Jun 25

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

By Calla Gold

Milgrain Engraving the Detail You Don’t Want to Forget

Curving band ring with milgrain engraving

Milgrain Engraving on Rose Gold Band

Sometimes you barely see it, and yet if you have your custom wedding ring made and it’s not there you feel like something is missing. My clients have commented frequently that milgrain engraving is that one tiny detail that gives a big impact to their forever ring.

Milgrain Engraving Defined

Migrain edge on White Gold Wedding Band

This Wedding Band has a Milgrain Edge

I’ve been asked, what is milgrain engraving? Literally, it translates to “a thousand grains.” Milgrain can be spelled with either one “l” or two. Regardless of spelling, milgrain is a row of tiny beads or hemispheres along the edge or boundary of a section of jewelry.
Often, you’ll see it all along the outer edges of band rings.

Milgrain’s Been Around and Comes in Different Sizes

milgrain engraving

Milgrain Accents This Modern Ring

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. You are more likely to be aware of the larger milgrain engraving examples with their visible detail.
When you run into a super small milgrain edge, you need to run your fingernail along the edge to feel it. Clients have said to me, “I don’t know why, but I like this one better.” It’ll be a ring with such a fine milgrain that it’s not that obvious to the eye. And yet somehow we sense it.
Then there are bigger versions of milgrain, that don’t suggest vintage, yet are super appealing, like the ring to the left.

Three Ways Milgrain is Made

White Gold Princess Cut Diamond Pendant with Milgrain Edging

Large and Small Milgrain Engraving Make This Pendant Sing

There are three different methods of incorporating milgrain into a piece of jewelry:
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 are used to draw milgrain in a CAD (Computer Aided Design) creating the program to carve the subsequent wax with milgrain details.

Milgrain Engraving and Jewelry Restoration

Antique Ring in Need of Milgrain

Carole’s Antique Ring Needing Milgrain Details

antique ring with restored milgrain

The Milgrain Engraving is Restored on Carole’s Ring

When older inherited rings come to me for repair, sizing and restoration, I frequently suggest we restore the missing milgrain engraving.
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 your ring came from. Restoring period appropriate engraving designs and milgrain edging makes a big impact on your older or inherited piece of jewelry.
Most importantly when you restore the old world engraving, you get to see what your ring looked like when your Grandfather gave it to your Grandmother. See Carole’s Milgrain re-engraving blog post.

Milgrain Engraving or a Plain Edge?

Milgrain Engraving vs Plain Edge

Milgrain on Rose Gold and a High Polish Edge on White Gold

Why milgrain? Why not just leave the outer rim of the ring smooth and shiny?
Milgrain engraving can add an antique feel to your jewelry. Other times, milgrain suggests artistry and hand craftsmanship. Sometimes…it just looks cool!
In the picture to the left you can compare either milgrain edging or high-polish edging on two similar rings. Let your eyes tell you whether you gravitate toward one or the other.

It’s Like a Picture Frame

Milgrain and hand engraving on a diamond ring Calla Gold jewelry

The Milgrain Engraving on this Ring Frames the Engraving Design

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 swirly hand engraving.
When I propose a pretty hand engraved design for a piece of jewelry, I like frame it with the milgrain edging.

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.

My Milgrain Video

With more pictures, choices and information check out my video.

You Can Call Me!

Are you curious about milgrain, and how it might it work for you? Call me and let’s talk about it. (805)963-4157.

Your Personal Jeweler,
Calla

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!

16 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,
    Daniel

  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,
      Calla

  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.

    Marc

    • 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,
      Calla

  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!
    Todd

    • 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:
      https://orchid.ganoksin.com/t/bead-and-milgrain-tools/40504/2
      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,
      Calla

  6. Hello!
    Is it possible to make an engraving on the ring like this – lalaserengraving.com/gold-ring/mens-white-gold-wedding-bands/ . (it should be white gold). I want to write names of our children with their dates of birth. If yes, how much it can cost? Thanks!

  7. Thank you for this informative post! I would like to ask: of the three methods of incorporating milgrain into jewelry, what results in the most authentic antique look? And if the wax (from a CAD drawing) has milgrain, will it look antique and fine? Thank you –

    Judy

    • Hello Judy,
      I personally like hand engraving for the tightess and sharpest look for milgrain. Even though it is a framing element, getting it right enhances the engraved design it frames beautifully.
      From an authentic standpoint hand engraving is what they used then and what you should use now.
      Your Personal Jeweler,
      Calla

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