Getting good hallmark impression

Hi all,

I am trying to get a good hallmark stamped on my sterling pieces. I
have a ring stamp marked “Sterling” and each time I strike it I only
get a partial impression.

I’ve tried everything I can think of, what am I doing wrong? Better
yet, what is the proper way, including hammer and background to make
a clear impression. Do I need some kind of press?


Hi Rockey

Your ring stamp probably has a bit of a curve to the stamp surface.
I have found that if I rock my stamp back and forth while striking,
it helps to get a complete impression. I strike mine several times
lightly making sure to keep pressure on the stamp.

I also use puck board as a backing material when stamping. It is
very resiliant, yet leaves no marring on the opposite side of the
punch area.

Hope that helps
Dave Mereski

It’s possible your ring stamp may not be radiused properly for a
ring. I recommend you get a new “.925” stamp to use instead. The
smaller spread will give you a better impression, while still
indicating that it is sterling.

James S. Duncan, G.G.
James in SoFL

I have the same problem with a.925 stamp. Also, what is the trick to
stamping without marring/flattening the other side? I stamp on a
steel bench block. Would stamping on another material prevent this?

Casey Bowman

I know some people stamp on a brass block. Personally I too use a
steel block, but I put down an old, cut flat, leather finger guard
between the steel and the work pieces. Works well for us.

Thank you,
Eric McCafferty

The main trick to stamping is to be confident and assertive. Press
the stamp onto the work - don’t just hold it there, press it on.
Then, get a good sized hammer - a 12 oz ballpein or something, not a
chasing hammer, and give it one good whack. You want to stamp in one
shot, ideally. If it’s incomplete, put the stamp into the impression,
pressing again, and with the tiniest bit of rotation, feel that it is
“locked” back in place, and hit it again. The best stamping surface is
type metal - soft solder can be used, but type metal is best. Steel
is too hard, and lead is too soft, type metal is mostly tin. You can
melt it on a hotplate, and cast it in a carboard box that is carefully
taped up and sealed. We put a piece of cardboard (like cereal box) on
it to keep away from contamination. However, there’s almost no way to
stamp thinner sheet without some distortion on the other side - you
are deforming metal, after all. Marking pliers and machines are the
“cleanest”, but also the most expensive…

If you’re stamping a ring, there is a small brass block you can buy
with depressions to hold the radius of the ring while stamping. There
are several different ring sizes on the block, on both sides.

1 Like


I have the same problem with a .925 stamp. Also, what is the trick
to stamping without marring/flattening the other side?

This might take longer, but it does a better job of preventing
marring on the opposite side of an item being stamped. This works
well for slightly thin items that might deform outwards from the
stamping. It also works well for hard to hold or position items.

Melt a good blob of dopping wax (setter’s shellac works, too) on a
piece of wood that is stable and flat-bottomed. I just use a piece
of wood the size of a bench block. Then press your item into the
dopping wax and cool in place. If heat is not a problem with your
piece, gently heat the piece and/or the wax so that the piece is
gripped by the dopping wax. You may have to hold the piece with a
tweezers until the wax cools a little to prevent it from sinking too
deeply or tipping awkwardly. It is important to secure the piece in
the wax so that the area to be stamped is level, making it easier to
position and strike the stamping tool. After the wax is cool, stamp
your piece. The dopping wax serves as a customized holder and it
provides support and resistance against deformation to the metal
being stamped. You avoid flat spots and bumped out spots on the
opposite side. I like dopping wax because it doesn’t give as much as
chasing pitch. (NOTE: If you stamp with the dopping wax still warm,
you won’t achieve the hard, rigid support and you may get a raised
welt on the opposite side.)

After stamping, gently heat and lift out the piece. Be careful not
to scratch your piece when lifting it out of the dopping wax. Clean
off with denatured alcohol.

Another trick with the dopping wax: Sometimes I have to stamp on
bails that can’t be slid onto a tiny horn anvil without marring the
inside opening or on the cross bars of hollowed-back earrings that
would cave in without support. I fill the hollow areas that need
support with pitch and then sink piece to an appropriate depth into
the pitch. I cool everything as usual, then stamp, remove and clean.
I always stamp before doing any stone setting so I don’t get gunked
up stones or have to address heat or solvent sensitivity issues.

Donna Shimazu

One last thought from here - if you have a finished piece and and
good sharp stamp you can do a pretty good job just by pressing the
stamp hard with your hand. It’s not going to be deep like a strike,
but it will be legible.