Laser Engraving and Hand Stamping – what’s the difference?

Laser engraving and hand stamping are two popular techniques used in the creation of permanent marks on metal objects. From carving out a series of numbers and letters to etching breathtaking designs on metal, laser engraving and hand stamping will get the job done. However, these two techniques differ in so many ways.

So what is the difference between laser engraving and hand stamping?

Hand stamping involves the creation of imprints on a material using metal stamps and a hammer. Essentially, the process utilizes metal stamps with numbers, letters, designs, or punctuations that are struck into the metal using a hammer. Although it creates an imperfect outcome, many people revel in the fact that it adds a personal touch to jewelry and other metal objects. Laser engraving, on the other hand, uses laser beams to engrave on objects. During the laser engraving process, a laser beam heats up the material in order to either evaporate or burn it. Depending on the desired result, light or deep contrast is created with the result being a permanent mark. Examples of laser-engraved products include sports trophies with names of the winners, components marked with a given batch or serial number.

How can you tell if a product was laser engraved or hand stamped?

Jewelry stores often make use of both hand stamping and laser engraving to add a personal touch on their products. But how can you tell if the letters and numbers on your wedding ring were laser engraved or hand stamped? Here are a few differences and similarities of both technologies:

  • Human touch: because of the nature of the human hand, the hand stamping outcome is always a little imperfect. The letters, designs, or numbers will almost always look roughly aligned. This is a great thing because it shows a personal touch. Laser engraved objects are uniform and technically perfect. Each letter and number is uniformly spaced and aligned.
  • Depth of the design: secondly, the depth of your letters, designs, and text can help you know the technology used to create a mark on your jewelry. Here, laser engraving created shallow lettering compared to hand stamping. The process of creating an impression using a hard stamp helps deepen the text a great deal. The actual depth of hand stamping is not defined. So, you can play with different depths and add beauty to your products.
  • The appearance of the text: laser engraved parts are carved out of the material while hand-stamped parts are technically bent to create a design. For this reason, hand stamping leaves a casual, traditional look with a personal touch.
  • Permanent marks: both laser engraving and hand stamping leave permanent marks on metals. They are both used to makes meaningful and treasured keepsakes.
  • Varied materials: when it comes to the material option, laser engraving is preferred. You can laser engrave a number of materials including metal, plastic, acrylic, glass, stone, even paper! Hand stamping is limited to metals only.

How hand stamping works

Although hand stamping can be done on a number of hard surfaces, metal is the most ideal material. Jewelry stores especially love engraving letters and designs on their products using this strategy. This is because it personalizes their necklaces, rings, bracelets, and other products better than laser engraving does. Unlike laser engraving, hand stamping doesn’t necessarily get rid of any metal from the product but rather a raised symbol or letter. The material is bent to create the shape of the design.  In essence, the characters or designs are impressed on the material to give the impression of an organic look. Most metal stamps are made of stainless steel with the hammer being a softer metal such as brass to avoid damage during stamping.

The end result largely depends on the hand-to-eye coordination coupled with the hammer strike. As a consequence, hand-stamped products tend to have variations in the spacing, depth, and alignment of characters. For instance, within a series of characters, one letter will be positioned away from the center while another will be deeper than the next. In the end, however, the hand-stamped piece will be a magnificent work of art that adds a personal touch and uniqueness to a given metal.

Which materials are ideal for hand stamping?

Just like laser engraving, not every material is ideal for hand stamping. Here is a list of the most ideal materials for hand stamping.

  • Aluminum

This is by far the best metal for any DIY or commercial hand-stamping project. For starters, it looks like silver but it is way cheaper. It is also soft and lightweight making it a good material for large pendants and earrings. However, the fact that aluminum is soft and malleable also makes it more susceptible to scratches and bends.

  • Copper

Like aluminum, copper is soft and inexpensive which is why it is a beginner’s number one choice. It is also readily available and shows a clear stamp impression. The main disadvantage is that copper is at risk of rapid tarnishing. Thankfully, it makes a great product when mixed with other metal designs.

  • Solid gold

Gold may be one of the niftiest metals but it also comes with a handsome price tag.  Gold blanks are primarily made in thinner gauges meaning you need practice and skill to effectively stamp on them without bending or denting unwanted areas of the blank. Because of this, solid gold is often a reserve for the experienced stamper in search of high-end personalized options for their clients.

  • Gold-filled metals

Gold-filled metal is more affordable compared to solid gold. It is also quite easy to hand-stamp and exudes the same beauty as yellow gold. Before you mess up with solid gold, it is always a good idea to start with gold-filled metals and then work your way up once you are sure of your skills.

  • Brass

Brass is harder than the aforementioned metals and therefore presents the highest challenge when it comes to stamping. You’ll need a firm and powerful strike to achieve good results. Before stamping on brass, it is recommended to practice with scrap metal of the same gauge. This will help you to minimize waste.

  • Fine silver

Fine silver is quite pricey but has all the qualities of a perfect hand-stamped metal. It is soft which makes it ideal for necklaces. If you don’t mind splashing some cash for a valuable metal, go for fine silver. Unfortunately, like aluminum, fine silver is less-durable and is prone to scratching and bending.

  • Sterling silver

Sterling is a common metal in the world of stamping. It is easy to stamp on and easy to find in the market. It is also durable compared to a number of other metals on this list. For great results, you need to stamp sterling silver harder than copper but not as hard as brass.

  • Pewter

Pewter is made from thicker sheet metal blanks making stamping relatively easy to carry out. With this metal, you can get clear, defined impressions. Additionally, it won’t tarnish unless added with a silver plate.

Conclusion

Both laser engraving and hand stamping are useful when making metals and other materials. In fact, the jewelry industry heavily relies on both techniques. The difference between the two is in the technique used and the final output. If you are in need of a more traditional and personal look, then you will want to go with hand stamping. But if you are looking for a finer and more polished look, laser engraving is the way to go.