Just how are those badges made!? Many public service professionals simply have no
idea how The Ed Jones Co. crafts the symbol they wear. Most think they are cast, many
are surprised we perform all of the work in our Berkeley shop, and in an age of internet
speed nearly all don’t understand why it takes weeks rather than hours to get their order.
The Ed Jones Co. employs methods that have been part of the jewelry and ornamentation
trades for decades in the U.S. with origins from the European Middle Ages and ancient
Far East. Even today, at the most basic level badges are comprised of three simple
materials: a base metal like bronze or sterling silver, ground colored glass and
manufactured nickel findings. Through skilled handwork they are fashioned to produce
the finished product worn by cops and fire fighters in nearly every U.S. city.
The base metal arrives at The Ed Jones Co. in sheet form, milled to our specifications in
alloys that finish to the luster and color we demand. The basic badge shape is "blanked"
out of the metal using an industrial strength cookie cutter called a punch press. Using a
die (a hardened piece of tool steel with a reverse image cavity) the metal blank is forced
into the die creating an image on its face.
This process is known as die stamping or coining. Casting, rather, employs pouring
molten metal in a mold. Many jewelry items are cast, however all production badge
makers employ a coining operation.
Many dies contain some of the lettering in the badge along with the other designs such as
leaves, ribbons, scrolls, landscapes and other do-dads. Any custom lettering is marked on
the badge using steel letter stamps. A "hand-stamper," using only a good eye and steady
hand, drives the character or number stamps into the base metal with a hammer, creating
a depression (or cavity).
Next the flat badge part is shaped (or "dapped") to the typical curvature used for uniform
wear (or left flat for wallet use). Findings (attachments such as a joint and catch) are
braze-welded at over 1500 degrees to the back of the badge using silver bearing solder
and a torch.
Colored areas on the badge are the result of a cloisonné enameling process. Ground glass
is carefully applied to the badge over the letter cavities and other colored area recesses
then placed in a furnace at 1400 degree to melt. Once melted, fused to the base metal and
cooled, it is ground off flush by hand using a wet stone.
Once enameling is finished the badge has a form most people are familiar with.
Scratches from the grinding operation are removed by polishing. An abrasive compound
is applied to a high-speed, rotating cotton wheel and the scratches are carefully buffed
Care and skill are required to polish only the areas that have been enameled as not to
remove the detail and crispness from the die stamped background features. Once
polished, the seal and pin stem are affixed, the badge is rouged finished and lastly,
lacquered with a protective finish.
In the case of hand engraved badges, after polishing they are meticulously engraved one
little cut at a time by our master engravers. Every scroll, leaf and bright cut is literally
carved from the metal using tiny tipped, chisel like tools called gravers. After engraving
they are rouged off and shipped to the customer.
The next time someone wonders how a badge is made, tell them "With a lot of skilled
hand work, one badge at a time." In an age of mass production and instant gratification it
is nice to know the badge you wear is a unique piece of history. It’s an enduring symbol
of your authority and service, ordered for you with a unique number that identifies you
for all time,... with the history of your department.
For more information, contact The Ed Jones Co., 2834 8th Street, Berkeley, CA 94710.
www.edjonesco.com, copyright 2002, all rights reserved.