Setting the Stage: Five Popular Stone Settings
Jewelry making involves making hundreds or thousands of choices for each piece we make. It’s a blend of precision and creativity. A great example of this is deciding on the setting to design for a stone. There’s a balance of creativity and aesthetics, with securing the stone so that it wears well and stays in place.
A stone setting not only secures the gemstone in place, but it should also protect the stone. The setting also plays a crucial role in enhancing the brilliance and overall aesthetic appeal of the gemstone.
Let’s dive into five common settings for stones in jewelry making and a few of the pros and cons of each one.
1. Prong Setting: A Classic
The prong setting is a popular choice in jewelry making. It’s characterized by small metal claws or prongs that grip the gemstone, maximizing exposure of the stone and allowing light to enter from all angles to show off its sparkle. Prong settings are versatile and can be adapted to various shapes and sizes of gemstones.
- Maximizes sparkle: Allows for maximum exposure of the gemstone, letting light enter from all angles and enhancing its sparkle.
- Versatile: Suitable for various gemstone shapes and sizes.
- Classic: Prong settings are a traditional and widely appreciated choice for jewelry.
- Potential snagging: Prongs may catch on clothing or other objects, potentially causing damage or discomfort.
- Requires maintenance: Prongs may need periodic inspection and adjustment to make sure that they remain secure. The metal on the top of the prong can slowly wear away. An experienced jewelry repair person should be about to fix this issue.
2. Bezel Setting: Secure
Though this is an ancient way to set a stone. This setting can create an old world look or modern feel. It’s also a great option to secure the stone because the stone is nestled into the setting and completely surrounded by metal, holding it in place. This setting is ideal if you’re active; think gardening or athletics, or those who want a minimalist design.
- Secure: Provides good protection to the gemstone and nothing that will catch on clothing.
- Versatile look: Depending on the overall design of the pieces, it can give a contemporary look with a smooth and polished appearance, or it may look Boho or Witchy.
- Reduced brilliance: The metal rim will likely obstruct light, so it may not be ideal for a gemstone that needs light to show off its sparkle.
- Adaptability: It can be challenging for the jewelry maker to make a bezel to accommodate some stones. That said, I’ve seen makers create bezels for all sorts of shapes. Sometimes the thickness of the gem or object that goes in the bezel can be tricky for a bezel setting.
3. Channel Setting: Elegance
Channel setting is a technique where gemstones are nestled within a continuous metal channel, creating a seamless and uninterrupted flow of stones. This setting is used for small, uniform-sized stones (usually diamonds or colored gemstones). Channel-set jewelry pieces often feature stones in a row, creating a sophisticated and elegant design. This setting is used for rings and bracelets.
- Elegant and seamless: Creates a continuous flow of stones, producing a sophisticated and polished look.
- Secure: The stones are protected within the metal channel, reducing the risk of damage.
- Cleaning challenges: The channel may accumulate dirt and debris, requiring careful cleaning to maintain the piece's brilliance.
- Limited to certain gemstone sizes: Larger or irregularly shaped stones may not fit well in a channel setting.
- Repair challenge: Just as prongs can wear down, the metal along the channel can wear down. Repairing or rebuilding that channel can be challenging and expensive. A common issue is one stone is missing and the jeweler must figure out how to replace that one diamond along the continuous setting.
4. Gypsy or Flush Setting: Sleek and Minimal
Flush settings are made when a jeweler drills a hole in the surface of the piece she’s making and then creates a seat using a setting bur. This is exactly what it sounds like, a seat for the stone to sit. After the stone is placed in the seat, a burnisher is used to rub a small amount of the metal down and over the circumference of the stone. The jeweler must always check that the stone is secure and there is no movement. This setting provides safety to the stone because the gemstone is positioned either below or at the same level (“flush”) as the metal surface, or maybe just below the surface of the metal. There are many steps and lots of precision in this setting.
Fun fact: this setting is also sometimes referred to as Burnish Setting or Hammer Setting.
- No snagging: In flush setting, the gemstone is set into the metal in such a way that its table (the flat top surface) is level with or slightly below the surrounding metal. This results in a smooth and even surface.
- Durable and Secure: The gemstone is held securely in place by the metal, making flush setting a durable option. This setting is commonly used for smaller stones, such as diamonds or colored gemstones.
- Reduced brilliance: Just as with bezel settings, this setting prevents light from passing through the stone and reduces the gemstone’s sparkle and brilliance.
- Appear Smaller: Since the gemstone is set into the metal, and a tiny bit of metal is pushed around it to keep it in place, the stone can appear even smaller than it is.
5. Tension Setting: Modern
Tension settings are a contemporary way to showcase gemstones. The technique is only about fifty years old, this is very young in jewelry technique years! In this setting, the stone appears to be floating between two ends of the metal band (this setting is seen in rings). Tension settings use the strength of the metal, or compression, to secure the gemstone. This setting is primarily used for diamonds and other durable stones, they offer a modern and interesting look to rings.
- Unique and modern: If you’re looking for sleek and modern, this might be right for you.
- Eye Catching: The look is sleek and uncluttered. Since there is not metal on top of the stone or wrapped around it, the focus is on the gemstone.
- Secure and easy maintenance: This is a secure setting and is rather easy to keep clean.
- Limited to certain gemstone types: Tension settings are more suitable for durable stones like diamonds.
- Resizing nightmare: If you ever need to resize the ring, is complex and might be impossible. My brief time working in a shop to repair and resize jewelry seared that stress into me!
Choosing the right setting is a crucial step in the jewelry-making process. It not only influences the overall design but also determines the security of the gemstone. Each setting brings its own character to the piece.
Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of different settings allows you to make informed decisions to create gorgeous jewelry that works with your lifestyle, and personal style.
Interested in exploring other settings? Here is a post about cabochons. Cabochons are typically set in bezels.