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What Are The Different Types of Engraving?

Written by Annabelle
February 28, 2019

Have you ever looked at those customizable pieces of jewelry with cool inscriptions? Did you ever find yourself admiring a vintage piece of jewelry with intricate patterns all over it?

Chances are, you're looking at engraving.

What is Engraving?

Engraving is the process of marking a surface to create a visual and textural effect. It can be done on a variety of materials such as glass, paper, plastic, metals, and stones.

The technique of engraving has been used since antiquity to make beautiful and complex pieces of jewelry. As technology improved, artisans shifted from hand engraving to more convenient and speedy methods such as rotary engraving. Nowadays, many modern-day jewelers make use of laser engraving.

Types of Engraving

Hand Engraving:

The oldest and most laborious method, hand-engraving is performed by a skilled artisan and a small engraving tool. Since the work is done by a human, the engraving may not be as exact as a computer-controlled engraving, but many people opt for hand-engraving because of its old-world charm and craftsmanship value. It is easily the most expensive option out of the three engraving methods because of how time-consuming it can be.


This gold necklace had its original engravings touched up and a new inscription in Old English font added.

Rotary Machine Engraving:

This engraving method uses a tool that is controlled by a machine to create the engraving. The design is pre-programmed into a computer that controls the machine, making the engraving as precise as possible. Rotary machine engraving is more affordable than hand-engraving because it takes comparatively less time, but it cannot be used on materials that are heat-sensitive. The friction caused by the process can potentially heat up and damage jewelry containing glass, plastic, or delicate gemstones.

Laser Engraving:

Laser engraving is the most modern and adaptable engraving method. A highly concentrated laser beam is used to perform the engraving, and the thickness of the beam can be adjusted to increase or decrease the overall width of the engraving. The laser can also be strengthened to carve more deeply into the base material, which improves the texture of the engraving.

In addition, laser engraving can be used on virtually any type of material, even paper! This means it can be used on items aside from jewelry, such as glassware.

Common Uses of Engraving In Jewelry:



An engraved glass gem set in an 18k yellow gold ring by Nancy Troske.

Engraved gems are beautiful and uncommon in today's jewelry market. They were very popular in ancient times, and enjoyed a brief resurgence in the 1800s under Queen Victoria's reign due to public interest in classical revival jewelry. Nowadays, it's rare to see them produced by mainstream jewelry sellers.

Decorative Engravings:


An antique pink stone ring with decorative engravings.

This type of engraving is commonly used to create pretty patterns on the shoulders or the band of the ring. Antique jewelry will often have hand-engravings, making them more valuable in comparison to modern pieces produced by mass manufacturing techniques.



A cobalt ring engraved with “Love of my life” in block font.

The most common type of ring engraving nowadays, inscriptions are a wonderful way to personalize your jewelry! Whether it's a date, a meaningful phrase, or even a small image, inscriptions make the piece special to the wearer. Many of these can be done by a jeweler using machine or laser engraving, but you can decide to really go out of your way to get a hand-engraved inscription.

Are you feeling inspired by what you can engrave on your jewelry now? Check out our engraving services below.

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