Seal Matrix




Julie Shoemark

This beautifully preserved die from a seal matrix is from one of our recent digs in Chester.

It is made from copper alloy and consists of an oval face, or die, tapering into a faceted handle which terminates in an old break.

The die carries an engraved design consisting of an angel wearing a tiered robe with outstretched wings and clasped hands. The wings are finely stippled at the top to give an impression of the smaller feathers.

The angel is flanked by the initials O – I/J/Z presumably these are the initials of the owner.

Seal matrices were used to impress hot wax to create a seal on documents or correspondence, both for purposes of authentication/validation and to close documents. The practice was originally used by monarchs and other high-ranking officials, but by the medieval period had become common in everyday use.

In the late 17th and 18th centuries – the likely date for our example – they had largely dropped out of official use and instead were popular as personal seals for private letters. Examples from this date tend to carry a range of common motifs including hearts, arrows and anchors. The unusual design on this example may refer to the faith of the owner.

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