You’d be forgiven for thinking that this is a type of candle, but it wasn’t used for lighting. It’s a wax jack, used for sealing old letters and correspondence before envelopes were invented.
Wax jacks were used from around 1700 to seal letters for privacy. Candles had been used in the same way but were more costly as they used more wax. Also, and perhaps more importantly, they gave less heat than a candle, as the flame was much smaller and did not melt the sealing wax so quickly.
But, how was it used? Was the wax from the wax jack used to seal letters? Or was it used to melt sealing wax? I had a bit of difficulty finding this out.
However, after lots and lots of research and finding all sorts of conflicting information, I found out the proper way to use it.
The wax used for the taper on a wax jack was usually beeswax, as it is in this piece, but beeswax is very flexible and remains so after cooling. Since the whole point of sealing was to securely seal the correspondence, beeswax was not a suitable solution. Sealing wax is made from much more brittle types of wax which would indicate whether or not there had been any tampering. Therefore, wax jacks were used to melt sealing wax rather than using the dripped wax from the jack.
This is an exceptional piece, still containing a very old beeswax taper. It is silver plated on copper with a reeded handle, thumb-piece and a circular foot. It stands at 16cm high.
Some of the copper under the silver plating showing through on the edges. There is old wax residue around the bottom of the wax jack and there are dents around the top and the bottom.
A fascinating historical piece.