Cutting Azures

Azure is the American English derivative of the French term a jour or
adjoure. An azure is a countersunk cutout on the back of jewelry,
behind bead, channel, or flush set diamonds. Usually azures are a
square or triangle shaped, resulting in what looks like bright
cutting on the backside of the jewelry. It is an important aspect of
diamond setting that is often neglected today.

Reasons for Cutting Azures

  1. Allows light to enter the stone from the back. (With the modern
    cut of diamonds, this is no longer a major issue as it was 100 years

  2. Makes it easier to clean behind the stones.

  3. Removes the burs left from drilling the hole.

  4. Adds an additional design element to the jewelry.

  5. Removes excess metal from the jewelry making the piece lighter in
    weight. This is of more importance in larger pieces of jewelry,
    especially earrings.

  6. Provides the jewelry a Professional looking finish.

The Traditional Method

Traditionally bench jewelers would either hand cut azures with a
graver, or feed a saw blade through each hole and meticulously

cut each opening. Although resulting in fine cut azures, both
methods are extremely time consuming.

A Simpler Method

Many jewelers today cut azures using a bud or cone bur. This
produces a round cone shaped cutout. This method is quick and easy,
and it does remove the burs left from drilling and allows for easier
cleaning behind the stones. Although, better than no clean up at
all, it does lack in adding a design element to the back of the
jewelry. It also does not maximize the removal of metal to lighten
the weight of the jewelry. This method should be seen as the minimum
requirement, and avoided on finer, high-quality jewelry.

Cutting Azures Using Burs

Professional looking azures can be cut fairly easily using a
combination of burs, in considerably less time than cutting by hand
using gravers or a saw.

Cutting Azures with burs is an advanced technique. Only bench
jewelers who have developed their skills of cutting with burs should
attempt it. As with learning any new technique - practice cutting
azures on a piece of scrap metal before attempting to use this
technique on actual jewelry.

Although a square shaped cutout is most common, a number of different
patterns or combination of patterns can be created with azures.
Before beginning to cut the azures sketch different pattern designs
to find one that is most pleasing to you and fits the area of the
jewelry. By combining triangular, square, pentagon, hexagon, or
octagon shapes a variety of designs can be made.

To begin, cut a tapered hole with a bud bur in the backside of the
hole drilled for the stone. Then, using a hart bur held
perpendicular to the jewelry, cut the corners in each hole. Start
at the center of the hole and cut a line upwards to the surface to
form each of the corners.

Next, use a small wheel bur to clean away the metal between the
corners. Use the end face of the bur to cut the flat side of the
azure. Caution: Make certain you hold the bur at an angle to the
surface of the jewelry. Cutting straight down will remove the metal
needed for the seat to hold the stone.

Then use a polished flat graver to clean up and polish your cuts. If
necessary, a small bristle brush with rouge can be used to polish the
azures. With a little practice, you can easily cut professional
looking azures in just a few minutes.

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Brad Simon