Hi DeDe! I've been trying to master the hallmarking of my pieces over
the past few years. The larger the stamp, the more force it will
take. Someone, I can't remember who, once used an analogy of a
stiletto heel versus a broad heeled shoe. The stiletto (small stamp)
will sink more easily, but as you increase the size of the face of
the stamp, it becomes more difficult to make an impression. Of
course, the degree of work hardening or annealed state of the piece
has a bearing as well.
I also think the surface on which the piece is placed is very
important. I tend to use a Delrin block I picked up cheaply as scrap
at a local branch of a plastics supplier (Cadillac Plastics). It has
more "give" than a steel bench block, so I don't get as much
distortion on the back side of the stamped surface. I suspect the
lead may be the heart of your problem... allowing the piece to
"give", rather than forcing it to take the impression.
The hammer I use is a heavy brass head hammer. The hammer head will
take some dings, but my steel stamps won't mushroom. The weight of
the hammer, over several taps, will drive the impression. If I'm
doing a little "18k" stamp, only a few taps are necessary. A long
stamp like "STERLING" or "SEBASTE" gets several more. I often tap
around the head of the stamp on these, slightly off-angle, to ensure
a full impression all around on the stamp. I find its best to get it
right the first time, because trying to replace the stamp in the same
position is not always an accurate effort.
Just a side note... I prefer to use the "STERLING" stamp over the
".925" stamp, even though the latter is easier to apply. Either is
technically acceptable, but customer recognition and understanding
(at least here in the U.S.) favors the word "Sterling." Most people
don't know specifically what it means, but it is recognized as a sign
of quality. Same with the karat versus the purity gold stamp.
Hope this helps!
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans' Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)