From unique pins to challenge coins, a certain type of enamel is used to make these items colorful and detailed.
When it comes to choosing these kinds of products, what’s the difference when comparing the features of soft enamel vs hard enamel?
Read on to discover the two ways that enamel is used to make pins and coins and how to spot the difference.
Soft Enamel vs Hard Enamel: Texture
The most significant difference between these two types of enamel pins and coins is the texture. You can tell the difference by running your finger over the surface of the enamel, and you may be able to tell by looking at the design, too.
A hard enamel pin is smooth and flat with a scratch-resistant finish. Soft enamel pins and coins have slightly raised metal edges around each section of the design to give it a more defined look.
Both soft and hard enamel pins and challenge coins are made from the same metal mold. They also use the same colors to make them, at least for most designs.
Another way to look at it is that soft enamel uses “recessed” sections of colored enamel that settle down in between the edges of the design. With hard enamel, the product comes out flat and smooth and often has a bit shinier appearance after manufacturing.
Manufacturing a Soft Enamel Pin
Whether it’s a pin or challenge coin, a soft enamel design features a slightly different look and feel than its hard enamel counterpart. The colorful enamel is laid into the recessed sections of the pin or coin.
Once all of the enamel is in place, the product is placed into an oven. The oven’s high temperatures bake the enamel to make it hard and durable. This process only happens once so when the pin or coin dries, the enamel clings to the edges and the recesses below the metal outlines or “die line.”
Thanks to the raised metal ridges, the enamel colors don’t mix together. The final outcome is a unique dimensional look since the colorful paint is lower than the metal borders around each individual color.
When you gently rub your fingers over a soft enamel challenge coin, you will feel the raised metal ridges. Many people enjoy this style of enamel due to the unique texture and visual dimension.
Certain metal finishes can only be used with soft enamel. Black paint and rainbow plated challenge coins and pins should always be made using the soft enamel method.
The Hard Enamel Process
If you’re looking for durability in the quest to determine soft enamel vs hard enamel, the hard enamel option is much tougher and more scratch-resistant. This process also results in a smooth, clean, and finished look that many customers prefer.
Overall, you can choose a soft or hard enamel product and have it made in the same design. Most of the time, it all comes down to your own personal preference or the preference of the recipient.
To make a hard enamel pin or challenge coin, the surface is first filled with the color and design. Next, the face of the pin or coin is gently ground down until it becomes smooth and flat. This combination of grinding and polishing is what makes hard enamel a good option for some metal finishes.
If you like gold or silver metal plating on your coin or pin, the hard enamel option may be best. As the enamel design is laid onto the surface, it’s repeated several times to raise the enamel high until it’s heated, hardened, and cured.
The polishing and smoothing process is what makes hard enamel pins so recognizable. The metal die lines are smoothed down to the same level as the enamel for a flat look and a smooth feel when you run your fingers over the surface.
Which One Should You Choose?
There is really no right or wrong answer when deciding between a soft enamel or a hard enamel challenge coin or pin. Most of the time, it all comes down to personal preference, but there are a few other factors to consider.
Soft enamel allows for virtually every plating option including black paint, antiqued finishes, and other colors. Hard enamel only works with traditional plating’s like silver or gold.
While the design should be the same for both enamel styles, soft enamel tends to show more intricate details. This is because the raised ridges really give the final product a bit more definition.
Surprisingly, soft enamel tends to cost less than hard enamel products. The main reason behind the cost difference is because it’s much more time-consuming and labor-intensive to achieve the smooth, polished look of a hard enamel product.
Soft enamel products are the most common option due to their faster turnaround times and unique details. However, if smooth and shiny is what you need, it might be best to opt for hard enamel.
Find Your Perfect Enamel Product
In the comparison of soft enamel vs hard enamel, it really comes down to looks, texture, and production times. If you like the smooth and shiny option, hard enamel is the way to go. For those who prefer a little more texture and a bit more detail, you might want to opt for soft enamel.
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