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What Is an Enamel Pin Badge?

Posted May 25, 2020

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What Is an Enamel Pin Badge?

What Is an Enamel Pin Badge? | Cheappins

Enamel pins have become an impactful part of the fashion industry. However, enamel pin badges don’t just appear, a lot of work goes into making a desirable enamel pin. Have you ever considered this importance?

What is an enamel pin badge anyway, and what makes a pin badge different from an enamel pin or lapel pin?  Enamel pin badges are exactly the same thing as lapel pins, enamel pins and custom pins just different terminology.  Most people outside the United States often refer to enamel pins as enamel pin badges.  So, the difference is more a cultural expression than a physical difference.

While lapel pins or enamel pin badges are not something people worldwide think about on a daily basis if you are in the market for one understanding how to choose the right one for your custom design is important. Only then can you create the quality that will catch the eye of the recipients.  Design the right pin, and you might find it is treated like a wearable fashion statement.

What are the different enamel pin badges?

Enamel pins fall into two main categories; hard enamel pins and soft enamel pins. While both types of enamel pins are quality pins, they each work best in certain applications.

Should I choose hard or soft enamel pin badges?

This is one of the long-standing questions amongst enamel pin lovers and debated over and over with everyone seeming to have an opinion.  Which, is the better choice boils down to preference in many cases but let’s explore some of the reasons one type may be perceived better than another type.

Before I discuss the differences, you need to understand the similarities between hard and soft enamel.

  • Both are diestruck pins, meaning a design is stamped into a thin piece of metal to create the design.
  • Both can be made from iron, copper, or brass material.
  • Both have enamel added in the recessed areas of the design to create the color.
  • Both can be plated gold, silver, black nickel, copper, brass, bronze or even antiqued to give a rustic look.
  • Both have thin metal ridges dividing each color of enamel.
  • Both have a nail and clutch on the back with various types of clutches available.

After reading this list you might think hard enamel and soft enamel pins are the exact same, but here are the few subtle differences most people don’t fully understand.

Hard enamel pin badges

Hard enamel lapel pin badges are most often made from brass or copper metal, the only reason being these metals are softer and easier to manufacture.  However, iron is becoming more and more common as the base metal for hard enamel because it is less expensive.  It is a more brittle metal and can cause more manufacturing rejects but companies are choosing to use iron as their first option.

The enamel on hard enamel pin badges is treated differently than soft enamel.  It is baked or hardened by applying heat.  The heating process hardens the enamel which to some makes it seem more durable.  And this is true as it would be much harder to scratch the surface of hard enamel than soft enamel.

Hard enamel pin badges are also more highly polished giving them a more jewelry quality look.  Once the enamel is hardened, the final step is to grind, buff, and polish the enamel to produce a smooth surface.  The surface of the pin will be smooth to the touch leaving the metal ridges and the enamel flush.  It is a distinct finished quality.

One final advantage of hard enamel pin badges is the ability to apply silkscreened details to the pin.  Many pins need tiny details that cannot be produced with enamel.  The smooth surface of hard enamel allows a stencil template to lay flat on the surface of a hard enamel pin and apply tiny details.

Because of the extra heating and polishing step, hard enamel pins are more expensive.  Don’t be discouraged by this, the difference is noticeable for budget conscience people but not dramatic.

All these are very subtle differences but have distinguishing look about them.

When to choose hard enamel pin badges

Based on the description above you may have already guessed, hard enamel pins are perceived as more polished, more durable, and higher quality.  Based on these characteristics you can imagine the best opportunities for hard enamel pins.

Hard enamel pins are best used when:

  • you are a company or business and brand image is important
  • you are presenting a lapel pin as an extinguished gift
  • you are presenting years of service pins to employees
  • you need to include silkscreen details
  • money is not an object.

Soft enamel pin badges

Soft enamel pin badges are often explained as the best value.  This means you get a good mix of quality with lower price.

Soft enamel pin badges are most often made of iron metal because it is less expensive.

The enamel on soft enamel pins is the most distinct difference from hard enamel pins.  Unlike the baking on hard enamel pins, the enamel on soft enamel is air dried causing it to settle slightly.  This settling leaves the metal ridges raised and the enamel recessed.  Because of the two different levels, soft enamel pins have a texture or 3D look and feel.  Many people like this texture look as it makes the pin more interesting and, on some pins, makes the pin more cartoonish looking.

Soft enamel pin badges are not polished as much as hard enamel due to the recessed levels.  Because of the lower level, the polishing does not affect that lower level.

The most unique difference with soft enamel badges is dyed metal.  Both hard and soft enamel can utilize gold, silver, copper finishes, but soft enamel can also have a dyed metal color applied as the final finish.  So, the metal lines can be black, red, green, blue, white, etc.  The reason this is possible is there is no polishing.  Because the polishing is the last step of hard enamel dyed metal would be rubbed off exposing the raw metal.  Since there is no polishing on soft enamel dyed metal doesn’t get rubbed off.  Dyed metal adds a stark contrast between the enamel and the metal and really brings out the details.

When to choose soft enamel pin badges

Based on the description above you may have already guessed, soft enamel pins are perceived as a more affordable pin option and has features that really add character.  Based on these qualities you can imagine the best opportunities for soft enamel pins.

Soft enamel pins are best used when:

  • you are a graphic designer wanting to sell your designs.
  • you are a baseball team, destination imagination team, or participate in any pin trading
  • you want metal color other than gold, silver or copper.
  • you are giving away pins as a promotional item
  • budget is an issue

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