After spending 3 years studying Diamonds and Gemstones at the School of Jewellery, it was time to learn something new and I’m not 100% sure why, but of all the hands on jewellery skills that you can learn, stone setting was the one that really appealed to me. Maybe it is because it is quite a complimentary skill to gemmology?
So over the summer of 2018, I went and put my name down to do the Stone Setting short course, which lasts for one (nearly) academic year. As with all of the short courses, I was given an October start date and my next time setting foot in the school would be the night of the first class.
The First Class
Going to my first class was a mix of anticipation and excitement as I had absolutely no idea what to expect!
Sitting in the school atrium waiting to go down to our class, I met Becca, one of the most unique yet amazing people I have ever met and who I would go on to have many laughs with both inside and outside of class. On paper, I’m not sure that you would put the two of us together as friends but we just seemed to ‘click’. Anyway, she would make the class much more entertaining than it would have been!
Sitting down at our benches for the first time, I could see that there was a very varied mix of people in the class and the first guy I spoke to in there Rhys, happened to be a jobbing jeweller, who wanted to add more skills to his arsenal. He was a great source of knowledge, especially I was as green as they come when it came to anything hands on.
The first class was basically just meeting our tutor John, who was a very experienced stone setter and him showing/telling us what tools we needed to acquire. I didn’t know what half the tools he was talking about were!
The First Project
As we got towards the end of the class, we bought our first project ring. A cast, 3mm bezel ring and was told to go away and prep it. What the hell was prep it? I had no idea but Rhys gave me a two minute run down of what it meant.
Needless to say, my first attempt at doing this was…. Poor to say the least. But in my defence, I had barely any tools, had never done it before and had no real idea what I was doing. John was not impressed when I showed him the following week!
Anyway, in the second lesson we were shown how to do it and then told to go and have a go, my first attempt at stone setting lead to a broken CZ and a knackard ring, Great Start!
My second attempt was much more successful, not only was the prep a lot better but I got the stone to stay in and it wasn’t broken. Even though the quality of the finish wasn’t great, I was extremely proud of that ring and I still have it to this day.
Along with attempting to set our first ring, the first few lessons were all about getting our tools ready. The prep work involved shaping our rods into pushers and grinding our gravers down so that were usable. With only having a single grinder in the class and over 15 students, this involved waiting around!
Once these were done, we began practising how to do start settings on a piece of sterling silver sheet. Needless to say, these attempts weren’t great, but we all have to start somewhere!
Project 2: The Eternity Ring
Not long after completing the first ring, we were given our second project and this felt like a big jump after the simple bezel ring but we were tasked with grain setting an eternity ring.
Now, as I said above, we had been practising using our gravers on a piece of silver sheet to create stars and then grains. But it still felt a bit intimidating to work on something like this so quickly.
While I managed to finish this one on my first attempt, many others in the class were not so lucky and quite a few of these ended up being scrapped.
Project 3: 6 Claw Solitaire
My stubbornness came back to bite me pretty quickly as I royally screwed up the next project! It was a very nice, 6 claw setting for a 5mm round stone and while my first attempt wasn’t too bad, John told me to go and improve it, which resulted in me completely destroying the ring.
On the plus side, I now had a scrap shank to practise using my new pendant drill on!
For anyone new to stone setting, it is my opinion that having good control with your rotary tool, whether a Dremel, pendant drill or micromotor is on of the most important things and when it starts feeling more comfortable using one of these, your stone setting will improve a lot. I know mine did.
I’m not going to bore you with writing a section about every project I did but I will post a picture of some of the other projects below, with a short description of each one.
A 4 claw solitaire with a 4mm round CZ
A 4 claw twist style setting with a 7mm round CZ
A 10 claw solitaire ring with an 8mm round CZ
A 9×4.5mm Marquise Garnet in a Rubover Setting
Trilogy Ring set with 3 6x4mm Oval CZ’s
- 8x6mm Oval Solitaire (Claw)
- 8x6mm Emerald Solitaire (Claw)
- 6mm 8 Claw w/ Tapered Baguette Shoulders
My Biggest Achievement
We were given quite a few different challenges in the first year and as you can see above, there was a mixture of successes and failures but by far the biggest achievement for the year was the Oval Cluster Ring.
This took patience I never knew I had to finish! But I was incredibly proud of the finished article and it proved to me that with perseverance and determination, I could do this and that I was right to stick with it.
The main stone is a 8x6mm oval CZ with 16, 2mm outer stones. I do wish I had gone for a synthetic Ruby or Sapphire instead of the CZ though.
This was a very enjoyable and challenging year but I personally would have preferred a bit more structure to the course, rather than jumping from one setting style to the next. For example doing a few different types of bezel setting to really get your head around it, before moving on to claw setting and so on.
While I came out of the course with a host of new skills, I knew I had a long way to go and was still quite unsure on some of the basics. Obviously, I have carried on practising and learning ever since and will happily pick a stone setters brain whenever I get the chance.
But I certainly don’t regret doing the course and meeting Becca and Rhys has only been a good thing. One thing I am pretty sure of, is that this is not going to be the last stone setting course I ever do.