Lapel pins are often used to indicate a rank, affiliation in a certain organization, or just plain decoration. They are small pins shaped like an organization’s official seal or a figure indicating membership. Besides indication of membership, lapel pins can also indicate achievement such as graduation, finishing a contest, and other endeavors. Most organizational pins can be collected by both members and non-members as they can be bought at stores that don’t have any official connection with the company. Businesses use these pins not only to indicate membership, but to boost the morale of other members and employees to work harder in order to achieve the same pin, recognition, and promotion.
One of the most famous countries known to produce many lapel pins was the Soviet Union. They have produce pins showing political power as well as pins that can be bought by tourists as souvenirs. There were also pins for sports, gatherings, as well as official events in the said country. The following years up to today, the hobby of collecting pins became popular and more pins were designed after popular television characters, cartoons and superheroes.
Manufacturing lapel pins are mostly done in China. This is because the labor in China is inexpensive, making manufacturing in other countries almost extinct. There are many types of pins, but 6 of them are the basic ones. They are: cloisonné, soft enamel, photo domed, screen printed, photo etched and 4-color process.
•Cloisonné. This is also known as hard enamel or epola. The process is that the cloisonné is engraved out from a sheet of copper. The pools left by the engraving is then filled with enamel powder and then fired at temperatures reaching 800 – 900 degrees. The pin is then cooled down and then the surface of the pin is smoothed and the copper area finally plated.
•Soft Enamel. The areas of color are separated by metallic strips, much like the cloisonné. The difference however, is that the colored areas rest under the metallic strip. If you run your fingers through the surface, you can feel them. The top part can be covered with epoxy, making it appear smoother.
•Photo dome. In this process, the design of the pin is first printed on paper or vinyl before it is applied on the pin’s metal base. After that, the paper or vinyl with the design is covered with a dome of epoxy which protects the design from any damage from the elements and other outside forces. With the popularity of print arts, this process also gains a boost in being a favorite among other processes especially in the United States. Another reason for its popularity is the technology behind it, being able to produce finished products faster compared to other processes.
•Screen printed. This is also known as silk screening, and this is produced by application of all the color one by one to the metallic base using a screen (silk screen). Thin epoxy application protects the colors against scratches.
•Photo-etch. Only the shape of the piece is engraved. The design on the pin’s face is etched into the base of the metal using a special chemical. The color is then hand-filled and baked. After which, it is polished and clear epoxy is applied for protection.
•4-color process. This is also known as offset printing and allows for bleeds and blending of colors just like what is used in magazines. This type of lapel pin processing is used for complicated photo and art reproduction and any colors can be used without limitation in the amount.
These are the most basic types of processing of lapel pins. Each one of them has its own downsides and advantages, but all of them have unique characteristics.