This September's auction of Jewellery, Watches & Silver includes a fine collection of seals dating from 17th/18th century are a highlight in our forthcoming sale. Throughout history, the purpose of a seal was two-fold; identification and security. Easily recognisable, crests and arms of important families not only appeared on seals but also on flags and shields. Letters and notices would be signed and then sealed with a wax impression of the family armorials or crest - a privilage held by the head of the household to ensure security.
The seals in our September 15th auction fall into two categories: rings and fobs. In general, rings would be earlier and quite a personal piece of jewellery that would always remain on the owner's person to ensure security. The earliest example included in our sale, Lot 161, is a rougher example in the collection that may have had a religious connection as the shoulders appear to be a bishop’s mitre and could be dated to 17th or early 18th century. Typical of the first half of the 19th century, Lot 164 (picture below) is gold mounted with a well engraved matrix.
Gold mounted fob seals are normally dated to circa 1800 onwards, although they do appear in base metals dating back to 1100AD. Often made wholly in gold, the matrix is generally carved in various hard-stones. The craftsmanship of the mount, as well as the carving of the Armorials, make these pieces works of art in their own right, showing the gem cutter and goldsmith’s work at their best, bearing in mind that craftsman carving the seal had to work in reverse.
Fob seals continue to be used for their traditional purpose but over the decades have became more of a piece of gentleman’s jewellery to go with the Albert chain. Lot 190 (pictured above) is a particularly good group example, including two matching family seals and a watch key with the gold work matching in design.
A facinating snapshot of a family history, many armorials and crests in this collection have been identified, revealing a little of the family history for each piece. We are delighted to include this engaging collection in our forthcoming auction of Jewellery, Watches & Silver taking place on Tuesday 15th September.