Analog branding, or, wax on, wax off.

From an archaeology dig in England

A strong brand can occupy hot real estate on a person’s brain, my marketing textbooks say so. Companies invest serious dollars (or euros, yens, pesos, rupees, etc.) to have obtain permanent residence in the perception of consumers.

Leaving imprints is a matter of history and communication. Archaeologists have studied hieroglyphics, cave wall markings, and journals, among other things. Sigillography is the field of inquiry for seals, the symbolic kind and not the animals.

Wax seals were used by individuals on their correspondence as a means to seal close envelopes, and with a signet ring, officializes the transaction. Monarchs and the Church gave their thumbs up through seals. Don Corleone had nothing on these kings, queens and popes whose rings were more than what people kissed; signet rings, which contained coats of arms, were used to sign letters, accords, and contracts.

Before rubber stamps and inkpads at government offices, signet rings held authority that put traitors and suspected witches to their deaths. Nowadays, the wait for getting approval can be so time and energy consuming that the wait is enough to cause a natural death due to ennui. Too much of a stretch? No.

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36 Comments

Filed under Archaeology, art, fashion, History, ideas, lifestyle

36 responses to “Analog branding, or, wax on, wax off.

  1. Allison Huyett

    I seal you and heart this.

  2. See electronic seal below. (just kidding). Like the photos.

  3. Raul

    I want a seal and I want it now!

    http://www.wutevs.wordpress.com

  4. pretty interesting, and the foto’s are really nice!

  5. Doug

    They still use seals in Japan for official docs, rather than a signature. My wife is Japanese and when they go sign something over there, her mother has a small Chinese-style seal with the family inscription, that she stamps with red ink.

    Not exactly a wax seal, but glad to see the art is still around. 🙂

  6. I want a seal! There’s something so personal about them. Too bad we don’t write hand written letters anymore.

  7. Very aesthetic blog. The ancient seal is most intriguing. Do you have an idea about it’s date?

    Thanks,
    Arshama

  8. Talk about lasting brand loyalty! Great post, a very interesting exploration with lovely images.

  9. Jessica @ j-wood photography

    The world today is far too impatient. We should start a “revolt” and go back to using seals, pigeons, and handwritten letters.

  10. Love it! I find it intriguing as well, how much power a person held not with a fancy ID badge, but with a ring that showed the family’s crest. Also: I’m 19 and basically grew up with people abandoning paper-y stuff, but I still send lots of handwritten letters, and I’ve had a small generic seal with a fleur de lis for years now — as a graduation present, my parents let me chose a bigger, manufactured seal with my initials. A friend of mine says she squeals everytime she sees I thought of putting a seal on a letter to her 🙂

  11. I like this way of digital sig… ups! analog signature offcourse… to tell the world who wrote the letter. But I fear these days that more than 1 billion seals out there would be nearly meaningless mainly for reasons of close similarity…

  12. My hubbie and I purchased a seal for our wedding invites … hmmm, I’m thinking I should dig it out again.

  13. In my opinion, it’s a shame that rubber stamps just waltzed in and stole the wax seal’s thunder. They’re just not the same.

    The Codger
    http://thecodger.wordpress.com/

  14. i adore these seals. read an article recently on creating your own using wood and sealing it – definately going to make one of my own when i get the chance!
    http://nonewblack.wordpress.com

  15. i love the antiquity, really really cool and very interesting!

  16. Good gosh, I wonder how much it would cost and where to get a personalised seal on a silver ring. The would be very cool!

  17. I’ve often wondered about these seals. How easy would it have been to create a forgery? Did identity theft start in the middle ages?

    http://danjswade.wordpress.com

  18. sinbalas

    Well times is over, we can not come back o return, pretty bad but seals are gone ,……..

  19. I had a box full of stamps and sealing wax growing up. I loved anything “letter,” fountain pens, sealing wax, homemade paper, air-sickess bags as envelopes, cool stamps…yes, let’s hear it for the paper and pen written word!

  20. Dear Peanut,

    Not to tip my hand as a nostalgic eccentric hell-bent on anachronism, but I’ve got several seals which I had made in Italy. I agree with your point about their superiority to the process of “getting approval.”

    Even when obtaining such assurance of one’s identity becomes as simple as saying a word or two into a microphone (which, I believe it has), it will still pale in comparison with the style and character of a personalized signet.

    I wonder if there aren’t cultures in which the seal is yet used? I’d bet the Pope has one, and the Queen of England, too.

    Fine writing, Sir, and a respectable perspective.

    Yours Truly,

    -BothEyes

    • I don’t think it’s particularly eccentric but particular. I still do my photography with black and white Tri-X 35mm film. A bit nostalgic but it works a lot better than digital for my purposes. Thank you for the kind words.

  21. Wax seals are so classy. Shame they’re rarely used anymore.

  22. I still write with a fountain pen. I love technology but I long for the scribes. Enjoyed this post. Cheers!

  23. This is intriguing. I know of a small chinese shop in Melaka (in Malaysia, where I come from) that still produce and sells seals. I’m not sure if they had the wax ones, but I know they have the ink one. A real classic, but can be pricey.

    http://thereislifeinmantin.wordpress.com/

  24. Krupali

    What happened when the ring got stolen? How would anyone know if the contract was valid? And if someone didn’t like the contents of a contract could they just say that their ring was stolen and they weren’t the ones who signed/sealed it?

  25. i think you will be rich if you sell it to ebay..
    nice article…

  26. Astrid

    It’s a new trend now in wedding invitations to use wax seals, but unfortunately the postal service frowns on it (apparently the wax gunks up the machines).

    But I totally agree, there is something intrinsically romantic about a wax seal, a scroll, and a leather thong (that sounds wrong, but I mean it in the tie-around-the-scroll kind of way!)

    http://www.changehere.wordpress.com
    —Astrid

  27. Original seals. Nice to see them still exist. Compare to “sealed with a kiss”, which one is more original? 😉

  28. Songbird

    Very interesting and great photos with the post!

  29. This are great… Seals are so dramatic though but love it

  30. A cheap wax seal kit I bought from a stationary story is one of the most fun things I’ve bought this year

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