Jim Zimmerman's guide precious metals


Elite Cafe Member
Nov 10, 2006
I will try to explain. I have engraved a lot of different type of metal.
Let start with sterling silver. On a scale of 1 to 10 one being a metal that
is easy to engrave. Sterling is around a 4.

18k yellow is a 1. It simply does what you ask it to do. It's a fast cutting metal.

90/10 Platinum is a 1.It simply does what you ask it to do. Slightly stiffer
than 18k yellow.

Cold rolled steel is a 2. It is possible to get very fine detail that hold up to
cleaning. It will snap off if your lifting it out of a bright cut. There is a good
feel to the resistance it give the engraver.

14k yellow gold is a 3. This is conditional on the alloy. It does what you
ask it to. It has more resistance than 18k and requires more care be taken
in execution. Still a fast cut.

Copper is a 3. Not the same as 14 yellow. Copper is extremely consistent in cut
and isn't as slippery as sterling.

Sterling silver is a 4. This is a soft metal. Easy to over cut. More of a metal
for hand cutting. Almost no resistance to the tool. To fast of a cut.

Pure Silver is a 4+. This is a very soft metal and requires a light touch. There is no resistance.

Pewter is a 4+. This is a extremely soft metal and easy to plunge into. It require it's own set of tools
that have long heals so as to float the graver on the metal. The is no resistance and is a ultra fast cut.

14k white gold with nickel alloy is a 5. about 50% stiffer than 14k yellow.
You can get nice meets of bright cutting. Stiff, but a moderate cut speed.

Brass is a 5, and is similar to 14k white gold, also stainless steel.

Nickel silver is a 6. Resist the graver. Drags through cuts.

95/5 Platinum with cobalt alloy is a 6. Resist being bent.

18k White gold with a nickel alloy is a 7. Hard, brittle at time, with nickel spots in some mixes.
Resist being pushed with a beader. It can cut well in bright cutting some times.

14k white gold with palladium alloy is a 8. Resist the graver. It's like
trying to dig in frozen ground. If your trying to lift it out of a bright cut,
it holds on. In other words, resistance to sheer is high.

Tungsten is a 8, there is a lot of resistance but it is consistant.

950 Pure Palladium is a 8 1/2 . Same as 14k/palladium just add 30%.

The worst is case hardened. It's a 10

Carbide knife blades are impossible. Get out the laser. Your not cutting this one.

This is how I think of it. Not very scientific, and there's a lot I've left out.
Yes,you save money on Palladium / per ounce but if it takes twice a long to set
it, how much have you really saved. In my opinion it's a pain to have to
set a ring that fights back so hard.
I just may have to get over it though, and get on with the job.
Last edited:


:::Pledge Member:::
::::Pledge Member::::
May 23, 2015
appreciate the sharing, wonderful information, especially for the new people like me. Regards, Rob


:::Pledge Member:::
::::Pledge Member::::
Jan 31, 2007
Castle Valley, UT in the Red Rock country
Michael, one of the more well known American engravers of years gone by was E.C. (Jack) Prudhomme from Shreveport. Jack authored the book Gun Engraving Review in 1960. I believe some of his work was/is at the Norton Museum in Shreveport. You might want to check that out.

Latest posts