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Details: Characters on seals may be carved in relief or in intaglio. The materials for seals vary with different types of owners. Average persons normally have wood, stone or horn seals, whereas noted public figures would probably prefer seals made of red stained Changhua stone, jade, agate, crystal, ivory and other more valuable materials. Monarchs in the old days used gold or the most precious stones to make their imperial or royal seals. Today Chinese government offices at lower levels wood ones. Seals carve as works of art should excel in three aspects-- calligraphy, composition and the graver's handwork. The artist must be good at writing various styles of the Chinese script. He should know how to arrange within a limited space a number of characters-- some compact with many strokes and others sketchy with very few-- to achieve a vigorous or graceful effect. He should also be familiar with the various materials-- stone, brass or ivory-- so that he may apply the cutting knife with the right exertion, technique and even rhythm. For the initiated to watch a master engraver at work is like seeing a delightful stage performance.
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