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Claw setting tips

Hi all,

I have been having issues with my claw setting…

Ive recently had a couple of jobs come back to me, customers
complaining that the claws catch on clothes.

To get a nice tight fit against the stone is it just a case of me
needing to be a little rougher / firmer with the beading tool,
burnishing the metal tighter? Or could i be using the wrong size
beading tool for the claw? Admittedly I am paranoid about breaking
stones but when i do try to be firm, in some cases I end up pushing
the claw away from the stone and cause more problems for myself.

Any advice or just a good ol’ confidence boost would be much
appreciated! :slight_smile:

Cheers, Jon


Ive recently had a couple of jobs come back to me, customers
complaining that the claws catch on clothes. 

It helps to remember that a prong or claw does not actually have to
be lifted away from the stone for it to catch. It can be tight down,
no gaps at the tip or down the sides, etc, and still be annoyingly
sharp. Imagine a prong/clow tip shaped like a little cube. The
corners and sharp upper edges would be annoyingly sharp. Make sure
the outside edges, both on the top of the claw, and a bit down the
side past the stone girdle, is smoothed over round enough so to your
finger it feels smooth. Then, test your setting job with a bit of
nylon stocking before sending it out the door. You’ll quickly
identify the areas of your claws that are causing the problem.
Sometimes, they’re just too small. Even a fully rounded and smoothed
over prong can feel a bit sharp if it’s small enough and is thick
enough so it sticks a bit up off the stone. Better, in those cases,
to make them a bit larger, so they don’t feel sharp. Watch out too,
for small burs that might be left by files or cup burs or other
setting tools. Even small burrs can cause trouble.

Hope that helps.


ive found alittle technique with the pliers that i figured out one
day of pinching the prong. if you position the prong between the
pliers in a certain wayso the point of the prong is directed toward
the inside surface of itself instead of the usual way of trying to
squeeze the pressure downward toward the stone. theway i am trying to
describe slightly trys to curl the prong tip


Dear Jon, et all!

From what I can see you are using the incorrect tool to push over
the claws unto the stone. Bead burnisher is used primarily for beads,
but for claws?..that’s where the “woops!” factor comes in.

I would use only two implements in pushing over the claws with a
Brass or Copper pusher.This safer tool allows the metal to settle
over the stone with fewer problems. There is no problem with breaking
a diamond or softer stone IF THE CLAWS ARE PROPERLY PREPARED. It just
hardly occurs. Try and avoid a steel-pusher tool…!!!

If you make a seat for the claw with a hart-shaped bur, or a
bearing-cutter and administer little effort in pushing over the
claws…then cup burring each claw you won’t have any client
come-backs with sharp edges. The cup-bur must be a tad LARGER than
the claw in question. This cup-bur must be applied at about 30
degrees back from vertical. Metal catching is quite common at this
point. Use a Pumice Wheel, with 180 Grit, after “rounding”…all
over the claw. If certain guidelines are covered right from the
you won’t have any irritating setting fears.

So lets start again with the correct manoeuvres, please make a seat
for the stone with a 156 C bur about 1/3 down from the top of the
claw and have this seat no deeper than 1/3rd depth. Making very sure
the seat is horizontal to the vertical design of the claw…Spread out
the claw a tad to allow the stone to adjust to the seats you just

Rest this whole setting-head against the bench-peg,* this is used
for back-support*. You can now apply light pushing with no undo
effort on your behalf…Check each claw with a 10x loupe. making sure
the claws are over the girdle of the stone. Once you feel that the
claws are settled THEN you must use a “cup-bur” a.k.a.“77B” bur. NOT
A BEAD-BURNISHER. Allow the cup bur to round each claw tip. Then you
can now a use light Tripoly and Rouge to remove any unseen metal that
might allow her clothing to be ‘snagged’. Please forgive me for
making this long essay, but it might help you to overcome some fears
and to build up your confidence…Gerry Lewy ! (The ‘difficulty
level’ for multi-claw setting is 4 out of 10)…:slight_smile:

i do try to be firm, in some cases I end up pushing the claw away
from the stone 

I think the main problem is getting the inner edge of the prong tip
down flush against the stone. Regular setting pliers have a hard time
doing that. I modified a bead crimping pliers so that one jaw was
essentially a hook that would reach around the tip and grab the prong
on that inner edge.

When using a beading tool on prongs its a bit different than on
graver raised beads. Tip the tool top toward the stone and burnish
with a swinging motion. take care not to exceed the angle at which it
will go whoosh! which by now you are familiar with. You don’t have to
muscle it once you’ve got the right angle and motion. In fact DON’T
muscle it. If its not mushing the metal right you’ve probably got the
wrong size tool. Just like the pliers trick, you want the contact on
the inner edge of the prong tip and near the circumference of the
tool. A small tool will contact on top of the prong, which leads to
frustration and busticated prongs.

Generally I like a longer prong above the seat cut. makes it easier
to nestle the prong against the stone without great force applied
simply because you have more leverage.

After I have prongs down tight and rounded I further work the
leading edge down firmly against the surface of the gemstone, to
remove any gap at all at this point. This is where customers feel
sharpness and where prongs could catch into fabric.

I made a too from 3mm square steel stock for just this job. Set into
a graver handle and cut to the same length as a graver, this tool in
many ways resembles a graver, but is designed to catch just the very
edge of the prong metal and burnish this area down to close any
remaining gap between metal and stone.

The working edge of the tool is first cut back to make a 90 degree
"wedge shape" with two equal faces. Then one face of this angle is
highly polished.

The other face is hollow ground (using simply a stack of cut off
discs on a mandrel, trimmed to make a small diameter grinding
stone), grinding b= ack from the pointed edge of the tool toward the
handle. This leaves you with a tool very similar to a hand graver,
with a rather blunted, but sharp 3mm wide cutting edge with one
highly polished face.

Under high magnification I take this tool and carefully dig it
lightly into the metal of the prong just above the gap between the
prong and stone, with the polished surface facing the prong. (I am
not pushing down toward the stone surface, this is a steel tool and
any hard pressure at this point would be too risky. I am "cutting"
lightly back toward the base of the prong with very little force.) I
have now made a very small “groove” or bur on the leading edge of my
prong, just above the open gap between metal and stone.

Supporting the thumb of my graver hand against the surface of the
stone I use my tool to gently rock it (left to right around the
surface of the prong), working this small bur forward and down till
it just touches the surface of the stone, continuing my gentle
rocking action so that the highly polished surface of this "graver"
is burnishing the metal at this point and closing any gaps.

It takes a bit of practice to work with this tool, but the trick is
to use almost no force at all and let the cutting edge and polished
face of the tool do all of the work for you. Learned to make this
tool at Bowman Tech over 30 years ago, and use it on every prong I
set, no matter what material I am setting. With practice you can
become very confident with this tool, and it will safely close those
gaps without putting more unnecessary pressure on the gemstone. Have
"cleaned up" behind quite a few other jeweler’s sloppy setting jobs
that customers have brought to me over the years with this tool and
it’s made me look like a wizard to those customers. Hope this helps.

Hi John,

I have been having issues with my claw setting.... Ive recently had
a couple of jobs come back to me, customers complaining that the
claws catch on clothes. 

Personally, I don’t use beading tools to push over prongs. When
they’re new, they are polish inside the cup, this results in a short
push. You can use them for small stone of.05ct or less and get a
reasonable result. Still having a prong pusher made of a square piece
of stock that is 5mm square that has been ground with a course wheel,
works better. The tool doesn’t slip because of tooth of the rough

You also get leverage and many angle of pressure by simply changing
the angle of attack. Beaders only have one angle on a claw and it’s
not the best.

The bend point for larger stones should be higher than the girdle so
you don’t bind the stone which can cause a chip. Moving the bending
point of prong, up higher is done be weakening the prong with a small
ball bur at the desire height. You can also sand the outside of prong
to reduce the cross section.

Finally, leaving a prong with a boxy profile will grab as much
clothing as a lifted prong. So you’re going to have to put a radius
any square edges. A good test is to take a nylon hose and ball it up.
Run the ball over the prongs. If it catches, you have more work to
do. You should be able to drag the nylon ball in any direction
a snag.

Jim Zimmerman
Alpine Custom Jewellers & Repair

It helps to remember that a prong or claw does not actually have
to be lifted away from the stone for it to catch. 

There’s much good advice this morning, some of it incomprehensible

My take is a blend of Peter’s and another - If the prong tips aren’t
down on the stone - meaning the bearing cut is exposed, then the
stone isn’t set at all, and that’s it’s own issue. Otherwise it’s
just a matter of finishing. Many pitched in with vaious methods - I
second the one I use and would recommend, which is cup burs. Beading
tools are for beads, though I use them for other things, too. The cup
bur gives you the advantage of power, meaning that you don’t need to
push on it, the power of it will do the work even though it is
rotary. Then rubber wheel - I start with the outside of the prong to
catch tool marks, and then the next thing I do is the point where
prong meets stone, and then the rest from there. The final part is
the actual polish - you need to devote time to the prong tips to make
them just right. Just skipping over them as an afterthought just
won’t cut it.

Dear Jon,

When I began stone setting, I also had the problem of sometimes not
getting the prong or claw all the way down on the stone, thus causing
it to catch. Almost always, it was a matter of being impatient. I was
not cutting the seat at the correct angle, I was not accounting for
girdle thickness, and I was not checking the stone’s fit before
pushing the prongs over. Here is what I have learned through all my
beginner mistakes: When you think you are finished cutting the seat,
make a mark on the stone and its corresponding location on the
mounting with a sharpie (so you seat it in the same orientation every
time). Using a 10x loupe, take a thorough look at the stone’s
seating. Note any areas where the girdle is thicker. Sometimes you
will have a thick girdle all the way around, other times you might
have a varying girdle thickness from one prong to the next. Now
imagine how far each prong will bend over, and whether or not it will
sit flat on the stone. Anywhere where it looks like the girdle is too
thick for the prong to make it all the way flat on to the stone, go
in horizontally, just at bearing level (where the thick girdle will
be), with a ball bur about the same diameter as the prong or claw,
and very gently remove enough metal to account for the thicker
girdle. Check your progress often, and don’t remove too much metal,
as you will end up with a very unsightly gap. After you have closed
the prongs on to the stone, use a needle file with a safe, polished
edge where it will contact the stone’s surface, to file the prong
back until you do not see any edge standing off the stone through a
loupe. THEN you can go in with your bead tool or cup bur and shape
the prongs. Use a flat graver after shaping, to remove any flash left
around the claw.Sometimes if you have really beefy claws, it helps to
thin them out from the outside, working on the principle that thinner
metal will bend more easily. Occasionally, if your prongs are already
closed onto the stone, you can take your chain nose pliers from
behind the prong and twist the prong slightly sideways in one
direction, then the other, then back into its original position and
it will cause the metal to shrink down on to the stone. I learned
that one from Blain Lewis. Sometimes it works for me.And that’s all I

Good Luck!

Diane Bryant
Bryant Designs and Fine Jewelry

The secret to non-snagging prongs is to hold them up to the light and
examine them with a loupe to make sure they’re down fully on the
stone. As others have said, the prong must first be cut to make
contact with the stone correctly. I use a Sears Craftsman Ignition
plier # 4513 to push prongs over. It’s tiny at 5 1/4 inches long, and
is a slip joint with 3 adjustments. After the prong is pushed down, I
clip the prong to size with fine nippers. Then I use a trianglular
escapement file, cut #4 with the three edges ground smooth and
polished, to round off the prong and burnish it down onto the stone
if needed. This is for hard stones, of course… On soft stones, use a
cup bur carefully. Then hold the piece up to the light and carefully
examine all of the prongs at the tips. With this method, I don’t have
a problem with customers complaining of snagging.


Thanks to all for their responses!

It seems that the problem was due to me just using a round burr to
seat the stones in a claw, not leaving the correct angle to get a
nice close over the stones. I probably wouldnt have identified this
without some of your in depth guides! Everyone seems to have a
slightly different approach (as with many things in the trade) but
with the same good results. Pushing the prong tight and finishing
with a cup burr and tidying flashing with a graver seemed to work
well for me.

Take care and thanks again!