Seals were used by monarchs, clergymen, aristocracy and merchants throughout Europe in the Elizabethan period to authorise important documents. Family or private seals were also commonly used to finalise and seal letters.
For important documents, security was the main concern. Without a seal, a document was neither official nor safe from prying eyes. Documents were either tied together with ribbon and sealed, or a strip of paper was cut from the letter and sealed onto the rest of the document.
Seals had distinctive features so that they could not be easily forged. They often had initials, a motto, or a heraldic design. The seal moulds were made from copper, bronze and sometimes lead, stone or slate. The seals could be attached to wooden or metal handles, or to rings and pendants. To use the seal, hot wax was poured onto the document and impressed with the seal.