OK – so the play on words isn’t the best!! The point is that the numbers of hand engravers in the UK is shrinking rapidly, and the noble art of hand engraving is indeed in grave danger of dying out.
For all the hundreds of thousands of trophies that are engraved throughout the year, the engravers moment in the sun comes at the end of a major sports tournament. We see it at the Champions League Final, recently at the Euro 2012 Final (although they’d probably added Spain’s name long before the final whistle!) but the most iconic sight is the engravers adding the winners name to the Open Claret Jug.
Any engraver worth his salt will be hoping that someone with a short name, like Adam Scott, wins the Claret Jug. If Mark Calcavecchia ends up tiumphant, the poor old engraver will be scratching away for quite some time!!
But the sad fact is that fewer and fewer trophies and cups are hand engraved these days. The reason for this? Mostly it’s the fact that as computerised engraving machines have improved technically, more items can be machine engraved and no longer need to be hand engraved. Another factor is that cups are now made in nice standard shapes which are designed to fit perfectly into the engraving machines. The days of cups being hand made in an eclectic mix of unusual shapes is behind us.
The saddest of all the reasons though is cost. You sometimes see a beautiful sterling silver cup that has been hand engraved with winners names for 60 years, only to have the last 3 years winners added by the uniformity of machine engraving. It looks awful switching from the slightly stuttering strokes of hand engraving to the standard shapes of machine engraving – it’s almost as if the cup suddenly loses its soul. Why is the decision made to switch? Because the cost of adding the winners name by machine engraving may be £10 instead of £15 by hand engraving. These are austere times, but I think that more is lost than is gained in that small saving.
But tradition demands that hand engraving will always remain. So, whilst thousands of trophies will go in and out of machines this weekend, only one trophy will have its engraving viewed by millions of people though a global television audience.
Whoever the hand engraver is at Royal Lytham & St Annes, I for one will be raising a glass to you!! Carry on the good work!!