How to Set a Stone

by

Shannon Gering

http://www.emporia.edu/earthsci/amber/go340/students/gering


A Brief Introduction

A gemstone is a thing of rare beauty. However, a loose stone, while pretty, is not particularly practical. A good way to combine beauty and practicality is to install the gem in a piece of jewelry. This can bring up many questions. What setting should be used? What types of settings are there? While there are several ways for setting stones the two most common types of settings are different forms of bezels and prongs. This page will provide some answers and give you some valuable information on how to set a stone.

For the novice, I have provided definitions of some words you may be unfamiliar with. After reading the definition, merely hit the back button to return to the main page.


Table of Contents


Bezel Setting

What is a Bezel?

A bezel is a thin metal band that surrounds a stone and is pressed over the edge of the stone to secure it in place (McCreight 119). This band of metal is often called bezel wire. Depending on the metal used in the jewelry the bezel wire is either gold or fine silver. There are many different kinds of bezels and what type is used depends on the stone and the design.

The bezel wire used can be plain or fancy. Fancy bezel wire can either be bought at a lapidary store or fabricated by the jeweler out of wire or fine sheet silver. A bezel can run all the way around the stone or may cover only part of the stone. Examples are shown below.

Box Bezel Collar Bezel

Photo date 4/04
© by Shannon Gering
A box type bezel with fancy bezel wire
is the most common type and simplest to make.
This was made by
Kari Taylor.

© by Davis Publishing
Image taken from
The Complete Metalsmith.

This example is similar to
a box bezel but with a rounded wall.

Fancy Bezel Step Bezel

Photo date 4/04
© by Shannon Gering
A decorative bezel may be purchased
gallery wire or hand fabricated.
This example was made by John Morrison

© by Davis Publishing
Image taken from
The Complete Metalsmith
This style allows light to shine
through the stone without drilling
a hole in the metal.


Photo Date 4/04
© by Shannon Gering

This design was made by
Rebecca Voth and hand fabricated
out of silver wire.

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Setting a Stone in a Bezel

While the most common stone in a bezel setting is a cabochon, many other types of stones can be set as well. Flat stones such as agate slabs can be used as well as some tumbled stones. Care must be taken in choosing non symmetrical stones since it will be harder to fit the bezel wire around it. Also, the higher the dome of the stone, the higher the bezel wire will need to be.

  1. The first step is to fit the bezel wire to the stone. Push the bezel wire against the stone using a pencil eraser. Push the longer end of the wire away from the shorter end and push the shorter end against the stone. Don't push too hard or you might fracture the stone. McCreight stated that for smaller stones the bezel should be shaped first and then fitted to the stone. However, in my limited experience, I have found that shaping the bezel around the small stones works fine.

  2. Photo date 4/04
    © by Mary St. John

  3. After fitting, cut off the excess wire with tin snips and file the ends of the bezel wire to clean them up. Flux the edges and join them together using hard solder.
  4. It's a good idea to double check the fit of the bezel on the stone. If the wire is too tall for the stone it can be filed down to the right height.
  5. Okay, now it's time to attach the bezel to either a piece of metal backing or the jewelry piece itself. If the stone is translucent enough to allow light through, a hole needs to be drilled in the back of the jewelry piece or a step bezel needs to be made. I have learned from experience that it's better to drill the holes BEFORE bending the metal.

  6. Photo date 4/04
    © by Shannon Gering

  7. Attach the bezel to the base using small pieces of hard solder. Because of the large amount of stress that will be applied to the metal hard solder must be applied to bezels and prongs. Apply the blue flame of the torch around and on the joint. The solder MUST melt all the way around the bezel. If there are any gaps they need to be filled in with easy solder. It is important to take care when heating the metal during this step as the fine silver of the bezel wire heats faster than sterling and has a tendency to melt.
  8. Pickle the piece then file away any excess solder with a rifle file.
  9. If making a box type bezel, the excess metal around the base needs to be sawn off with a jewelry saw. File the edges of the base smooth. If it is going to be added to a piece, cover the new and previous joins in yellow ocher before soldering.
  10. Now to insert the stone. Mix a paste of jewelers sawdust with epoxy. Jewelers sawdust is an extremely clean finely ground wood shavings. Using a toothpick apply a semi-thin layer of paste to the inside bottom of the bezel. This will cushion the stone so if the jewelry is bumped or dropped the stone will not bang against the metal backing and will be less likely to chip or crack. The epoxy also adds extra gripping power to the stone. Be sure to get the stone in right the FIRST time as cleaning epoxy off of stone is tedious.
  11. When the epoxy is dried gently press the metal towards the stone with the rounded point of the burnishing tool. For stones with a Mohs Scale hardness of less than seven it is a good idea to cover the stone with a piece of masking tape to prevent accidental scratching. Be sure to work opposite ends of the stone and NEVER put TOO MUCH PRESSURE on the bezel as the stone could chip or crack.

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Bezel Cups

Bezel cups similar to regular bezels in their use. The difference is that bezel cups are prefabricated and the bottom is a seamless whole with the bezel. Bezel cups seem to be made mostly for smaller stones. Setting a stone in a bezel cup is somewhat like setting it in an ordinary bezel only much less work. They can be bought at a local lapidary or jeweler supply store. I do not enjoy using them because if the stone doesn't fit just right then the stone must be sanded down.


Photo date 4/04
© by Mary St. John

Photo date 4/04
© by Shannon Gering
The bezel cup is shown on the left, while a stone
set in a bezel cup is on the right. Click on the
right image to see the cat designed and fabricated
by Shannon Gering.

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Prong Settings

What are Prongs?

Prongs are essentially metal fingers that hold the stone in place. This allows the stone to become the emphasis of the design (McCreight). Prong settings are mainly used for faceted stones. However, they can also be used for cabochons or for holding irregularly shaped stones. Prong settings can be fabricated by hand, bought from a store or cast in lost wax.

Basic Prong Styles

Turtle Setting Tiffany Setting

© by Davis Publishing
Image taken from The Complete Metalsmith.

The shape resembles a turtle.


© by Clark
Image taken with permission from
www.gemsociety.org/info/j14.htm.
This design was created by and named after
Charles Tiffany. The higher setting allows more light
to enter the stone.

Crown Setting Lost Wax Casting

© by the Antique Jewelry Mall
Image taken with
permission from
www.antiquejewelrymall.com
This is somewhat of a
hybrid between a bezel and
a prong setting. It is a
reliable setting for a faceted stone.

Photo date 10/99
© by S.W. Aber
Image taken with permission
from www.emporia.edu/
earthsci/amber/go340/silver.htm

Various rings with prong settings
in wax, from Ernie Herrick.

Donald Clark of the International Gem Society recommends that heavier prongs be installed if the jewelry piece will be worn daily. Some guidelines for setting prongs successfully are given below. According to McCreight, successful prongs must:

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How to Create a Simple Prong Setting

A simple prong setting consists of a wire loop and four to six wire prongs soldered to the loop. Specifically, this type of prong setting is good for cabochon cuts, but other stone cuts work well also. This type of setting is practical yet easy for the beginner and is useful for bracelets, broaches and earrings. Murray Bovin's book Jewelry Making for School, Tradesmen and Craftsmen provided the instructions how to create simple prong settings.

  1. First the bearing piece is created using either tubing or rectangular wire. The gauge of the wire will depend on the size of the stone. The bearing is shaped into a loop with pliers. It should be slightly smaller in size than the stone so that when the stone rests upon it, the bearing can't be seen when looking straight down at it. Cut the loop with tin snips and file the ends. Flux the ends and join with hard solder.
  2. The size of the stone determines the number, size and placement of the prongs. Usually four prongs are used but there can be any number of prongs such as six, eight or twelve! Prongs can be made out of either round, half round or rectangular wire.
  3. Cut the prongs a bit longer than the required length. Using the pliers force the prongs against the bearing and push them slightly into the charcoal block. This will prevent them from moving while soldering. Flux the joints and solder with hard solder.

  4. © by Bovin. Image taken from Jewelry Making

  5. Remove the setting from the block and pickle. Then snip off the excess wire at the bottom of the bearing and file flat.

  6. © by Bovin. Image taken from
    Jewelry Making. A simple prong setting.

  7. Snip the prongs to the desired length and file the ends. The setting is now ready to be joined to the jewelry piece, polished and finally set the stone.
  8. Drop the stone into the setting. Gently push the prongs against the stone using the rounded end of a burnishing tool. Work opposite ends and be careful not to push too hard as it will move the stone or cause it to chip or crack.

  9. © by Bovin. Image taken from
    Jewelry Making. Stone set in prongs.

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Conclusions

I hope you have learned some about metals and setting stones. I created this webpage as part of a project for my gemstones and gemology course in the spring semester of 2004 at Emporia State University. In addition to taking the gemstone course, I am enrolled in a course on the fabrication of jewelry. This webpage is a combination of some of the knowledge I have learned in both courses.


References and Links

Aber, S.W. 1999-2004. Working With Silver. GO 340 Course Lecture. World Wide Web URL: http://www.emporia.edu/earthsci/amber/go340/silver.htm

Antique Jewelry Mall. 2004. World Wide Web homepage URL: http://www.antiquejewelrymall.com.

Bovin, Murray. 1967. Jewelry Making For School, Tradesmen Craftsmen. Bovin Pub, NY, 100 p.

Clark, Donald. The Nomenclature of Jewelry or "What Do You Call That Thingy?".
International Gem Society. World Wide Web URL: http://www.gemsociety.org/info/j14.htm.

Maxwell, Deb. 2004. Metals I Vocabulary. Emporia, KS, 1-5.

McCreight, Tim. 1991. The Complete Metalsmith. Davis Inc, Massachusetts, 123-4, 119-121.


Check Out These Cool Webpages

International Gem Society at www.gemsociety.org

MAB Diamonds - An Overview of Prong Settings and Problem Shooting
www.mabdiamonds.com


About this Page

I have enjoyed my classes and have an unabashed plug. If you are interested in enrolling in GO340 Gemstones and Gemology check out www.emporia.edu/earthsci/amber/go340 or email Susie Aber at abersusa@emporia.edu. If you in the Emporia, Kansas area and are interested in enrolling in AR200B Intro to Metals to learn gem setting and jewelry fabrication, contact Deb Maxwell at King Hall 620-341-4015. We meet one night a week and the class is open fall and spring semester!

Questions about this page? Email me at dragolin823@yahoo.com. You can see what other gemstones and gemology student projects at www.emporia.edu/earthsci/amber/go340/students/stupages.htm. This webpage went online April 28, 2004. Last update, May 4, 2004.