Wax seals have been in use for thousands of years. Early civilizations used them to secure all manners of items, from letters and other important documents to their most treasured possessions. But over time, the use of wax seals changed. These days, they no longer serve as a means of authentication but rather as a means of decoration for personal correspondence or gifts. Despite this change in purpose, wax seals remain popular today because they are elegant and beautiful ways to add an air of personalization to your envelopes or packages.
Wax seals have a long, fascinating history.
If you have ever used a wax seal, you are no doubt familiar with its intriguing history. Wax seals date back to ancient times and continue to be used today as both a decorative element and a functional way to secure an envelope. But how did they come about in the first place?
First, let’s take a look at how these seals originated. They were largely popularized by King Henry Vlll around 1540 when he encouraged his subjects to use them in their correspondence letters. The practice had been around for centuries before that point—the Egyptians were known to use them as early as 2000 BC—but it became fashionable among Europeans who wanted something more than their names written on the outside of letters sent from afar (as was common practice).
They were originally used in China.
Wax seals have been used for centuries, and the earliest known use of wax seals happened in China, where they were used as early as the Han Dynasty (206 BC to 220 AD). Chinese people would take beeswax and carve their names or symbols into the wax to make their seals. These seals were then pressed into letters written on paper. The Chinese didn’t use a ribbon to go around the letters like we do today; instead, they simply folded over one corner of the envelope and applied their seal directly onto it without any additional adornment.
This method of sealing letters was very different from what we know today because back then you didn’t need fancy tools or decorative ribbons to secure your letter—all you needed was some beeswax.
Early Europeans used seals to secure their letters.
In the early days of European postal services, seals were used to authenticate letters. They were also used to seal letters shut and identify the sender of a letter. The recipient would keep their own personal seal for use on all correspondence from that person in the future.
Another use for wax seals was as a way to identify recipients. In addition to using wax seals on letters, people would also use them on documents or contracts when signing them. The signature could be pressed into the bottom of your wax seal while it was still warm so that anyone who opened it later would know who had signed it and when they did so.
In fifteenth-century England, wax seals were used as identifying marks of the aristocracy. A letter without a seal would be considered unauthentic and could even be ignored. The wax seals were used to identify both the sender of the letter and the recipient, as well as its contents. They were also used to protect the letter from any tampering. In addition, it served as a way to authenticate the document or contract by showing that it came directly from the sender.
The stamps themselves could be quite elaborate, such as one that had a miniature of King Edward himself.
The wax seal itself is an ornate circle of wax that was stamped onto a letter with the sender’s personal device. It was used to identify the sender as well as to secure the letter and make it tamper-proof. The seals themselves could be quite elaborate, with pictures and designs included in them. In fact, some even had miniature replicas of King Edward himself.
Unfortunately, over time these stamps became more about appearance than function and eventually fell out of use by around the 16th century.
As time went on, the use of wax seals evolved and changed.
Unfortunately, over time these stamps became more about appearance than function and eventually fell out of use by around the 16th century. They were no longer just used to seal letters or identify their senders; they were also used to show the importance of a letter (or even a person).
One example is how kings would use wax seals in documents signed by them. The wax seal was designed with their coat of arms on it and also had an impression of their ring finger pressed into it, which identified them as the sender. This was much more formal than simply writing out your signature.
The best example might be the signet ring, which is a remarkable adaptation for the same purpose of authentication. The signet ring was worn on the finger and used to seal envelopes and letters.
Today, wax seals are viewed less as a means of authentication and more as a decorative tool for personal correspondence.
In fact, the wax seal has been replaced by other forms of authentication—such as postmarks and return addresses—that prove the authenticity of letters that bear them.
However, these days, if you’re looking to add some panache to your letters, there’s nothing wrong with using wax seals to decorate them. And though they may not have any legal significance anymore, they can still be fun to use during special events like weddings or graduations.
If you want to add a touch of elegance to your correspondence, try using one of the many different types of wax seals that are available. You can find them in stores that sell stationary or calligraphy supplies, or you can purchase them online from websites like Amazon and Etsy.
A Rich, Waxy History
The history of wax seals is a rich and fascinating one. They were used for centuries as a way of authenticating letters, but today they’re more commonly seen as decoration in personal correspondence. These stamps are beautiful and elegant—and they tell us something about how people have viewed letters as a form of communication over time.