Stone-Setting Guide: 4 Types of Gemstone Settings and Must-have Tools for Successful Bezels
Setting stones is an advanced skill that can separate hobby jewelry making from artisan jewelry creations. Sure, you can buy premade bezels and solder them in place, but the ability to make your own bezels and set stones in them is a crucial metalsmithing skill to learn if you want to use unusual, freeform, and custom-cut stones in your jewelry creations, as well as to set found objects like sea glass and river rocks in bezels. Plus, being able to make your own bezels (in standard or unusual sizes) is more cost-effective than buying premade bezels–and then you have the added bonus of being able to say your creation is entirely handmade.
In addition to providing you the ability to add gemstones to your jewelry, ideally enhancing their designs, being able to bezel-set-stones also provides protection for those gems.
Stone-Setting Techniques: Four Types of Gemstone Settings
Whether you’re making diamond settings or cabochon settings or anything in between, there are four basic types of bezel settings used for setting gemstones:
- A tube setting looks as if the stone is set inside a short section of metal tubing. This is a substantial setting that provides a contemporary look and creates height in the jewelry design.
- Gypsy setting is just the opposite, as it positions the stone’s table flush with the surface of the surrounding metal, giving the look of a stone suspended in metal as if it were cast there.
- A crown or coronet setting is basically a prong setting. Crown settings get their name from their appearance; they look like a crown when viewed from the side.
- A bead setting uses tiny beads of metal to hold a stone in place, such as in pave settings.
Making Successful Bezels for Setting Stones
The key to a successful bezel lies in making very precise measurements and then making very precise cuts to match those measurements–and then putting all the pieces together (you guessed it) very precisely. After creating the bezel or other type of stone setting with precise measuring and fitting, there’s also the task of attaching the setting to the jewelry piece or base and literally securing the stone within the setting … and not necessarily in that order.
Stone-Setting and Bezel-Making Tools
Setting gems is a process that typically involves both hand and machine work, and there are a variety of specialized tools and supplies that can be used while setting stones, including:
- A drill, Dremel, or flex shaft and handpiece
- Burs and bits
- Eye magnification such as CraftOptics telescopes or an Optivisor,
- Clamp or a vice to serve as a third hand
- Bezel pusher or other burnishing tool
- Specialty pliers, such as prong-setting pliers
- Setting punches
- Burlife or other lubricant
- Setter’s wax or beeswax
When setting stones, you should know the Mohs hardness of the stone (or other item) that you’re setting and how it compares to the hardness of the tools that you’re using. If you’re setting very soft stones, such as amber or coral, use softer tools (such as copper, wood, or plastic) when possible to prevent accidental scratches. Every stone you set will be different than the others, and you’ll have the opportunity to learn something new with each one. Enjoy the journey!