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What’s the Difference Between Laser Marking and Engraving?

There are government and industry regulations in place that require precise, legible identification of jewelry. Both laser marking and engraving add permanent changes and distinction to your pieces. The customization they offer also helps businesses meet regulations.

While they share that similarity, there are still differences.

People who want to customize their jewelry may have questions concerning which is better: laser marking or engraving. As a jeweler, you also want to understand the difference between laser marking and engraving to give your best work. Keep reading to learn what sets the two apart.

How Does Laser Marking Work?

Lasers interact on the surface of jewelry and slightly change its appearance or property by heat. To prevent melting or damage, laser beams use low temperatures to engrave symbols, letters, or numbers while leaving the overall surface intact.

Oxidation occurs to turn the material black, a method known as discoloration, which makes a high-contrast laser marking at the end.

Jewelry companies use lasers to add logos, text, or bar codes to their products and pieces. There are four primary marking techniques: ablation, dark marking, stain marking, and engraving.

You can achieve each by altering the pulse frequency, speed, and power of the laser.

How Does Engraving Work?

When you use laser engraving, you are working on the material at a deeper level. The laser beam removes the surface to expose the cavity and create a marking or image. This cavity is visible to the eye and touch.

Similar to laser marking, a beam is needed to melt the surface of the area. However, engraving lasers use high temperatures. One of the most important engraving tips is to make several passes with the machine when you want to create deeper marks.

There are three main types of laser engraving to know: laser ablation, deep laser engraving, and etching.

All of these types vaporize the surface. However, what makes them all different is what’s being removed and the level of depth you must go. Etching is the most shallow (depth starts at 0.001)  whereas deep laser engraving is the deepest (up to 0.125 but 0.020 is most common).

Laser engraving is often more legible and may work best for jewelers who want to engrave small pieces. It also poses less risk of damage and deformities and it provides more font options. Another benefit is that these machines are also faster to operate and complete.

Deciding Between Laser Marking and Engraving

The main difference between laser marking and engraving that you want to take away is the depth of the marking. Although some people may mistake laser marking and engraving as the same, they are not.

Laser markings add legible print to the surface of the material you use. It involves little to no penetration to the surface. Laser engraving adds legible print to the piece but penetrates deeper beneath the surface.

When you use laser markings you can often only see the change. When you use laser engraving, you can see and feel it.

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