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When I got into the pin collecting, I didn’t realize there were so many different types of enamel pins out there. And that’s just talking about enamel pins.
Cloisonné pins are jewelry-like and have a long history dating back to ancient China. These pins are made with die-struck metal and glass enamel. They are baked to an extremely high temperature in a kiln before being polished and finished. Due to the process and materials involved, many Cloisonné pins feature vivid colors but may be somewhat limited in terms of color palette.
Hard Enamel Pins allow for a wider range of colors and are very durable. These pins are made with die-struck metal and hand-painted or hand-filled with color. Hard enamel pins are heated as well then polished so the surface is smooth.
Sometimes called embossed pins, soft enamel pins feature the color range of hard enamel pins but the lines of metal are slightly raised, giving the pin an interesting texture. I’ve made some soft enamel pins for clients in the past, and they are fun to hold and wear too.
Die Struck pins are just like Cloisonné, Hard Enamel and Soft Enamel pins. The only difference is they don’t feature any colors. What you get are pins with just the metal surface. There have been a lot of interesting shapes and designs made from die struck pins even without the use of color.
Screen printed pins usually have intricate designs and small details that make it difficult to reproduce in one of the other forms listed above. These pins are not hindered by having to separate colors by the metals and can be used to represent much smaller detailing. More colors are also available with screen printed pins and the use of gradients and photographs are possible with this pin style.
Many of the above types of pin finishes can be combined or mixed together. For example, some designers have screen printing applied to hard enamel pins to add extra details. Others have mixed soft and hard enamel finishes in the same pin design.