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The following article is written as part of our series titled On the Bench With Master Jeweler Eric Sanchez.
When you bring your diamond or gemstone to Samuelson’s for a stone setting, what happens behind the scenes and how is it done? As the Master Jeweler here, it is one of my favorite jobs to do. Here, I will show you how we get those precious stones so precisely fitted into their metallic housings.
In modern times, center diamonds have become front and center when it comes to engagement rings, fashion rings, and even pendants. While many antique rings do involve a main center stone of some kind, many times styles played more with a double or triple stone setup in a filigree mounting.
The most common shape/cut sought after is the classic round diamond. As stone cutting methods have improved over time, diamonds today are so beautifully faceted and brilliant that they are worth showing off from every possible angle. Enter the timeless four prong tall Tiffany setting. Different from the common basket setting, a Tiffany setting minimizes the amount of metal surrounding the center stone and instead replaces the support with four thick squared prongs, proudly hoisting the center stone up high (but not too high), allowing for natural light to bring out all its beautiful features.
Setting a diamond into a Tiffany setting isn’t as complex as, let’s say, a bezel set. The main things I take into account are the size, height, and thickness of the girdle (the surrounding edge). Most mountings come with a sort of pre-notched suggestion to where the stone should sit, but these aren’t always the best place to start making cuts for the reasons stated above. While every stone strives to be perfectly cut, no diamond or gemstone is the same, much like a beautiful and unique person.
I like to open up the prongs and simply sit the stone in first, making sure any slight variations in the stone will allow it to sit as straight as possible. If anything makes me feel like I should cut one side deeper, I’ll do so to ensure that both the culet and table are visibly level when looking at the ring from the side. Once I’ve decided where and how deep to make the grooves for the girdle to sit in, the prongs brought back in snuggly, and I’m satisfied, then I use a special tool to start bringing the tips of the prong down over the crown of the stone.
This part is the most squeamish as this is where a jeweler has to decide when to stop pulling the metal over as the goal is to start pinning the stone permanently, but also not to pinch the girdle. Diamonds are the strongest gem, but they are indeed breakable. The key is to push metal over bit by bit, checking that the stone is still moveable. Once all four prongs have been pulled down, and the stone can no longer move, it is time to stop.
To make sure the prongs really hold that diamond good, some extra cuts under the prongs can be made to further add “grip” but sometimes it isn’t necessary if there is enough metal holding it from the get-go. A ton of care is taken at this stage as this is where I will make sure that this is where the stone will live for decades to come. Finally, with the stone set and secure, the tips of the prongs are filed and buffed down until they are a proper height and thickness. We want that stone to take precedence when it’s being shown off to the world, so thick prong tips are avoided. A final polish, cleaning, and sometimes rhodium plating is done and the ring is ready to become the symbol it was meant to be for that special day.
Come see us and I will be more than happy to set your diamond here at Samuelson’s!