Aligning gypsy set stones

I really like the look of a row of gypsy set stones (maybe black/d
ark blue sapphires) in the middle of a plain silver band, but
eyeballing the drill locations was spotty at best on my 3.00 ring I
bought at the fleamarket for practice. I got the 8 spots pretty well
matched up, but the center line goes a little crooked in three
places. Any easy way of lining this all up without the use of some
expensive gadget?

You could make a fine scratched line with a divider, using the edge
of the ring as a guide (if it is a straight band ring).


Using a pair of dividers is recommended for determining the center
of the band, as well as insuring equal spacing between the drill
locations for the stone centers.

I prefer the style of dividers with flat inner legs rather than
round legs. This tool is less likely to slip and scratch the band
while scribing the

center marks with one leg sliding along the side of the object.

As an interesting aside, my first formal goldsmithing instructor at
Revere (1986) told us a dividers is one of the goldsmith’s most
important tools. I agree. This device allows us to make precise even
measurements, to divide areas into equal increments, and to find the
center of a circle. This is especially useful for stone setters.

Michael David Sturlin

If I’m understanding your setup…you have a 3mm wide band with
smaller stones?

if so… use a pair of dividers to find center of band and scribe
your centerline. Mark locations of stones. Drill with an undersize
bit. Use a bud bur to enlarge the holes. If you find the hole is off
center simply tilt the bur to cut more on one side, bringing the hole
back into alignment. This way you can ‘walk’ the hole where ever you
want it, within limits. Finish off with whatever bur you find best
for your particular seat.

Any easy way of lining this all up without the use of some expensive

I always wanted to find a jewelry sized indexing table but the number
of times I’d use it vs the no cost way illustrated above…well, the
cheap side of me wins out.

This is how I do it.

Use a pair of dividers set to half the width of the ring to mark the
center of the band widthwise by sliding one tip along one side of the
ring and the other in the center of the ring, and then repeat on the
other side. Don’t mark too deeply (you will have to polish off
whatever marks you make). Doing this on both sides will most likely
give you a double line, between the two lines is the exact center.
This will make up for slight variations in width and your holding

Coat the ring with sticky wax or a slightly sucked on Jolly Roger
candy (a Blaine Lewis New Approach trick), and stick the stones
table-side down on the ring in the position you want them. Be sure to
allow a little more room between the stones than you want them,
(about 10 to 20% of the diameter should get you in the right ball
park if you want them close together) as the holes will move together
as the hole goes radially toward the center of the ring. Use a small
pointer to unstick the stones from the ring (hold a finger over them
so they don’t go “Ping” across the room) and then mark the center of
the impression made by the table between the two lines you scribed.

Set your dividers to the center of two adjacent marks and go from
one end of the row to the other (start in the center and work out
towards the two ends if there is a center to the top of the ring)
checking the distance from mark to mark Correct as necessary, but be
sure you don’t move them closer together at this stage. Make a scribe
line with the dividers over each mark to form an X after you get the
spacing right. Go in both directions so the slightly curved lines
center at the widthwise center line. It’ll probably look like they
are too far apart, but they will tighten up more than you think.
Better to have a little gap than to cut the seats and find the
girdles are going to touch (that’s a sure fire way to break stones).
Use a center punch or a small ball bur to deepen the final mark and
drill the holes. As you drill, start with a small drill bit and turn
the ring over and over as you drill to avoid drilling crooked. You
can correct it a little bit by pushing the bit a little sideways as
you drill with a larger drill bit (don’t side-load the bit too much -
especially a small one - or you will be searching the archives for
"How do I remove a broken drill bit?" Gentle and slow is the trick
here). With the crossed lines, you should be able to tell if you get
off track.

Happy drilling!


A pair of dividers is all you need. To mark the center line, set the
dividers close to half the width of the ring, then scribe the centre
line by running one leg of the dividers along the edge of the ring
and repeat from the opposite edge of the ring. You should then have
two lines close to the centre of the ring. The exact centre is
between the two lines.

For stones that don’t go all around the ring, lay the stones on a
flat surface and space them apart to your liking. Measure the
distance between the centres of the two end stones and divide that by
the number of spaces - not the number of stones. Set your dividers
and step off the stone centres around the ring.

If the stones go all around the ring then draw a “star” on a piece
of paper. Sit the ring centered on the star and mark off the centres.

Drilling the actual holes and cutting the stone seats so they follow
your markings is a bigger problem than the marking out. Forget about
getting each hole perfectly centred first time - unless you have some
exotic machine tools. With a sharp point make dots where you want to
drill, then use a small centre punch to enlarge the dots. Drill
through with a small drill, for example if the stones are 3mm then
drill with a 1mm drill. Next enlarge the holes with a 1.5mm ball burr
making any corrections that you see are necessary. Repeat with a 2mm
ball burr - making further corrections, and again with a 2.5mm ball
burr keeping a close watch on how the hole is centered in the width
of the ring, and also to make equal spaces between each hole. Final
corrections are made with a 3mm hartz burr in cutting the finshed
hole size and seat for the 3mm stone.

The above method works for stones of equal size as well as for
stones that are different sizes. The main thing to undestand is that
the marking-out is a guide, but the drilling and enlarging of the
holes produces the final precision and visual balance.


I prefer the style of dividers with flat inner legs rather than
round legs. This tool is less likely to slip and scratch the band
while scribing center marks with one leg sliding along the side of
the object. 

As a point of clarification slide the dividers along each side of the
band to locate the center. You don’t need a measurement as in mm’s or
thousandths of an inch.

I’ve just this morning used this technique to lay out a wax.


Aloha! Alastair,

Could you send me a picture of what a Gypsy set ring looks like?



If the ring is uniformly round and the width consistent, I’d place it
flat on a flat surface like glass. Then hold a marking tool against
the side and rotate the ring so that the tool scribes a line on the
side of the band. If you are shaky, use some sort of spacer to keep
the tool a set distance above the glass while you rotate the band.

To get a second line equidistant from the other side of the band,
turn the ring over and repeat.

I hope this makes sense,

Judy in Kansas, who sometimes speaks better with her hands than with
a keyboard!


A pair of dividers, an inexpensive tool, much like a compass, but
with the side with the pencil replaced with a steel point matching
the opposite side, will do the trick. Just set the distance between
the points to equal 1/2 the width of the band and lightly score a
line down the center of the band with the opposite side of the
divider being guided along the edge of the band. Then mark off the
distance between centers of your drill holes, again setting the
dividers to the predetermined distances and marking off the drill

Joel Schwalb

Coincidentally (or is it? Insert Twilight Zone music) this very
subject is addressed in the latest issue of MJSE Journal. I just
finished reading it. How to make a school compass into the exact
scribing device to accomplish this.

The article is called Transforming a school compass into a precision
layout tool. Page 61, At the Bench, by Chris Grisaffe.