A Brief History of Engraving

Engraving is the process of basically cutting onto a surface to produce letters, numbers or even graphics, and it is something that has been around for hundreds of years. While this process might have started in the distant past, when our ancestors made the decision to carve images of their day to day lives onto cave walls, people have continued to make use of the process in order to bring creativity and even sentimentality into their own daily lives.

Historically Important

These days, engraving is used to personalize or even beautify items, and while the objects might be valuable to the recipient, the importance does not always extend beyond this. In some instances, such as world cup trophies, engraving has a much more historical importance, but this pales in comparison to how much this form was revered in the past.

In the past, being able to engrave meant that important stories, dates and even artwork could be put down on paper, wood or metal, and preserved for generations to come. Much of history is lost to us because this process was expensive and time consuming, and so not everything could be recorded in this manner.

The Origins of Engraving

The very first engravings can be traced back to hundreds of thousands of years ago, a chiselled shell was located in Indonesia. This was by no means the only historical example of humans making use of the engraving process – many more examples were found in areas such as South Africa. Engraved items were usually those that had some significance, such as the water container located in the Diepkloof Rock Shelter, and they were held in high esteem by those who carried them.

The Popularity of Bone and Ivory

When archaeologists locate engraved items, they often come across materials such as bone and ivory that have been carved in intricate and beautiful ways. Today, metal is one of the most popular options for the engraving process, but in days gone by, this was certainly not the case. Why do we find so few metal engravings from the distant past? The answer is simple – it was very difficult to engrave these items, and only shallow markings could be made on certain types of metals, if at all.

Greek-Inspired Decorations

Once the decorating of objects became popular using the process of engraving, it was only a matter of time before people began opting for specific motifs, and one of the most popular at the time of the Roman Empire was the Greek-inspired themes. For this reason, many artefacts from this period can be found with engravings of Greek-inspired folklore, including heroes and monsters. Directly after this fad, people became really interested in the themes of hunting, and the circus. These were exciting, novel creations that allowed engravers to make use of a lot of colour. After this period, biblical themes were introduced.

The Introduction of Metalwork

It was during the European Middle Ages that metalwork was finally introduced to the scene, and many of these pieces are still around today because of their durability. It was during this time that engravers were actually able to imprint their creations onto metal in order to preserve them, and these could then be transferred onto paper, creating manuscripts that would become the basis of an educational revolution many years down the line.

With the ability of engravers to make use of materials such as wood and metal to begin reproducing art work and lettering at a faster rate, books could be created at a faster and a cheaper rate. While it would be many years before these items would become available to the general public, it was a great start, and it all began with the work of the engravers who chose to test their limits and go beyond their predecessors.

Engraving might appear to have a limited purpose, but it has been a cornerstone for change in many periods of history. At the present time, it has become cost effective enough for the ordinary person to be able to take advantage of these services whenever they feel the need, but it still holds a very important place in history, and will continue to remain relevant for many years to come.