Cornelian seal matrix with Austen Coat of Arms
Object name: Cornelian seal matrix, intaglio cut with the Austen Coat of Arms.
Object number: CHWJA:JAH24
Description: Lozenge shaped Cornelian seal matrix, intaglio cut with the Austen Coat of Arms of a stag sitting upon a mural coronet above a shield with three lion’s paws. The Austen motto ‘Qui Invidit minor est’ (he who envies is inferior) appears beneath.
Made: Early 19th century
Context: This seal matrix is made of Cornelian, a hard, semi-precious stone. Cornelian was often used for seal matrices as it could be engraved with high quality images and hot wax did not stick to it.
Personal seals were greatly in fashion from the 17th to the mid-19th century. A seal matrix, often bearing the owner’s Coat of Arms or motif, was used to make a mark in hot wax on a letter or document to identify the sender and seal the letter against tampering. The use of envelopes was considered a luxury afforded only to the rich; the cost of postage was based on the number of sheets so it was cheaper to fold a letter and seal it closed, rather than use an envelope.
By the mid-nineteenth century, the introduction of the penny post and improvements in envelope manufacturing led to a growth in envelope usage and a sharp decline in wax sealing.
This seal matrix was donated to the Museum by a descendant of Jane’s third brother Edward.
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