Destinations Magazine

The Answer to the French Guessing Game ... Oh Colette!

By Coreyamaro

Wafer seals antique colette

"If you've ever received newsletters or brochures in the mail, chances are they were held together by wafer seals. They are are self-adhesive paper disks used to prepare self-mailing materials for delivery or to seal envelopes securely without glue. Some wafer seals are perforated to prevent damage while opening, while others may be serrated for decoration or embossed for personalization. Many stamp collectors also have an interest in certain vintage or historic seals."

Wafer seals old

a 1500s square wafer seal.

Corey amaro wax seal antique

"The use of wafer seals for envelopes and self-mailing documents was most likely derived from the earlier practice of using wax seals. Official wafer seals could also be commissioned in order to verify the authenticity of a decree or military order. Any hint of tampering or unauthorized reading could be detected by examining the seals. It is these elaborate versions that most interest stamp collectors today. As other forms of document protection, such as the self-sealing envelope, became more common, the use of official wafer seals declined. The practice is now mostly used during ceremonies or as official seals on formal invitations." Via WiseGeek

Wax-seal corey amaro antiques

French pastel wafer seals.

"In the 19th century, sealing wax was a material made by the melting of lac or rosin with turpentine and pigments. In it's earliest forms it would have been made of beeswax and resin. The sealing wax was used to "seal" the letters or envelopes, with or without a wafer. During the early to mid 19th century the use of the wafer became popular in less formal correspondence. Often times people would imprint their sealing wax with initials, coat of arms, or other insignia as their personal mark on the sealing wax. With the onset of gummed envelopes, however, sealing wax and wafers eventually took a brief repose. By the 1870s few were using sealing wax, wafers and folded letters without envelopes. In the 1880's sealing wax was confined to those courtly correspondences, express parcels containing valuables for security, money parcels sent by express or foreign dispatches. However, you also always had those who of the "old school" still used it in all formal letters and notes. It was seen that sealing wax in the 1880s was more commonly used in Great Britain than in America. But it began to gain acceptance and popularity again, especially in America, in the 1880s and 1890s." via A Victorian Passage "

"How Wafers Were Made 
These are sort of like a predecessor to a sticker. Wafers were made from wheat flour which was mixed with water so as to form a thin smooth paste. The paste was then pressed between two thin polished iron plates, so joined as to form, when closed, a pair of "wafer tongs". The plates didn't quite touch each other but are separated by a space as thick as the wafers are required. The iron plates when used are slightly warmed and greased, filled with the paste, closed and held for a few moments over a charcoal fire. The heat sets the paste and on separating the tongs a thin sheet of polished dry brittle wafer will come out. Several of these are stacked and then cut into small circular wafers by means of a punch. If made only with flour then they are white, but they are oftentimes colored by mixing lamp black, gamboge, Indigo, Vermilion, and Red Lead. Transparent wafers were made of fine glue, or isinglass. After the introduction of gumming, some fancy wafers were cut from gilt or silver paper, gummed on the lower surface and usually embossed. (SOURCE A VICTORIAN PASSAGE)

How to Apply A Wafer
To use a wafer to fasten papers and letters depends on the wafer becoming soft and adhesive when it is moistened. In this state it is placed between two pieces of paper, and the latter pressed together. The wafer adheres to both pieces of paper and when it dries unites them the same way as glue would." via A Victorian Passage

Private Collection French Letters Corey Amaro   "Invitations and their replies should be sealed with wax.
Red and black seals are proper. 
Only neat seals are considered worthy.
Wafers were not to be used.
Private letters should use dark green or red.
Seal should have your monogram, and if you must your crest, but never your coat of arms. 
Men sealing their letters used seal rings or a little stamp that was obtained by a silversmith. 
In France different colored waxes were used for different occasions: 
- white for communication relating to weddings
- black for obituaries
- violet for sympathy
- chocolate for dinner invitations
- red for business
- ruby for engaged lovers' letters to one another
- green for letters from lovers who live in hopes
- brown for refusals of marriage offers. 
- blue denotes constancy 
- yellow jealously
- pale green reproaches
- pink used by young girls
- gray used between friends." VIA VICTORIAN PASSAGE    
  Colette wrote about sealing wafers in her COLLECTED STORIES:                                                       Green Sealing Wax.      Colette starts by saying, "Around fifteen, I was at the height of a mania for desk furniture..." She goes on describe her father's desk and her passion for those things adorning it, "... a lacquer bowl filled with a golden powder to dry the wet pages; another bowl containing sealing wafers of all colors (I used to eat the white ones)..."   Thank you Karen O. for your correct guess and reference to Colette's text.   And Franca Bolla who noted the French word for sealng wafers:   Pains a Cacheter     Creative Responses ... so many good ones, so many possibilities, so many that made me laugh out loud! My favorites:   Cheryl B. said...

"They are an early form of birth control. Hold one between the knees, don't let go for anything!!"

Rebecca who NEVER disappoints (Diogenes and Franca Bolla either, the three in the pod)

"Corey, which flavor of the Body of Christ would you like today, my dear?"

Violet Cadburry wrote:

"Early LSD tablets."

Julia - Vintage with Laces said...

These are poker chips from a dwarf casino. The dwarfs nibbled on the chips out of excitement even though Snow White had told them that this is bad manners.

And Debra Please thank your children for their efforts!

The Creative Winner:

Stella.... Barbie Coasters!


The Answer to the French Guessing Game ... Oh Colette!
The Answer to the French Guessing Game ... Oh Colette!
The Answer to the French Guessing Game ... Oh Colette!
The Answer to the French Guessing Game ... Oh Colette!
The Answer to the French Guessing Game ... Oh Colette!
The Answer to the French Guessing Game ... Oh Colette!

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog