on softer or impressionable materials like clay or wax.
The use of wax seals began in the Middle ages. The bearer of the seal would melt red or black wax and would press either a handheld seal on it or a signet ring. Other colours of wax were available as well, like gold made with yellow mica and blue made with powdered cobalt glass.
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The beginning of the Middle Ages saw seals used to authenticate documents or issue official decrees. Seals were used by monarchs, bishops, and members of the royal courts.
Eventually, other nobles, holy men, and guilds started using seals to sign agreements. By the 13th century, even ordinary freemen had their own seals.
After the medieval period, using seals became a necessity as sending letters was very expensive. The charge for sending letters was based on the distance the letter would need to travel and the letter’s number of sheets. Envelopes were included in the number of sheets charged, so people often used a seal instead of an envelope.
Seals have long been associated with influence, prestige and elegance, their power to elevate and distinguish whatever they are attached to remains undiminished.