Since the beginning of recorded history, humans have been setting stones – we're innately drawn to the sparkle and vibrant colors of gems. Affixing them to art objects, jewelry, and relics has been a way to exhibit our jewels for maximum reverence. The practical purpose of stone-setting is to hold gems in place, but there are incredibly artistic ways of doing this. Let's discuss a few of the ways that we set stones in jewelry.
First up: the bezel setting. Bezel is the oldest form of stone-setting, and entails bending metal to fit the perimeter of a stone, placing the stone, and then rubbing (burnishing) the metal over the edges of the gem. This is a really great setting to wear if you use your hands a lot, since there are no prongs to catch on anything.
Another method that provides a smooth-set stone is the flush setting. This technique is usually used when setting multiple tiny gems. First, a pilot hole is drilled in the metal, then a ball burr is used to make a concave depression that exactly matches the size of the stone, which is then placed in this prepared "seat". Once the stone is positioned, the metal is manipulated around the edge with a chasing tool to lock it in place.
Speaking of sparkle, one of our favorite setting styles is the star setting. This method is similar to flush-setting, but in this case a little flare is added by cutting a star shape into the metal around the edge of the pilot hole. A beading tool rounds and smoothes metal around the edge of the stone to create a "bead" that adds texture and shine to the piece.
A channel setting
also gives a smooth finished look – and is pretty self explanatory – a channel is cut into the metal and grooves on both walls of the channel hold the stones in place.
Next up, we have the prong setting, a classic technique that uses prongs to hold a gem in place. This style of setting provides excellent visual access to the stone, allowing light to penetrate the it from multiple angles, which creates stellar sparkle wattage. Basically, an open claw (imagine an open hand) receives the stone, and then the "fingers" are pressed around the stone, grasping it to let as much light as possible pass through the gem.
An uncommon style of fixing stones in place is the cast-not-set technique, where gems are cast directly into molten metal before the setting is actually formed. We love the organic patterns that are revealed during this process – however precision and replication are not possible, since nature does the work of placing the stones.
A cool variation that can be used in conjunction with almost any style of stone-setting is the point-up setting. If you visualize a typical clip art diamond graphic, it has a round, flat top and a point at the bottom. Usually the pointed part is placed down into the setting, anchoring the stone. A point-up setting, as the name implies, is when the round "top" is placed down, leaving the pointed part of the gem facing up. This is a badass style that gives your look a sharp edge.
There you have it! There are definitely more ways to set stones, but these are some common examples of styles we love. The next time you add a piece to your collection, consider the setting and the vibe it creates. How do different settings sit together in a stack or a layered necklace situation? It's up to you to put together an ensemble that represents your own unique flavor.