Each year thousands of clubs, associations, organisations, teams, leagues and societies all over the globe have their annual awards and presentation evenings. Trophies are given out to league and competition winners, plaques for special achievements, medals for runners-up, the list is endless.
Engraved crystal awards always feature at these kind of ceremonies, offering a superb stylish alternative to the ubiquitous silverware. Often these pieces remain current and stand the test of time, never becoming dated or out of fashion, they look special as they take their place in any discerning display or trophy cabinet.
The engraved crystal awards can be made in a straightforward, minimalist way, or they can be true works of art. The cost of producing these ornamental awards varies greatly on what kind of design you require.
So what are the different methods and processes used to produce these engraved pieces?
What is engraving?
Engraving is the process of using a tool to create abrasion that will permanently leave some kind of marking on the glass itself. There are many processes and different tools available to carry out the work, these vary from complex machinery for larger projects to simple diamond-point hand tools and the best tool for the job will depend on the item, so the size and depth of any award, and its material, such as crystal, will have a bearing on the choice of engraving type.
This method is one for the purists as the whole process is completed by hand; no machinery is used whatsoever. Using an extremely hard and sharp point, usually in the form of a diamond or tungsten carbide, this is then tapped repeatedly onto the surface of your crystal item.
The result is a collection of very small dots which are used together to give the final design. In order to achieve a very white surface on the glass, these dots are applied closer together. Images are then created using the light held inside the glass, where the surface has been marked. This method requires attention to detail and plenty of patience. The results are unique and benefit from complementary lighting.
Line engraving is also known as point or scratch engraving. This method agitates the surface of the glass, creating scratches which in turn glisten as the scratches catch the light. The tool used to create this kind of effect carries a similar point to that of the stipple method and is applied by hand.
Copper wheel engraving
Engraved crystal awards can be designed and made to a bulk order or smaller individual pieces if required. Engraving on a larger scale obviously involves more electronic automation and the copper wheel method employs just that.
One of the more traditional processes requires a belt driven lathe, which would have been powered by a foot pedal, then as time passed, an electronic motor was installed to help makes things a little less laborious. The spindles of the machine would have had a copper wheel mounted on them, each individual one having a differing diameter to achieve various cuts in the glass. While the cuts are being made, the engraver would use a slurry made up of oil, grit and paraffin to aid the process and is considered to be the original method for traditional cut crystal.
This particular drill process is used to achieve a three dimensional look to the design of the piece. The handheld drill itself uses a rotating head to achieve a much deeper intrusion into the glass, creating the illusion of depth. The process is commonly known as flexible drive engraving, which can produce some impressively, intricate work. This technique is often reserved for more expensive crystal awards. The drill usually has a diamond tip and needs to be kept cool with the application of water during the process. This prevents any cracking or discolouration.
This is perhaps the most used method of engraving today, and it is used for mass production of specific designs. This technique involves fine grit being literally blasted onto the surface of the glass at a very high pressure. Some smaller producers and artists use this process for smaller detailed shading techniques, producing some impressive results.
This process was invented in Sweden and is creatively the most diverse method of engraving, producing some beautifully varied and different effects. Graal is not only engraving, but engraving coupled with glass blowing and is considered to be the most difficult of these methods. To start with, multiple layers of coloured glass are overlaid on regular clear glass. These layers are then engraved, the cuts show up the different colours, the glass is then heated up again and re-blown to produce the final design.
Laser engraving is one of the more modern approaches to engraving and arguably the most popular when creating engraved crystal awards, certainly for bulk orders. It is fully automated and is used in the mass production of certain pieces. The laser burns the logo or artwork onto the glass and is typically used in merchandising or advertising.
This form of engraving actually creates a matt finish upon the glass rather than physical penetration. Using a stencil, it is attached in place on the glassware, then an acid paste is applied to the stencil, leaving behind the matt finish. When this is combined with one of the more traditional methods, it can produce some very unusual and artistic results.
With so many types of engraving techniques to learn, in what is a specialist industry, enticing young people to become involved in engraving nowadays faces many challenges. The Guild of Glass Engravers boasts many members and well respected artists from all over the world. The main purpose of the Guild is to highlight the work of its members, encourage new members to get involved in the industry, and offer a forum for everyone interested to come together. Membership is open to anyone interested in the subject.
Here at H Cooper Glass Engravers, we can provide engraved crystal awards suitable for any event.