Sealing wax

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A thermoplastic resinous mixture used since the Middle Ages to seal letters, documents and jars. Sealing waxes are soft and fluid when hot and but set to a hard solid when cool. They were made by several different recipes. Early recipes were usually based on Beeswax formulations, sometimes mixed with pigments, Tallow, turpentine and/or Rosin. After the 16th century, Lac wax was also used as a base material. Other recipes include mixtures of Shellac and Venice turpentine with small amounts of pigments, oils, or waxes. Pigments can include Vermilion, Red lead, Verdigris or Lampblack.

Synonyms and Related Terms

wax seals; lacre (Esp.); ceralacca (It);

Physical and Chemical Properties

  • Density = 1.8 g/ml

Resources and Citations

  • E. Parra, M.D.Gayo, A.Serrano, "The Creation of a Database for Wax Seals from Parchment Documents using the Results of Chemical Analysis", preprints ICOM Commettee for Conservation 10th Triennial meeting at Wahington DC, Aug. 1993, p.37.
  • Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1969 (also 1945 printing)
  • Random House, Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Grammercy Book, New York, 1997
  • The American Heritage Dictionary or Encarta, via Microsoft Bookshelf 98, Microsoft Corp., 1998
  • CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, Robert Weast (ed.), CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, v. 61, 1980 Comment: density=1.8