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Subject: Wax seals

Wax seals

From: Deborah Rohan <deborah.rohan>
Date: Thursday, December 6, 2001
Kirsten Elliott <loopyla8 [at] yahoo__co__uk> writes

>I am working on a printed document from England in 1786 which has a
>red wax seal applied to one corner. Does anybody know what type or
>nature of red pigments may have been used in wax seals around this
>date? From the literature I have found it seems that it could be a
>beeswax seal or a mixture of beeswax and mineral wax, is this
>correct?

If the seal is attached directly to the paper, and a shiny bright
red, the chances are that it is made of shellac. This became common
in the 17th-18th C., as trade with India made shellac more
economical; and I believe shellac, with a mixture of plastics, is
what we use for sealing-wax today, though they've been made of all
sorts of things recently. Wax/resin seals are generally slightly
duller in finish and colour. Shellac dissolves in alcohol, so it's
important not to try to clean it with solvents. It also more brittle
than wax/resin, and cracks and fragments very easily, so if it is
intact, it should be handled carefully.


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                  Conservation DistList Instance 15:41
                Distributed: Thursday, December 6, 2001
                       Message Id: cdl-15-41-004
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Received on Thursday, 6 December, 2001

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