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Good sapphires set in silver

Was: Flattened gold filigree wire

I can't consciously put good sapphires in silver. 

This may be naive, but why not? Am I the only one perfectly happy to
set “precious” stones in silver? Some people actually like silver.
There was a thread not long ago about making an engagement ring in
silver and questions as to how durable it would be. Someone
commented that silver has a lovely warmth that white gold or platinum
don’t have and I agree with that statement.

The old notion that you have to put precious gems in gold or
platinum and you can only set “semi precious” (sorry John) gems in
silver is perhaps a little outdated (IMHO). Look at a lot of the art
jewellery that Orchid members are making. There is a lot of work in
mixed metal, predominantly silver but with gold accents, using more
precious gems and diamonds.

Another thing to think about is whether or not such jewellery is
going to be typically “bridal”, which I’ve noticed tends to be made
of less expensive materials as it only has to look good for one day
and is often too dressy to wear for other occasions, or whether the
bride wants the jewellery you make to be good for the day but also be
able to be worn at other times too.

Has she given you a budget and carte blanche to do whatever you want
or is she taking an active part in the design process? If she’s
prepared to pay for gold and that’s what she wants, then fair enough

  • or you could maybe consider sourcing some lab made synthetic
    sapphires (real corundum) and set them in silver?

I’d be interested to hear other’s opinions on what they’d do. Do
others set sapphires etc in silver? I would think that silver,
sapphires and quality CZ’s would make beautiful bridal jewellery and
much nicer than the plated base metal and glass offerings available
in the bridal stores.


What do you have against using silver. particularly fine silver which
fuses nicely and lends itself therefore to filigree work - but the
line between fusing and meltdown is thin from what it sounds like you
are asking & planning since you sound like this is a big first time
experiment in gold, filigree and “mass” production!. Most blue
sapphire jewelry is white gold , silver or palladium/Pt alloys and
"good" sapphires are at an all time low now since the market is
flooded with Southeast Asian sapphires available at less than 20
dollars a karat from the cutters in very clean bright stones of
various cuts in a wide range of blues…Yes, gold is easier to work
with in higher karat than 14, but silver and blue compliment each
other nicely… and possibly some pre-processed solder that I can
just paint on?

Though I’m not really certain what it is you mean by 'pre-processed’
there are better paste type solders available for silver than gold.
Many distributors keep syringes of gold 14 kt. paste solder around
far longer than they should, which means you’ll have to mix it well
and even thin it out (with DROPS of mineral spirits, or wintergreen
oil if you don’t want to use petrol products). If you want to use
paste solder as opposed to solder filled wire or wire solder (two
different things -all shortcuts) if you are experienced with paste
solders as they work very differently than plumb sheet solder, i
would recommend that you buy it - in gold from Hoover &Strong and ask
them to tell you the date of manufacture before you commit to buying
it (as it is priced by market too), in silver My Unique Solutions,
Beth Katz’s cottage industry produces an array of specific grades of
.925 and .999 silver solder pastes- (ask too, when manufactured) that
are absolutely appropriate for multiple operations and if assembling
filigree you will need different grades of solder regardless of the
metal, unless you can work well with hard18 or higher karat gold
(provided your projects are 18kt. or higher). Multiple times one
reheats 18kt or better hard (plumb) yellow gold solder the stronger
it gets, (until it fails from overheating!). So for say a three step
solder operation hard paillions or wire should be fine. As for
flattened filigree wire (presuming you mean 28-32 gauge, or laser
type wire), I don’t know of a single large distributor that sells it
ready made, or even twisted. Of all the manufacturers out there very
few actually twist the stock, Most are just milled to look twisted by
using patterned rollers.

Off list I will be happy to tell you who I know that does custom
fabrication in any metal and colour gold you like and has a very fast
turn around as well. All in all, it sounds like you have committed to
something you are not advanced in technique enough to do
successfully, so silver may be the answer since you say you have
never worked in gold…or at least make a practice piece in silver to
perfect the quality of workmanship before using gold products that
are at an all time high right now (even if you have stock on hand the
cost of replacing it is undoubtedly more than you bought it for and
should be factored into the cost per piece when you give the client a
price or estimate on the work you are planning including the matching
chains that will be necessary from what it sounds like you are
proposing). Over your head, sounds like an understatement here…

I would really consider the reality and time and materials you are
talking about in terms of your fabrication skills, and then look over
some distributors catalogs for pre-fabricated pendant settings in
which you only need set the stone(s) and then insure that all will
look the same and be durable, quality workmanship…I have no idea wht
your experience is, but from your questions I can only speculate that
you haven’t been at this as a business very long…so there is no
shame in using ready cast or prefabricated settings if you are at all
apprehensive, or cannot guarantee that your work will perhaps outlast
a marriage!. rer

Hello Helen,

You commented, "Am I the only one perfectly happy to set “precious"
stones in silver?”

I seem to recall that many years ago (but before my time), diamonds
were set in silver. (Someone will correct me if that is wrong. ;-))
The method of mounting would make quite a difference in durability.
Thick silver bezel would hold up better than a few prongs clutching
the stone.

So, you’re not alone. I do think that people tend to wear a diamond
ring constantly (yup, I’m guilty). In that case, gold just wears
better than standard sterling.

Judy in Kansas


Do others set sapphires etc in silver? 

Here’s the big problem I see with setting either sapphires, the new
trend with setting diamonds, and most other faceted high quality
stones in silver: It tarnishes. When the background behind a stone
(or surrounding a stone) turns black, there is quite simply no way
that stone will ever look right and fulfill its goal to be a
beautiful, sparkling gemstone. If you have ever set a transparent
cabochon in a silver setting and seen it come back a few years later
looking not like the beautiful gem it once was, but like some dark,
icky thing because the entire background has discolored, you’d
understand this. Are there solutions for this? Sure, you can rhodium
plate the background and inside of any settings, but I’m not a big
believer in rhodium plating. Besides this, there are now multiple
white metal options available with a variety of shades of white and
gray (white gold, palladium white gold, platinum and palladium) for
setting high quality gems into, so why would you put them in
something cheap and that will discolor over time. Sure for some of
those $5 sapphires out there it’s fine, but in my book, if you want
to sell the quality stones, you have to put them in a quality metal,
and specifically one that won’t tarnish.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140

Yes, I set sapphires in silver, and yes - they are lovely in it! I
have set just about every stone in silver - I don’t think there are
many that MUST have gold unless that is what the customer wants.

My sister will only wear gold, so everything I make for her is gold,
but I have steady customers who only wear silver. Not a problem for
me. I think you just need to be sure the design is right for the

Beth in SC

Its threefold.

One is relative value. If someone spends (for example) $2K for a
sapphire they may think it out of order to set it in the least costly
of the precious metals.

Durability ties in somewhat with relative value. You spend $2K on a
stone you don’t want the prongs/bezel/whatever to wear out in normal
use. And who wants to spend that kind of money just to have tarnish?

Aesthetics. And this is very subjective. The great percentage of
sapphire jewelry is set with diamonds to frame or highlight the
sapphire. The diamonds are a ‘hard bright’ which compliments a saph
nicely. Substitute white gold/plat for the diamonds and you get the
same effect. Silver is rather ‘soft’ visually. No pop.

Which is not to say that one can’t do it. Go ahead, do whatever you
want, its your gig. But can you sell it?

Of course this really depends on how one defines a ‘good’ sapphire.
Around here its tough to sell anything that isn’t fine to extra
fine, so I might be a little jaded.

Judy…you are not wrong.

About 30 years ago, a client brought me a beautiful diamond necklace
with more than 30 diamonds in it all bezel set in silver…backed
with copper no less. The piece was made in Gerrmany in the 1800’s,
the stones were old European cut but the whole thing was a wonder of
workmanship and design. I had to do a bit of tightening on some of
the stones and fix a couple of other things.

Cheers from Don in SOFL.


I understand the idea behind what you are saying and that that’s why
it was traditionally so but for those on a budget, the cross over
between the two areas of precious set in precious and not so
precious set in not so precious is a good compromise and if the
sapphires are not pale cornflower blue Ceylon sapphires, I do NOT
have a problem with it.

In any case, when I set faceted stones, I don’t use a backing. I
leave it open to the light and in that case it is open to any
cleaning fluid one might use to clean tarnish away.

I have happily set sapphires and rubies in silver and will continue
to do so and would think that it would make a lovely bridal set.


One is relative value. If someone spends (for example) $2K for a
sapphire they may think it out of order to set it in the least
costly of the precious metals. 

Yes of course I understand the above - I’d be stupid not to. But when
buying bridal jewellery, together with all the massive expense that a
wedding entails, one probably doesn’t have 2K to spend on a sapphire!
I would think we’re talking somewhere between the lower end and as
good as 2K will buy you. Look at bridal jewellery - which is what
we’re talking about - and I don’t mean engagement and wedding rings -
I mean the pendants/necklaces for bride and bridesmaid. I don’t know
what they’re like in the States, but over here they’re made of plated
base metal with glass stones and fake pearls - unless you’re
absolutely rolling in dosh that is.

I know I’m a beginner but please allow some credit for basic
intelligence. I don’t buy complete poop stones - I’m selective. But
I can’t afford to spend silly money either. And yes I have made and
sold silver jewellery which I’ve set with sapphires and if you read
today’s posts (well yesterday’s by the time this makes it onto the
forum), you’ll see that others do too.


I do think that people tend to wear a diamond ring constantly (yup,
I'm guilty). In that case, gold just wears better than standard

True but as you say and has been said before, if the bezel was thick
enough and it was sufficiently work hardened, that wouldn’t
necessarily be a problem anyway.

And the lady who posed the question was talking about necklaces/
pendants if I recall. I personally love the warm colour of silver
much more than white gold. I was challenging the notion that you
"can’t set good sapphires in silver" - which seems a little strange.


piece was made in Gerrmany in the 1800's, the stones were old
European cut 

I think mushability of silver is at least a factor in this kind of
antique piece. Many times you’ll see the silver has been literally
mushed up against the uneven outline of the OEs and more frequently
rose cuts. You’ll see this kind of thing mostly as pendants or
earrings because any rings done this way would have worn out long
ago unless they were kept the deposit box forever.

Well this is a odd string and I would like to say even though I did
not have to set sapphires I did set three diamonds in a silver
pendant recently. As a matter of fact I gave it to the client a week
ago.The real kicker is the client wanted to set the diamonds in
tubes in a reticulated piece and one of the three diamonds was a
flawless round brilliant. I had extensive talks as to the drawback of
each type of metal and the plus to each.In the end it was silver
simply because of the clients personal preference.They also were
comfortable with taking care of their piece. Overall it was a success
and I was impressed with the outcome,but most importantly so was the
client.I have seen and made many types of non traditional work so to
speak. It helps to think outside the bench and explore things
some.You never know what might happen.

Have fun!
Daniel Wade

One of the things I admire about some of the Arts & Crafts and Art
Nouveau jewelry is the way they combine the “precious” with the
"base." They are seeking a look or an effect, and are willing to use
whatever it takes to get that. I am trying to use this approach to
challenge my more conventional conceptions of what should be used
with what.

Still- I don’t know that I’d set really fine sapphires in silver. At
least not natural ones; some of the lovely man-made ones are utterly
gorgeous in silver, and the results can be both elegant and
affordable. Tarnish is certainly an issue, as it is with copper- but
the above-mentioned artisans and designers seemed to take that into
account when they designed. And if you don’t want tarnish- well,
there’s argentium, which works quite nicely.

I’ve been doing some experiments with argentium and filigree lately.
Thus far, I have not achieved the knack of fusing the filigree
without using any solder. I think it’s something I’ll keep playing
with, though, because it would be really great if I could get it to

At this point I’ve done filigree with powdered solder (self-made and
purchased), paste solder, and chips cut from both rolled wire solder
and sheet solder. They all work. For my gold filigree I’ve used tiny
chips from sheet solder, and it’s been fine. I like the fact that
it’s plumb, too, with the gold.

Amanda Fisher

I leave it open to the light and in that case it is open to any
cleaning fluid one might use to clean tarnish away. 

Unfortunately I have never seen a generally available (to the public)
liquid cleaner for jewelry that actually works well. Some of them
actually seem to change the color of the metal over time and some
seem to actually speed up the tarnishing process after use.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambrige, MA 02140

Dear Amanda,

At least not natural ones; some of the lovely man-made ones are
utterly gorgeous in silver, and the results can be both elegant and

I did mention using lab made sapphires when I said I can’t see a
reason not to set sapphires in silver. I like your tapered bezel
sapphire rings in sterling silver BTW.

Someone mentioned yesterday not setting a $2K USD sapphire in silver

  • well even I wouldn’t do that. I have some expensive stones
    (tanzanite, rubies, diamonds, etc) to make into rings for myself,
    which are waiting until the time when I’m working confidently in
    gold so that I can do the stones justice. I may be wrong but I’m not
    sure the poster was talking about such expensive stones - although
    she did say “good sapphires” so maybe she was.


I was challenging the notion that you "can't set good sapphires in
silver" - which seems a little strange. 

Well Helen, you said it yourself though in these posts. You’re not
setting “good” sapphires in silver, you’re setting cheap sapphires in
silver (alright, from the positive selling point of view I should say
inexpensive). Of course then someone would have to define “good”.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambrige, MA 02140

I know I’m a beginner but please allow some credit for basic
intelligence. I don’t buy complete poop stones - I’m selective. But I
can’t afford to spend silly money either.

I entirely understand the concept of not spending more than what you
can afford. I also know that when buying automobiles or computers,
tools appliances, sometimes people do not buy what they really want,
they settle, and then are not really happy with what they own.

I do not think it is about basic intelligence. Some people have
concepts about what constitutes good or bad taste by what they think
other people will think of them spending $$$ money on themselves.
people have a lack of self esteem and feel they do not deserve to
have what they desire. And my experience is that men will go out and
look at what they can afford, and then they will buy what they really
want even if it is beyond the budget they feel they need to stick to.
My opinion is most women do not do this

To own what you really want, there is no silly money. To own what you
want in inferior quality of design or inferior materials is silly

Over the years, 35, I have seen very few pieces of jewelry that had
diamonds in them that were not gold or platinum. Sterling silver
prongs will not wear well in my opinion. I have seen platinum tiffany
settings that were too thin and the prongs bent easily. So it is not
about how expensive the metal is just to be spendy I know Jim Cotter
in Vail has set diamonds in cement. Have not seen that at Tiffany’s.

Anyone seeing diamonds set in copper or brass? Why not? I have had
the blessing of being able to make jewelry with large gem quality
aquamarine, peridot, ruby, and opal. It was not about the value of
the gems, it was about the beauty of those gems.

Very few people have seen large gem quality rubies or sapphires of
intense color that just take your breath away. I see a lot of
jewelry, every day. I rarely see very nice amethysts or garnets let
alone sapphire or ruby. $2000 does not give you much size wise for a
gem quality sapphire.

Stuller has a 2.6 CT. 9x7 AA qualtiy for $2046. Most of the sapphires
I see that U.S. jewelry buyers purchase are so dark blue they are
black, cutting does not matter because they do not transmit light so
you might just as well set them in metal clay.

Richard Hart

Look at bridal jewellery - which is what we're talking about - and
I don't mean engagement and wedding rings 

Ah, I see the discrepancy now. In the US ‘bridal’ would mean
engagement and wedding rings with attendants’ gifts as add-ons.

over here they're made of plated base metal with glass stones and
fake pearls 

I don’t understand why one would set good sapphires in disposable
costume jewelry in the first place.

But it goes back to how one defines a ‘good’ sapphire. Is it good
because its mined blue corundum or is it good because it has
saturated color with minimal zoning face up and overall looks lively?

I have to agree that it doesn’t matter what the metal is. Granted, I
would find it a bit odd to find diamonds or sapphires in copper, but
probably because I’m not used to seeing that combo. In theory the
metal shouldn’t matter. People put lots of “high-end” stones in the
most odd sorts of materials. It’s the design that makes it. I did,
though, once hold a similar opinion, of not wanting to put such
stones in silver. A friend of mine commissioned a ring with three
stones- diamond, ruby & sapphire. She wears white metals, so she
suggested silver or white gold. I thought, well, you can’t set those
in silver, it just isn’t right! She assured me she really didn’t
care, she just wanted it to be white metal. I decided to do it in
white gold- a metal I’d never used before, by the way. Well, it
turned out to be the biggest pain in the patootey to work with, and
I eventually gave up & informed her that she was going to get a piece
done in silver. She was still perfectly happy, and it still looks

Regarding the work you were asked to do, I can’t imagine why
sapphires wouldn’t look absolutely stunning in silver filigree! It’s
not like you’re talking about taking a boring chunk o’ metal &
sticking some beautiful sapphires into it. Sapphire blue looks sooooo
very nice in white metal, and if it’s filigree, that’s just even

Designs by Lisa Gallagher

Silver needs to be of heavier construction in order to have strength
and to resist wear and tear. If the design calls for massive prongs
or thick bezels then silver can be a good material. The heavier the
item the greater the cost difference if silver is used.

I made a hinged bangle using silver for the solid body of the
bangle, and 18ct white gold for the bezel of the diamond setting and
for the tongue and catch plate of the box clasp. The white gold
components are fine and delicate yet strong and long-wearing, while
the silver body is more massive yet in harmony with the other bits.
The item was stamped with both ‘18ct’ and ‘925’.

In a similar vein, a large sapphire pendant could be constructed
using fine and delicate white gold (or platinum) for the bezel, and
affix that in a heavier surround of silver. The different shades of
white in the metals, the subtle differences in the shine they accept,
and even the tarnish of the silver parts can create a beautiful

As Amanda Fisher pointed out in reference to Art Nouveau jewellery,
use whatever is most suitable to get the desired result.

Cheers, Alastair