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 or by hand, 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 by a super skilled master engraver.

Our master engraver has more than 40 years experience in hand engraving metal. The completed and polished items is placed onto setting equipment and then our master engraver works his magic.  The result is a uniform, even and deep engraving that has the classic engraving look.

Hand engraving is an amazing skill and takes years to get to professional level. It also takes quite a bit of time to get your engraving perfect.  The bigger the surface area to engrave the better, and there are size restrictions to be mindful of.

Smooth and polished surfaces is ideal for engraving.  Engraving on hammered or textured surfaces is not recommended.

Although traditional, hand engraving is like writing a love letter on a computer in a fancy font.  Mostly technically perfect and with a whole lot of personal touch.

Example of Hand Engraving

Beautifully uniform and classic hand engraving on the back of a 20mm diameter pendant.

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 seen 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.

This technique works well on smooth, polished or hammered surfaces.  Some textured surfaces will also allow for hand stamping. 

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


Sterling Silver Keepsake Manati Necklace
Sterling Silver Hand Stamped 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  (Or Ferric Chloride, depending on the metal) 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 chemical solutions and 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 raised edges that occurs during etching.  This helps to ‘bring forth’ the etched areas.

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

Etching a piece of jewellery is like writing a love letter free hand with a fountain pen.  Eclectic, smooth, sometimes rough around the edges and gives unique look.


This personalized military tag was chemically etched and then purposefully ‘aged’ by using sawing and hammering techniques to give it a worn look.

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

I think that we executed this project perfectly!

I hope this information clarified your options. 

If you are uncertain on what option is the best for you, please feel free to contact us.

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