In this instalment of ‘Behind the scenes’, I want to introduce you to our hand engraver, the extremely talented Peta Greenwood.
After leaving school at 16, Peta attended the School of Jewellery in Birmingham. For the first year of the course, you dabble in all aspects of jewellery, silversmithing, design and engraving. Then, for the next two years, you specialize in one of the main subjects and Peta chose hand engraving. She left with awards in City & Guilds, and Advanced City & Guilds, in silversmithing and allied crafts.
Peta then went to work for an engravers called Lancaster Engraving. Established in 1872, the company, at its peak, employed 40 hand engravers, silversmiths and had its own polishing workshop. In 1994, Peta set up her own business with a machine engraving company called F&G Lancasters. She left them two years ago when she decided to move out of the Jewellery Quarter.
As Peta says, “The glory of hand engraving is that you can work anywhere. As long as I have a lamp, a table and chair, a sandbag and my tools. I can travel light!” So she upped sticks to Tenbury Wells.
Peta provided some insight into the process and skills behind hand engraving.
“Firstly you make a design, either lettering, ornamental work or pictorial. On small work this could mean rolling plasticine over where you want to engrave, which puts a greasy film on it. Then, with a pencil, draw on the design. The pencil wipes off the grease so you can vaguely see the design. Then with a sharp pointed scriber, scratch onto the metal. Now you have an indication that you can follow to complete the engraving.
The tools I use have different names for different jobs. The one I use most is called a graver. This is 2.5mm square, high-speed steel, set into a small round wooden handle. It's sharpened underneath and across the top. There are all sorts of shapes and sizes.
My favorite jobs are ones you can really get you teeth into. A large silver salver with a huge inscription or a decorative pattern on a ring or bangle are both equally rewarding. Every job I pick up to do is different and that's why my job is never dull and I love it so much. When you see the end result of a plain piece once engraved, it's extremely satisfying.”
Like a lot of these skilled artisan crafts, hand engraving is being replaced by machines and, as Peta says, “I fear for the art myself. There isn't a full time course to teach hand engraving anywhere on the country now.” Machine engraving can’t be matched by hand engraving and there is no substitute for, “… a bespoke piece of someone's time, soul and skill that they can keep forever.”
This is why we at Tustains are so proud to be able to offer this exquisite service to our customers, producing some of the highest quality engraving for our bespoke items and signet rings.