What Kind of Relic Is This??

Tom Hughes

First Sergeant
Joined
May 27, 2019
Location
Mississippi
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I found this quarter sized pewter relic at a site occupied since 1850 in west central Mississippi. Now, it may or may not be civil war....But I'm wondering if it might be an old wax letter seal???? Any thoughts?
The raised image appears to either be a ship with 3 masts (flags) blowing in the wind OR it looks like some type of Nordic ship with 3 dragon heads (Hey, I've got an active imagination). Anybody seen anything like this?

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Here's the back of the piece.

I did have someone suggest to me that it MIGHT be a cuff link or button attachment of some kind but I don't see an attachment hook of the back. Is it entirely possible that this piece might be ancient and was lost by someone in the 19th century that possessed such an item??
 

Patrick H

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Mar 7, 2014
This is going to be total speculation: Maybe the recessed area on one side of the item was once filled with enamel, allowing the pewter to form lines and outlines against the color of the enamel. Jewelry and decorative items were often made that way. As @JOHN42768 points out, there was probably something attached to the back. Ergo, perhaps a decorative pin, such as a lady's scarf pin or hat pin. Or perhaps a gentleman's tie pin, although it looks a little big to be a tie pin.
 

Tom Hughes

First Sergeant
Joined
May 27, 2019
Location
Mississippi
Okay guys, I got a positive I.D. on this thing, and quite frankly I'm a little shocked....I've been looking at this relic sideways. If you hold it horizontal you can see that it's a Pelican feeding its young. It's a Pelican Peity Matrix......being made of pewter, it's going to be very old, much older than the civil war I believe. From what I've recently discovered, the Pelican Peity was a popular matrix motif. They would use this to seal letters, documents, etc.....Even though it's a Pelican feeding it's young, it may or may not have Louisiana roots. It does have religious symbolism. Maybe Catholic?
These matrices were used to seal letters and/or documents. They were also used in jewelry to denote a mother's love for her children or to express the Christian symbolism of Christ's love for mankind.
Let me know if any of you know about matrices.
 
Last edited:

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 25, 2012
Okay guys, I got a positive I.D. on this thing, and quite frankly I'm a little shocked....I've been looking at this relic sideways. If you hold it horizontal you can see that it's a Pelican feeding its young. It's a Pelican Peity Matrix......being made of pewter, it's going to be very old, much older than the civil war I believe. From what I've recently discovered, the Pelican Peity was a popular matrix motif. They would use this to seal letters, documents, etc.....Even though it's a Pelican feeding it's young, it may or may not have Louisiana roots. It does have religious symbolism. Maybe Catholic? Let me know if any of you know about matrices.
This is an interesting item. I am glad you were able to find out what it was.
 

Tom Hughes

First Sergeant
Joined
May 27, 2019
Location
Mississippi
Would it have had small gemstones on it? The tiny circles look like they once held stones.
@lupaglupa I thought the exact same thing. However, the diamond shaped indentions are actually indicative of the baby Pelican's mouths waiting to be fed....I'm going to post up another image of the relic tonight with an enhanced photo and it will be easier to make out.
 

Tom Hughes

First Sergeant
Joined
May 27, 2019
Location
Mississippi
@lupaglupa I thought the exact same thing. However, the diamond shaped indentions are actually indicative of the baby Pelican's mouths waiting to be fed....I'm going to post up another image of the relic tonight with an enhanced photo and it will be easier to make out.
It appears this piece was set in either a ring or necklace.
 

John Hartwell

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 27, 2011
Location
Central Massachusetts
The image of a "vulning" [i.e.: 'wounding'] pelican, nourishing her young on her own blood is an ancient symbol of self sacrifice dating to pre-christian times. The early Church adopted the symbolism to represent the Passion of Christ.
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Tom Hughes

First Sergeant
Joined
May 27, 2019
Location
Mississippi
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Here's the enhanced image turned the correct way. You can now better see the mother Pelican and her young.
Unfortunately, being pewter, the piece is degraded and partially damaged. Just glad to have found it.
It certainly has an interesting history.
 

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