How to Hand-Stamp Silver By: Juliana Weiss-Roessler
Have you ever picked up a beautifully engraved piece of sterling silver at a boutique or seen a hand-stamped jewelry booth at a craft fair and wondered how jewelry-makers create that look? While you may think there’s some elaborate trick to crafting hand-stamped silver, it’s actually a skill that anyone can pick up. The advantage of hand-stamping your own jewelry is that there are no limits—you can create any design or engraved message you can imagine, giving each creation a personal touch. Hand-stamped jewelry can make a great, meaningful gift for someone you care deeply about, and it can allow you to express your personal style by creating pieces for yourself. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, you might even consider starting a small commission-based jewelry business, as unique creations are always popular. Whatever your interests are, there’s really no reason not to learn how to hand-stamp silver. I’ll cover the basics below so that you can get started.
You will need:
-Bench block or anvil
-Sterling silver blanks: you can purchase these wholesale through a retailer who provides to boutiques and designer jewelers
-Allen wrenches or large nails
-Liquid of sulfur
You’ll be able to pick up most of the materials you need at craft stores. Any supplies that you can’t find in a store should be available for purchase online.
The first thing you’ll want to do is come up with your design. Trace it out on a piece of paper first and make sure that you have a blank large enough for it (you may want to measure the blank and design it out with a ruler). You need to be especially careful if you’re going to be lettering the silver, as different letters are different sizes, and shapes and will take up varying amounts of space. If you want to spell out a word or phrase but don’t like your hand-lettering or just can’t get the sizing right, you can also purchase alphabet stamps. Also keep in mind that if your design sounds too complex, you can also buy ready-made design stamps and alter them to make them your own.
1. Use your masking tape to secure your silver blank to your bench block or anvil. If you’re going to be hand-lettering or using alphabet stamps, you can also use the masking tape to mark out the spacing for your letters.
2. Place your first stamp over the silver blank. If you are making a design from scratch, consider using large nails or Allen wrenches as your stamp. You can use them to create a round shape, or file them down to get many different shapes. You can also find Allen wrenches in a variety of sizes, making them ideal tools for stamping. If you do decide that you want to modify Allen wrenches to make different designs, you will need some basic welding skills and may want to practice with an experienced welder before making your own pieces.
3. Make sure the stamp is perpendicular to the blank, and steady the stamp with your non-dominant hand. Tap it firmly once with a small hammer to start engraving. You should not need to tap the same point on the silver blank more than once.
4. Complete your design using any other stamps you want to incorporate, always tapping just once to get a deep groove in the silver.
5. Once you’re satisfied with your design, mix together warm water and liquid of sulfur (make sure to keep the room well-ventilated) to create a polish. Dip a cotton swab in the solution and rub it over your stamped piece of silver.
6. Let the polishing solution dry. Then rinse the piece of jewelry in cold water and rub it with a polishing cloth to get that distinctive silvery sheen. Congratulations, you’ve created your very own designer jewelry!
As with any skill, hand-stamping silver can be challenging at first, and you may need to practice on several pieces before you feel like you’ve really gotten the hang of it. Try using cheaper metal blanks the first few times you practice this craft so that there won’t be as much at stake if you do mess up. Making personalized silver jewelry is an activity that takes a lot of patience and a willingness to brush off your mistakes, but once you do get it down, you’ll have limitless possibilities for the types of pieces you can make.