Glossary of Terminology

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MP Glossary of Terminology

Common Materials & Methods


This is a technique perfected by the Chinese. After the pin has been cut, the shape of the design is impressed into the pin, leaving raised outlines of the separate areas of color. A powdered color mixture, similar to sand or ground glass, is then added to the design and baked in high heat, color by color. This keeps the colors separate so that they retain their brilliancy. This is the most high-quality and attractive finish, and many embellishments such as glitter and jewels can be added.

Soft enamel

This method is similar to cloisonne. The beginning steps are the same, but the coloring is done by injecting soft enamel in your choice of colors into the recessed areas of the stamped design. The piece is then baked to set the colors. The look is very similar to cloisonne, but the process is less expensive, and it is one of the most common finishes.

Die struck

A die-struck pin is created by first creating an image of your design on a die. The outline shape of your artwork is cut out of sheets of brass or copper, and then the die stamps your design into each of the pins. After this die stamping, the piece is plated with your choice of plating material and polished. This method gives your pin the look of an engraving.

Etched enamel

In etched enamel, the image is etched into the surface of the pin using an acid solution, and then the image is hand-painted and fired, then polished.

Off-set printed

This is the best method for very complex or detailed artwork and for photographic images. The design is created and transferred to the base metal using a printing method similar to that used in magazine printing. This process allows for an unlimited number of colors.

Screen printed

This is a process of applying blocks of color, one at a time, using a silk- screening method or block printing method. This is the same process which is used to create images on T-shirts.

After the coloring has been added, the pins are cleaned and polished. In the final stage, a coating of clear epoxy resin is applied in order to protect the finish.

Options and Features

Once you have chosen a design and material, you will have to decide what type of attachment you want, and any special features, such as lighting or 3D effects. If you want the pins to be back stamped, you will need to supply this information as well. Some other features you may want to consider are:


These are little charm-like objects that hangs from a small hoop on the bottom of the pin. They can be tiny figures, bells, or stones and jewels.


This is the opposite of a dangler. The charm is affixed to the top of the pin with a spring, so that it “bobbles” around.

3D effects

These are usually created by bolting a pin on top of the base pin to give it a 3-dimensional look.


This is a process that creates a fuzzy, textured area on surface of the pin.


These are pins that have a movable piece attached at the bottom of the pin so that the attached piece can slide back and forth.


Spinners are pins that have a movable piece attached by a bolt or screw through the center of the attached piece that allows the attachment to be spun like a pinwheel.

LED Lighting

An blinking pin is one that has an area that lights up, displaying a digital message of your choice. The light is powered by a small battery attached to the back of the pin, usually just above or below the backside attachment. The batteries are not replaceable, so the feature will no longer work once the battery has run down.

Attachment Options

The next most important step in creating your pin is to decide on a backside attachment. The attachment is usually soldered on, but can be glued into place. As with other features, your choice will affect the final cost per pin. Here are the most popular choices for pin attachment.

Butterfly clutch

This is the most typical way of attaching a lapel pin. Since it originated with the military, it is sometimes called a military clutch. It is a small round with a hole in the middle, and a “wing” on each side. When the “wings” are squeezed together, it releases a catch inside that allows it to be removed from the prong on the pin. It is common to have 2 tacks and 2 clutches on larger pins. These helps prevent the pins from spinning.

Jewelry clutch

This is a simple design that looks similar to the butterfly clutch, but is a little more robust and therefore a little more expensive. A mechanism inside catches on the prong attachment when it is pushed into place. These almost lock down, and require a pull to loosen the clutch before it can be removed.

Safety clasp

This attachment looks like a safety pin, and works in the same manner. Different widths and sizes are available.

Magnetic clasp

This is a clasp that has a magnet attached. It holds the pin in place by attraction to another magnet that is affixed to the back of the pin. It is a good option if you do not want to damage a garment by putting pinholes in it.

Nut and screw

This is a means of attaching a lapel pin by means of applying a small threaded bolt to a small screw that is attached to the back of the pin.

Pin Markings & Back Stamps

Markings on the back of lapel pins usually will simply state the organization for which the pin was created. Special markings might include a dedication, the date the pin was made, or if the pin is a special or limited edition, the edition number or number of items in that release. Another back stamp you might encounter is AP. This stands for an “Artists Proof,” which is a very small initial test run of a lapel pin, usually limited to about 20 pins. Some collectors prize these AP pins, as there are relatively few of them created before any changes are made and the pin goes into mass production.

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