Carving seat for stones in wax

i’ve been having trouble getting the exact shape of my stones when carving the seat for them in wax (for flush and bezel settings). i’ve been much more successful when i melt it into place, but of course you can’t do that with all stones. it seems like i always have a border of space around the stone and end up having to melt some on top to bring it closer to the stone and then carve some away and that ends up happening over and over again and things get messy! i also struggle to carve a perfect seat where it sits level and kind of “snaps” into place. any tips would be greatly appreciated :slight_smile:

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perhaps you could post details of your process? as well as tools used? and approx stone shape and sizes you are working with…perhaps that would help to trouble shoot with you…

once we hear specifically what/ how you are doing, perhaps tips, tricks, and advice will follow.

ie: how are you marking your stone placement, what tools and steps you you take to open up the seat?… what tool(s) are you using to cut the seat, etc…?

are you measuring the crown with starrett dividers and marking the depth on your wax?…to mark round shapes/ ovals?…tracing with an exacto knife?…are you using setting burs with side depths that allow you to eyeball the desired depth?

are you carving inside the lines?

choice of properly shaped/ sharpened/ sized tool can make the difference between happiness and sadness…

i recently took an engraving class at GRS…the difference in a graver with a .25mm heel…or even a heel made with a few swipes on a diamond wheel…versus a graver without a heel or without polished surfaces is…life-altering…

i highly recommend wolf wax carving sets or individually puchased tools…great shapes and wickedly sharp…and sharp exacto knives can be a good friend too


thank you for the links! yes i should have given more details i was running out to work as i wrote out the question :joy:

most recently i was trying to carve the seat for a 9x7 cushion shaped spinel. i started by tracing the perimeter of the stone upside down on the wax sheet. then i use a ball burr on my flex shaft to drill a hole all the way through, and then to carve out the shape of the stone that i drew. i make the hole deeper and deeper, trying to keep it tapered to mimic the shape of the stone. i take a small ball burr or one of the wolf carving tools and etch out a line around the inside where i believe the girdle will sit, and i try to make the wall from that line up to the top pretty vertical.

sometimes, when i check the stone in its seat i see that it’s not sitting evenly so i go back in with my ball burr but this turns into a game of once i’ve corrected my high side now the other side is my new high side. and if i see that there is too much of a gap between the outside of the wax and the stone, i flood it with melted wax then try to cut the exact shape of the stone with an exacto knife, but inevitably it’s then too angular and not a smooth enough shape. if i go back in with files, i make it too gappy again!

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ok, hmm…

one thing that i like to do is lower the whole inside to approx the seat/ girdle height with a ball bur, first…

and then use a setting bur to angle the seat/ pavillion area

and then wolf tools to clean up/ adjust

…and then i open up the bottom…last

for me, if i open the bottom up first, then i have a really vulnerable edge…versus leaving more wax (for support, for tracking against, etc…(if that makes sense…)

perhaps, try it backwards like that…


What you’re trying to do is hard! Even jewelry artists with years of experience can have a hard time carving a seat in wax for a cushion shaped stone.

You mentioned drawing the outline of the stone upside down on wax sheet. You’re taking about a sheet of carving wax, not soft sheet wax right? I’m pretty sure you’re using carving wax, but it’s worth mentioning. Written words are easy to mix up. I’m going to assume that you’re using carving wax.

There’s a zillion ways to do this task and it will be interesting to hear how other members would approach it. My path would be to break carving the seat for this shape stone into a series of separate steps.

Step 1 - Carve out the exact perimeter of the stone.

  1. First, the top of the carving wax needs to be filled and sanded flat. It also needs to be at least 1 mm taller than your stone from culet to table.
  2. Then like you, I’d turn the stone upside down so the table is flat on the carving wax.
  3. Next I’d take a very tiny drop of super glue and glue the stone’s table to the carving wax. The carving wax is oil-based and super glue won’t really bond to it, but it will bond well enough so you can get a tightly scribed outline of the perimeter of the stone. Remember a use very tiny drop of super glue. You’re just making a stable, but temporary connection.
  4. I like using a scalpel blade to scribe the outline of the stone into carving wax, but whatever you use it needs to be thin and sharp. The goal is to get an exact outline of the stone. Not bigger. Not smaller. The exact outline.
  5. Then pop off the stone from the carving wax.
  6. Attach the stone to a little worm of soft, sticky wax to act as a handle with the table facing out.
  7. Now you can use whatever you want, Wolf tools, cylinder wax burs, gravers, etc. and begin to carve out exactly to your line to the depth of the girdle to the table. With a 9x7 that’s going to be about 1 mm. Use your stone attached to the sticky wax to check the fit often.
  8. Whatever you do, don’t go past your scribed line.
  9. Your goal is to get the upside-down stone to fit into the wax perfectly. This carved perimeter will be your reference point for the entire carving process. From the top of the wax down to approximately 1mm there should be an exact right angle.

Step 2 – Drill the center

  1. For a 9x7 stone, I’d use a 2-3 mm drill bit and drill straight down the center of your setting. I’d probably just eyeball the center, but that’s me.

Step 3 – Grind out most of the inner part of the setting

  1. Using a high-speed cone or bud bur grind out an angled cut from your center hole towards the outside of the setting. Stop about 1-1.5 mm from the perimeter of the setting that you carved in Step 1.

Step 4 – Carve the estimated angle your seat

  1. There’s multiple ways to carve the angle of your seat. You can use a graver, Wolf tool, or a setting bur, etc.
  2. Whatever you do, don’t touch the perfect outside perimeter that you carved in Step 1. Again, this is your reference point for the whole setting. Don’t touch it at all.
  3. Use your stone as a guide. Grind or carve a little bit and check it repeatedly until you have a perfect seat.
  4. One cool trick is to make a special tool for this task. Take a 3-4 mm high speed setting bur and grind the side completely smooth, so the only cutting surface is the bottom. Theoretically with this adjusted bur you can grind the angle of your seat and not hurt the sides. That’s a Blaine Lewis trick from his amazing setting DVD!

That’s about as far as I can take it with written words. Hopefully, I didn’t miss too many steps. I could probably write 3-4 more pages.

Hope that helps! Like I said, this is hard! Good luck and let us know how it works out!!



another thing just popped into my head…it is important to really understand exactly where the stone is getting “hung up”…

especially if the stone has a “fat” juicy pavillion…or a thick and/ or uneven thickness of girdle and/ or pavillion…

you may be carving/ burring a very precise/ even seat angle…while the stone may not be as even…

i mark my stone and wax with a sharpie so that i am always putting it in the same way, the same position…

also, the angled seat does not have to be very wide (which just leaves more ledge for the stone to get hung up on)…any ledge will hold up the stone…once the circumference becomes smaller than the stone…at all…

also, be mindful of the corners of the angled seat ledge…you may have to bur/ carve it deeper there, to accomodate a deeper/ different angle there…like a relief cut…

perhaps using disclosing wax, or that green “Seat Check” ” spray that i mentioned in a previous post…(there are other ways to do this that are already on-hand, or cheaper…like a sharpie marker…but i really like the Seat Check spray)

so that you have an accurate understanding of exactly where you need to adjust the angled seat…adjust a little, look alot…



this was such great instruction!!! i followed your method to a T and i think i have the most successful seat yet for a cushion shaped stone without melting it into the wax. i need to try the blaine lewis trick, i think that’s actually the main issue i run into is my sides end up opening a bit and then the stone floats around in a hole that’s too large (even when im being careful to not open up the surface). going to try this next, thank you so much!


i am going to get seat check, i think that will help a lot! also such a great tip that the seat doesn’t actually have to be so wide. i think i am constantly leaving too much wax on the inside in general and that’s definitely hindering my seat and ends up costing unnecessarily more in metal too!

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I’m glad that Julie mentioned the seat width. Too wide of a seat width is a very common issue in carving stone seats in wax. Especially when you melt the stone into the wax as the seat potentially goes all the way to the culet.

Think about a faceted stone in a prong setting. With a 1 mm prong the seat is at most half that, so .3 to .5 mm. Plus with a prong setting the stone is held in place in just 4-6 points (or prongs) on average. With a bezel or bezel-like setting the stone is held in place in an infinite number of points, so you don’t need a wide seat to hold it securely.

Having too wide of a seat is way harder to carve, makes it easier to crack the stone while setting, and with a transparent or translucent stone makes it so you can see the seat, which is generally not the best way to go.

Wax is very easy to melt with flex shaft and bur, so you need to go very slowly. Also, I don’t know if you’re using magnification or what you’re using for magnification, but this is kind of like brain surgery. Good magnification will make the process go way easier.

I use a setter’s microscope, which for me is a game changer. The crazy thing is that these days you can spend $300 or $3000 on setter’s microscope. Even the $300 Vervor microscope will help you out. Search for Vervor Microscope in the forum and you’ll see a number of positive threads for that inexpensive setter’s microscope.