“You should know what kind of shape you’re in,” joked Arthur Anton Skuratowicz during an MJSA At the Bench Live demonstration he gave last month at the AGTA GemFair in Tucson.
While sharing gemstone setting tips for fancy shaped and raw gemstones with the audience, Skuratowicz, who runs The Jewelry Training Center, said the better you know the contour of the gemstone you are setting, the better the jewelry item you are making will hold it.
Whether you are working with a raw crystal, a custom faceted gemstone, or just a chunky, free-specimen, the setting edge affects the safety and stability of the setting job. There are several ways to prepare the marriage of stone to metal. If the item is to be cast from a wax model, you can mold heat-tolerant gemstones directly into the wax. Due to metal shrinkage during casting, you will need to do some final fitting.
With stones that do not tolerate heat well of for fabricated jewelry items, Skuratowicz suggested taking an impression of the stone using a kneaded rubber art eraser. Press the setting edge of a faceted stone directly into the eraser multiple times to get girdle thickness impressions, taking note of the thickest area. You can use this as a guideline for fabricating the stone setting or wax carving.
With raw gemstones, press the stone into the eraser to show its contours, which can help you to select the best area for metal contact or the type of opening necessary to secure the stone.
When working with unusual stone shapes, using this customized “bench press” will ensure your finished jewelry pieces stay in good shape for years to come.