Engraving is an age-old art used as a means of expression. The simple scribing or cutting-in of a pattern into a surface to create decoration was used thousands of years ago and there is evidence of its use on organic materials such as ivory tusk and bone as far back as the Stone Age.
The Romans were at the forefront of engraving precious gemstones. A large number of these, known as intaglios, survive today and became widely collected in the 18th century by connoisseurs of the Arts. The gemstones commonly engraved included hardstones such as agate and cornelian and, in rarer examples, sapphires and emeralds.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, engraving on precious metals like gold and silver became widespread. Simple pieces could be adorned with meaningful patterns and fashionable designs such as acanthus leaves, scrolls and cherubs. Subjects for engraving included mythological Gods and Goddesses as well as symbolic creatures such as serpents and dogs. Important Latin family mottos, armorials, crests and dedications were also added to personalise the item.
A lovely example of 1920’s engraving on a period platinum wedding band.
In the 19th century, the popularity of marking an occasion with the award of a trophy together with improvements in engraving tools and techniques meant that engraving became a standard adornment.
In keeping with our identity as antique specialists, Heirlooms is pleased to be able to continue the tradition of engraving. Unlike many jewellers, we offer only a hand engraving service. This means that the engraving produced is much deeper, with more detailed definition and will last for generations. Machine engraving uses only pre-programmed fonts, doesn’t allow for personalisation and often uses lasers which only reach into the very surface of the metal resulting in an engraving which wears away very quickly. Our award-winning engraver has over 40 years of experience and is a Fellow of the Institute of Professional Goldsmiths. He has won many awards including the Goldsmiths Craft & Design Council Awards from 1976 – 2014.
Choose from a range of fonts for your engraving
We can engrave a single initial, or design and engraving of a monogram, a family crest or even a precious symbol. We have a sample board of hundreds of different font designs, sizing and positioning of engraving for you to choose from. We will always try to guide a customer in choosing a font that is sympathetic to the item and will work well on that particular object. We are able to copy handwriting and signatures for a truly personal touch. We recently engraved a copy of a child’s handwritten note and a small drawing she had done as a 5-year old onto a silver pendant as a gift for a parent.
We’re proud to be the official engravers of trophies for the Army at Bovington Camp, Dorset. We frequently engrave silver, silver plated and gold trophies of any size, shape and form with names, dates and presentation inscriptions. We love seeing them come back year after year to add new names!
Example of our trophy engraving
Heirlooms also specialises in signet and seal rings. These are usually made out of gold, are worn on the little finger and are engraved to the top of the ring with a family crest. Traditionally, they are worn by the gentleman of the family who will carry on the family name and are gifted on the 21st birthday. Seal or signet rings were commonly used to seal letters so the recipient knew who the letter was from before they even opened it.
All of our signet rings at Heirlooms are made by hand to order by our Dorset-based workshop. We can create them in any shape or size, for example, with oval, square or round heads, in silver, gold or platinum. Our engraver is able to research the correct family crest or can copy one from a photograph or a previous wax seal imprint made by another ring or seal.
Once a ring has been engraved with a crest, it is known as ‘deep seal engraving’. This means that, as per tradition, the ring can be used to dip into melted wax to leave an imprint. The process of deep seal engraving a crest is very complicated and requires a great deal of skill and good eyesight – some of the crests engraved might only measure 5x5mm! However, the results are incredible.
All of our rings which are deep seal engraved will receive a solid wax imprint of the seal to show exactly how detailed it is. Not only do we just engrave on precious metals, but we can also engrave on gemstones, just like the Romans did. The most popular engravings are initials, crests or monograms onto stones such as lapis lazuli, onyx, bloodstone and agate in pendants, watch fobs or signet rings.
A single initial engraved onto metal would start from £25, a monogram or short name from £80 and a deep seal crest engraving from £300.
As well as offering an engraving service, we also sell a number of engraved antique pieces. Do pop into the shop to see for yourself.