of Personalized Jewelry
vs. Custom Engraved
Today there are many styles of personalized jewelry available to the jewelry
gift shopper. There are initial pendants, Tiffany style initial necklaces,
ID bracelets, initial bracelets, and other similar jewelry items where
an initial or name have been stamped or cast into metal. But, the greatest
form of personalized jewelry has always been created through the art of
engraving. You can see all of the different personalized jewelry items offered by Sticky Jewelry organized by metal type at our
Personalized Jewelry page.
Jewelry was first created to be an adornment, typically made of precious
metals and often set with gems or imitation gems. But, engraving enhanced
the beauty and meaning of the jewelry, and thus evolved a wide range of
History of Engraved Jewelry
Engraving dates back to prehistoric times, when cavemen would sculpt rock
drawings or engrave images on pottery. It’s considered by many to be an art
form unto itself, and a difficult one to master. Over the years, engraving
has been used largely to create original artworks, and to reproduce limited
editions of original artworks. Among the most famous of the modern and
contemporary artists who used engraving to create limited editions of their
work are Chagal, Picasso, Miro, and Dali.
The matrices used to prepare the limited editions would be carved either in
relief (e.g. wood engraving, or linoleum engraving) or intaglio (directly on
a metal plate) depending on the method used to reproduce the image, either
spreading the ink on the parts in relief or filling in the depressions.
Intaglio engravings are most often created by hand using specialized
instruments, but can also be created through the process of etching, where
the drawing is created by applying an acid solution to the metal wherever
the metal is to be engraved.
Anyone who has ever attempted to use a hand engraver’s tools for creating
personalized jewelry knows that early engravers had to possess the
imagination and balance of an artist, the steady hand of a surgeon, and the
patience of a saint. Working in a very small space -- the size of a silver
or gold locket, for example -- can be difficult enough, but when the
material is curved, it’s difficult to get the proper perspective. Then
there’s the need to start the engraving at just the right point so that the
finished inscription will end up looking well-balanced. Engraved jewelry is
also more challenging because the thickness of the metal may not be
consistent, and the depth of the engraving needs to take this into
One way to be certain if a locket is well-constructed is to see if the
vendor is willing to engrave it. Many lockets being sold today have had the
walls of the locket thinned-out to reduce the amount of silver or gold they
contain. That has allowed mass-merchandisers to sell lockets at a lower
price, but thinner walled lockets are likely to cave in when they’re
pinched, and thus cannot be engraved.
The pantograph was one of the first semi-automated tools used for engraving.
Although it’s probably been around in one form or another for several
hundred years, the pantograph came into widespread use near the end of the
1700’s when pantographs were used to help create the metal letters used in
the printing press. To use a pantograph, one simply inserts a stylus into a
cutout template design and traces the template. Attached to the stylus would
be an engraving tool that would then ‘engrave’ the template’s image into
metal. Templates were soon created for alphabetic fonts and font sizes, and
the technique for personalization of jewelry became more exact.
With the creation of the personal computer in the late 1970’s, personalized
jewelry engraving moved to a new dimension. Computerized engraving was
faster and more precise than either hand engraving or the pantograph
technique could provide.
History of Personalized Jewelry
No one is absolutely certain when people began engraving names and
personalized messages into jewelry, but it likely began around the 14th or
15th century when personalized jewelry lockets were first created in France.
What is certain is that personalized jewelry items such as lockets and ID
bracelets are often cherished more dearly than other types of jewelry
Recently a man came to visit us wearing an ID bracelet he’d been given by
his sister when he was preparing to go off to war (WWII). The ID bracelet
had the man’s name engraved on the top of the bracelet plaque, and engraved
on the reverse side was the date he’d been given the ID bracelet. Although
the man might have cherished any jewelry item given to him by his sister,
the fact that this ID bracelet was engraved with his name and the date his
sister had given it to him no doubt made it extra special. And, he was still
wearing his personalized bracelet nearly 65 years later.
Personalized Jewelry Lockets
Personalized lockets tend to be even more special than id bracelets when
engraved with the recipient’s monogram or a personal message, since the
locket holds one or more photos. Heart lockets are still the most popular of
all lockets. Trailing close behind, though, are round lockets, oval lockets,
Mom lockets, child lockets, baby lockets, lockets with crosses, lockets with
diamonds, and four photo lockets.
Traditionally, gold lockets have been more popular than sterling silver
lockets simply because of the perceived value of gold, but today sterling
silver lockets and gold filled lockets have become just as popular. With the
price of gold having risen so sharply, sterling silver lockets have also
become an excellent value.
Sterling Silver Lockets
In order for silver lockets to be called sterling lockets, they must be made
of at least 92.5% pure silver. The remaining 7.5% can be a combination of
several metals, but it’s most often copper. Pure silver (99.9%) is too soft
for making jewelry or almost anything else that’s large or functional.
Adding copper to the silver gives it additional strength without changing
the color of the metal. Sterling silver lockets are always stamped with the
word ‘sterling’, or ‘925’, or a lion in walking position with its right leg
raised (known as the lion passant).
Many people comment that silver jewelry they purchase at a craft fair, or
from a silver jewelry stand in Mexico, quickly begins to tarnish. All silver
tarnishes in time unless it has been plated (typically with a rhodium
finish). The ID bracelets that have a product number that begins with the
letters ‘R’ or ‘M’, and the sterling lockets that have a product number
beginning with the letter ‘M’ are all plated with rhodium to avoid
14K Gold Lockets
14K gold lockets are made of a combination of metals, 58.3% (14/24th) of
which must be pure (24K) gold. The other 41.7% alloying elements are
typically silver, copper, nickel, and zinc. These other elements used in
producing the gold alloy have a significant effect on the final color of the
gold. For example, as the amount of silver increases, the gold will change
in hue from yellow, to greenish-yellow, and then to white. Copper causes
gold lockets to become redder in appearance. Nickel has a whitening effect.
Zinc is used to remove the reddish gold color that results from adding
copper, causing the gold to become more yellow.
Why don’t all 14K gold lockets appear to be the same color? Some people
prefer gold that’s reddish in color, and others prefer their gold to look
more yellow. So, goldsmiths create different mixtures of gold and alloy
elements to produce the desired effect.
Gold jewelry is stamped with an official mark to specify its karat purity
–10K (41.6% gold), 14K (58.3% gold), 18K (75% gold), or 24K (99.9% gold).
The price of a 14K gold locket is determined largely by the weight of the
locket, the current price of gold (which fluctuates daily, but which has
frequently been in excess of $400 an ounce), and the amount of workmanship
and design that has been added to the construction of the locket.
White Gold Lockets
Recently, white gold lockets have been gaining in popularity as a
replacement for platinum lockets. They are especially nice for individuals
who prefer gold, but who want to match their jewelry with outfits that need
a silvery-looking accompaniment. White gold lockets are actually made of the
same 14K gold found in yellow lockets, but white gold has more nickel and
zinc contained in its alloying elements. White gold lockets are typically
priced about the same as their 14K yellow gold locket counterparts. White
gold lockets, like 14K gold lockets, are stamped with the karat purity of
the gold contained in the locket.
Gold Filled Lockets
Gold Filled lockets have a fused outer layer that’s karat gold, but the
metal is filled with other alloys. Gold filled lockets look and wear like
14K gold lockets because the outer surface of the locket is solid gold.
There is no electroplating as with gold plated jewellery. Gold-filled
jewellery must consist of at least one layer of a minimum of 10K gold. The
karat gold layer must represent at least 1/20th of the total metal weight.
Gold Filled offers all the same physical characteristics for jewelry as 14K
gold, such as beauty, durability, and strength, but at a fraction of the
cost. Since the gold is on the outer surface area, it is nearly impossible
to tell the difference between 14K gold lockets and gold filled lockets.
Gold filled lockets are typically priced about the same as sterling silver
Medical ID Bracelets
A relatively new category of personalized jewelry is
Medical Alert ID Bracelet. Designed
for persons who have chronic or life-threatening illnesses or allergies, the
medical id alert is said to speak for the individual when he is unable to speak
for himself. The original medical id bracelets were fairly dull and
boring, usually made of cheap material, and many people who needed to
wear a bracelet shunned them because they were so ugly. Within recent
medical id bracelets and pendants have been introduced
by Sticky Jewelry that are both
stylish and affordable. And, Sticky
Jewelry also offers personalized custom engraving so that someone who needs
a medical id can have their condition and personal information added.
Engraved Jewelry Styles
The most common form of personalization for engraved jewelry items –
especially lockets -- is a monogram or single initial engraved on the front
side of the locket, and a short, personal message engraved on the back side.
The fonts used for engraving a monogram or single-letter on the front of
lockets are typically ones with lots of curves and loops, and they are
always upright fonts such as Interlocking Monogram, or Upright Script. For
the personal message engraved on the back of a silver locket or gold locket,
either a simple block or script font looks best. The flowery fonts take up
too much space, and are difficult to read when the letters are very small.
For ID bracelets, it’s most common to engrave the recipient’s first name on
the front of the plaque. For males, Futura Outline is an excellent font
choice. For women, a script font such as Victoria Outline or Wedding Script
looks best when the name is to be inscribed in upper and lower case.
For wrist lockets and envelope lockets, the insert plate is small, so a
simple block font is best.
If in doubt, it’s best to allow the engraver to make a selection for you.
Just reference that in the comments section when placing an order.