Settings for Irregularly Shaped Stones and Objects

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Intro

image-irregular-stones

Applied prongs, tabs, prongs, rub-over, claw, wire, etc. are a few types of settings that work for setting unusually shaped objects.  There are more and other methods.  I’ll cover a few on this page.

Getting Started – First Steps

Planning

Planning your design, on paper, is very useful – although not imperative. Sketches can help you to decide on the best design, allow you to work out technical issues like:  if I solder the bail there how will I push over the prongs?, and plan your measurements, among many other design concerns.

Things to consider when designing with settings:

  • Do you want the backing to be visible or do you want minimal metal showing?
  • What metal are you using?
  • What gauge of wire and/or metal are you using?
  • How will the piece be worn:  will it receive a lot of stress like with a ring or a bracelet or will it be subjected to minimal stress as with a necklace or earrings.
  • How will you attach the setting?
  • Where are you placing your prongs and why?
  • Is the material protected sufficiently?
  • Does the setting make sense with your design?
  • Does it show your stone/object in its best light?

Designing

Pull out your sketchbook and trace your stone.  Next design around the stone.  Are you using a wire base, a cut-out base, a solid base?  Draw each of these – if you desire.

Here are some ideas and notes on two different stones. I draw as many as needed until I come up with a design that appeals to me.  Often, I’ll add metal elements like petals, bails, leaves, patterned wire, alongside the drawing and/or the stone to get a feel for the piece, that is yet to be.

planning-and-sketching

Once you’ve decided on a design, it’s time to transfer it to metal.  This can involve freehanding or you can create a pattern using templates, rulers and other drawing aids or you can reproduce the image in a photo editing software like Photoshop.  Please see my page: Photo Editing Software for more information on different programs.  Also, my video:  Creating Patterns for Jewelry Designs to see how I make my patterns.

tracing-object-onto-metal  Generally, you’ll start by tracing your stone onto the metal sheet but, I’ve also scanned stones, in my printer, and then glued them to the sheet metal.  Take into account any extra width added by shadows caused by the scanner!  You can also trace on paper and then glue that on, to saw out. But, one way or the other,  you’ll need to transfer your object’s shape to your metal.

When tracing your stone, keep your scribe, pen or pencil perpendicular.  If you angle it inwardly or outwardly, you will not get an accurate representation of the shape.

Flat-backed stones will be the easiest to set but, you are not limited to items with flat backs.  The coral I set in my video: Prong Setting for Unusually Shaped Stones, only touched the back plate in three locations!  If this is your first setting, try using a flat-backed stone – just to make it a tad easier on your brain – until you’ve got it trained!

setting-coral  Coral touches in only 3 spots!

There are many different methods for setting irregularly-shaped stones.  Beaducation demonstrates creating a very simple wire-based setting for this process.  (See Research, below).

Please see my video for step-by-step help in creating a setting for an irregularly shaped stone.  I will, hopefully, be creating more videos featuring different styles of setting, irregularly shaped material.

Styles of settings

Most of the styles of setting can be combined in some fashion.

prong-set-with-backplate  Method One:  similar to the setting seen in my video: Prong Settings for Unusually Shaped Stones.   Here, the bezel is created and soldered to a backplate that extends past the bezel.  If the backplate is larger than the bezel, then the plate can be textured, patterned, sawn, etc.  If attaching a bail or a link to the bezel wall, use a heavier gauge metal for the bezel.  Gauges of 24, 22 and 20, will be of sufficient thickness to safely support the connected item.  Design options include creating tabs to hold bails, links or hinges.  With this type of setting, the prongs are usually inserted into holes drilled into the backplate.  Backplate material should be of sufficient thickness as to not distort.  28 gauge would be too thin and 26 might be pushing it!

cut-out-back-plate-prong-setting  Method Two:  This method involves piercing out the back of the backplate.  It can be combined with method one or a variety of other settings.  If the plate is trimmed to the size of the bezel, you can still pierce out the back.  Generally, I’d use a thicker material:  24 gauge and up for the backplate as the removal of extra material weakens the entire structure.  See method one and three for prong placement.  If creating a brooch with this method, consider the placement of your pin setting.

prong-setting-invisible   Method Three:  Here, the backplate is trimmed to be the same size as the outer dimension of the bezel.  The back can be pierced.  Backplate gauges that are appropriate are 24 gauge and up for larger stones and 28 gauge and up for small stones.  If you are attaching a bail or other connections, directly to the bezel, use a heavier gauge as discussed in method one. Prongs are attached to the sides of the bezel wall or to the backplate, if it is thick enough. 

wire-prong-setting  Method Four: This type of setting is made entirely of wire.  Usually, the backplate is smaller than the stone with prongs extending from the back wire and curved over the stone.  The prongs can be notched on the inside edges, bent and soldered, to create a stronger, sharper bend.  Remember:  there are quite a few different profiles of wire besides round.  Try using square, triangular, 1/2 round (“D” shaped) and custom wire shapes.  There are drawplates available to make a variety of different shapes.

bezel-design-ideas  Some ideas for setting crystals and oddly shaped materials.  This involves creating custom bezels.   I came up with these 8 ideas in about 10 minutes.  Just start doodling and watch what happens!  Sometimes, the stone will dictate what shape it would like the bezel to be – listen to it!  Flame shapes might be great for a fiery red stone, tree shapes for a leaf-green stone.  Sharp crystals might inspire, sharp, spiky prongs.

Ideas for prongs

prong-ideas  You can also create prongs in a variety of shapes either in wire or in sheet.  Here are a few ideas to chew on!

Examples

coral-brooch-sept-2016-copy  Brooch featured in my video.  Prong set using Method One above.

yeah-ring-white-background  The Yeah Ring with wire prongs – similar to Method Four, above.

rockcandyp  Rock Candy ring – prongs are attached as in Method Three, above.

.final-pendant  Abalone set with tabs.  Similar in concepts to Method Three but, using sheet to create the tabs, instead of wire.

So, for now, this is what I have.  There are so many types of settings for unusually shaped materials.  It would be very time consuming and perhaps impossible, to write instructions on each style of setting as the settings are often uniquely designed for the material.  As I mentioned earlier, I’ll try to create a few more videos on this subject.  Hope this information is helpful!  Nancy

Research

Websites

Books

Some books that contain a little information on setting irregular materials.

Videos

Copyright @ Nancy LT Hamilton 2010.  All Rights Reserved.

Created: October 15, 2016.