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 chemically.

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 from us is done on a CNC machine.

The finished pieces 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 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 the machine.  Therefore, you will most often be charged for a ‘Set Up’ and ‘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

Large Dog tag engraved.  The bigger surface area allows for bigger letters that stands 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 is scribed. 

3mm rings engraved.  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, and quite often the indentation 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.  The letters may continue to oxidize 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.  A piece 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 the 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 look.