The difference between Engraving, Hand Stamping and Etching

The difference between engraving, hand stamping and etching

Fundamentally, the difference between Engraving, Hand Stamping and Etching at Megan Goldner Designs is that Engraving is done with a machine, Hand Stamping is all by hand, and Etching is done with a chemical process.

But let’s explore each by delving in a little deeper to get a better understanding of which might be the right choice for you:


Engraving is a very exact way of personalizing your items.  Classic and timeless, all engraving at MGD is done with a CNC engraving machine specifically designed for jewelry.

The completed and polished items (ie. ring) is placed in the machine, and a specialty tool then removes metal by scribing on the surface of the metal to deliver evenly spaced lettering and precise graphics with a uniform look and a consistent depth.  Although precise, and perfectly formed, engraving is not always deep.

Engraving takes a long time, and most of that time it spent on the graphics using specialized software and programming for the CNC engraving machine.  Therefore, you will most often be charged for a ‘Set Up’ and an ‘Engraving’ fee.

Engraving is not deep enough in order for us to oxidize (or blacken) the letters.  

Although traditional, machine engraving is like writing a love letter on a computer.  Technically perfect but without the personal touch.

Sterling Silver Keepsake Imprint Tag Bracelet
Sterling Silver Keepsake Imprint Tag Bracelet
Sterling Silver Engraved Boho Stack Ring

The bigger the surface area of an item allowes for bigger letters that stands out and looks bold. The light is catching this tag perfectly to show the engraving.

The same Dog Tag from a different angle.  Note that you can see that it is only the surface which has been scribed. 

Engraved 3mm rings.  The smaller the surface area to engrave, the less bold it looks.

Hand Stamping

Hand Stamping, on the other hand, involves using a hammer and individual metal letter, number or design stamps.  

A fair amount of pressure is used with the hammer blows, and quite often the indentation of the stamps can be see on the reverse side of the item.  Hand Stamping is a traditional smithing technique whereby each letter needs human touch.  Letters will be roughly aligned, but not always perfect, and this should be seen as a unique quality of the item rather than a fault.  The benefit of Hand Stamping means you are giving a gift with a ‘handmade’ look that is truly one of a kind.

Hand Stamping is perfect for making the letters stand out by a process called oxidation.  Letters will appear dark brown / black, and may continue to oxidize (darken) further over time.

Hand Stamping a piece of jewelry is like writing a love letter on an old fashioned typewriter.  Quirky, fun and mostly uniform.


Sterling Silver Identity Ring Set
Sterling Silver Keepsake Manati Necklace
Sterling Silver Coin Charm

Chemical Etching

Etching is the process of chemically removing selected pieces of metal from your item.

In a simple explanation, an acid-resist is used on the metal in the places where you would like to keep the metal intact, and then the metal is submerged in a Ferric Nitrate acid solution bath which eats away at the exposed metal.  Items can be in the etching bath anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours until the desired level of etch is achieved.

Other solutions can methods can also be used to etch metal, but we prefer to stick to the acid bath.

This also takes quite a bit of time as the graphics needs to be electronically manipulated, then adhered to clean metal, and then time spent in the acid bath.

The process of oxidation is used to contrast the metal and raised edges that occurs during etching.  This helps to ‘bring forth’ the etched areas.

Etching a piece of jewelry is like writing a love letter with crayons.  Eclectic, rough around the edges and gives a rustic and unique look.


Sterling Silver Moonlight Garden

The personalized top tag in the next 2 pictures were chemically etched and then purposefully ‘aged’.

The brief from my client was: ‘ It must look like it’s been through war.

Etching is super versatile, and any picture you can think of can be done by chemical etching, including handwriting, fingerprints and nose prints.

Thank you for taking the time to read through the differences between Engraving, Hand Stamping and Etching.  

I hope this was informative and clarified your options. 

  • positive review  absolutely stunning jewellery

    Colette Templeton Avatar Colette Templeton
    September 20, 2019

    positive review  the BEST customer service ever and the assistance, empathy and respect you put into each piece is unbelievable. thank you so much for my item. I still can’t get myself to read the message that came with.

    Jolene Lynch Lange Avatar Jolene Lynch Lange
    September 6, 2019

    positive review  Thank you so much for the beautiful 7 piece stack ring. It is absolutely beautiful. Great service.

    Michelle Steyn Avatar Michelle Steyn
    August 29, 2019
  • positive review  Received my memorial pendent and earrings today with my sons ashes in and I just love them! Everyone who has seen them today commented on them too.

    Candice Olive Wyngaard Avatar Candice Olive Wyngaard
    August 14, 2019

    positive review  Thank you Megan for my most priceless possession. Thank you for putting so much love into making my keep sake bracelet and for capturing my vision. You are so talented!

    Melanie Nagy Avatar Melanie Nagy
    July 23, 2019

    positive review  Thank you so much Megan for our keepsakes. We love our rings and pendant. Absolutely blown away by your detail and service

    Candy Leigh Boyd Avatar Candy Leigh Boyd
    July 17, 2019
  • positive review  Handmade, uniquely designed pieces!

    Charmaine Van Der Merwe Avatar Charmaine Van Der Merwe
    July 2, 2019

    positive review  What a wonderful person Megan is! Went out of her way to accommodate us with our memorial rings, and it came out beautifully. She made us something that we will treasure forever! Kept in contact with the progress, her service is impeccable! Thanx again Megan! Also thank you for the extras you send me 😊❣️

    Cathy Van Onselen Avatar Cathy Van Onselen
    July 1, 2019

    positive review  Megan pays amazing attention to detail and is so passionate about ensuring the happiness of her clients 🙏🏻 thank you Megan for my stunning memorial jewelry ❤

    Celeste Brauteseth Avatar Celeste Brauteseth
    June 25, 2019
  • positive review  Megan made two absolutely stunning necklaces with my father’s ashes infused for my brother and I, the process was so fast and she kept me updated every step of the way. Her customer service from start to finish was impeccable. I definitely recommend Megan Goldner for all your jewellery needs. Thank you so much once again for everything! I absolutely love our necklaces

    Natalee Hansen Avatar Natalee Hansen
    May 21, 2019

    positive review  Thank you Megan for my beautiful gift. You are truely amazing and talented.

    Marisa Ferreira Avatar Marisa Ferreira
    May 14, 2019

    positive review  I absolutely love my beautiful necklace, Now I can always have my Hero with me.

    Nicole Benadé Avatar Nicole Benadé
    May 3, 2019
  • positive review  Thank you for our amazing necklaces.

    Marian Kelly Barber Avatar Marian Kelly Barber
    April 30, 2019

    positive review  Stunning and so incredibly special. Amazing service and Megan is friendly and understands how precious these pieces are.

    Charlene Maritz Avatar Charlene Maritz
    April 30, 2019

    positive review  Thank you for my gorgeous necklace. Your work is pure perfection and your friendly service is greatly appreciated!

    Tanya De Vos Avatar Tanya De Vos
    April 10, 2019
  • positive review  If you are thinking of ordering from Megan Goldner Designs… Do IT NOW!! She has made me 2 incredibly special and absolutely stunning memorial ash pendants. I could not be happier. Her service is awesome and her products are top quality!

    Lindsay Leigh Douglas-Haw Avatar Lindsay Leigh Douglas-Haw
    March 29, 2019

    positive review  Thank you Megan for my special necklace. The love and respect you showed for Ryan’s memory and all the little extra touches was incredibly comforting. Thank you

    Petronella Heukelman Avatar Petronella Heukelman
    March 23, 2019

    positive review  Megan is amazing. I am overjoyed and so in love with the jewellery she made for me. Thank you so much!

    Stephanie Carol Neser Avatar Stephanie Carol Neser
    February 28, 2019
  • positive review  I cannot begin to express my gratitude for the amazing item I purchased. She went out of her way to make me happy and shipped the item at lightening speed. Its even more beautiful than I ever imagined <3 Thank you!!! I'll certainly be back for more - soon 💖😍🥰

    Rene Bee Avatar Rene Bee
    January 17, 2019

    positive review  Thank you for my beautiful keepsake pendant as well as the little surprise. Your service was excellent and very professional – from the courier collecting the ashes to the delivery of my order. I appreciated the e-mails informing me where in the process my order was. This has been a very positive experience – thank you!

    Estelle Engelbrecht Avatar Estelle Engelbrecht
    December 29, 2018

    positive review  This fantastic woman! patient, meticulous and just absolutely wonderful with her pieces! thank you for the unique work which you have created for me in memory of our baby. It has been an absolute pleasure working with you throughout the creation of not only jewellery, but memories. Your love is felt through your work! Thank you xoxo

    Amanda-Lynn Nel Avatar Amanda-Lynn Nel
    December 21, 2018
  • positive review  your work is fantastic! i will recommend you to anyone! thank you so much!!

    Stepheni Smit Avatar Stepheni Smit
    December 20, 2018

    positive review  Thank you for going the extra mile with my stack rings Megan Goldner Designs. Your service is fantastic, your designs amazing, and I’m telling all my friends about you!!!

    Erna Gouws Avatar Erna Gouws
    December 7, 2018

    positive review  Megan is extremely talented. She made my family the most gorgeous, special necklaces that we will treasure forever. We were on a tight timeline and she delivered the most beautiful necklaces with time to spare. Thank you for your hard work Megan.

    Claudine Cook Avatar Claudine Cook
    December 2, 2018
  • positive review  Thank you so much for the beautiful jewelry you made for me. Your service was excellent. Im am very excited about my beautiful jewelry. Thank you

    Mari Griesel Grobler Avatar Mari Griesel Grobler
    November 25, 2018

    positive review  Thank you Megan, you service is impeccable. I was pleased to receive my goods in good order at the drop of the hat and at no extra charge. Your patience and kind guidance at assisting me select the correct present was so lovely to experience. I will definitely purchase another something special. Wishing the very best in your business.

    Wynnertu Brummer Avatar Wynnertu Brummer
    November 14, 2018

    positive review  Beautiful and thoughtfully created 🖤

    Christelle Rautenbach Avatar Christelle Rautenbach
    November 7, 2018
  • positive review  What beautiful work…. thank you for our beautiful Memorial pieces… Fast and friendly service …. wow!!!

    Rudi Desmond Lingenfelder-Marais Avatar Rudi Desmond Lingenfelder-Marais
    October 30, 2018

    positive review  everything! service and designs 100%

    Charlene Boy Burger Avatar Charlene Boy Burger
    October 13, 2018

    positive review  Ons harte loop oor vandag toe hierdie pakkie afgelewer word. Baie dankie Megan, dis net pragtig! ❤️

    Chantal Van Der Walt Avatar Chantal Van Der Walt
    October 10, 2018