Metal detecting holidays in England

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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.

16th/17th C Seal matrix

Stunning 16thC seal matric - R H

Post medieval copper seal ring

17thC seal ring - IB

17thC Charles II circa 1670 silver seal matrix - reported to Colchester museum as treasure Stunning 17thC seal matrix - reported to museum as treasure
17thC seal matrix - reported to museum as treasure Stunning ecclesiastical 17thC silver seal matrix - reported as treasure to museum
17thC silver seal matrix - clasped hands and heart - reported a streasure to museum Post 17thC silver seal matrix

c13thC medieval silver seal matrix - Crossed hands and flowers

Lombardic lettering - Edward type E's and barred A's.

Appears to be * E( ? AUI IDE( LI ?'

17thC silver seal matrix - reported to museum as treasure

Crown over Tudor rose

17thC silver seal matrix - rev initial IC , 17thC silver seal matrix

ESS-49C036 Seal Matrix


Treasure 2008 T579 : Post Medieval silver seal matrix. It is 25.12mm long, measuring 13.76mm by 11.36mm wide. Weight 4.93 grams. British Museum Report: Silver seal-die, fluted handle with baluster knop and suspension loop, the die engraved very lightly and crudely with a double-headed eagle displayed, no edging. Probably 17th Century. There is an amateurish look to this seal die, which is also heavily worn. As such, due to its age and precious metal content, this object qualifies as Treasure under the stipulations of the Treasure Act 1996. Dr Dora Thornton, Curator of Renaissance Collections The British Museum


Broad period: POST MEDIEVAL
Period from: POST MEDIEVAL

Date from: AD 1600
Date to: AD 1700

Dimensions and weight

Length: 25.12 mm
Width: 13.76 mm
Thickness: 11.36 mm
Weight: 4.93 g
Quantity: 1

Materials and construction

Primary material: Silver

Manufacture method: Cast

Completeness: Complete

PAS-8E6B26 Seal matrix



17th century silver mount or seal die Circumstances of discovery: Whilst searching with a metal detector Description: (Please note this description is based on an image and not first hand experience of the object.) This silver mount is octagonal in plan and flat in section. It is decorated to the front face with the negative design of a heart with a crown above, bisected by two crossing arrows with feathered flights, within a border of pellets. The reverse of the mount is plain. There is a raised circular collar to the centre of the reverse. The negative design and collar may suggest that the object was once mounted on a shaft and used as a seal. The design is similar (though not identical) to that found on a number of post-medieval buttons or cufflinks previously reported as treasure (e.g. Treasure Annual Report 2001, page 81). The design may have commemorated the marriage of Charles II with Catharine of Braganza in 1662. Dimensions: Length: 14.85mm, width: 14.1mm, Weight: 2.19g. The object contains a minimum of 10% silver and is over 300 years old. Consequently it qualifies as Treasure under the stipulations of the Treasure Act 1996 in terms of both age and precious metal content.

Subsequent actions

Subsequent action after recording: Returned to finder

Treasure details

Treasure case tracking number: 2005 T491


Broad period: POST MEDIEVAL
Period from: POST MEDIEVAL


Date from: AD 1600
Date to: AD 1699

Dimensions and weight

Length: 14.85 mm
Width: 14.1 mm
Weight: 2.19 g
Quantity: 1

Materials and construction

Primary material: Silver

Completeness: Incomplete


16thC seal matrix with bird impression

Incomplete Post Medieval cast copper alloy seal matrix. Originally this would have been a quadruple seal-matrix; four ovals joined by arms at a lozengeform junction with openwork circle. Only the commecting junction and one oval survives. The matrix is worn, with only a slight depression now visible. It is 28.72mm long, with the matrix measuring 13.93mm by 13.43mm. It weighs 6.43 grams. For a similar example see Reed (1988) History beneath our feet, page 117 figure 5.

Subsequent actions

Subsequent action after recording: Finder applying for an export licence


Broad period: POST MEDIEVAL
Period from: POST MEDIEVAL

Date from: AD 1600
Date to: AD 1750

Dimensions and weight

Length: 28.72 mm
Width: 13.93 mm
Quantity: 1

Materials and construction

Primary material: Copper alloy

Manufacture method: Cast

Completeness: Incomplete

Post medieval seal matrix - sunburst impression

16thC Tudor seal matrix

Interesting lead seal matrix - Piper facing right


16th/17th seal matrix with Bell impression 16thC Copper alloy Seal matrix 'RV'
16thC Tudor seal spoon handle - AE Late 16thC seal matrix with Fleur de Lis impression
16thC seal matrix with flower design - very unusual type 17thC seal matrix
17thC Charles II fob seal - 'Carolius' 17thC seal matrix



16th/17thC seal matrix - DW Really nice 17thC seal matrix - fish jumping out of water impression
17thC seal matrix 17thC Heart and flame intaglio seal

17thC seal

Basically the seal has two Arabic words “khulqahu – subhanahu” which are attributes of God meaning something like “Allah, to whom be ascribed all perfection and majesty, as confirmed through His creation”


If I had to translate it using fewer words, I would say “Glory – His Creation”

17thC seal matrix

16thC seal matrix - DC

17thC seal matrix - heart and arrows inscription

17thC seal matrix

Georgian seals


Fob seal holders

The tiniest Georgian fob seal I have ever seen - you see the scale by the tweezers holding the seal - amazing skill to cut a detailed bust impression that small


Georgian fob seal with head facing right impression
Georgian fob seal matrix with man looking left
Fob seal matrix with woman facing right Fob seal matrix with man facing right
Fob seal matrix with woman facing right Uninscribed fob seal
Fantastic intaglio/seal- double faced as you change the light - man and woman
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
Georgian fob seal with red stone Georgian intaglio fob seal - rider on horse 2 stag heads with Fleur De Lis on heraldic shield. The cartwheel back is not one I have seen before
Georgian fob seal intaglio Georgian intaglio seal matrix with lion and crown
Large Georgian desk seal matrix Georgian fob seal with mans head facing right
18thC Fob seal Georgian fob seal -hogs head impression Really neat Georgian glass fob seal - mans bust impression
Georgian fob seal Neat Georgian seal matrix
Georgian Naval fob seal - Man standing leaning left resting on anchor Neat Georgian fob seal matrix

Georgian intaglio fob seal

Georgian fob seal

Huge lead post medieval lead seal matrix 47mm dia, 81.54g



Georgian fob seal - VITE VITE

Means Quickly quickly - Letter delivery stamp ?

Georgian silver seal matrix

Georgian seal ring pipe tamper with integral bowl cleaner

Georgian silver seal matrix

Huge Georgian fob seal

Georgian fob seal Georgian seal matrix
Georgian intaglio brooch seal Georgian seal matrix - unusual design probably had a wooden handle attached

Very neat Georgian triple sided seal matrix


Doubel sided Georgian fob seal matrix - needs cleaning

Post medieval seal matrix, shows the word 'god speed' and what appears to be a plough underneath, neat relic.


Double sided Georgian seal matrix


Mans head facing right, obv intials script 'JR'
Georgian silvered fob seal matrix - mans head facing right, obv intials script 'LK'
Bust and anchor, probably belonged to a ships captain. Bronze face with the initials MW on the reverse
Georgian fob seal Georgian double sided seal matrix
Georgian double sided fob seal - Jewish profile head, Lion on reverse Double sided Georgian fob seal matrix
Georgian fob seal - Dove of peace flying right Georgian seal matrix face

Georgian fob seal - hunting foxes

'Tally Ho'

Georgian intaglio
Georgian fob seal Georgian silver plated seal matrix - needs cleaning to remove crust
Georgian fob seal Georgian fob seal Georgian fob seal matrix - lady standing leaning left on anchor
Georgian fob seal Georgian fob seal
17thC seal matrix
Georgian fob seal holder

Cracking silver seal picuture sent from the field

Georgian silver and stone seal matrix

Neat glass Georgian fob seal matrix

Double side Georgian seal matrix

Obv Crest of Arms

Rev Bust facing right

Double side Georgian seal matrix

Obv Masted sailing ship facing right

Rev Bust facing right

Georgian fob seal matrix

1794 silver seal matrix

Maker CF - Crispin Fuller - registered DecĀ 1792

London duty paid symbol - date letter small t

Georgian fob seal matrix

Georgian fob seal - ship with oars facing left

Georgian fob seal - mans bust facing right Georgian fob seal - lady standing facing right
Blank Georgian fob seal Post medieval seal ring
Click here for Medieval seals page