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Seal Matrix and Intaglio

Seal Types

Seals survive both as matrices and as impressions, though impressions are more common. A matrix may be of various kinds. Seals of royalty, great aristocrats and important institutions usually used a circular matrix. Sometimes there were two matrices, a seal and a counterseal, so that the wax impression which resulted would be two sided, with a different design on each side. Circular seals are known as coin seals because they resemble a coin. Coin seals vary considerably in size, but royal seals were often large. Richard III’s great seal, for example, was 900mm in diameter. The seal of a middle-ranking aristocrat would be smaller; perhaps around 350mm in diameter. Fifteenth-century great royal seals normally showed the king galloping on horseback, with drawn sword and a shield bearing the royal arms. In the early middle ages great aristocrats had used similar designs, but by the fifteenth century most of them avoided what had by then come to be seen as a royal pattern. (Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the seal of ‘Warwick the Kingmaker’ is an exception.) Instead most noblemen used seals which depicted their arms, often with the shield couché (inclined at a 45 degree angle) beneath a large helm.

Prior to the fifteenth century pointed oval designs, called vesica seals, were popular with noble women and also with high ranking ecclesiastics. The shape allowed room either to depict a full length standing figure of the owner, or alternatively to show scenes at two levels. Monastic seals often used the latter device, with a main, upper register depicting the monastery’s patron saint, and a small lower register in which the prior or abbot was shown praying. By the fifteenth century, vesica seals were somewhat out of fashion, but they still occur on documents, because monasteries in particular tended to continue using seal matrices made years — or sometimes centuries — earlier.

By the fifteenth century, use of seals was widespread. One nobleman is said to have remarked acidly that in earlier times it had not been the custom for every Tom, Dick and Harry to use a seal. Most seals were quite small, and the most common forms of matrix were the pyramid seal (a small, usually circular design with a stem on the back, by which it could be held) and the signet, which could be of any shape (but was often circular or oval) and comprised the bezel of a ring.

Seal impressions are usually of wax, though royal and papal seals were sometimes impressed in metal such as lead, or even gold. Such metal impressions were called bullæ. (This word is the origin of the expression ‘papal bull’, referring to a sealed letter from the pope.) Seal impressions were not directly attached to their documents, but hung from them on small strips of parchment or (for persons of high rank) silk threads.

C1300 Solid silver medieval vessica seal 62.1g, 21.96mm L x 18.81mm x 5.51mm W (excluding hanger)

2- 15thC seal matrix - Jewish symbol & capital 'R' - Initial capital 'I'

Anonymous: letter I early 15thC. An initial with crown above, branches at the side, was a design that became incrreasingly common in the 15thC and was often used on a signet ring as below. The letter suggests it stood for the owners forename. This example was used in 1424 by Edward Saddler, clerk

Seal ring of Edward Saddler

Another 15thC seal matrix used by Edward Saddler - Medieval seal ring, 24.84mm dia



This early 13thC Medieval seal matrix is a superb example and is very unusual having a seal matrix on both ends. One end has a shield with lombardic script around the outside and the other has 2 letters
13th/14thC seal matrix - impression looks like a frog or toad (c)
13thC Medieval Seal (Vessica shape) Very unusual design with symbol on rear
12thC seal matrix. The clay impression clearly shows a falcon attacking a bird lying on it's back
1260 AD Non Heraldic personal seal
13thC seal matrix, lamb with legs tucked underneath
16thC Copper alloy Seal matrix 'RV'
Georgian fob seal with head facing right impression


Georgian Fob seal found by Wis Neil
Georgian silvered fob seal matrix - mans head facing right, obv intials script 'LK'
Stunning condition 13th to 15thC seal matrix
13th to 15thC seal matrix - 2 people facing with heart in the middle
Georgian fob seal matrix with man looking left
Georgian fob seal matrix with woman looking right
Fob seal matrix - plain
18thC fob seal with head and anchor, probably belonged to a ships captain.
18th Fob seal matrix with woman facing right
Fantastic intaglio - double faced as you change the light - man and woman found by Boston Bud
Georgian fob seal
Unusual bronze seal with full legend around the rim. Generally these are Georgian in date but further cleaning of the inscription should help with a better ID
18thC Bronze face with the initials MW on the reverse - Seal matrix
1260 AD Non Heraldic personal seal of freeholders of Charwelton Nothhamptonshire. 4 have been found attached to pasture rights. The design is typical of mid 13thC non heraldic seals like the one published on the 23rd Jan post, a fleur -de- lis, a flower, the lamb of god and each names it's owner on the legend.

Stunning 16th/17th Seal matrix with Bell impression - Georgian fob seal with red stone - Very unusual seal matrix , 2 stag heads with Fleur De Lis on heraldic shield. The cartwheel back is not one I have seen before so I will be researching it.

c 13thC Medieval seal matrix

Georgian seal matrix - unusual design probably had a wooden handle attached
16thC seal matrix with flower design - very unusual type
1st to 4thC Roman bronze seal ring
Georgian fob seal intaglio
Heraldic lead mount - need researching
Georgian fob seal
Georgian fob seal
Mid 17thC Heart and flame intaglio seal
Medieval seal matrix
18thC Fob seal
Medieval seal matrix
17th/18thC seal matrix with lion and crown (r)

17thC Charles II fob seal - 'Carolius'


Large Georgian desk seal matrix

Medieval bronze seal ring - bearded figure sitting - 2.70g, 18.86 mm dia x 9.62 mm W

17thC seal matrix
Medieval seal matrix 20.22m dia , 9.34g


Circa 1260 AD lead personal seal , 4 have been found attached to pasture rights. The design is typical of mid 13thC non heraldic seals


Georgian fob seal with mans head facing right

Silver seal matrix – double headed eagle with heart - reported as treasure to the museum - difficult to date as it has the style of a Medieval seal but it probably 16th/17thC The British Museum experts will be able to give us more information later.

 5.02g, 25.09mm L x (13.79mm x 10.98mm  seal head)

Late 16thC seal matrix with Fleur de Lis impression
Early Medieval seal matrix - bell type

Medieval seal matrix