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Gemstone settings: the basics

Gemstone settings: the basics

Settings 101

One of the things I most enjoy about summer shows is talking with the people who wander into my booth. If that was you at the Cherry Creek Arts Festival or in Jackson Hole, thanks for coming by. All kinds of questions come up at these shows. For whatever reason, this year several of you asked about settings. So here you go, a short and sweet on the topic.


Common types of settings

The setting refers to the metal base that holds the stone in place. The metal typically comes up and over the stone, although there are exceptions. The style of setting can vary; generally, its purpose is to secure the stones and enhance their beauty and overall brilliance. Here’s the scoop on the most common types—and my preferences for KMJ:

Prong: the most common setting, usually with 4 or 6 prongs that are bent over the stone to hold it in place at the right height, completely straight, centered and secure. 

Micro: refers to the tiniest distance between stones; the micro setting has multiple tiny diamonds set very close together under a microscope.

Bead and Bright (aka Pave): the stones are set on the metal with the help of grains that are pulled up from the metal and pushed against the stones. The result is a continuously shimmering, radiant surface. 

Bezel: the stone is completely surrounded by metal and held securely in place. The edges of the metal can be straight, scalloped or molded into any shape to accommodate the stone.

Channel: the stones are suspended between two strips of metal, or channels. The stones are held in place by a continuous strip of metal on each side of the channel. The upper sides of the channel walls are hammered to hold the stones in place.

Flush: a hole is made to drop the stone directly into the metal. The top of the stone sits flush with the surface of the metal. A tool is used to move or rub the metal over the edge of the stone, and securely hold it in place. The result is a contemporary minimalist look.

Pressure: rather than being held in place by a traditional prong setting, the gemstone is held in place by the pressure of the metal base against the stone. Also called a tension setting.


Preferred KMJ settings and why

My taste and perspective in jewelry design is informed by my taste in architecture. Clean, simple yet powerful, modern and minimal have my vote. Hence, I almost exclusively employ bezel and flush settings in my jewelry designs. Bezel and flush allow the clean, contemporary look and feel that I’m after. The stones are secure in these settings, held safely in place without the risk of prongs gradually eroding or rubbing off and leaving the gemstone vulnerable.

I also like the way the clean, minimal flush setting showcases the stone and not the metal, which is the effect of bead and bright (pave). The small beads around the stone in a pave setting can be visually interesting but they detract from the gemstone. The effect doesn’t suit my aesthetic. 


Just for fun

Take a look at your favorite piece of jewelry and see if you can identify the setting. Stumped? Shoot me an email with a photo of the piece. Happy to help.


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