Introduction to Settings
Stone Setting is an art of securely attaching or fixing a gemstone into jewelry with an aim to display maximum beauty of a stone. Each and every piece of jewelry that contains a gemstone has a setting and this setting plays an important role in enhancing the charisma of a jewelry piece. The oldest method of attaching gemstones to jewelry was bezel setting. But in recent times, jewelry designers have developed various other fascinating methods of stone setting. The most commonly used setting methods include prong setting, bezel setting, channel setting, pave setting, tension setting etc.
Objectives of Stone Setting
One of the main objectives of a stone setting is to enhance the beauty and brilliance of gemstones and improve the appearance of metal designs. Stone setting should allow maximum light to reflect from various angles, which is entering in a gemstone. In most cases, prong setting is considered the best suitable for showing the brilliance of a gemstone as it allows optimal amount of light to pass through the gemstone.
Safety of a Gemstone
Setting should also protect gemstones against any loss or damage due to wear and tear. Setting must hold a gemstone firmly and securely so that there should not be any chance of loosing a gemstone from its grip. As well as, stone settings should provide safety to gemstones from any harm or scratches due to any blow or calamity. Bezel setting is considered the safest setting style for a gemstone, especially if the surface of the gemstone is below the surface of the bezel or metal.
Setting should also be user friendly as well as safe for other objects. Stone setting must provide comfort and soothe to its wearer and should not have sharp edges which can damage other objects like skin, cloths etc.
Cover up the Stone’s Weaknesses
Setting should hide or cover up the weaknesses, if any, of a gemstone. Weaknesses like blemishes / inclusions in stone, improper cut etc. deteriorate stone and jewelry’s value and a setting style should try to cover up these imperfections as much as possible.
Stone Setting Methods
Stone setting is one of the essential stages of jewelry making, in which gemstones are attached in a metal casting. The main objective of stone setting is to hold a gemstone securely as well as to enhance the brilliance of a gemstone by showing its cut, clarity and color. Jewelry manufacturers use numerous methods to set a gemstone into a jewelry item, which generally is based on gemstone's cut and proportion. Some of these methods and techniques are accepted and appreciated worldwide, which are described as under:
| Prong setting, also known as claw setting, is the most common and popular method of setting stones into jewelry. It is the easiest as well as least expensive method of setting a gemstone. Also it allows optimal amount of light to pass through the gemstone, showing the gemstone at its maximum brilliance. This setting style is used for all types of jewelry items and mostly for solitaire engagement and bridal rings.
This setting often has 3, 4 or 6 small evenly spaced metal claws or prongs that are bent over the girdle to securely hold the gemstone in a piece of jewelry. These claws and prongs are similar in shape and size and attached to the central base part, known as the head or basket, of a piece of jewelry. These heads or baskets are available in various shapes and sizes depending on stone's shape and size. Common shapes of heads or baskets used in stone setting include round, emerald cut, princess cut, oval, marquise cut, pear shaped and trilliant cut. Each claw or prong extends upward and outward from the head and arching over the gemstone to form a secure and enduring grip. Prongs with platinum metal is considered very strong as platinum is a very dense and solid metal and its thin wires are sufficient to hold the gemstone securely in its place whereas gold prongs with sufficient alloys also give a strong grip.
The visible part of prongs can be shaped decoratively in many styles but more often rounded style is used to avoid snagging the threads of clothes or catching other objects and causing damage to either the objects or the prongs. This setting is also found in a few variations like v-prong and common prong. V-prong setting is similar to the prong setting except it uses prongs which, when viewed from top, appear to be curved into a V-shape. Common prong setting is also a modified version of a prong setting, where a prong is divided on the top to hold two nearby gemstones.
| Bezel setting is one of the oldest stone setting techniques and still very popular for certain benefits. Bezel is a thin metal strip, which is soldered with head that wraps around a gem to hold it in place. Bezel setting requires a proper balance in all the angles. It provides a very secure grip as well as protects gemstone's edges, the girdle and the pavilion from scratches and chips. This setting can be used for any type of stone although mostly used for the fragile gemstones such as opal.
If the bezel setting does not surround the whole girdle of a gemstone and splits into two or more sections, covering just part of the gemstone, then this setting is known as half bezel or semi bezel.
Bezel setting is suitable for people with active lifestyles and it is considered the best for men because this setting method looks masculine. Bezel setting is generally used for all the types of jewelry items like earrings, necklaces, bracelets and rings.
| Channel setting is a setting technique in which gemstones are settled side-by-side as their girdles are held in between two parallel tracks on each metal wall. This setting gives impression of floating stones in the jewelry item and produces maximum amount of light as no metal appears in-between the gemstones. Structure of channel setting is very similar with English language letter ‘U' in shape with two sidewalls and a bottom. A track is available on each side of the inner metal wall to contain gemstone girdle.
Channel setting protects the gemstones exceptionally well as none of the stone's edges are exposed, and so that they are safe from hard knocks or general wear and tear. This setting is best suitable for diamonds with round, princess, emerald, oval, square, and baguette cuts and often used in jewelry items like eternity bands, rings and especially in tennis bracelets.
|A variation in channel setting, in which thin metal bars are exposed in-between the gemstones, is known as bar setting. Bar setting gives a different visual effect than the channel setting.|
| The word pave (pronounced as ‘pa vay') came from the French word ‘Pavé' means pavement. Pave setting is a setting method in which the surface of a jewelry item appears to be covered with tiny diamonds. These same sized tiny diamonds are placed in small holes that have been drilled out on the surface of a jewelry item. Generally stones are positioned close together in a honeycomb pattern. Like the prong setting, pave setting also has small handmade claws, triangular in shape, which hold the stones low and very close so that they produce a carpet of brilliance across the entire surface of a jewelry item.
The use of multiple stones in pave setting forms an illusion of a bigger jewelry. Usually this setting is combined and presented with other stone settings to add more beauty and effect. This setting gives best results with diamonds and white gold.
|Tension setting is a relatively new type of setting in which metal pressure is used to hold a stone. In this setting, metal is spread apart and the girdle of the stone is settled into small grooves in the inner surface of the metal. Tension setting requires strong metals to create sufficient tension and pressure to hold a stone firmly and platinum is often used for this purpose. Also this setting is appropriate only for very hard gemstones like diamond, sapphire, ruby, etc with hardness 9 to 10 on Mohs hardness scale.|
|Flush / Burnish Setting|
|Flush setting, also known as burnish setting, is a reasonably recent method of setting and similar to bead setting. In this setting, stones are placed in holes that have been drilled out on the surface of a jewelry item. For this purpose, a seat is prepared on the metal surface, by using a standard setting bur, to place a stone. The diameter and the depth of the seat should be similar or slightly smaller to stone's diameter and depth. And after that stone is placed in the seat and a burnisher is used to rub the metal down and over the edge of the stone. After fitting the stone, its tightness should be checked properly and there should not be any movement in the stone. This setting provides safety to the stone because stone is positioned either below or equivalent to metal surface.|
|In bead setting, stones are placed in holes that have been drilled out on the surface of a jewelry item. For this purpose, a seat is prepared on the metal surface, by using a standard setting bur, to place the stone. Once the stone is positioned in the seat, an engraving tool is used to raise the beads of metal from the surrounding surface to hold a stone in place. These prongs are then rounded and pushed over the edge of the stone with a beading tool. Although this method is not used much these days but it was very common in the 20th century.|
| Invisible setting is a new and improved setting method that is considered as one of the most difficult setting methods. In this setting, the stones are positioned in such a manner so that metal is not visible from in-between stones that ultimately show appearance of uninterrupted and continuous surface. In this setting, stones are grooved just below the girdle and then those grooved stones are slid onto metal tracks to hold them in place.
This setting is appropriate only for multi-stone arrangement that usually attached in multiple rows. It looks similar to pave setting but gives better look and more brilliance, since no claws obstruct the light's entry. Usually invisible setting is best suited with square princess, emerald, baguette, and trillion cut diamonds and gemstones because the straight edges can be positioned very close to each other without leaving any space in-between.
|Cluster setting produces a different and unusual look for jewelry items. In this setting, many small stones are mounted together in a group around a larger sized central stone. Generally cluster setting exhibits flower shaped designs in a multi layered circular form, which is preferred by women in their rings.|
Finishing is the process in which surface of a piece is cleaned or polished or textured. Finishing is the final step of jewelry manufacturing process and usually all jewelry items require finishing. Finishing is very essential part of a jewelry manufacturing process as it gives beauty and brilliance to a jewelry piece. Finishing is achieved under various stages, which are described as under:
Metal Finishing covers any operation or activity that alters the surface of a metal piece to achieve a certain property or look. Metal finishing is preformed after a metal cast has been formed. Metal finishing covers many processes like cleaning, soldering, plating, texturing etc. These processes are described as under:
Cleaning of metal casting refers to all operations and activities that are performed to remove sand, scale and / or excess metal from the casting. In jewelry making, cleaning is a continuous process used at various stages. Casting comes for cleaning either directly from separated mold or after improvement by welding, soldering or other procedures. Burned-on sand and scale are removed to improve the surface appearance of the casting whereas excess metal, in the form of fins, wires, parting line fins and gates, is also removed. Cleaning of metal casting can be done by many ways:
Pickling is a process in which chemicals are used to remove oxide and carbon deposits from metal to obtain a clean surface. This process will also remove all of the fire stain and oxidation caused by the soldering. In this process, a metal piece is submerged in a heated acid solution, usually acetic, citric or nitric acid. The acid solution is then removed by rinsing the metal piece in cool water as well as in limewater to neutralize any remaining acid. But due to the environmental reasons, shot blasting has largely replaced pickling.
Sandblasting is a general term used for the process of cleaning, smoothing or etching a hard surface by forcing very fine bits of solid material across that surface at high speeds. Sandblasting method gives batter finish than the finish achieved by using sandpaper. In Sandblasting method, sand is the most commonly used material but sometimes other relatively uniform particles like synthetic beads, bits of coconut shell etc are also used. Sandblasting as a cleaning and smoothing method is widely used where small bits of abrasive launched at the metal or other surfaces at a high velocity so that all dirt, imperfections are knocked loose and can then be easily washed off. Whereas sandblasting as an etching method is also very popular and usually applied onto crystal or glass. In etching process, abrasive is blasted at the crystal or glass lightly to turn it semi-opaque and this semi-opaque effect is used to produce words or images on that crystal or glass. o
Steam cleaning refers to cleaning of metal casting through steam and it is suitable for removing oily or greasy residue.
Soap Water Cleaning
Soap water cleaning refers to cleaning of metal casting by using mild soap detergent in water. o Supercritical Fluid Cleaning Supercritical fluid cleaning refers to cleaning of metal casting with small openings or complex design. This cleaning process is used mainly on liquid contaminants like petroleum, silicone, lubricants, waxes etc.
It refers to the cleaning of a metal piece by using ultrasonic cleaners. Ultrasonic cleaner is a machine which uses a fluid that is vibrated at 20,000 cycles per second. When the vibration speed rises above the ultrasonic frequency level, bubbles explode and generate strong power, cleaning the surfaces and cavities of hard-to-clean metal pieces. This cleaning does not scratch the surface or harm metal pieces.
Metal polishing is the process of rubbing a metal piece to make it smooth and shiny as well as reduce the appearance of flaws.
Tumbling is the process used to get shine and brightness in a metal piece. This process primarily uses steel shots and does not remove any metal in the form of fins or gates from the metal piece.
Bombing or Stripping
Both bombing and stripping techniques are used to brighten metal pieces primarily by way of cyanide and water baths. However, bombing removes metal and brightens the entire piece evenly but stripping tends to remove more metal from the high points such as prongs.
Buffing refers to the use of grease compound in combination with wheels to produce very smooth polished surface. It is the final step in the professional finishing process.
Soldering is a technique, used by jewelers, in making and repairing jewelry. By using this technique, two or more metal pieces are joined by applying a molten metal or metal alloy that has a lower melting point than the two metals being joined. This molten metal forms a bond when cooled and solidified. Soldering is also used in adding findings or links in a metal piece.
In terms of jewelry, plating is the technique to cover or coat a thin layer of a metal to another metal surface mainly for the decorative purposes.
Techniques of Plating
Electroplating is the process where inexpensive metals are frequently electroplated or coated with a thin layer of more expensive metals like gold (gold plating), silver (silver plating), rhodium (rhodium plating), copper (electro coppering) etc. In this process, an electric current is flown to coat an electrically conductive metal object with a relatively thin layer of precious metal.
Electroless plating is the chemical deposition of a metal coating onto a metal piece using chemical reactions rather than electricity.
Other Plating Techniques
Some other techniques are also used for plating like chemical plating, electrochemical plating, mechanical plating, spray plating, hot dip plating etc.
Specific Metal Plating
Gold plating is a method of depositing a gold layer of .175 microns (approximately 7/1,000,000ths of an inch) with at least 10-karat gold onto the surface of another metal, most often silver or copper, by chemical or electrochemical mode.
Silver plating is a method of depositing a silver layer on other metal surface mainly for decorative purposes on household and jewelry items.
Rhodium is a noble metal, from the platinum family, with a whitish gray appearance. Rhodium, in raw natural state, comes in liquid state and not in solid state like platinum. In jewelry industry, rhodium is very popular plating metal which gives very smooth, shiny and expensive look, just like platinum, to a metal piece. This metal is applied through the electroplating process to base metals like gold, sterling silver or some other metal alloy. This rhodium plating gives silver tone finish, which is darker than a silver plated finish and darkens with time rather than tarnishing like silver plate. Rhodium plating is virtually identical to Platinum but on a fraction of the cost and often it is used on fashion rings and brooches.
Chrome plating is a method of depositing a thin layer of chromium on other metal surface mainly for giving a bright and lustrous metallic surface, which is highly resistant to tarnish.
Other Metal Plating
Some other metals are also used for plating or coating a metal surface. For Example, zinc, tin etc.
A Florentine finish is a crosshatched decorative technique engraved into the surface of a precious metal. It is usually applied by a hand tool and consist a series of parallel lines engraved in two directions perpendicular to each other. This finish reduces the reflectivity of metal and the lines are often coarser and more deeply incised than the brushed or matte finish methods.
A hammered finish is a texture applied to the surface of a metal piece with a hammer to give it a dimpled look. A hammered texture gives impression of a series of small depressions in the metal. This finish is varied from light to deep hammering texture and usually increases the size of the metal piece.
High Polish Finish
A high polish finish is super shiny and smooth polish applied to a metal surface that gives a highly reflective and mirror-like finish.
Satin finish is a texture of a metal surface that is in between matte finish and a brilliant one. It is a series of tiny parallel lines scratched onto a metal surface with a wire brush or polishing tool to produce texture. Satin finish is achieved by various means and methods like sandblasting, wire brushing or chemically altering a shiny metallic surface. This finish gives impression of a soft, pearl-like luster instead of a bright polish.
Matt or Brushed Finish
A matte finish, also known as a brushed finish, is a texture applied to metal surface, which gives a dull and non-reflective finish. Matte finish is achieved either by a chemical process or by using an abrasive material to scratch the top layers of the piece. Stone Finishing Stone Finishing covers any operation or activity that alters the characteristics of the gemstone to achieve a certain property or look. Stone finishing is preformed after a gemstone is mined. A well cut and polished stone is considered to have a beautiful finish. Some of the popular stone finishing ways are described as under:
Stone Cutting & Polishing
Cut refers to the geometric proportions and finish of a gemstone. It is one of the most important factors in determining gemstone’s sparkle and brilliance. The stone should be symmetrical in all dimensions so that it will appear balanced, and so that its facets will reflect light evenly, which will provide good brilliance to stone. A person who cuts and polishes rough gemstone and converts it into a finished gemstone is known as cutter or lapidary. Usually all gemstones are cut and polished with grits of harder substances. Since diamond is the hardest substance, it is often used to polish most gems, including the diamond itself.
A lapidary uses many techniques like sawing, drilling, tumbling, grinding, sanding, lapping and polishing to cut and provide the surface finishing to these gemstones. These techniques are explained as under:
Gemstone sawing is a technique of gemstone cutting in which a thin circular blade usually composed of steel, copper or a phosphor bronze alloy impregnated along the outer edge with diamond grit and is rotating at several thousand surface feet per minute literally scratching its way through a gemstone. A liquid material such as oil or water is used to wash away cutting debris and keeping the stone and the saw blade cool to avoid overheating.
Drilling is a technique used to make a hole in a gemstone either to create a bead or to remove inclusions. To drill in a gemstone, gem-cutters often use a small rotating rod or tube with a diamond tip or slurry of silicon carbide. Ultrasonic drilling is also very effective but costly and thus it is reserved for high-volume commercial drilling.
In this process, large quantities of rough shaped stones are often tumbled slowly in a rotating barrel or in a vibratory machine with sharp abrasives (usually silicon carbide) and water for days or even weeks. After this process, these stones are finished in very attractive shapes. In vibratory machines, it is much easier to examine the progress of stones inside while machines are on whereas standard tumblers must be halted in order to check progress of the stones. In addition to polishing gemstones, tumbling is often used to polish large quantities of metal jewelry.
Gemstone grinding is very important process in which silicon carbide wheels or diamond-impregnated wheels are used to convert a rough gemstone into a desired shaped gemstone. This is called perform. In this technique also a liquid material such as oil or water is used to wash away cutting debris and keeping the stone and the blades cool to avoid overheating.
Sanding is a process that is very much similar to grinding process but uses sharper tools. The purpose of sanding is to remove deep scratches left behind from sawing and grinding processes. This process removes material less rapidly, which ultimately allows more delicate control over final shaping of the stone prior to polishing. It polishes to create smooth curves and avoids flat surfaces.
Lapping is the process, which is very similar to grinding and sanding. The only difference is that this process is performed with low pressure on one side of a vibrating or rotating flat disk known as a lap, and it is used specially to create flat surfaces on a stone (as in faceting). Laps are often made of cast iron, steel, or a copper-bronze alloy, but other materials can also be used.
Polishing is a technique used to provide a mirror like finish and shine to the surface of a gemstone to reflect light. This process is started once a gemstone is sawed and given the desired shape and sanded to remove rough marks. Polishing is achieved either by rubbing a gemstone with powder or grit, or against another gemstone.
Stone Treatments / Enhancements
Natural flawless gemstones are very rarely available. Gemstones are mined in a very rough state and they require stone finishing by numerous ways to enhance the appearance and durability of stones. Some of these treatments or enhancements are permanent in nature whereas others are temporary. Gemstone enhancement has become very common and accepted practice and these days, vast majority of the gemstones are treated in some way before setting into a jewelry piece. According to the Federal Trade Commission's Guides for the Jewelry Industry, jewelers must disclose to the consumer all gemstone treatments that are non-permanent or require special care. On the contrary, jewelers are not required to disclose permanent treatments that don't require special care. It's important to remember that most gemstone enhancements greatly improve the appearance and hence the value of a stone.
Heating is one of the oldest and most common treatment methods used to enhance the natural beauty of gemstones. It is a permanent process that can dramatically improve color and/or clarity in a number of stones, including sapphire, ruby, diamond, aquamarine, amethyst, tanzanite, topaz, tourmaline.
Irradiation is a permanent process in which gemstones are exposed to radiation usually to improve color. Irradiation is commonly used on yellow beryl, smoky quartz, freshwater pearls, diamonds, blue topaz and pink to red tourmaline.
Diffusion is a process in which surface color of gemstones is enhanced through the use of chemicals in conjunction with high temperatures. This treatment is usually used for rubies and sapphires.
Fracture-filling is an enhancement process in which cavities or fractures are filled in a gemstone with an artificial substance like glass, plastic etc. This process is often used on diamonds to make flaws less visible.
Laser drilling is the permanent process of drilling holes into a stone with a laser to remove inclusions. This treatment is most commonly used for diamonds.
Oiling is one of the oldest treatment methods used to enhance the color, smoothness and hide surface cracks of a gemstone. This treatment is often used on emeralds.
Dying / Bleaching
Dying or Bleaching is a process in which stones are dyed or bleached to improve their color or appearance. This treatment is often used on porous materials like jade, pearls, amber, coral, ivory etc.