Poor quality sgraffito seal decoration.

Typical poor quality sgraffito seal decoration.

High quality sgraffito seal decoration.

High quality sgraffito seal decoration: mandarin duck under lotus.

One kind of decoration often seen on the sides of seals is a scratched design, called sgraffito in the west (scrimshaw uses this technique). They are typically landscapes or floral patterns and are usually filled in with ink or color to show the design. They can be very well done though, since this is the simplest way to decorate the sides of a seal stone, they are most commonly found on the cheapest stones intended for the tourist trade. These are manufactured in the tens of thousands with the scratched marks so hurriedly done that, in most cases, they are nothing more than abstract marks. Sometimes they are even intended to disguise flaws in the stone by covering them up with distracting lines meant to camouflage cracks or other imperfections that might be otherwise revealed. A beautiful stone needs no additional decoration.

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