Sealing wax

Sealing wax

Sealing wax is a material which, after melting, quickly hardens (to paper, parchment, ribbons and wire, and other material) forming a bond that cannot be separated without noticeable tampering. Wax is used to verify something such as a document is unopened, to verify the sender's identity, for example with a signet ring, and as decoration. Sealing wax can be used to take impressions of other seals. It can be used to create a hermetic seal on containers. Wax was used to seal "letters close" and later (from about the 16th century) envelopes. (Before sealing wax, the Romans used bitumen for this purpose.)

Recipes vary, but there is a major shift after European trade with the Indies opened. In the Middle Ages sealing wax was typically made of beeswax and "Venice turpentine", a greenish-yellow resinous extract of the European Larch tree. The earliest such wax was uncoloured, somewhat later the wax was coloured red with vermilion. From the 16th century it instead was compounded from a mixture of various proportions of shellac, turpentine, resin, chalk or plaster, and colouring matter (often still vermilion, or else red lead), but not necessarily beeswax. The proportion of chalk varied; coarser grades are used to seal wine bottles and preserves, finer grades for documents. In some situations, such as large seals on public documents, beeswax was actually used. On occasion, sealing wax has historically been perfumed by ambergris, musk and other scents. [cite book|author=Tomlinson, C., ed.|title=Tomlinson's Cyclopaedia of Useful Arts|year=1866|publisher=Virtue & Co|location=London Vol II, page 495.]

By 1866 many colors were available: gold (using mica), blue (using smalt or verditer), black (using lamp black), white (using lead white), yellow (using trupeth mineral), green (using verdigris) and so on. Some users such as the British Crown assigned different colours to different types of documents. Today a range of synthetic colours is available.

Sealing wax is available in the form of sticks, sometimes with a wick, or as granules. The stick is melted at one end (but not ignited or blackened), or the granules heated in a spoon, normally using a flame, and then placed where required, usually on the flap of an envelope. While the wax is still soft, the seal (being preferably at the same temperature as the wax, for the best impression) should be quickly pressed into it and released. [cite book|author=Tomlinson, C., ed.|title=Tomlinson's Cyclopaedia of Useful Arts|year=1866|publisher=Virtue & Co|location=London Vol II, page 495.]

Modern day has brought sealing wax to a new level of use and application.

There are traditional sealing wax candles still produced in France and Scotland, using similar formulas as those in the days of hand-carried correspondence.

Since the advent of a postal system, the use of sealing wax has become more for ceremony than security.

Modern times have required new styles of wax to be created, allowing for mailing of the seal without damage or removal.

These new waxes are flexible for mailing and are referred to as glue gun sealing wax, faux sealing wax, and flexible sealing wax.


See also

* Bulla (seal)
* Papal bull
* Tamper-evident


* [] Quoted source for modern sealing waxes.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужно сделать НИР?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Sealing wax — Seal ing wax A compound of the resinous materials, pigments, etc., used as a material for seals, as for letters, documents, etc. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • sealing wax — n. a combination of resin and turpentine used for sealing letters, dry cells, etc.: it is hard at normal temperatures but softens when heated …   English World dictionary

  • sealing wax — n [U] a red substance that melts and becomes hard again quickly, used for closing letters, documents etc, especially in the past …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • sealing wax — ► NOUN ▪ a mixture of shellac and rosin with turpentine and pigment, softened by heating and used to make seals …   English terms dictionary

  • sealing wax — noun fastener consisting of a resinous composition that is plastic when warm; used for sealing documents and parcels and letters • Syn: ↑seal • Derivationally related forms: ↑seal (for: ↑seal) • Hypernyms: ↑fastener, ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • sealing wax — N UNCOUNT Sealing wax is a hard, usually red, substance that melts quickly and is used for putting seals on documents or letters …   English dictionary

  • sealing wax — smalka statusas T sritis chemija apibrėžtis Trapi, žemos minkštėjimo temperatūros masė, sakų, šelako ir pigmentų mišinys. atitikmenys: angl. sealing wax rus. сургуч …   Chemijos terminų aiškinamasis žodynas

  • sealing wax — a resinous preparation, soft when heated, used for sealing letters, documents, etc. [1300 50; ME] * * *       substance formerly in wide use for sealing letters and attaching impressions of seals to documents. In medieval times it consisted of a… …   Universalium

  • sealing wax — type of wax used for sealing letters …   English contemporary dictionary

  • sealing wax — seal′ing wax n. a resinous preparation, soft when heated, used for sealing letters, documents, etc • Etymology: 1300–50 …   From formal English to slang

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”