A poorly engraved piece of jewelry stands out like a sore thumb. The engraving,
instead of enhancing the item, may actually detract from it, destroying
much of the beauty and value of the piece.
the same token, we all appreciate an engraving job well done, but not
everyone is aware of the extent of exacting work and preplanning that
goes into such an accomplishment. Not only is the selection of proper
or appropriate wording necessary, but the correct placement and orientation
as well as appropriate letter selection are equally important.
now, the discussion of engraving etiquette in this series has been limited
to the selection of proper or appropriate wording. Part 1
(February 04) dealt with name engraving. In Part 2 other forms of
personalization such as initials, monograms, family coats-of-arms and
other insignia were discussed (March 04). Part 3 concentrated on
additional wording, e.g. dates, donor names, occasion names and messages
this fourth article we present what are probably the most practical considerations
in this series, i.e. the correct placement and orientation of the actual
engraving. In addition to these more practical aspects, an aesthetic considerationletter
selectionalso is mentioned.
as there are certain rules of etiquette regarding special occasions, there
are also certain rules of etiquette concerning the engraving location,
orientation and lettering on specific items. Consider each item you are
about to engrave, first in terms of its own special engraving etiquette,
then in terms of its purpose, shape and available space as well as what
will look best. Not every item has its own special guidelines for engraving,
but for those that do, the recommendations are usually quite specific.
jewelry and gift items which follow are conveniently arranged in alphabetical
order for quick reference and review. In addition, many of these items
are graphically illustrated to further clarify generally accepted engraving
placement and orientation. To simplify some of the illustrations, the
typical area used for engraving is shown as a shaded rectangular shape,
with the direction of the message indicated by an arrow.
piggy banks in particularhave become quite a popular
item for engraving. But the placement of the engraving can cause problems
if there is no preplanning. Looking at the bank in Figure 1, you can see
that the most visible and uninterrupted areas for engraving are on the
sides of the bank. Since both sides are identical it becomes strictly
a matter of personal preference as to which side to use.
likely the bank will be placed on a dresser or shelf slightly below eye
level. Therefore, the engraving is usually positioned in the center or
slightly above center and engraved in a left-to-right direction rather
than around the circumference.
terms of type selection for a childs bank, block style letters are
generally chosen for engraving a boys name, whereas, script is often
preferred for a girls name.
preferred engraving location for bowls is on the outer circumference.
However, bowls also may be engraved on the inside bottom or underneath
on the very bottom.
tapered pieces such as the perennially popular Paul Revere bowl, any engraving
done on the outside of the bowl is usually placed close to the rim, as
shown in Figure 2A. Machine engraving which is placed on the curve below
the usual engraving area will begin to exhibit various forms of curvature
distortion, i.e. as the bowl curves away, the lower engraved portion of
the letters may become extended or appear tilted, or will not be cut properly.
Also, as a practical matter, letters too far down toward the base are
difficult to read.
both the inside and the outside of the bowl are being engraved, then both
engraved areas should be aligned, i.e. with both engraved areas facing
the same way so that the engraving center points exactly coincide (Fig.
the bowl is being given as a household gift, then script, block, cursive
or Old English all provide very acceptable engraving choices. If its
being presented to a man, block or Old English may be preferred. For a
woman the customary choice is usually script lettering or a monogram.
particularly womens bangle or cuff bracelets, are very popular items
for engraving and may be engraved on either the outside or the inside.
If there is not an area on the piece specifically set aside for engraving,
its usually placed on the inside, but on a rather plain bracelet
the customer may prefer the engraving be placed on the outside.
3 shows both a slip-on cuff bracelet and an oval-shaped bangle bracelet.
What we are demonstrating here is how to find the center point for the
engraving layout. This can easily be done by measuring the total circumference
of the C shape slip-on bracelet, then dividing by two and
marking the midpoint with a china marker. On a hinged or oval-shaped bracelet,
simply measure from the hinge to the open seam, divide by two and mark
bracelet that is a perfect circle poses no centering problem. Simply make
sure that your message doesnt extend too far out onto the curvature.
engraving a bracelet on the inside, these same outside measurements can
still be used. Its simply a matter of making a corresponding mark
on the inside of the bracelet to use as a centering guide. Womens
and girls personal jewelry and accessories are usually engraved
in connecting script although cursive may also be used. Block letters
are rarely used except on the inside of the bracelet. Monograms are generally
used only for wide cuff bracelets which have sufficient space for a monogram.
Otherwise initials, upright script or ornate upright block styles are
usual location for engraving a cake knife is on the front of the blade
as shown in Figure 4 (with the handle at the left and the cutting edge
at the bottom). If the knife happens to have an engravable handle with
sufficient space for engraving, this is also an acceptable engraving alternative.
However, the blade is the preferred choice since there is more room for
engraving. If there is a manufacturers name or such words as stainless
on this side, then consider this to be the back of the knife and engrave
on the other side with the handle at the right and the cutting edge at
the bottom. Script is probably the most popular of all engraving choices
for engraving a cake knife. Cursive or block are also acceptable, although
less favored type style options.
Cups, Mugs, Goblets & Tankards
goblets and tankards are generally considered in the same category as
cups. In fact, almost any vessel used to drink from that has a single
handle on it can probably be included in this cup category.
most common etiquette question relating to cup engraving is, Which
side of the cup does the message go on? The correct answer simply
depends upon whether the intended user is right or left-handed. For the
engraving to be properly oriented, it should face away from the person
holding the cup, tankard, etc.
the case of a right-handed person, the handle should be to the left as
you view the engraving (Fig. 5A) and vice versa for a left-handed person
(Fig. 5B). Sometimes its unknown whether the recipient is right
or left-handed. This is often the case with gifts and especially baby
cups, where the infants natural inclination cannot be determined.
In such cases, its generally safe to assume the person is right-handed
since nearly 85% of the worlds population are right-handed.
point of etiquette involves where, from top to bottom, to place the engraving.
The ideal top-to-bottom positioning is placement of the engraving slightly
above center. If the cup has a large base and a rim, the engraving is
usually placed just above center on the central portion, i.e. excluding
the base and rim (Fig. 5A).
area of concern with cups and tankards is where on the circumference to
place the engraving. Years ago many engravers favored placing the engraving
opposite the handle. This meant that to read the inscription, you would
have to place the tankard on a shelf with the handle pointing to the rear,
which concealed the handle and made it more difficult to grasp.
however, the usual practice is to place the center of the engraving 90
degrees from the center of the handle, as shown in the top view of the
tankard in Figure 5C. Again, this right-angle rule applies to pieces for
both right and left-handed recipients, although the lettering is on opposite
engraving in this fashion, you should use care to predetermine that the
copy will fit without running into the handle. To check for centering
as well as adequate space, divide the line length by two and use a flexible
ruler to measure from the center or midpoint (90 degree angle to the handle)
back toward the handle. Its better to find out immediately if there
isnt enough space to center the engraving. In terms of type selection,
large ornate letters are frequently used to initial a tankard for a man.
Block or Old English are popular type choices on cups, goblets or tankards
although women are more likely to prefer script or cursive. Monograms
are also popular. However, its important to recognize that large
objects such as tankards require larger letters. Too often an engraver
will play it safe and not bother to measure, undersizing the
letters just to assure himself of adequate space.
size is an important consideration. The correct size letter depends on
the engraving area as well as the relative size of the object itself.
A large item with a large engraving area (such as a tankard) will require
larger type for initials, a monogram or a short first name. However, for
a long name the type may have to be reduced so that the entire name can
still be read from the front.
of the more popular charms today is the baby charm. Some customers prefer
the childs name and date of birth engraved on the front of the charm,
while others favor the name on the front and the date on the back. However,
if theres any detailing on the front of the charm, e.g. stamped
or engraved facial features, then all of the engraving is usually placed
on the opposite side.
charms have an irregular shape and it is difficult to generalize about
the engraving position. However, as a rule, you should try to align the
engraving so that it reads horizontally when the charm is hanging
by its jump ring.
boys names are engraved in a block style, whereas girls names
are in script. And when dealing with this type of merchandise, its
best to try to match previously engraved charms on the same bracelet wherever
charms and special interest charms, e.g. football, tennis, music, art,
etc., are often quite small and limited in engraving space. However, theres
usually room for a first name, initials and sometimes a date. These are
often engraved in miniature script or block.
engraving a cross, remember that all engraving is normally placed on the
back. Sometimes this presents a problem especially if theres a manufacturers
name, hallmark or some other marking, e.g. sterling silver, on the back.
However, you should try to find some way to work around it since it is
considered highly inappropriate to engrave on the front of a cross. Engraving
can be placed on either or both the vertical and horizontal parts of the
cross in the directions shown in Figure 6.
of the narrow, limited space available on the back of most crosses, miniature
script for a girl and miniature block for a boy usually provide excellent
correct positioning and orientation for engraving initials on flatware
may not be what you would expect. For flatware the engraving is positioned
on the front near the end of the handle and the letters are oriented right-side
up when the tines of the fork are pointed downward and curving toward
you; the bowl of the spoon is pointed downward and facing toward you;
the knife is pointed downward with the cutting edge on the right. On flatware
with a very ornate pattern, the customer may wish to have their initial(s)
or monogram engraved on the back instead.
(I.D.) bracelets contain two areas for engraving: the top or outside (usually
containing the individuals first name or initials) or underneath
(for brief personal messages). The main concern when engraving I.D. bracelets
is the importance of correct orientation relative to the clasp or fastener,
i.e. which way the engraving should be facing. For this reason its
helpful to know whether the wearer is right or left-handed, or more specifically
on which wrist he or she will wear the bracelet. For example, both men
and women often wear a watch on their left wrist, usually meaning they
would likely wear the I.D. bracelet on their right wrist. Identification
bracelets are usually fastened around the wrist by a chain and when properly
engraved, the fastener will be hanging down at the outside of the wrist
(away from the body) as shown in Figure 7. The important rule to remember
is that the outside engraving should face away from the wearer and toward
the public. It may prove helpful to mark the correct orientation on the
top edge of the I.D. plate with a china marker before placing it in the
work holder to avoid any possible confusion. The correct orientation for
personal messages engraved underneath is not as specific and is mainly
a matter of individual preference. Individual preferences will also dictate
the type style to use. Most men and boys prefer a block style or Old English
lettering and for a girls or womans I.D. bracelet, script
is usually the choice.
pens, the engraving choices are usually limited. Some pens contain special
areas, e.g. bevel tops or a round signet, designed for engraving. Others
are essentially plain and must be engraved on the cap or barrel. Unless
the pen has a special area for engraving, the usual practice is to place
the inscription lengthwise on the cap, running alongside the pocket clip
pens dictate using very tiny letters, about the only practical choice
in letters is between miniature block or script for men and women, respectively.
are some general limitations to engraving on the inside of rings. One
is the fact that most rings are very narrow and allow for only one line
of tiny engraving. The other is that there is usually a trademark or markings
inside the ring, e.g. 14K. Allowing for the space to work around these
markings, the maximum number of letters and spaces for one line of engraving
in script or block is approximately 30. A wider ring may offer enough
room for 2 lines or a maximum character count of 60 letters and spaces
(block style lettering), but for every additional trademark its
necessary to deduct about 5 spaces. Because rings vary in size, these
numbers are only approximations. However, in the absence of trademarks
the normal position for inside ring engraving is with the message centered
at the bottom of the rings shank, i.e. opposite the stone.
are various types of rings, e.g. wedding rings, engagement rings, class
rings, baby, rings, signet rings, fashion rings and even spoon rings.
And although most of these are engraved on the inside, there are some
rings are specially designed for outside ring engraving. Signet rings
are usually engraved on the flat outside surface with a single initial
or monogram because of their limited engraving space. The same is true
of the spoon ring which is often worn as a pinky ring with
the spoon handle worn toward the outside of the hand and the engraving
facing toward the public and away from the wearer.
Trays & Decorative Plates
trays come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and styles. The most commonly
chosen area for tray engraving is on the top surface in the center of
the tray. In fact many trays contain decorative scrollwork on most of
the surface, except perhaps for a small oval or rectangular area in the
center. On such items the main choice in personalization is an initial,
a set of initials, or a single large script monogram. Of course for lengthier
inscriptions or for award usage, the choice often involves a plainer style.
trays with handles, the engraving should be oriented parallel to the handles
(Fig. 9). Also the engraving should be visually centered within the space
available for engraving.
messages of a personal nature are usually engraved on the back of trays.
On all trays, but round ones in particular, care should be used to try
to align the engraving on the back so that the lines of copy are parallel
to the frontal engraving.
wrist watches the most logical and usually the only available space for
engraving is on the back of the watch. Frequently there are markings already
stamped on the back of the watch case by the manufacturer, e.g. the company
names, patent number, waterproof, etc. As a result the engraving
must be arranged in the space available surrounding these markings. The
preferred orientation for engraving on wrist watches is with the engraving
reading normally when the crown is to the left (Fig. 10A). One problemparticularly
with less expensive watchesis that the backs are installed crooked
so that the manufacturers markings are somewhat diagonal with respect
to the strap or band. In such a situation it is preferable to position
the engraving parallel to the markings (Fig. 10B).
straight-line engraving is not possible or practical, circular arc engraving
may provide an attractive alternative. Again the practice is to orient
the engraving so it reads normally when the crown of the watch is on the
left (Fig. 10C).
available space for engraving is limited, miniature script for a woman
or miniature block for a man are frequent type style choices. Initials
are often done in upright script or ornate script for a woman and upright
block, Old English or ornate block for a man. Block is generally used
for circular engraving.
watches pose a slightly different engraving situation. Here there is more
room for engraving. Open-face pocket watches usually have a much larger
back than wrist watches. On hunting-case pocket watches, there are several
engravable surfaces to choose from: the outside front cover, the outside
back cover, the inside front cover, and on some watches even the inside
back cover. The important thing to be sure of is that the engraved inscription
has the same orientation, i.e. the same side up as the face of the watch.
Thus, the inscription and the time can be read at a glance without rotating
10A, 10B, 10C
seasoned veterans reading this article will acknowledge that it takes a
while to learn the practical engraving considerations discussed in this
article, specifically correct engraving placement and orientation related
to specific items. In fact its probably safe to say that even if youve
engraved a thousand tankards or I.D. bracelets, you probably still hesitate
momentarily to think before you put another in your engraving machineit
always pays to spend a second or two double-checking your setup.
and gift engraving, perhaps more than any other work, center around subtleties.
The difference between doing a piece correctly or incorrectly may not even
be obvious to the customerbut then again it may. Therefore, whats
at stake is not just one piece of merchandiseits literally the
reputation of the business providing the service.
Part 5 of this series on jewelry/gift engraving etiquette, we will begin
a mini-series of sample layouts and suggested messages. Each installment
will focus on a specific theme, e.g. graduations, weddings, anniversaries,
etc. The purpose of course is to provide a handy selection of suggested
layouts and messages which can be referred to by the engraver, the salesperson
and even the customer.
you have some examples of your favorite wording to recommend for jewelry/gift
engraving and wish to share it with our readers, we welcome them and will
try to include as many as possible in this ongoing series.