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Emblem.  (1) A small medallic item usually enameled, bearing a symbolic device and intended to be worn. Emblems – more often called PINS, PINBACKS or emblematic jewelry – are always uniface. They must have some means of attachment on the back (to be worn), or are attached to something else. Small in comparison to medals, emblems are made by striking and trimming like medals and are often produced by medal manufacturers. Emblems may have color – in hard or soft cloisonne enamel – or in recent years, by soft enamel epoxy. Emblems can be made in any shape, have any number of colors, but must have a partition between the colors.

The final product is often a lapel pin, but can be in any of a variety of jewelry objects:  tie tack, stick pin, charm (if looped), tie bar, cuff links, earrings or such,

or mounted on key chains, watchfobs, belt buckles or other items to be worn. Trademarks or logos of organizations or business firms make ideal emblems, as do flags (because of the colors), map shapes, product shapes, silhouette designs and other shapes.

How cloisonné emblems are made.  Designs for emblems must include a raised line, as a fence or retaining wall, also called a cloison (from cloisonné). This outlines every part of the design and the border. The fence must be present to separate one color from another. The lines form the design, somewhat in outline form, the field is of little interest since it will be covered with enamel.

Thus emblem dies are biplaner (with outline design). They are made by tracer controlled diecutting from a drawing or template. A bas-relief pattern is not necessary (unless a portion will not be covered by enamel and show, instead, the modulated relief).

The pieces are struck in presses with the emblem die and a jack die (the reverse is always blank). It is struck in any metal, usually bronze or brass; or in aluminum for a very lightweight item.

The struck piece is then trimmed. Since the cost of an unusual shape is about the same as circular, the designer usually calls for a noncircular shape.

The enamel is applied as colored glass beads, laid into the design between the retaining walls. The beads are applied with a dispenser much like a hypodermic syringe. Each area is filled with the desire color beads to a level slightly above the intended surface.

Operators apply the enamel to the raw pins laying flat in a tray or tote box. When filled, the tray is carried to the furnace where the tray and pins are sent on a flat belt into the oven that fires the pins at 1500°. This melts the glass beads which fuse solid with the color embedded and the enamel is securely attached to the pin.

When cooled, they are polished with carborundum and pumice to obtain a smooth polished surface. This smooth flat surface is a diagnostic of this type of cloisonné enamel. Afterwards the attachments – jewelry findings of clutch back pin, spring back, screw back or stem and catch – are welded or soldered on the back.

If a gold or silver color is required on the base metal the emblems are then electroplated, as the plating does not adhere to any enameled surface. After inspection the emblems are ready to be packaged.

Modern enameled emblems.  Recent developments in enameling techniques have been rapidly adapted to emblem manufacture. These include using a soft enamel epoxy that can have somewhat of a domed surface (the dome is its diagnostic evidence). Emblems have also been made by laser prints, silk screen with epoxy, etched enamel, and other techniques.

excerpted with permission from

An Encyclopedia of Coin and Medal Technology

For Artists, Makers, Collectors and Curators


Roger W. Burdette, Editor

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