Some people love the contrast that a plain ring or other bit of jewelry creates with the right eye-popping stones. And it can make an absolutely dramatic impression. But for other custom jewelry shoppers, adding a little bit extra is what it’s all about. The process through which those rings and other pieces are carefully embellished is known as jewelry engraving; it requires a great deal of skill and the right tools to elevate this simple skill to an absolute art form.
Types of Engraving
If you’ve ever had engraving done on a dog tag or a watch, you may already think you know what engraving is all about. Those types of engraving are useful and often meaningful to the person who receives the jewelry as a gift, but they’re not even in the same class as hand engraving.
A machine is often used to generate simple lettering or very basic patterns, and it can be programmed and completed in very little time. There’s nothing wrong with machine engraving, but its use is largely limited to writing or monograms. When we talk about custom jewelry engraving at Images Jewelers, we mean the kind we do by hand to turn metal into masterpieces.
Embellishments: Hand Engraving Versus Casting
There are two main ways to get detailed embellishments on your custom rings. One is hand engraving, the other is through casting. When we cast your custom jewelry, we can add special touches and textures, but due to the nature of casting, they’re necessarily larger or lacking in fine details. Casting is the actual process of pouring the metal of your jewelry into a mold, allowing knobs, deep, thick grooves, and other large features to be created with little extra effort.
Hand engraving jewelry, on the other hand, is where the details really come in. It can be used in conjunction with casting, but if you want to see texture that has a shine to it, or fine detail work come to life, you’ll want hand engraving. From custom scroll work to starbursts and other super delicate touches, our custom jewelry engravers can take the details you’ve been dreaming of and make them reality.
Hand Engraving isn’t Just for New Jewelry
Do you have a well-loved ring or piece of heirloom jewelry that has seen better days? Soft metals, like high karat gold, are especially at risk of having their original custom engraving worn down by time and use. Don’t send those treasured pieces to the junk pile, just ask your favorite jeweler about repairing the engraving.
Like performing original engraving, restorative engraving is done completely by hand by a talented jeweler who has trained extensively in hand engraving. They can match original patterns that are already present, or they can help you choose a pattern that would be consistent with the style of the ring and the time period in which it was created. Grandma’s favorite brooch or wedding ring can be brought back to its original glory with a little help from talented engravers.
Unlike computer engraving, where a piece of jewelry is put into a machine and a button pressed somewhere to control the process, a great deal of effort is required with detailed custom hand engraving.
First, your custom jewelry is secured using a vise set on a steel ball, called an engraver’s block. The ball allows us to rotate the piece without having to clamp and unclamp your jewelry over and over. Because of strategically placed pins, we can accommodate nearly any shape or size of jewelry into an appropriately sized engraver’s block. Very small pieces may need to be secured to a piece of wood with a sticky material called pitch, in order to clamp them properly.
Another tool, called a graver, is used to add the details to your custom engraved jewelry. It’s a flexible tool that can be used for cleaning up, cutting stones, and even improving existing details. These super-sharp cutting tools require a delicate touch and eye for detail, but in experienced hands, they’ll slice through even tough metals like butter.
What Else Can You Engrave?
Can’t get enough of custom engraving or just looking for a way to add a little personality to other metal objects? There are lots of items that can be custom engraved. If it’s made of metal, the odds are good that you can add personal decorative touches to it. Knives, pens, and other metal objects are no problem for experienced engravers. Unless the metal is too thin or an object is plated, the sky’s the limit with custom engraving.
Indiana University Alumni : GIA Graduate Gemologist Student