Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Bright cutting- "fishtail" or "cut down" techniques

Hello Everyone, While gathering from Orchid members on
how to improve my bead and bright, and pav’e techniques (thru
improved tool preparation and handling), I have just been made aware
of a bright cutting technique called “fishtail” or "cut down"
method. )(Thanks to Karl and Gerry the cyber setter’s website).

Gerry the cyber-setter’s website gives quite detailed instructions
on how to achieve this effect.

However, I can be easily confused, and I have not quite been able to
get a mental picture of what the end result looks like. (I guess I
am more of a visual person).

Is anyone able to refer me to a textbook, or website, (or something
else) that would have an illustration of, or a piece of jewelry
which incorporates, this particular technique?

I would be most appreciative!!

Best Regards, Julie Balonick P.S. Thank you Alan, Phil, Carla, Hideo,
and Niels for taking the time to help me along.

    Is anyone able to refer me to a textbook, or website, 

Not too sure what the question is, but a fishtail setting is built

Bruce D. Holmgrain

    Hello Everyone, While gathering from Orchid
members on how to improve my bead and bright, and pav'e techniques
(thru improved tool preparation and handling), I have just been
made aware of a bright cutting technique called "fishtail" or "cut
down" method. )(Thanks to Karl and Gerry the cyber setter's

Almost any casting catalog should have some old fishtail styles,
especially an older ALA or Karbra catalog. There are even some
pictures here and there on the web.

Wow, it’s been a bunch of years since I’ve seen any real interest in
fishtail mountings. This is a style that was popular up until maybe
1970 or a little beyond, and although I’m unaware of it’s origin,
although I suspect the style has been around for more than 100 years
and possibly of Victorian origin.

We used to fabricate fishtail style mountings, delicately soldering
the prong section which started out as a bar bent to shape, drilled,
and filed to shape and polished, to the under gallery and shank. This
way we’d get very high quality results. I’ve also made them in wax
from one piece, and pierced them from metal, not achieving as
finished a product.

I never considered this a “bright cutting” technique, as it’s
essentially a prong setting. Okay, it’s been a LOT of years since I
made one, and I seem to remember finishing up the setting work with a
graver, as well as detailing the center head.

The center heads we made for fishtail style wedding sets could be
quite complicated with 3 prongs cut into each corner, and the sides
pierced with interesting designs. I just don’t think this style is
popular any more. Today’s generation would consider it ‘grandma’s
jewelry’. Please correct me if I’m wrong as I’m not that exposed to
the trade any more.

Please excuse the reminiscing… :slight_smile:


Hellooooo Orchid, A fishtail mtg was very popular years ago and was
very typical in wedding bands and eternity rings. It has a decorative
scroll type piercing on the sides with open circles placed where the
stones are placed ( stones being visable from the sides) and the top
is set ( at least the way I have been taught many years ago and I
still set them this way) with Flat gravers and onglets , the flat
tool advances the metal over the girdle of the stone with a turning
motion of the tool and the onglets clean down in between these cuts
to divide the look into what looks like a “fishtail” its kind of
hard to explain and if I had been doing my Illustrator homework and
not working late I would gladly draw you guyz a picture. How about
that? The cut down work is very similar and is often used on fine
jewellery when a piece is very domed or round. the trick is to keep
the cuts uniform in lenth and clean.

Now about all of this void of setting info talk. I know that Gerry
has dedicated a good portion of his life to share his info with
anyone who needs help and I am always available and happy to share "
anything "that might be helpful with my Orchid family I am also
available to talk person to person with anyone who would like to get
my numbers offline . I was taught !!! I am happy to share . I’m sorry
that I’m not so good with writing online but I am available!

sorry Julie, Fishtail and Cut-down are two very separate methods of
setting, there is no similarity between them both. the fish tail
design is just that, a semblance of a fishs tail on the outside of
the setting, and “cut down” is just that too, setting stones on a
tiffany styled band with downward cuts starting from the beads
against the diamond AGAIN how can I show you all how each look, maybe
Julie I can take some pictures for you and email them to your own
address, visual showing is far better than the printed word…my own
article on Fish Tail shows a picture of that method. Gerry!

Just did a Google search and located some random illustrations of
fishtail settings:

Some of the discussions I saw also seem to indicate a renewed
interest in “older” styles including fishtail prongs.

Pam Chott
Song of the Phoenix

There is on Fishtail settings in Robert Wooding: Diamond
Setting. The professional approach - p.144 ff. This very dry book
is, I think, the best I have found on stone setting as it really
explains settings step by step. Best, Will

A number of years ago I inherited my mother’s engagement ring, a
diamond in a fishtail setting from the 40’s, along with two
similarly sized family diamonds. I always thought I’d have it reset
when it came to me, but what I decided to do was add two more
fishtail heads to the ring for the other two diamonds, and make it a
3-stone fishtail ring. Like many of us who work with our hands I am
very hard on rings, and I appreciate the extra protection of that
kind of setting.

Janet Kofoed

Bruce, that is a great set of photos. May I have your permission to
print it out and show it to my customers? (With your credit line, of

I still sell fishtail mountings as wedding rings, and this does a
wonderful job of showing the process of making one.

Are other manufacturing processes shown on your website? What is the
URL? David Barzilay, Lord of the Rings.

A while back, there was a very comprehensive step-by-step
photographic essay on fishtail setting on For
the curious, it might still be available either on that site or in
the Orchid archives. Dee

What is a fishtail setting?

Bruce, very nice set of instructional photos. It made the process
very clear. I do have a couple of dumb questions, though:

  1. Why is it called “fishtail” setting. Maybe it’s there, but I’m
    just not seeing any fishes tails.

  2. I could not see, or perhaps understand, how the stones are being
    held in. The last couple of photos were a little fuzzy and I
    couldn’t make out that part.

Again, thanks for posting these. I would love to see more of this.
I’ve never had the opportunity to watch another jeweler work and
this was the next best thing to being there.

Hope all of you in the U.S. had a good Thanksgiving.

Best Regards,

    1. Why is it called "fishtail" setting.  Maybe it's there, but
I'm just not seeing any fishes tails. 2. I could not see, or perhaps
understand, how the stones are being held in. 

Dale, I have no idea whatsoever why they are called “fishtail”, I’ve
never really been able to see it either.

These stones were bead & brightcut. It is also common to split the
corners into prongs with a saw and fold the resultant prongs over
the stones. This can be seen with large center stones in particular.

Hellooooo, Alot of folks will set the fishtail mtg by just dividing
up the metal into beads or many other "don’t know how " adaptations
but fishtail when set " correctly ’ definitly looks just like a
fishtail. Contact me offline if you would like. Peace Karl

hey Karl and all ! Sorry to step on your toes but in “Fish-Tail” is
comprised of two regular inside beads and UNDER-CUTTING the outside
section of metal. Once that the diamond has been placed into the
’under-cut’ area, it should be then bright-cut around the pushed-over
outside section holding the girdle in question, got it? Filing is
done with a triangular #4 cut file. As this will give the
resemblance of a “fish’s tail” and no other file cut and shape can
produce this effect, trust me on this! ( hard to explain with text! )…Gerry!

Fishtail setting:

In a quick look in the archives, I found only two references to a
visual explanation of a fishtail setting. One was the
site, and the other was Robert Wooding’s book “Diamond Setting. The
Professional Approach,” pp 144-149(1984). There are at least two
other references that show the setting. Murray Bovin’s “Jewelry
Making,” revised edition, p 198(1974) and Wooding’s “The Diamond
Setting Manual,” pp 173-179(2002). The last reference has very
clear illustrations and describes the “how to” in detail for both a
solitaire setting and a multiple stone setting. This last reference
along with the site shows the procedure and the final
appearance very clearly. I don’t believe I will ever claim to be a
stone setter, but I will add a solitaire fishtail setting in
sterling and a CZ to my agenda in the interest of adding to my
repertoire. Seeing how something is done and the doing is two very
different things!

Captain Blood
"Marlinespike Seamanship in Precious Metals"

hey Guy! Don’t want to keep barging in here and causing waves on
this style of setting…but if anyone wishes to very…carefully…
look at the metal that is in-between the two diamonds you will see
and notice two beads…“the eyes”! the metal actually in-between the
girdles of the two diamonds…the "almost body of the fish"
Haddock…Salmon or even a …Gefilte fish…:>) and then looking
again leading towards the edge of the metal, you can observe the “two
fins or tails”…voila! “Fishtail Setting”! I usually ‘bright-cut’ a
little square in-between the space to form a “body” of the fish! Gerry!