Engraving involves the cutting of a design into the surface metal of a piece of jewellery.
What do engravers do?
Hand engraving is used for individual items. Machine engraving is used for mass produced items where it is important that they look the same.
Engravers may copy an existing design or one produced by someone else. They may also produce their own designs. They usually work on pieces produced by other people, such as jewellers or gold/silversmiths.
The engraved design can be a single letter or initials, a few letters or words, a pattern, or a picture. Very elaborate designs can be engraved, depending on the skills and design abilities of the engraver and the imagination and wishes of the customer.
What is the job like?
Hand engraving tools have changed very little over the years. Engravers use chisels, called gravers, of different sizes and shapes to get different effects. After engraving, the jewellery piece is polished.
Some engravers use enamelling techniques to add colour and different textures to their work.
Machine engraving is done with high speed cutters. The design is prepared as a template which is followed by a pantograph. Designs can also be scanned and engraved by computer-controlled machines.
Very elaborate designs can be engraved, depending on the design abilities of the engraver and the imagination of the customer.
As an engraver, you might work for a jewellery company or gold or silversmithing company. Many engravers are self-employed. They often take work from jewellery or metalsmithing companies or direct from the public.
Engravers work in a studio or workshop, either their own or an employer’s. If they are self-employed, they may work alone or with a few others. Customers may come to the studio to discuss designs.
Many engravers have websites to advertise and display their designs and services.
How do I become an engraver?
You need to have:
- good eyesight
- good dexterity (being precise with your hands)
- good hand-eye coordination.
You also need to be patient and meticulous in your work. It helps to be creative, with good design skills, if you are producing your own designs. You should also have an understanding of different metals.
If you are dealing with the public, you need to have customer service skills. If you are engraving individual pieces, you may need to be able to explain your creative ideas to customers.
If you are self-employed, you need business skills so you can market your goods and services, deal with finances and develop your business.
What qualifications and training do I need?
The Hand Engravers Association of Great Britain is working to encourage apprenticeships, and offers courses in London suitable for people wanting to become engravers as well as for experienced engravers. So far, there are no apprenticeships specifically in engraving.
Jewellery apprenticeships offered by Holts Academy include engraving. The Goldsmith’s Company apprenticeships are likely to include it also.
There are no qualifications in engraving, but it can be studied as part of jewellery and gold/silversmithing courses, such as:
- a BTEC National Diploma in Design Crafts (Precious Metals and Gemstones)
- a BTEC National Diploma in Art and Design Studies, including Silversmithing and Jewellery
- an HND in Jewellery Design and Production.
There are also degree courses throughout the UK, including those at:
- the School of Jewellery at Birmingham City University (there is also an HND)
- Plymouth College of Art
- the Royal College of Art, London.
Some courses have entry requirements, such as two A levels (or equivalent) for degree courses. You will also need to show a portfolio of your work.
There are no qualifications in engraving, but it can be studied as part of jewellery and gold/silversmithing courses.
As well as English and maths, art and design or design and technology (resistant materials) are relevant subjects. Business studies or enterprise are useful if you want to run your own business.
Anyone with an interest in engraving can join the Hand Engravers Association of Great Britain. Members can attend events to exchange ideas, update skills and meet other engravers.
What can I earn?
A machine engraver in a company may be paid £13,500 per year. As a self-employed engraver, earnings vary a lot depending on how you develop your business. Craft work can be very competitive.
Many people combine engraving with other paid work, especially while they are getting themselves established.