Sure you can use other types of gemstones Chris. The main thing is
that they all be the same size, well within a tenth of a millimeter
and as close to each other in cut as possible, specifically girdle
thickness and overall depth. It’s possible to set stones that aren’t
quite as well matched, but it’s a real time bandit as each stone has
to be tracked from step to step and each seat must be cut for each
specific stone. I like to use “diamond cut"or"machine cut” whenever
possible as they tend to be more uniform in shape. Trying to pave’
using regular cut colored melee, you know, the kind that looks like
uneven, faceted half marbles will make your hair gray before your
time. Or bald, as you’ll be driven to tear it all out, three or four
strands at a time.
The only exception in the uniform size rule is if you are setting an
irregular shape that requires larger stones in some places and
smaller ones in others. i don’t recommend starting with a project
like that though.
One consideration is that the more fragile the stone type, the more
critical the sizing and shaping of the seat is. You can kind of rock
diamonds around with a brass rod and push them in tighter seats with
no trouble, but it’s mighty risky to try it with amethyst or garnet
for instance. Sapphires and rubies can handle a bit of pushing
around, but you have to be careful not to nick them with a graver
when bright cutting or touch them with a beading tool as you round up
the beads. You can not touch them at all with any steel tool or you
are sure to damage them.
Like so many things requiring precision, the more time you spend
laying out your project and cutting exactly sized seats, the better
the end product will look and the less likely you are to break
stones. Make sure you have several extras around, especially if they
are all matched when you get them. It can be very difficult to go
back later and get stones that match exactly. With pave’ using
colored stones, mismatched stones stand out like traffic lights in a
small town at night.
As to suppliers, that can be tough as many stone dealers don’t want
to mess around with anything smaller than about 3mm, especially well
matched stones 2mm and smaller. My first go-to supplier for that
kind of thing is Stuller, although Rio Grande has some varieties in
smaller matched parcels. Stachura may be another source, but I’m not
sure they carry parcels of smaller matched goods like that.
Hope this is helpful.