Cloth Seal *General Information

Diagram of 2 & 4 Part Cloth Seals Diagram and information taken from Geoff Egan's Lead Cloth Seals and Related Items in the British Museum, Occasional Paper 93.

Rivet type seals. The rivet passes through the cloth and the hole in disc 2 or 4 to attach the seal to the cloth by compression of the conical rivet. The four disc seals, which appeared from the late sixteenth century onwards were usually cast with devices on the 'inner' discs and further devices were added when stamping the outer rivet or left blank if a simple hammer and anvil was used. The earlier two disc seals had their devices added when stamped on to the cloth between dies in a similar manner to the production of hammered coinage. Three and six disc seals are known.
The 2 disc cloth seals in the B.M. collection range from 2.125g to 48g! Although that monster was 39mm in diameter the majority of the 2 disc seals are between 15 and 25mm.

Cloth seals were used from the late 13th century (wax was also used but was outlawed at the beginning of the sixteenth century) to the mid 19th century. One part cloth seals, attached to the cloth by a cord running horizontally through them, are known in a variety of forms and this type was also known to be attached to goods other than cloth however lead bag seals, which are usually of the 'bulla' type, were not prolific until the industrial revolution took hold in the 18th century and did not wane until the mid 20th century when aluminium, alloys and plastics began to take over along with direct printing onto the packageing of products.

Photo info