Jewelry-makers and artisans pay attention to how to combine precious metals and gemstones to maximize the beauty and luster of their pieces. Precious and semiprecious stones can be combined with a great variety of precious metals and settings. Gold, silver, platinum, copper, and bronze have all been used through the ages to make personal adornments. Knowing the different types of settings for gemstones can help you select a pleasing style for jewelry you select for yourself or a loved one.
Polished Precious Metal
Most rings, chains, and bracelets start out as precious metal that’s bent and formed with tools into the desired shape. Then, artisans polish the piece to a high sheen to enhance its beauty and to strengthen it, a process known as work hardening. There’s a variety of techniques to finish and polish the metal parts of jewelry, but most jewelers use tumblers to remove rough edges and polish the metal before they set the gemstones.
Selecting the Setting
The setting is the part of the piece of jewelry that holds the gemstones in place. The most familiar is the prong setting, often seen in engagement rings. The style of the piece and the type of stone used both influence the choice of setting. For example, some precious stones are lovely when light shines through them; for these, settings that allow light to pass through—such as a prong setting—are best. Other types of settings create different effects. Some of the most popular include:
A gem is set into a bowl-shaped strip of metal, the top of which is then bent over the top of the stone to set it in place. Bezels don’t allow much light to pass through the gem, and they might dim the gleam of faceted stones.
Bead and pave settings
These settings are typically used for very small stones to create the look of a surface encrusted with gems. In a bead setting, you can typically still discern individual stones. Pave settings put the gems very close together in fields, where they share indented “beads” to create a surface paved with gems.
In a channel setting, gems are lined up in a row between two walls of metal. This setting can be used to dramatic effect when the size of the gems in the channel and the width of the channel gradually diminish, creating a tapering or meandering appearance.
In a flush setting, stones are set into holes drilled into the metal so that the surface of the stone is flush with the surface of the metal. The stones are usually spread farther apart than in bead settings. The polished finished pieces give a sparkling effect more subtle and modern than that of bead or pave settings.
Different types of gemstone settings work better for some stones over others. If you need antique gems reset or would like to incorporate existing precious stones into a new piece of jewelry, work with a skilled, professional jeweler to select the proper setting for your gems.