Commemorative work is an important aspect of hand engraving, where objects are transformed into unique pieces through the application of inscriptions, portraits or scenes celebrating or remembering a particular occasion. The engraver makes that memory permanent, bringing a very personal significance and meaning to an object. This could be a simple wedding ring or a grand gesture such as a trophy or quaich. Many engravers and engraving firms depend on this type of work for their staple income, engraving gifts for anniversaries, birthdays and other special occasions.
It is sometimes thought that commemorative is the least demanding work for an engraver but quite the opposite is true. It requires a huge amount of experience, knowledge and talent. Decorative letter cutting has to be beautiful, legible and appropriate in style for the piece. This kind of cutting is often done with a square graver, creating a ‘v’ section cut so the light is reflected from one side or the other making the reflections dance across the cutting. Often special tools need to be fashioned to engrave the inside of rings and decorate three-dimensional forms.
Certain times of the year that mark important religious holidays, sports tournaments and so forth can be especially busy times in the workshop. Crafts people have to be able to work under pressure which is crucial for completing jobs in a limited time frame. Perhaps the most famous example of this is the FA Cup where the engraver has to engrave the name of the winning team on the cup within minutes of the final whistle.
Click here to read Emmet Smith of RH Wilkins describing the nerve-wracking experience of engraving the FA Cup.