Hard Enamel vs Soft Enamel

At the end please read the rest on all the various enamels we offer along with metals, finishes, trims, and personalization.  

Although both hard and soft enamel coins and lapel pins may start out the same as a die struck piece of metal, that is where the difference ends. The process of hard and soft are two totally different animals. As nearly 97% of all coins and pins manufactured today are made from soft enamel and should not be ruled out as a fan fav, it was the lack of proper teaching by many top companies to sell an lesser quality item because they can make more money from you. And as many companies will tell you that it is more expensive to create a hard enamel item over a soft enamel, the real truth is that production costs are in the lower cents difference. With over 30 years in the business, we started Custom Pins and Buckles in order to make sure that our customer would not receive bogus information so that they could make the best designs on their products. We stan behind all of our products and guarantee that you, the customer, will be more that happy with the finished products. That’ why we TEACH our customers. We know that most company will just send you a 2-dimensional artwork and never tell you the differences between a hard enamel finish as appose to a soft enamel finish. When this happens, you will always receive soft enamel as it saves them money. We believe this is why the soft enamel count is so hi. Although we will product a soft enamel item when the customer requests it, or the design demands it. However, 98% of all our pins and coins are made of hard enamel. 

One note before you get started: Both hard and soft enamels are very durable and should last a lifetime and beyond. If it didn’t, the manufacture didn’t know what they were doing. Remember, its buyer beware. That is why we give a 100% Customer Guarantee on everything we sale. Our product’s high quality and customer return speaks for itself. Check out the other and com back to the best. 


Hard enamel is a technic of adding an enamel to the coin or pin to the point that it is higher than the actual design and item itself. It is then heated to an extremely high temperature. Then it is “stoned” or as some same “polished” down to the top of the coin or pin. This allows the coloring to fill in all the areas so that they are equal with the top of the coin. When property done, you should not notice much of a difference in the feel of the coin and the design. Both will feel even. The pro to this technic is that each of the etched or stamped design stands out very sharp. It makes each letter very readable from any angle and light will not reflect it in a way making it hard to read. 

In America we refer to hard enamel as imitation hard enamel as the USA banned lead in items decades ago which was one of the main ingredients in hard enamels. Until a replacement was made, item where made in soft enamels only. Thank goodness for imitation hard enamels. 


This is also a widely use type of coloring where small bead of colored glass is melted into the areas needing coloring. Since this is a high-end jewelry look, yet tough, technic. You mainly see this is police, sheriff, and other agencies badges. Not all companies can do Cloisonné style coloring. Make sure that they can manufacture using cloisonné or you may end up with a hard enamel item instead and may not recognize the differences between the two style and technics.


Soft enamel is a process of pouring a colored enamel into the areas of your coin or pin and then heat lamp drying them. It is best described as a low-level lake of river. You will see all the detail of the item as the raised areas will be much higher than the enamel is. This can cause a problem when re3ad wordage as you will have a far more reflective area and light will reflect off of the edges making it impossible to understand the wordage until the item is moved around so that all of the wordage or design in seen.

However, soft enamel does play a very important role in making these items as designs can be made in a 3D process. Placing a hard enamel on a 3D image is not possible as when the item is stoned or polished down, so will be the 3D design. Since soft enamel does not require any stoning or polishing, this can not happen. 

Many times, soft enamel is used to show an item to look more realistic. Recently we manufactured a lapel for a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Institution where they needed to show off their grapes and cotton that grow in the area on their pins. The application of soft enamels in those two are alone gave the grape and cotton a look of actually looking like they where really there. And even thought the soft enamel was sunk inward, the overall look was more of a reaching out look. Yea, surprised us too.  


Maybe you want a 3D looking coin or pin and do not want a soft enamel look. Here is one of many ways we can make a hard enamel looking item using a soft enamel technic. 


Maybe you have a coin that has a cool background that you want to color in yet still see the work underneath. A translucent enamel will make it possible to have a color over just a plain background or a very defined background and still be able to understand everything under the coloring. 


Here are just a few ideas for your project. To see most of this information with charts that show the following just go to www.Showcase.CustomPinsAndBuckles.com and head to page 7.


Gold, Silver, Nickel, Brass, Copper, Matt Gold, Matt Silver, Matt Nickel, Antique

Brass, Antique Copper, Antique Gold, Antique Silver, Antique Nickel, Black Nickel, Dye Black, and more.

NOTE: We can perform double plating on your item. So it can have a highly polished gold and nickel look if you wish. 


We have 17-coin trims at our showcase. However, we can make any trim you can imagine. 


We have 10 textures that you can chose from. However, we offer many more like brushed steel, diamond truck bed, and more.


We are the king of the personalized items. Besides coins and pins we can personalize just about every item we manufacture. A coin that is generic may be for the US Marines. A customized Marine coin would be to Seal Team 6. However, a personalized coin would be to Seal Team 6 and have information on each item that is relevant to that member only. I.e. name, rank, etc. In the case of a coin that has a badge, that information could be found in the same areas that it is on that person’s real badge. We can also engraver on the side of a coin.