12 Tips on Stone Setting and More from the Artists in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist
The jewelry making projects in 5+ Ways to Set Stones are among my favorites. Besides being pretty, elegant, or surprising, they all feature gems or other elements held with stone setting techniques. The project instructions also offer valuable insight into designing and building settings you don’t come across every day. Here are tips and advice from each of the artists represented in this compilation e-book.
This Sunflower Holds the Sun
In their Riveted Sterling Sunflower Pendant, Tom & Kay Benham create a showy setting for a large, vibrant centerpiece of torch-fired enamel. You’ll learn to create petals of silver, rivet them together, and use their edges to hold your focal firmly in place–all without soldering.
Riveting Tip: “The secret to successful riveting? Start by drilling only the holes in the top layer. Then align, punch, and rivet one hole at a time through all the layers, using the top one as a guide.”
Tube Set a Flower Center
If you want to create a flower pendant with just a wink of gemstone, try Debra Hoffmaster’s Silver Dimensional Pendant. Learn to create this silver flower and build your own tube setting for a small faceted stone for the flower’s eye. You could also go with a manufactured tube set. Other options include using the flower as a pin.
Prep It: When you’re ready to tube set, first “file the top of the tubing so that it is flat and the opening perfectly circular.”
Punch, Then Drill: “Use a center punch to make a small divot in the metal. Use a metal plate or steel bench block to prevent your metal from distorting as you punch.”
Tab Set a Fossil
Linda Larsen’s Tabbed Fossil Coral Pendant shows you how to secure a stone on a back plate with tabs. Made without soldering, the tabs give you a broader hold than prongs and more area to work into your design.
Tab Tip: “Cut tabs longer than you think you’ll need. They’re easily trimmed when you set the stone, and you may have to start over if they’re too short.”
Fit Tip: “I do a lot of fussing with chain nose pliers. I can make the curves perfect and adjust the metal or wire until it’s exactly where my eye wants it. I like working on Coco — my vintage dress form! It allows me to work with the curves of the body and adjust them with my pliers.”
Hang Drilled Disks
Tom & Kay Benham gave some serious thought on how best to use a lovely piece of stone for their Montana Agate Disk Earrings. Their simple design uses minimal metal and gives the stones lots of movement. They’ll show you how to cut, drill, and polish the agates as well as fabricate the soldered silver hangers for them. If you have your own stone disks, start with those.
Grip Tip: “Using a small, T-shape handle constructed of duct tape folded back on itself allows you more control of each disk” when grinding or sanding on a lap. “There is no worse sound than the twang of your piece as it’s flung across the room from the spinning lap. The handle also allows you to orient the disk on each lap so it’s at right angles to the previously ground scratches. This lets you see when they’ve been replaced with finer scratches.”
Riveted Petrified Wood
To show off an elongated, irregular piece of petrified wood and some rusty metal she adored, Linda Larsen formed and riveted a hanger around one end of the wood. Then she forged heavy gauge bronze wire for a neckring to complete the rugged look for her Cold Connected Pendant.
Drill Tip: “A hockey puck is very inexpensive and a nice hard surface to drill on. A drill bit can drill into the puck with no harm.”
Cap a Curved Pendant
“Setting a cabochon or faceted stone is one thing,” says unconventional jeweler Roger Halas, “because these easily lend themselves to conventional prong settings, bezels, or some unique and fashionable hybrid of the two. But what to do with something odd like a tooth, crystal, or piece of antler or wood?” The answer here: an elaborate, gem-set, wire-decorated, feathered silver setting that perfectly caps off a long, smooth, white boar’s tusk.
DIY Stamp-Driver? “This stamp is a modified screwdriver bit.” Comes complete with a good handle!
Finish Tip: “For complex fabrications, smooth out portions like these feathers before adding anything else. Otherwise, as you add more elements, the stacking can make previously soldered details difficult or impossible to reach during polishing.”
Solder Tip: “Melt some solder on the back of each feather. Once the solder reaches its melting temperature, it will immediately fuse the joint. Called charging, this is like creating an overlay for a flat piece, except that your surface is curved.”
To Stacia Woods, creating a Sculptural Gem Pendant is a dance between stone and metal, and in this case the stone leads. To hold it she created a spare wire and tubing framework, adding a tube set diamond and a pegged pearl drop to finish the elegant piece.
Custom Cage: “A cage-like mounting securely holds the gem. It’s placed against a point on the back of the sculpture where several grooves come together, from where I fan out a series of wires. The tubing extends to the bottom of the carving and prevents the pendant from rolling when worn.”
Tube Cutting Tip: “Saw partway through the tube to begin, turn the tubing, and continue until it is cut all the way through. This will help you cut it evenly.”
Peg Tip: “File the peg with small notches or use a tap and die set to thread the peg. This will hold the pearl more securely in place when it’s cemented.”
Virtuoso Problem Solving
This one you just have to see. Odds are you won’t be duplicating it, but you will learn so much that you won’t want to miss Grant Robinson’s Flower Pendant with a Secret. And no, I’m not telling what the secret is! But I will share a little of his approach to construction.
“As with any complex piece, the first step forward was to think backward from the final pendant suspended from a chain. What size should it be? How should it be proportioned so it hangs correctly? To answer these questions, each element was created using software to render three dimensional objects.” CAD helped enormously, but it still only went so far. After the parts were cast, “each piece had to be adjusted through sanding and grinding to fit together with its partners.”
But so worth it!
Editor-in-Chief of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist