10 Types of Stone Setting for Your Jewelry Designs
Who doesn’t love including gorgeous stones in their jewelry designs? Nothing enhances a piece more than a colorful fabulous gem. The first technique that comes to mind when thinking of stone setting is, of course, the traditional bezel. But there are a lot more ways to set stones—and experimenting with those alternative techniques can be a joy!
ABOVE: Colorful gemstones. Photo: J-Palys; Getty Images.
Stone Setting: Prongs
I’ll admit that I love prong settings. Using prongs instead of a bezel can often let more of the stone show, making it truly the centerpiece of your design. One of my favorite prong-set designs is Roger Halas’s Dawn of the Trilobite Pendant from the November 2016 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist. Roger combines prong and bezel settings in this design. I love the setting, and I love the awesome fossil—although the prong technique would obviously work for many other stones.
Wire working also lends itself very well to creating prongs. The Reversible Cabochon Prong Setting by Margie Farrin O’Conner was featured in the Fall 2007 issue of Step By Step Wire Jewelry. Not only does the wire make great prongs (by heating and balling the ends of the wire), but the open wirework on the back shows of the other side of the stone perfectly.
Stone Setting: Flush Setting
Helen Driggs’ Secret Sapphire and Sterling Ring (from Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, February 2013) is a masterpiece! The stones are set directly into the sterling silver instead of on top of the metal. It’s a very streamlined and elegant look, perfect for a ring.
Stone Setting: Tube Set
A different take on traditional bezels is tube setting. The stone is set into an appropriately sized and shaped tube. You can get pre-made tubes or create your own. An awesome example of tube setting is Eva Sherman’s Three Stone Ring from the April 2017 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist. The three tubes and three stones make a fantastic open design.
Partial Stone Setting
If you have an incredible stone and you want to show off every possible side and angle, try a partial stone setting. A partial setting doesn’t surround the whole stone; it just touches parts of the stone while still holding it securely. Check out Andy Lucas’s Partial Settings Pendant which was shown in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, January/February 2012. A stone setting doesn’t get more beautiful that this!
Stone on Stone Setting
Do you have two contrasting or complimentary stones? Want to put them together? Well, you could always put one stone on top of the other! Stone on stone settings look tremendously complicated. Everyone will wonder how you did it. (Tell them it’s magic.) But these settings can be deceptively simple to do. For an excellent example, see James Dunakin’s Stone on Stone Ring (from Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, December 2013). How cool is that?
Stone Setting: Inlay
One of the most beautiful ways to set your stones is to use an inlay technique. Basically, you fit your stones (cut to the right shapes) into your metal like a jigsaw puzzle. It’s stunning!
Jeff Fulkerson is the master of this technique as you can see in both his Native-American Hammer Set Pendant (from Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, August 2015) and Inlaid Cuff (February 2010). I must admit that, in all of the jewelry-making project we’ve featured over the years, these are two of my very favorites.
Stone Setting: Wire Wrapping
One of the most popular ways to set stones (especially if you’re not into metalwork) is wire wrapping. Wire wrapped jewelry designs can have a very elegant, almost ethereal look. And the basic techniques can be fairly simple to master. You can then build on the basics to create some absolutely stunning designs. I love to play with different wire wrapping techniques. They’re fun! One of my favorite examples is Dale Armstrong’s Wire Wrapped Malachite Pendant, featured in the July 2009 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist. Not only does it demonstrate a great wire-wrapping design, it also uses my all-time favorite stone, malachite. I adore the play of the deep green against the Argentium silver. Awesome!
Stone Setting: Wire Bezels
Another less structured way to use wire for setting stones is to create your own wire bezels. You can really let your imagination soar! Your freeform wire bezels can be as simple or complex if you want. And it you make a mistake, you can easily tell everybody that you meant to do it that way. Score! For inspiration, check out Lisa Niven Kelly’s Entangled Wire Bezel from Step By Step Wire Jewelry, Summer Preview 2007. Then take the design from there and make it your own.
Metal Clay Stone Settings
Have you ever tried using metal clay for your jewelry creations? If not, give it a try! It’s fun and versatile . . . and just so cool! There are actually several ways to set stones in metal clay. Arlene Mornick’s Linked Metal Clay Bracelet with Stones (Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, November 2016) demonstrates six (count ‘em, six) such techniques. And there’s no torch required—although you do, of course, need a kiln to fire the metal clay. But the end result is amazing!
Stone Setting: Cap Mounting
Last but certainly not least, here is a fantastic way to set odd stones, especially fabulous fossils. Do you have a fossilized tooth? A dinosaur claw? Or just something tooth-shaped that you want to show off to its best advantage? Well, consider a cap mounting. It’s exactly what the name says it is—a cap that fits over one end of the stone. You end up with a funky, modern design—just like Roger Halas did with his Cap Mounted Pendant with Solder Inlay from Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, May/June 2014. It’s wonderful!
Start Setting Stones!
Sure, a lot of these techniques may look a bit complicated. And they can be somewhat intimidating if you’re new to stone setting. But (as my mother would have said) don’t fret! You can get started with Sam Patania’s Easy Prong Setting Collection. It includes Sam Patania’s prong setting supplies, which he demonstrated with a project in the January/February 2018 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist. Sam’s pre-made prong settings are a simple way to set your stones and incorporate them into your designs.
The collection also includes that issue as well as project downloads that will allow you to practice stone setting techniques. It also gives you one of my favorite books, Gemstone Settings: The Jewelry Maker’s Guide to Styles & Techniques. You can’t go wrong!
So get ready. Get set. Set.
Managing Editor, Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist