How Lapel Pins Are Made

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Lapel pins may make your world go round, but how are they made?

custom festival lapel pinThe lapel pin (also known as a “badge” or “button”) is a tiny pin that is usually affixed to the lapel of a jacket or dress. They can be worn simply as a decorative piece of jewelry or can make a statement about the wearer’s social, political, or religious views. They can also represent a special accomplishment or status for the wearer, creating a feeling of belonging to a select group. Many businesses set up employee recognition programs and make use of lapel pins for this purpose in order increase productivity and to help boost the morale of employees by showing appreciation for their employees’ achievements.

Another common usage is to show affiliation with certain organizations and clubs. An example of this is the sorority/fraternity system within the universities. They use lapel pins to display the symbol that represents them. Lapel pins have also grown in popularity as a hobby for collectors. Animated themes and characters like those from Disney, Warner Bros, and Hard Rock Café have led to extensive pin trading programs and social events.

Several processes are involved in the creation of lapel pins. The first is creating the design of the concept or image. The design is done much like drawing a cartoon character. It can be either hand drawn or can be created using an appropriate computer program. All measurements, colors schemes and important explanations are written out with the precise drawing and then submitted for approval.

When deciding on the design, an important consideration, if there is a script on the pin, is font style. Block style fonts are most easily read because of the necessarily small size of the font. Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, Veranda, and Georgia are common fonts used because of their ease of readability. For larger pins, fancier, more complex fonts can be considered.

When the details are finalized, a mold is created using separator lines to keep colors from blending. The thickness of these separator lines or walls depends on the design of the pin.

How Cloisonne Lapel Pins Are Made

Most pins are dye-struck; there are five standard types:

  1. Cloisonne, also known as hard enamel or epola, was originally started thousands of years ago by the Chinese. It involved creating a grid on a bronze or brass plate. The grid is then filled with hard enamel glass and fired to melt the colored glass. The process is repeated until the grid is full. The piece is then ready for polishing. The process today is still done in a similar fashion and is generally the most expensive type of lapel pin made. It is dye-stamped today to create the grid with the separator lines and recessed areas stamped into the metal. Today copper used in place of bronze or brass.
  2. Soft Enamel pins are made similarly to the hard enamel method; however, the soft enamel colors used to fill the grid are not filled to the top of the metal separating lines. Instead, an epoxy is used over the top after the enamels have been properly baked. This adds protection while increasing the shine and smooth texture of the pin.
  3. Photo Etched: This method employs the use of a photographic negative which is transferred to the metal. The basic shape of the outline is stamped out without adding any separating lines or recesses. The photograph is etched onto the metal by use of special chemicals. Colored enamel can then be added and baked one color at a time. A thin layer of epoxy is added before it is ready to be hand polished.
  4. Photographic or Screen Printed: These pins are made by printing or applying a photograph directly to the die stamped outline shape. One method is by attaching the detailed design by adhesive, then adding a layer of epoxy. Another way to affix the design to the pin is by screen printing the design onto the pin and then baking it before adding a layer of epoxy.
  5. Four Color Method: Also called offset printing, this method is similar to the method used to create photos in magazines. It allows for colors to blend and bleed together in order to create highly detailed pins. Available colors for the method are limitless.

A military clasp is the most common type of clasp used on lapel pins. It uses two small prongs that can be squeezed while pulling to remove the clasp. Other types of clasps are also available including a magnetic clasp which works without the need of putting the post through the garment’s lapel. It uses a strip of metal instead of embedding a post into the pin. This strip sticks to a small magnet on the backside of the lapel.

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