While I may be a gemstone gremlin who hoards rocks to smile at in my free time, most people prefer to express their appreciation for gorgeous gemstones by wearing them set in jewelry.
When creating a piece of jewelry, I can get really creative by focusing on how the gemstones are set into the finished piece.
With nuance and an understanding of the wide variety of methods for setting stones, the resulting piece of jewelry will include settings that complement the gemstones and determine the design tone for the entire piece of jewelry.
Setting a Gemstone
To set a gemstone, metal must be bent and coerced to lock the gemstone in place. The metal is persuaded into the shape using hand strength.
I work with professional stone setters who have years of experience setting stone after stone, day in and day out. These artisans fashion prongs into various shapes with small files, place diamonds less than 1mm diameter into small impressions, and create minuscule beads of metal that they manipulate to clutch stones--Very delicate work that requires brute force and hand muscles that most of us don't even realize we have! (I have learned over the years that it is better to hug these setters than shake hands--OUCH!)
A final polish and buff of the metal will remove mars made during the setting process, resulting in a finished piece of jewelry, complete with a gleaming and gorgeous gemstone smiling back.
What Does A Setting Need?
For a setting to function properly, gemstones must be secured by their girdle, which is the widest part of the stone.
The stone will need to have metal that both supports the gemstone from underneath with a seat and also folds over the top of the girdle to keep the stone from lifting up.
The setting must also create inward pressure from multiple sides of the gem to keep it secured in a single location.
Types of Settings
In a prong setting, arms of metal elevate and support a gemstone, allowing light to enter the gemstone. This setting can be used with 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8+ prongs that push inward and over the top of the gemstones to secure it. The prongs themselves can take on many forms and can terminate in beads, tapers, splits, etc., allowing for a great creativity.
Shared Prong Setting:
One prong will support two adjacent stones
A bezel surrounds the gemstone on all sides, taking the form of the gemstone (or maybe not...;-) ). The walls of the bezel will fold over the top of the gemstone.
Many stones are set in a channel using two walls of metal that act like a bezel on either side of the stones.
Bar Setting (aka: Wall Setting):
Stones are set with walls of metal that run perpendicular to the arrangement of stones, with two adjacent stones sharing the same wall, as is done in a shared prong setting.
Gemstones are set into the metal from the underside, allowing the gem to be flush with the surface of the metal.
Small gemstones are pushed into a small hole in the surface of the metal. Then, the metal burnished, pushing metal over the edges of the gemstone to hold it in place.
Pavé: After the French word for "pavement", Pavé settings pave the surface of an object with a seemingly endless array of gemstones that are set with small beads of metal that do not interrupt the flow of light and sparkle along the surface.
There are many types of settings. Variations on these setting styles create numerous other settings that can be used in combination and to inform new techniques. The result of creative application of setting types can truly elevate a piece of jewelry to a work of art.