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Gemstones Overview

Instructions on the parts of a gemstone used in jewelry making:

Making Gemstone Jewelry -- The Terminology

Almost everyone has seen a cut and faceted gemstone, but most people do not know the terms used to describe the parts of a gemstone.  If you view the figure at right, you can see the names for different parts of a cut and faceted gemstone. 

In the picture shown at right, the girdle is very thin.  This is usually desirable as the girdle is the part of the gemstone that is used to set the stone into a piece of jewelry.  The picture does not show that the girdle could actually be comparatively much wider than shown.  A wide girdle is not desirable because it makes it more difficult to set the stone. 

Setting of a gemstone into a piece of jewelry normally entails using the metal of the "setting" to hold the gemstone both above and below the girdle.  In the Tiffany setting, there are four metal prongs that make up the setting.  These four prongs will each have a notch cut in them by a skilled craftsman called a "setter".  The notch is what grips and holds the girdle of the gemstone.  For the Tiffany and similar styles of settings, the setting is cast.  (For most casting techniques, the notch can not be cast as part of the setting for the simple reason that having the notch will interfere with removing the casting from the mold.) 

The job of the setter is to cut the notches into the cast setting and to position the gemstone in the notches.  The setting of the gemstone is completed by manipulating the prongs so that the stone is held firmly in place. 

Setting of a gemstone is one of the most difficult steps in making gemstone jewelry.  In fact, the setter normally carries insurance, because they are liable if the gemstone breaks during the setting process.  When setting natural, mined gemstones, the natural imperfections that can occur in mined gemstones can become fracture points if the stone is handled roughly while being set.  For this reason, setters are one of the most highly skilled jewelry craftsmen.  Normally in the price of a finished piece of gemstone jewelry the setter will charge 5-10% of the finished price of the jewelry for setting the gemstone. 

Bling Aquamarine Earrings Jewelry Making Project

Now for the good news.  First, cubic zirconia (CZs) and man-made gemstones are completely free of imperfections so they are far less vulnerable to being fractured during the setting process.   Second, we are no longer restricted to settings designed in the 19th century like the Tiffany setting.  New types of settings like the snap-fit and castlite settings are pre-notched and made so that the gemstone can easily snap into position.  Because CZs and man-made gemstones are so inexpensive, and strong, and because of the new types of setting that do not require that a notch be cut into the prongs of the setting, there is almost no need for the highly skilled setter.  In fact, the settings in our Internet store are made to be set by beginners to advanced beginners to making gemstone jewelry.



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