What Is a Notary Seal?

A notary seal is an embossed seal or ink stamp affixed to a legal document by a notary public. The combination of the seal and the notary's signature serves as independent verification that the identify of the person signing the document has been verified and, in some cases, that an oath or affirmation has also been sworn or administered.

Throughout the United States, the use of notary seals varies widely by state and is always governed by state law. A few states, such as Alabama, require notaries public to use an embossing seal. The majority of states, however, require an ink stamp or the notary's choice of a stamp or embossed seal. In addition, some states, such as New York and Connecticut, don't require any kind of seal at all — the notary public simply signs the document to signify execution of his or her notarial duties.

Electronic seal standards for notarizing digital documents have begun emerging, but e-notarization is a complex matter, according to the American Society of Notaries, and the rules governing paper-based notarial acts still take precedence in all states as of 2014.

The origin of the notary seal is unknown, according to the American Association of Notaries, but can be traced back to at least first-century Rome. Ancient Roman notaries used wax seals containing unique symbols or engravings to notarize written agreements.