Hand engraving on jewelry and other metal objects is a very specialized art form in and of itself and when skillfully placed on an already high quality ring, can make for an absolutely unique and heirloom quality piece of jewelry.
The actual engraving is done with an extremely sharp tool called a graver. The graver is used to carefully carve a pattern or design into the metal, leaving no room for error. The artisan that does the hand engraving will have various sizes, shapes, and angles of gravers that they use for different effects/designs. The cutting into the metal with the graver is often (but not always) facilitated by small hand held pneumatic devices that are essentially small pneumatic hammers.
What is Cast in Place engraving or CAD-CAM engraving?
It is important to differentiate between actual hand engraving and the much more commonly found cast in place engraving or CAD-CAM engraving in which a design or pattern is placed in the wax or prototype of the item being cast to give the look or effect of hand engraving.
Here are a few examples of cast in place engraving or CAD-CAM engraving.
Example #1 of cast in place ‘engraving’
Example #2 of cast in place ‘engraving’
Example #3 of cast in place ‘engraving’
Is it possible to tell the difference between hand engraving and cast in place engraving?
The quick answer is no, a novice may not always be able to tell the difference.
While even a novice may be able to tell the difference between extreme examples from both methods, (the example photos used here are classic examples of the representative methods) please note that there will be many examples from both methods that may be virtually indistinguishable from each other when looking at merely photos, especially to a novice.
That said, the predominant indication of cast in place/faux engraving will be a ‘smoothed out’ or ‘polished down’ look to the detailing in the pattern as opposed to a much sharper or crisper pattern in hand engraved designs.
Here are a few examples of actual hand engraved engagement rings. Notice the sharpness and crispness of the detailing in the patterns.
Example #1 of a hand engraved engagement ring design
Example #2 of a hand engraved engagement ring design
Example #3 of a hand engraved engagement ring design
Example #4 of a hand engraved engagement ring design
Example #5 of a hand engraved engagement ring design