Jun 25

Milgrain Engraving Explained – Could This be Your Killer Design Detail?

By Calla Gold

Curving band ring with milgrain edging

Milgrain Engraving on Rose Gold Band

Milgrain Engraving the Detail You Don’t Want to Forget

Sometimes you barely see it, yet if you have your custom wedding ring made and it’s not there you feel you’ve lost something. This Santa Barbara Jewelry Designer has noticed over time that milgrain engraving is the tiny detail with the big impact.

Milgrain Engraving Defined

I frequently get asked what “milgrain” is. Literally, it translates to “a thousand grains.” Sometimes it’s spelled with one “l” and sometimes with two. In our case, milgrain is a row of tiny beads or hemispheres along the edge or boundary of a section of jewelry.

Migrain edge on White Gold Wedding Band

This Wedding Band has a Milgrain Edge

Typically, you see it all along the outer edges of band rings or you see it surrounding hand engraving.

Milgrain’s Been Around and Comes in Different Sizes

Milgrain has a history. It’s been used as a jewelry decoration in many different cultures for thousands of years.

Milgrain comes in different sizes. Some example are so small you almost have to feel it to know it’s there. Others times it’s bigger and easily visible.

Three Ways Milgrain is Made

There are different methods of incorporating milgrain into a piece of jewelry:

White Gold Princess Cut Diamond Pendant with Milgrain Edging

Large and Small Milgrain Engraving Make This Pendant Sing

1. Tiny balls can be fabricated and individually soldered onto a piece.
2. A knurling—or milgraining—tool can be rolled over a metal surface creating a row of bumps and depressions, after which they are rounded, smoothed, and polished.
3. Computers can be used to draw milgrain and create the program to carve the subsequent wax with milgrain details.

Milgrain Engraving and Jewelry Restoration

When older inherited rings come to me for repair, sizing and restoration of time period details, I frequently suggest we restore the missing milgrain engraving.

Antique Ring in Need of Milgrain

Carole’s Antique Ring Needing Milgrain Details

Many people who have inherited antique rings don’t know that they used to have this detail.

We turn to milgrain engraving to bring back the feel of the era that ring came from. It makes such a difference in the visual impact and feel of the ring.

You get to see what that ring looked like when your Grandfather gave it to your Grandmother. See Carole’s Milgrain re-engraving blog post.

Milgrain Engraving, Like the Frame to Your Picture

antique ring with restored milgrain

The Milgrain Engraving is Restored on Carole’s Ring

So what’s the deal? Why milgrain? Why not just leave the outer rim of the ring smooth and shiny?

Like a picture frame surrounding a painting, milgrain engraving is a design element used to set off—or frame—certain elements of jewelry design, like gemstones or hand engraving.

It can add an antique feel to a piece. Other times, it suggests artistry and hand craftsmanship. Sometimes…it just looks cool!

What’s the Takeaway Message Here?

Hand engraving framed by milgrain

Detail of Hand Engraving Framed by a Milgrain Engraving Frame

Whether you’re designing a special ring from the bottom up, or are wanting to infuse some old world beauty into your existing ring, think about including milgrain engraving.

You Can Call Me!

Are you curious about milgrain? Might it work for you? Call me and let’s talk about it.

Calla Gold

See my video:


More Posts in the Engraving Series:

Milgrain Engraving Explained

Restorative Engraving For Older Rings

Engraved Rings – Five Things You Need to Know

Engraving Your Signet Ring

Pinterest Page with Engraving Pictures

Signet Ring, What Should You Engrave? Vanilla or Chocolate?

Why You Should Engrave Your Wedding Rings: And What to Engrave

Engraving a Kiss Inside a Wedding Ring! Laser Engraving is Awesome!

12 thoughts on “Milgrain Engraving Explained – Could This be Your Killer Design Detail?

  1. That is so cool Calla Gold, I have always loved milgrain. I didn’t always know it was called milgrain though. Now I know.
    I think milgrain engraving adds so much to jewelry designs. It seems like such a great old world design detail, yet you can add it to modern designs.

    • I can’t say you are another convert to milgrain engraving since you’ve loved it for so long. I’m glad you see it’s possibilities!
      Calla Gold

  2. Hi,I am writing to you to ask, please as a big favor I need the address of the manufacturer of the lathe millgraing tools.
    Yours truly,

  3. I like that milgrain detail. And I’m a sucker for good before and afters. They really sell it as far as I’m concerned.
    Your video on milgrain with lots of examples was very helpful as well.

    • Tracey,
      Thanks for visiting the blog. It’s great to hear that you like before and after pictures. I always have too!
      Perhaps there is some milgrain detail in your jewelry future!
      Your Personal Jeweler,

  4. Please accept my compliments on your video presence on YouTube. I was semi convinced that the engraving work done to antique rings was a lost art until seeing your video. Your video about milgrain is excellent and very compelling.


    • Dear Marc,
      I’m so glad you found the video helpful. There are indeed many craftsmen out there who keep the old style hand engraving craft alive. It’s their artistry that allows me to design in the vintage style I so love.
      One of the most rewarding projects for me is the restoring of hand engraving on a very old inherited ring. It is so wonderful to see again how a ring looked when first it was worn fifty or more years ago.
      Your Personal Jeweler,

  5. Hello,
    I am a metal smithing hobbiest of around six years. I feel I am pretty capable, with experiences in silver, copper, a little gold, fold forming, and repousse/chasing.
    I am going to make my future son-in-law’s gold band and have already completed a successful practice ring in silver. I would love to milgrain the edge but don’t have a lathe or milgrain machine. Buying either one of those doesn’t make sense for me but I would be ok buying a quality hand tool to do the job. Is it possible or practical to do this by hand? Am I biting off more than I can chew? Does this take years of experience like engraving does?
    I would very much appreciate any advice you could give me?
    Thank you!

    • Hi Todd,
      This discussion thread seems to really talk about your milgraining wishes. Especially the comment from Willishance. This is such a helpful forum for jewelers. Here’s the discussion:
      That said, practicing on the silver sample ring is a great idea. And you can always grind it off and practice some more. Doing it by hand is doable, just with practice to get your groove on with it.
      Find gold to practice on too before going at the real ring, as the two metals have a different response, with silver being more malleable. Rio Grande carries good hand tools and you’ll want the right vise too. Rio Grande also has how to videos about a lot of actions. I couldn’t get their search window to give me one to attach here, but you could call them and get a link. They are a treasure trove of helpful education for the hobbiest.
      I wish you the best of luck. I think your future son-in-law is lucky to be getting a hand made ring from you Todd. That is a gift of love.
      Your Personal Jeweler,

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