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Model making for pave setting

I am a fine jewelry designer, fairly new to jewelry-making and have
a basic question about model making.

I have a flower design that requires pave – diamonds – all over,
with millegrain finish around the edges. I gave this assignment to
two different makers, who responded with two different proposals:

The #1 person made his model in silver and intends to then pave/set
the stones and give the millegrain finish after casting/finishing the
piece in 18K gold.

The #2 person made his model in wax with pre-pave and pre-millegrain
already in his model.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of these two methods?
Obviously, I could save money on gold, labor, etc with #2. However, I
do not know the real likely difference in the finished quality of the
product. Which method is more applicable to my aim, to make a
high-end, limited quantity item? Or does it depend on the workmanship
of the model, no matter what method?

I would appreciate your insight, and thank you.

N. Cho

    What are the advantages and disadvantages of these two

Hello N;

I would bet that the first person was a good fabricator, but didn’t
have much skill in wax carving. Likewise, the second person was a
good wax modeler, but wasn’t too handy with pave. Just a guess,
maybe not. If you asked me to do that piece, and assuming it was a
production piece, and I was going to produce it, here’s the way I’d
go about it. I’d shoot for something in the middle. I’d have the
holes drilled in the wax (provided they weren’t too small, in which
case I’d drill a dent but not all the way through), and I’d have all
the initial cut lines that would be done before pushing beads and
opening the lines, but they wouldn’t be to the complete depth. I
would not do any millgrain in the model. Here’s the logic: You save
a little gold, and lots of time if you have the holes drilled, not
to speak of the time saved not having to layout each piece with
stones. You’d only have to deepend the lines, push the beads, finish
the cutting and then add the millgrain (done after the tripoli
pre-polish and before final polishing). Doing all the cutting on the
castings gives a much tighter look than doing it all in the wax, but
you can still achieve that look and save a lot of work by doing the
drilling and beginning the cutting in the original model and then
going over all the cutting in the cast copies. Clear as mud, right?

David L. Huffman

N. Cho,

Every jeweler has methods that work for them. For each of these
jewelers this was what worked.

If I were doing this job knowing that you wanted to do a small
production and not a one of a kind, I would use a combination of
both of the methods you mentioned.

I would carve a wax of the pattern and lightly scribe all of the
lines that would separate the pave and the millgraining. I would
then cast it in Sterling Silver. Once I had this pattern cast I
would lay out were the stones would be paved and I would drill out
all of the holes. I would then finish the ring and make a mold.

The pave work would all be hand raised beads at the time the stones
were set and the lines that were scribed in the wax now act as
guides for my bright cutting. The millgraining would be done after
the ring was buffed.

If you do the raised beads in the wax it looks more like a
commercially made piece than if you do the work by hand.
millgraining should always be done in the finished piece if you want
a crisp look.

If you want to see an example of hand raised beads on diamonds with
a millgrained edge you can look at the flower ring I have on my
website under Custom Jewelry - Gemstone Rings.

Good Luck.
Greg DeMark

Dear N. Cho and anyone on Orchid!

The total difference is between night and day, why? After setting
after casting directly, the sharp, crisp fine cutting is so
professional looking, it bears to hear gasps of praise from the
client. If you wish to have just a mediocre result, but not bothering
to make precision cutting, stick with the “pre-cut” from the wax
form. This is my “humbled opinion”…:>)

As a full time Bright-Cutting setter, I prefer to see diamonds
sparkle in their own solitary bright walls; not some mass produced
method to reduce the setting fee. A dollar spent “after casting” is
well worth the expense of a diamond setter who is adept in doing this
style of workmanship. I am now doing diamond setting for a very large
jewellery mfg’ing company in Toronto and my sole responsibility is to
do only pave’ing and bright-cutting. This is a definite art, not just
some graver lacking a polished graver along with a modicum of cutting
knowledge. Again my humble apologies if I offended any other setter
who write here!

Even graver sharpening is an art, in itself. I give actual seminars
on how to accomplish this difficult task it is a skill/art! I have 5
so far in 2005 this year, just on the “Skill of Bright-Cutting”.

When the actual bright-cutting is executed, the gold need not to be
fully polished, why? it reduces the sharp crisp beads to unholy stumps
of metal. I have seen this all too often and I cringe at the sight and
feel my labours have been diminished. Bright-Cutting is to be left
alone and not disturbed!

I feel the “polishing expert” must just maintain the lustre of the
setters skill. Polishing after setting must be only a light rouge,
nuttin else! …Why milgrain? it only covers up the beautiful design
we setters are trying to portray. It delineates the finished
composition of melding of diamonds, gold, and the streamline affect
of cutting.

If my many words allow some form of understanding what is needed,
then N.Cho you might have learned what “I/we” are trying to
do…thanks…eh! Gerry, the Cyber-Setter!

Dear Gerry, I haven’t followed this thread at all so I may be
asking a redundant question. Obviously you know what you are talking
about. I am in no way a setter but would like to incorporate pave in
my work. I have setters to work with here in Tucson but, my question
is how much material do I leave in wax for the setter. I assume
there are percentages to go by depending on the stone size. I only
mention this to appear less stupid on the entire subject. How much
thickness is needed and how much space between stones?

Sam Patania, Tucson

With all the fine comments on model making for pave setting, I will
throw in my two cents worth and with a penny for my thoughts there
is some change left over! : ) Preface this with the idea that the
typical working jeweler is not doing pave and bright cut all day
long. In my case, I can do excellent work but when some time has
passed since the last bright cut job the crispness is not there
without a little catch up. Without a little “renewal practice” and
mental planning, the job comes out with the last few stones set
showing the best work! So, plan ahead and do a little practice work
of similar kind to check the gravers and the hand skills first.

For a single item I would approach the wax with some caution as to
stone layout. If you have set a group of stones provided by the
customer you know what I am getting at…stones matched in all ways
layout and set easily and the others simply take much more time to
layout and set properly in depth, level and spacing. In either
regard, anyone who has done pave in a purchased casting knows the
exactness is often not there for the result the jeweler would want if
done from scratch. So, this is my approach, not better than
suggestions by others but the way I would do it:

Whether in wax or metal, lay out the stones VISUALLY. I have found
that trying to be a machinist and layout by measure does not result
in the best look in the finished item. Take each individual stone and
lay it on a suitable tray, such as a watch parts can lid lined with
melted soft wax. This keeps the stones in order. Then take one stone
at a time and layout on the metal or wax model. I do this with the
assistance of saliva. Touch each stone to the liquid and place crown
down on the item. You can move each stone for the best visual then
set aside to dry. When dry, remove each stone one at a time and
replace in the tray. A small circle will faintly remain on the item
showing the table of the stone. This is your clue as where to drill.

In wax, only drill the smallest hole centered in the “clue marks”.
You will very likely need to adjust later. In metal, drill the small
holes for all stones and set each stone on the drill hole. This will
tell you if adjustment is needed. From there, you can begin opening
the holes and finally setting the stones. What bright cut is done is
up to the design and your ability in this work.

I find the minimal savings in gold by predrilling to be less than
optimal. I would personally lay out the stones on the metal, then
drill and set. For channel sets, of course a close to fit channel
should be cut in the wax, still leaving room for fine adjustment in
the metal.

So, there is 2 cents worth. I hope the change is worth it.
Blessing and Peace, TomDart. @Sp.T


Great advice…very clear…thanks for the input!!

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry! @coralnut2

Hi Sam and all ! this dissertation of wax carving is only
hypothetical and not the rule!!! B"H

I would at first thought request that the “finished” metal thickness
not be any thinner than I.0 mm. If it is less than this, you are
bound for problems in drilling the holes prior to setting.75 mm
depending of the stones depth you might have the culet find its way
through the bottom of the metal in question. Sam, try and have the
wax carver go for at least 1.50 mm on the safe side. This might seem
thick but if you are using larger melees up to .05 pts this will give
you an extra margin of safety. The separation of stones outer edge
to the edge of the gold, you MUST allow at least 2 mm’s+ from the
edge of the stone (a.k.a girdle) to the edge of the metal. This will
give the setter room to raise secure beads and do some ornamental
cutting…if you please!

Now for the distance in-between the two stones in question… I try
to have my wax carver, again, allow at least 75%-100% the diameter of
the stone and more. The setter must have room now for 4 strong
"healthy" beads and to do some other bright-cutting in-between, I
always do this!..have I helped you a tad?

When I said ‘finished’ metal thickness, I meant after filing after
casting & pre-polishing may be you should allow 10% on top of these
numbers for the final result…in the wax<->rubber mold there will
be a definite shrinkage ensuing, so the 10% is the law&rule. Again if
you are using a pink rubber “nonshrinking” rubber mold, disallow the
10%…“Gerry, the Cyber-Setter”

I would like to add my opinion to the others made before me on model
making for pave.First decide what “look” you want for your piece…if
it is a tight pave area in the ring, then , in my opinion, you
wouldn’t want more than .05mm. space in between the diamonds. This
will work for diamonds .01pt. - .05 pt.very nicely; I have found the
thickness of the metal to be almost more important. You should have
1mm. thickness to work with;that way your diamonds can sit nice and
close together and the thickness allows you to burr your seat a
little deeper.(giving a nice amount of metal for your beads) My
experience setting Tiffany, Cartier and other high end pieces, is
that the diamonds are always as tight together as possible. On the
OTHER hand, if you need to make the diamonds go a little further;
then, stretch them out a bit and make sure you do lovely "bright"
cuts in between the stones.Don’t have “dead metal”, a professional
NO-NO! Predrill your holes as often as you can, even it they’re only
starter holes, it will save you a lot of time. Don’t forget to clean
the holes from the back of the setting…it should look as nice on
the inside, as it does on the outside.Lightly take a round burr,
slightly larger than your drilled hole, and burr the back of each
hole.Consider making the hole at least 1/2 the diameter of the the
diamond, larger stones will need larger holes;say, 3mm. (10pt.)
diamond would take a 2.5mm. hole.When setting larger than .05 pt.
stones, you will need to make the setting metal thicker. For example,
if you were pave setting .10 pt. diamonds, I would make my metal
1.5mm. thick.There are so many variables in working with metal and
wax. If you are preparing an area in wax for pave, then, I would
leave a little more space in between the diamonds; but, I gather when
most jewellers say pave; they are thinking small stones up to .05
pt.Making the models for pave in wax or silver is a treat, and
inexpensive… so, experiment a little; don’t be intimidated… it’s
great fun and very satisfying in the end. In wax, you can predrill
and precut the beads in any configuration and thin the wax out after
to a suitable thickness. If you predrill the diamond sizes into the
wax and go a little deeper than usual, you can take a tapered barrel
shaped burr and clean out the in-between wax and form the "beads"
needed. Look at a lot of jewellery, books, store, shows, even waxes
at your casters are a good guide for what you may need. Ready Mounts
in Toronto for example , has 100’s of samples out.Then, hold your
breath and Jump In! You are the artist and it is your interpretation
that ‘makes’ the piece. I had a student, when teaching in Toronto,
who wanted to channel set peridot cabs into silver. I told her to go
for it and see what it would look like… her line was mostly silver
and a bit organic… she took her domed ring which had two "walls"
slanted across the top, into which, she set 5 x 3mm. cabs. She was
thrilled, she’d created a look that was hers and encouraged her to
try more with stones. Have fun!