I don't care if my way is the "right" way or not. It's the secure
Just as burnishing stones in can lead to stones not being set well,
so can hammering them in. In both cases, the key is not just how the
metal is pressed over the edge of the stone, but how well the stone
is seated beforehand. The problem with many of the times stones are
set with hammering, is that it’s done because the seat was too large,
so the stone slopped around in the seat before boatloads of metal had
to be moved over with a hammer to reach and extend over the girdle.
The result is that underneath the finished setting, next to the
girdle, is a crack shaped gap, what’s left of the oversized seat.
The metal holding the stone has to bridge that gap before contacting
the stone. That’s simply weaker. With wear and tear, contact and
pressing on the stone can move the holding edge more easily, sliding
back into that gap, enlarging it again, and becoming loose. While I
do see stones coming out now and then when not enough metal was
burnished over the girdle (see my post for how I do it, which DOES
bring enough metal over the girdle. Any more would be obscuring the
stone unreasonably), I also see many stones that are not out, that
have plenty of the hammered metal still over them, yet they’re
jiggling around loose, needing to be tightened because the hammered
over metal was trying to compensate for a bad seat, and couldn’t
maintain that over time.
The big problem for me with hammering the metal down to set the
stones is that it also usually creates a hollwed depressed crater or
flat around the stone, that messes up the contour of the surface
you’re setting in. That then requires either a very flexible
aesthetic sense to decide it still looks good, or it requires a good
deal of metal removal to restore the original clean surface contour.
Either way, it’s not as good a solution as not messing up that
surface in the first place, if possible.
Obviously, there will always be plenty of cases where you have no
choice but to reach for the hammer. The most common for me is
accidentally cutting a seat too deep, so deep that I simply cannot
burnish the metal down that far. White golds in particular can give
me that headache… The there are Fancy shapes with odd girdle
thicknesses, fragile strange large stones where a burnisher simply
won’t move enough metal or is too much of a risk of scratching the
stone, or just plain bad luck in getting a good seat cut, etc., etc.
But when you can do it with just a burnisher, and get a properly set
stone that way, it works better, giving a cleaner, neater look. When
I DO have to use a hammer, I usually try to use it only to assist,
finishing up the setting with the burnisher again, after moving the
overly stubborn metal with the hammer. Even when I do virtually the
whole job with the hammer, I usually end up finishing the edge with
No matter how you set the stone, the first key is to be sure the
stone is snugly fitted in the seat. it should sit level and not slide
around sideways or easily tip. Do that, and then the metal set over
the girdle has a decent chance of keeping the stone tight. The second
key is that no matter how you move the metal, hammer or burnisher,
you have to take the time to look at what you’ve done once the stone
seems tight. With a hammer, many beginning setters move too much
metal, covering way too much of the stone. With a burnisher, those
in a hurry won’t move enough, so sometimes the girdle itself may
still be visible. Looking down at the stone, the metal should extend
up past the girdle edge. You can see it where it covers the point of
the main (kite shaped) facets. It should contact the stone there too,
not just bridge up over it leaving a gap. If it does that, the stone
is not coming out.
If on the other hand, the stone is burnished in too quickly (a
possibility when someone just goes round and round quickly with a
sharp point, as I’ve seen some setters do) then end result can look
like a bright round hole with the stone snug in the bottom, but a
close look shows the burnished inside edge way too close to vertical,
and the metal bright, but little of it actually moved over the stone
to hold it. Some of the people burnishing in stones do it poorly,
I’ll admit, and these stones may tend to come out more easily, simply
because they were never really set with enough metal over the stones
in the first place.
Burnishing in a stone means moving the upper edge of the drilled/cut
hole, down and over until it contacts the stone’s crown. In the
process, metal under and behind that edge is “upset” and moves down
and inwards at the same time. Stopping too soon simply doesn’t bring
metal down until it actually holds the stone, And people who use too
vertical a burnisher edge may find they’re mostly moveing metal down
but away from the stone, so again, it ends up not being held. Either
way, people in a hurry will find their stones don’t stay in, just as
those in a hurry or careless with a hammer will find they’ve made a
bloody mangled mess of the jewelry. However you do it, take your
time, do it right, and you won’t then have to find the time to do it
Another thing I prefer about a burnisher is simply the neat look. It
gives a “bezel” edge with a nice tight reflective surface that goes
right down to the stone and contacts it. Crisp, bright, clean.
Hammered in stones often seem to be left with a somewhat ragged edge,
since that was where it was when the setter decided the stone was
tight and they should stop hammering. Instead, at that point, if
they’re doing it well, they need to switch to either a graver to
trim away excess metal leaving a nice bright reflector, or to a
burnisher, creating the same thing.
OK. I’m rambling again. Prolly betraying a certain lack of sleep or
something. G’night all.