The Value Of Hand Engraving And Why It Is The Only Method We Use

All our signet rings are hand engraved and done so in the traditional ‘seal engraved’ style which is a very specific style of hand engraving whereby the image and lettering is carved very deeply and in reverse. This traditional technique means that when the ring is pressed into softened wax to form the seal (which was the original purpose of a signet or seal ring) the resulting impression reveals the correct image.

The art of decorating an object by carving into it dates back to neolithic times with shells and bones having been discovered with patterns scratched into them. But the engraved signet ring as we would recognise it today dates to the Ancient Romans and Egyptians and examples of these rings can be found in many museums such as the British Museum.

Ways To Engrave Signet Rings

Today, there are three methods for engraving text, patterns and motifs such as a crest onto a signet ring.

1. Hand engraving, the earliest and the traditional method.

2. Machine engraving, a more recent invention

3. Laser engraving is the most modern method.

What is Hand Engraving / Seal Engraving?

Hand engraving is the oldest and most traditional method for engraving metal. It requires a highly skilled craftsman using a selection of handheld tools typically made of hardened steel to cut the design into the surface and carefully carve away areas of metal to leave the text or pattern ‘cut-out’ of the metal. There are a variety of different sizes and shapes of these tools, called burin or gravers, that result in different styles and finishes. Depending on the shape, thickness and type of edge that a particular tool has, the engraver can create different looks and effects. What they all have in common however is that they produce clean, crisp lines that appear purposeful and considered.

Once the design for a ring has been agreed upon, the engraver will likely map it out onto the surface using a fine marker or sharp point before engraving over the guidelines. A few highly experienced craftsmen will do it all by eye, but this is less common.

Why We Use The Hand Engraving Method?

Signet Rings from Hancocks

Here at Hancocks we only use hand engraving because it is in keeping with our ethos and beliefs around the value of fine craftsmanship, high quality handmade items and honouring the skill and time it takes to create something of beauty that has longevity.

The nature of hand engraving allows ultimate artistic flexibility and creativity for the engraver which cannot of course be achieved by a machine. However, it is also higher risk as one slip of the cutting tool and a whole piece could be ruined.

One of the charms of hand engraving, as with all hand executed crafts, is the human signature that is created by the individual engraver and the tiny, unique anomalies that tell us this was done by hand and not a machine.

Typically, this style of engraving is also the one that cuts the deepest into the metal allowing for an almost three-dimensional effect and a feeling of substance and quality. This also means the engraving lasts longer which is particularly relevant when it comes to rings as they are an item of jewellery that gets a lot of wear over the years.

Engravers train for years to become skilled at their craft and it is a time-consuming labour of love to create beautiful pieces. As such, it is the more expensive of the options but as the saying goes, you get what you pay for and at Hancocks we only want the best.