The Job and What's Involved

Engravers decorate glass or metal objects using hand tools or machinery to cut designs or inscriptions into the surface. Their work is very varied. They may engrave names, dates, awards, messages, verses and patterns. They may also create designs on a variety of items, such as wedding presents, retirement or leaving presents and anniversary gifts. Items engraved can include jewellery, bowls, plates, decanters, goblets, medals, trophies, shields, boxes and wall panels.

A range of techniques and tools is used by engravers to produce different effects. The main ones include:

Point Engraving - marking glass with a hand-held diamond or tungsten carbide point tool.

Stipple Engraving - creating a series of dots to define light and shade to build up a design.

Drill Engraving - using a rotating burr in the handpiece of an electric drill.

Copper Wheel Engraving - using machine-driven wheels to shape the cut, with a mix of oil and grit to do the cutting.

Sand Engraving or Sand Blasting - using grit to wear down areas of glass that have not been masked off.

Acid Etching - applying hydrofluoric acid to areas to be decorated.

Hot Glass Techniques - engraving combined with glass blowing to create different effects.

Metal engravers may also use:

  • Traditional hand-held engraving tools.
  • Machine engraving for hard metals such as stainless steel.
  • Pantograph or computer-controlled machines, typically for engraving lettering on jewellery, trophies and metal nameplates.
  • Photo-etching, also known as photo-chemical milling, to reproduce illustrations and photographs by using an acid-resistant, ultra-violet, light-sensitive emulsion.
  • Bead blasting, using abrasive grit blasted on to a surface with compressed air.

The methods used will depend on whether it is a one-off commission, such as a piece of jewellery, or the mass production of items, such as commemorative or souvenir glasses. Engravers may get the opportunity to be creative, producing original designs or copying existing ones.

Engravers usually work standard hours, Monday to Friday. Many engravers are self-employed, so the hours worked depend on the volume of commissions and work. Some weekend and evening work may be required. There are often opportunities to work part time.

Engravers are usually based in a workshop or factory environment. They may need to wear protective clothing, glasses, masks or ear protectors, as conditions can be dusty and noisy. Depending on the engraving method, the job may involve sitting or standing and bending for long durations.

Starting salaries for engravers can be around £10,500 a year.
Once experienced, employed engravers may earn between £15,000 and £22,000, depending on their technical skills.

Fully experienced, self-employed engravers can earn £30,000 or, in some cases, considerably more. Self-employed engravers are paid negotiated or set rates for each job they do. Some employed engravers are also paid set fees per job.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are opportunities for engravers throughout the UK. Many are self-employed, while others work for employers that include:

- Glass manufacturers
- Metal manufacturers
- Engraving companies
- Jewellery manufacturers
- Silversmiths
- High street retailers

The age profile of engravers is such that there are likely to be increasing opportunities for new engravers over the next few years.

Vacancies may be advertised in trade publications or through the British Jewellers' Association. It is important to network to find work and be prepared to send CV's to potential employers. Events listed on guild websites, such as the Guild of Glass Engravers (GGE), may be useful. Craft fairs especially can be a good source of business.

Education and Training

There are no specific academic qualifications required to become an engraver. However, most entrants have an artistic background or a qualification in art, design or craft. The Diploma in creative and media may be relevant for this area of work.

There are many jewellery, silversmithing, glass and ceramics courses, both full and part time, that give an overview of engraving. They include:

  • Level 3 BTEC Award, Certificate and Diploma in design crafts.
  • Level 3 BTEC National Award, Certificate and Diploma in art and design.
  • Level 3 and Level 4 Foundation Diploma in art and design.
  • BTEC Higher National Diploma (HND) in 3D design, with specialist options in metal, glass, jewellery and ceramics.
  • Foundation degrees in 3D design or applied arts, with options in ceramics, glass, jewellery and metals.

There is a list of the colleges and private training organisations that offer jewellery, silversmithing and related courses on the Jewellery and Allied Industries Training Council's website. The Crafts Council website also lists part-time courses in its Craft Directory under 'Opportunities'.

There are degree courses in jewellery, silversmithing, glass and metalwork for those who are particularly interested in the creative side of the work. Entry is usually with an art and design foundation course or BTEC National Diploma, plus a portfolio of work. Candidates should check prospectuses carefully, as the content of courses and entry requirements can vary considerably.

Some employers may offer training positions. The Goldsmiths' Company has occasional apprenticeships for engravers of precious metals.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

New engravers usually train on the job under the supervision of experienced colleagues. A large percentage of engravers are self-taught. Qualifications that engravers may work towards include:

  • NCFE Level 2 Award and Level 3 Certificate in creative craft using glass crafts, silversmithing or jewellery.
  • Edexcel Level 2 and Level 3 BTEC Certificate and Diploma in art and design.

Engravers on The Goldsmiths' Company apprenticeship work towards the City & Guilds Licentiateship - The Goldsmiths' Award.

There are evening courses and workshops available to help develop techniques. It can be useful to take a Masters degree, for instance in glass product design or ceramics and glass, to further develop craft skills.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

An engraver should have:

  • Excellent eyesight (with or without spectacles) for detailed engraving.
  • Good hand-eye co-ordination, with a steady hand.
  • Patience, as the results are not always instant.
  • Good concentration skills, and be comfortable doing intricate work.
  • Creative flair, with an interest in art and drawing.
  • The ability to visualise and interpret a client's requirements.
  • Pride in his or her work and attention to detail.
  • A methodical approach.
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills.
  • Good administration, marketing and general business skills, if self-employed.

Your Long Term Prospects

Promotion opportunities may exist in larger glass and jewellery manufacturing and engraving companies or silversmiths. Engravers may progress to senior engraver, supervisor or possibly manager.

Opportunities for self-employment are plentiful. Progression, however, depends on running and marketing an effective business and building a good reputation for quality work. Taking a business course, like the ABC Level 4 Diploma in business for creative practitioners, may be helpful when setting up alone.

With further study, technicians could progress to incorporated or chartered engineer status.

Get Further Information

British Jewellers' Association/Jewellery
and Allied Industries Training Council,
10 Vyse Street, Birmingham B18 6LT
Websites: www.bja.org.uk

Crafts Council, 44a Pentonville Road, London N1 9BY
Tel: 020 7806 2500
Website: www.craftscouncil.org.uk

Creative and Cultural Skills,
Lafone House, The Leathermarket,
Weston Street, London SE1 3HN
Tel: 020 7015 1800
Website: www.creative-choices.co.uk/craft

The Goldsmiths' Company,
Goldsmiths' Hall, Foster Lane,
London EC2V 6BN
Tel: 020 7606 7010
Website: www.thegoldsmiths.co.uk

The Guild of Glass Engravers (GGE)
Tel: 020 8446 4050
Website: www.gge.org.uk

The Hand Engravers Association,
PO Box 60239, London EC1P 1QQ
Tel: 0750 046 2910
Website: www.handengravers.co.uk

The Institute of Professional Goldsmiths (IPG),
PO Box 838, Amersham HP6 9GP
Website: www.ipgoldsmiths.com/

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Additional resources

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