JUNE BLOG 2021
I somehow seem to have let time drift by without writing my May blog, so I’ve decided to skip May and carry on with June.
After a rather soggy and cold May, recent weather has been glorious heralding the arrival of what a I hope will be a long summer although as I write this, the weather seems to back to the traditional British norm of sunshine and rain. Our garden is looking lush and green (partly thanks to the rubbish rain in May) and the plants have sprouted like fun (as have the weeds!) adding wonderful clusters of colour. Our hideous cactus in the greenhouse has, after 20 years, decided to produce the most beautiful white trumpet shaped blooms which fade after 24 hours but what a show.
So, less chat about plants and more about jewellery. I’ve had a new floor laid in my workshop so now if I drop something, I can see it and spend less time crawling about on my hands and knees. It has meant that I’ve been out of commission for a few days but apart from that, I’ve tried to be busy in the studio, mainly extending my skills in more advanced stone setting with some success although it’s been frustrating. I’ve made a small channel set pendant with square stones in addition to some silver wire work drop earrings. Having mentioned the channel setting, I thought I’d explain just a few of the setting I use in my jewellery.
The art of gem setting has developed over time according to the skills, tools, methods of manufacture and materials available. Gem setting, in particular complex claw settings, is a skill that takes training and years of experience to prefect. Stones have been set into many types of settings for centuries in personal pieces and religious artefacts and have often been shrouded in myth along with the belief that the stones themselves have mystic powers of healing, creating a sense of well-being and demonstrate wealth and prosperity.
How a gem is set is part of the design process. Consideration has to be given to which type of setting and how it will best compliment the overall design. I use settings that can be incorporated into any piece of jewellery as it makes the design more flexible. I don’t have the time or space to explain in depth how each setting is created but instead have tried to provide a brief overview as to what is involved. There are examples of some of these settings in the gallery
The Bezel Setting
This was the first stone setting technique that I learnt. It gets its name from the “bezel” strip of precious metal that is used to set the stone and it can be incorporated into pendants, rings and earrings as well as bangles or bracelets. In other words, it is a very versatile setting. It is ideal for round, oval or rectangular cabochons with flat bases, but it can be used with odd-shaped cabochons provided their bases are flat in order to sit properly and securely in the seat. A base of precious metal is cut out and a strip of metal is wrapped around the circumference of the stone to create the correct shape. The secret to a good bezel setting is a level base with all edges of the strip being straight to make sure that the two solder together perfectly without irregularities. The idea is to make the setting look like an all-in-one shaped cup.
The Gallery or Basket Setting
A more intermediate skill required as this is a complex way of setting faceted stones so called because, strangely enough, the setting resembles a basket or gallery with its two hoops. This is a very fiddly setting to construct because it involves bending wires to make the claws and making two small rings which then sit in notches that are made in the claw wires. The frustrating bit is getting the hoops to stay in the notches so that they can be soldered in place because there is a great danger that the heat when soldering, can melt the wire so much care has to be taken. The stone is set into the top hoop and the claws pushed over it, cut and filed to shape.
This is my favourite setting and one I use a lot. I buy tubing in various dimensions and metals which I cut to fit the faceted stone that I wish to set. I need to make sure that the hole is big or small enough to accommodate the stone and that the diameter of the tube wall isn’t too thin or thick otherwise it becomes difficult to work with. The depth of the stone will dictate the length of tube that I need to cut so that the bottom of the stone doesn’t poke through and scratch the wearer. A special drill bit called a seating burr is used to drill out the hole so that it mirrors the shape of the faceted stone. The table of the gem (the flat bit at the top) should be level with the top of the tube and then the tube wall is pushed over the stone to hold it securely in place using a gadget called a pusher (not a very original name but it does the job). I sometimes add claws to this setting just to make it a little different.
A setting that takes a lot of time and expertise to do well. Simple claw settings are suitable for flat based cabochons which sit on a ring of metal. The claws are formed by soldering wires to the ring and once all of the soldering work has been completed - for example soldering onto a ring, the stone is placed onto the ring base and the wires gently manoeuvred into place over the edge of the stone. They are then cut to the desired length and filed to the appropriate shape. As I mentioned above, claws can be added to the tube setting and are and integral part of the basket mount.
It takes a great deal of my patience to make any of the above which has been sorely tried over the years as it can be frustrating but having mastered some of the skills needed (and I’ve a long way to go yet before I’m perfect), it has given me a great sense of achievement.
There is a lot more to stone setting than I can write here but to produce some of the world’s best set jewels, a lot of training, skill and expertise and patience is necessary.
So that's it for this blog and I'm wrapping up now until end September as I’m taking a break over the Summer to do other things. Meantime take care and stay safe
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