How to make a wax seal?

If you’ve ever been fascinated by calligraphy, stationary and the old times, then you might already be familiar with wax seals. Applied to paper, parchment or envelopes, they represent mystery and aristocratic elegance.

But wax seals were not only about style – over the centuries they had a very practical purpose. They were used to authenticate documents and to certify that they were not tampered with. Indeed, the impression
on the seal (a crest or a symbol) was an even more important identifier than a personal signature. An important seal could be recognizable even by illiterate citizens and thus be able to give the document adequate respect and recognition.

Wax seals were also simply used to physically bond parts of the parchment or rolls (sometimes with the help of a rope or ribbon) in order to prohibit unwanted eyes from reading letters or documents. These were the times before envelopes. The seal wax had to be rather strongly attached to the parchment or paper, but at the same time relatively brittle in order to be easily broken when opening the document.

After the introduction of paper of higher quality and of envelopes, the seals became smaller, more delicate and more precise. A signet ring – a ring with a crest on it, which symbolized power and status – was often passed down through generations of nobility.

Obviously, seals don’t have as much practical use today, but they can give a lot of charm and authenticity to many everyday items when we want them to be really special. Any written message can become extraordinary and unforgettable, if handed personally, written by hand, and sealed with a personal mark of authenticity. There is probably nothing more thrilling that opening a love letter or a vow sealed with a wax seal.

However, is it actually difficult to make a wax seal? What do I need to know to make it?

The answer is that it is very easy, and also quite interesting. There are two items needed: a stamp to make an impression and some wax. If it happens that you have not inherited a crest ring or stamp that has been in your family for generations, you can do two things: find a stationary shop that sells stamps--with initials or a symbol, for example. Or, look around and try to find an interesting piece of metal with an attractive texture: a pin, a button, a textured plate. It’s even better if some personal touch or meaning is involved in the impression.

Next, acquire some proper wax. Not all kinds of wax are suitable. Common paraffin candles are usually too runny when hot and too gummy after solidification. They tend to stick to your stamp instead of paper. Beeswax is a little better, and was used by the Romans, but it is relatively sticky and very picky about its temperature.

Sealing wax formulations evolved over time, and in the last two or three centuries, a common recipe consisted of rosin, shellac and turpentine, with some addition of beeswax. Today, it is not so easy to come upon these components, and moreover, they are not really safe – they can be very flammable and irritating. Turpentine is an organic solvent, and its vapors can irritate the skin and eyes, damage the lungs and respiratory system, as well as the central nervous system when inhaled. It is not the best idea to inhale the fumes of traditional sealing wax

In our Green Crafts Store we provide a safe, turpentine-free, all-natural sealing wax that is easy to use. It’s made entirely from plant-derived wax. It has a consistency that doesn’t stick to the stamp, which results in a clear, clean impression.

The wax comes in a stick with an embedded wick, which makes application really simple: all you need to do is light the stick like a candle, and holding the stick sideways, let some wax drip on the paper. Then you press down your stamp. The first time you try it, it might take a few attempts to get the right amount of wax, but if you ask me, that’s part of the fun.

And what about “faux wax”? It is actually a modern polymer-type material to be used in hot glue guns. Personally, I stay away from it because it is a synthetic. And also, where is the magic of an artificial polymer?

Things that are supposed to be “sealed with a flame” cannot be “sealed with a glue gun”!