When it comes to variations of gem setting styles, there are literally thousands to choose from. But of the thousands of variations, there are only a handful of fundamental setting techniques.
A setting is a structure into which a gemstone is placed into jewelry. Most times, the setting will be comprised of some type of metal or alloy, but nowadays, we are seeing unconventional materials being used such as ceramic, leather and even rubber. The setting is typically designed with claws, prongs, a bezel, or other means to secure the gemstone in place. The task of setting a gemstone can be simple or complex, depending on the size and shape of the gem as well as the type of setting.
The most common gem setting styles are prong, bezel and channel style settings. These styles of settings are used frequently for rings, earrings and pendants.
The bezel setting was the earliest technique used for gemstone setting. In a bezel setting a piece of metal partially or completely surrounds the stone to hold it in place. This setting technique and style is ideal for cabochon or facet-cut gemstones. The main advantage of a bezel setting is that it protects and secures the set gem very well. Bezel settings in gemstone jewelry are usually more expensive than other styles, since more precious metals must be used in order to properly secure the gemstone.
Prong Setting is the most common technique used for gemstone setting. It is fairly simple and requires the least amount of material to secure the gemstone into the jewelry, which means that it may be the least expensive method or setting style. In a prong or claw style setting, there are typically three or more pieces of metal extending above the base of the setting, creating a nest for the gemstone to be set. A gemstone is then placed in between the prongs or claws, which are then bent slightly over the stone to hold it into place. Usually the prongs will be notched so that the girdle of the gemstone sits firmly in the prong.
Prong setting techniques were designed to provide maximum exposure to light and although this is great for resulting in fire and brilliance, this does leave the gem more vulnerable to damage or even worse, loss. For this reason, prong style settings should be checked frequently for loose or damaged prongs.
The technique of channel setting is when gemstones are placed in a channel between 2 metal or alloy strips. The stones flow continuously side-by-side and uninterrupted, because no materials are placed in between them as dividers. The metal channel is designed to be slightly higher and narrower than the gemstones it will accommodate. The channel walls will have small grooves to fit the gemstones and after the stones have been placed in the channel, the top of the walls are filed down over the top edge of the gems, closing them in while leaving the tops exposed.
This technique is very popular for use in engagement and wedding rings styles, especially used for melee accents. Channel setting styles are very protective of set gems since they are enclosed, but as a result, the gems will generally appear darker with the lack of flowing light.
Other Notable Styles and Techniques
Other notable setting techniques and styles are beaded, pave, flush and burnish styles. Each and every setting technique has its benefits, and of course, their flaws. For this reason, those looking to turn their loose gemstones into wonderful finished jewelry designs, are encouraged to learn about different gem setting styles and techniques.