Signed, Sealed, Q Delivered!

î Well, Hello! Summer is flying by. It seems like just yesterday I was returning from our Italian adventure. While in Italy, my love and passion for sealing wax on envelopes was reignited during a visit to una cartoleria (a stationery shop).

The use of wax seals dates to the Old Testament. The seal had two purposes:

1) It was a stamp of indisputable authenticity, like a signature.

2) Envelopes and documents were secured by a wax seal; a broken seal implied a breach of security.

During this time, almost everyone had their own seal, known as their Mark of Distinction. The seal was considered of high value. It was common practice to destroy a person’s seal upon their death.

A gold signet ring was a popular portable Mark of Distinction starting in the 17th century. In the 18th century, the signet ring (or fob signet for ladies) became more widely used to seal letters, even those of a lighthearted personal nature.

As literacy spread, seals were used less frequently. With the introduction of the gummed envelope in the 19th century, seals became more of a personal expression and decorative embellishment.

Letter-Writing SealIn her book Snail Mail (available at Chronicle Books and Amazon), Michelle Mackintosh provides some great tips on making a homemade wax seal. I tried it, and the results were great!

What you’ll need:

  • hot glue gun or superglue
  • button with a raised design
  • wine cork
  • sealing wax
  • paper and envelopes

Step 1

Glue the back of the button to the base of the cork. If your button has a shank and it is getting in your way, use jewelry pliers to carefully flatten or remove.

Step 2

Place the seal in your freezer to chill before you seal your letter. A cold seal is most effective as the wax is less likely to stick to the seal and create a mess.

Step 3

Remove your chilled seal from the freezer. Light the sealing wax and as it begins to melt, positioning it so that it drips onto your paper or envelope.

Step 4

Once the melted wax is roughly the same size as your seal, snuff out the sealing wax and set aside. Resist the temptation to stamp immediately! Wait 15–20 seconds, making sure your seal is positioned to your liking before gently pressing it into the melted wax. Hold for a moment, then lift the seal; it should come away easily if it was chilled for long enough.

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