Poor setting projects in USA trade magazine

In my (not important) opinion, the settings could definitely be
improved on, but then so can mine - always.

For my taste, the bezel for the purple stone is too thin, meaning
that getting the bezel down onto the stone is more difficult, and
also the top edge isnot even.

To improve it, I would use a thicker gauge of metal. This makes it a
simple job to sand/file the top edge perfectly level so that it’s
top edge will be beautifully neat after setting and can be burnished
to make a lovely frame for the stone, and it also means that the
extra thickness makes it easier to close the bezel onto the stone,
as the thicker metal has “squish factor”, ie it will compress to a
degree when turning the bezel, rather than springing out in adjacent
places to where you’re working, like thinner metal does. Besides
which, to my eyes, thicker metal looks better around a bigger stone.

Conversely, the metal used to make the bezels for the green stones
is too thick and the bezels are too tall. Those two things both make
the ratio of visible stone to setting wrong. Because the metal is
too tall, too much metal is turned down onto the stones, obscuring
them too much, and because the metal is too thick, there is just too
much gold framing these small stones.

To improve it, I would make the bezels out of a thinner gauge of
metal (and certainly thinner than that used for the big stone) and
make the height of the bezels above the stones’ seats, less tall.
The settings would be a little less chunky looking, and more of the
green stones’ crowns would be visible.

It’s all about the visual balance of the stones and their settings,
and using the most appropriate gauge will help achieve this, and
will also help the maker to create the best possible setting in
terms of quality too.

Having said all that, there was a time a few years ago when I would
have been really pleased if I’d made and set such stone settings,
and the settings in question are far better than some of my earlier

Hopefully the above is constructive as to how to improve the
settings if thedesigner/maker wanted to improve such settings in
future projects. However, I do think that “perfection” for different
people lies anywhere an a sliding scale and what is perfect for one
person, can seem to be less than perfectto some other people. On the
other hand, an artist who makes jewellery thatthey perceive to be
"perfect" or at least good enough, but whose work is “lower” on the
sliding scale of “perfection” than someone else’s, may well notsee
any difference at all in the quality of their work and that of the
other jeweller. It’s to do with how well you train yourself to see
details. Personally, I am never totally happy with the attention to
detail in my own work, and figuratively beat myself up about it. The
recipients of my pieces, however, are always wowed by what I’ve made
for them, so I have to stop fretting, let it go and use the fact
that I’m not happy, to learn from it and improve the next time.
That’s how I get better at things, whether it be making jewellery,
playing my cello or doing a watercolour painting. I always think
"why am I not happy about [whatever aspect]?", "what have I done
that’s achieved a less than pleasing result?“and"what can I do next
time, that will make it better?”.

It helps in life if you (meaning the generic you rather than anybody
particular) are the kind of person who can genuinely take
well-intended constructive criticism. If you can, and can take on
board what others are suggesting, then it’s easy to continue to
improve. Again speaking generically, if you take things to heart and
are easily offended by those trying to offer constructive criticism,
then it’s very difficult to grow in one’s chosen activity.

After all that prevaricating, the ring in question is absolutely
saleable and its recipient will no doubt be extremely happy with it,
and that to most people is what’s important.


I started writing this post as an apology, but then I thought, wait
a minute, nobody ever apologized to me for having higher standards
than I did. Quite the contrary, they’ve fired me for it.

When I started my first trade shop after about ten years on the
bench, I had two distinctly different types of clients. The first,
pawn shops, mall stores and the like didn’t give a hoot about my
craftsmanship, they wanted fast and cheap. That’s a tough way to make
a living if you want to do much more than eat. The other type was the
exact opposite, high end jewelry stores and wholesalers.

The most formative event in my career at that time, maybe ever, was
once when I thought I had made a piece suitable for the cover of JCK.
When I delivered it, all puffed up with pride, the client looked at
it for about ten or fifteen seconds. Without even reaching for a
loupe, she handed it back to me and said “This is unacceptable. Fix
it or cut the stones out so I can send them to someone that will do
it right. If you screw them up cutting them out, you’re buying them.”

That’s how and when I learned that this is how the real world
operates. No magazine cover for that one, I’m really lucky I even got
a second chance to get paid for the job.

To the aspiring goldsmith that feels that their feelings are more
important than their commitment to excellence in craftsmanship I
would say this - if you want to make a good living by creating
jewelry that others will pay for, especially if high-end retailers
are to be a part of your client base or your employer, you’re
probably in for a long, hard struggle. If you want to make anywhere
near six figures working the bench outside of the halls of academia,
you need to tighten up your game; I don’t care how good you are. If
you’re already there, you already know that you still have a long way
to go to get to where you really want to be, or you wouldn’t be

To the person that made the piece that started this thread, if my
comments have made you consider taking a little extra care in your
solder joints and spending an extra ten or fifteen minutes cleaning
up your bezels before submitting your next piece for publication, my
goal has been achieved.

I don’t care about your feelings. I want you to be a better
goldsmith. So that people won’t say nice things about your work so
they don’t hurt your feelings, they’ll say them because they are
truly deserved.

Dave Phelps

Bravo, Dave Phelps. It’s easy to be mediocre in what one does for a
living. Once you’re known for lesser standards, you’ll ALWAYS be
considered average at best to those who know high quality. And word
does travel - fast. Being exceptional shows the world you’ve cared
enough to hone your skills and will not compromise.

Jeff Herman

I would be useful to see images of your work David–and Richard.
I’ve looked in the Orchid gallery and online.

Dear all!

I think this has been one of the most interesting series of posts in
a long-long time.

I had no idea when I started this post many days ago, it’s still
going on.

I know we can see how useful this has been to everyone on all levels
of jewellery making/setting.

I’m sure not everyone agreed with me, but that is the reason why we
are all here.

There are so many techniques in setting stones, I don’t profess to
be 100% perfect, I have my own ‘personal’ techniques, but at least we
are all here to share them, agree?

As it is written…“beauty is in the eyes of the beholder”! What
one person might call it horrid or failing, the other three folks
might say it is fantastic! If I might have caused some feathers to be
ruffled, my apologies, I had no intention to do so.

If the artist preferred to create her jewellery in the way she did,
good for her…:>) “MJSA” chose to have it on their front cover-page
is testament to her strong designing abilities. good for them &
…Case closed!..(I think)…:>)

Gerry Lewy

I would be useful to see images of your work David--and Richard.
I've looked in the Orchid gallery and online. 

I take very close pictures of my jewelry and lapidary work. When I
look at them, I generally can find something that could have been
done in a different or better way that I didn’t see when I was
looking at it with the unaided eye. This reminds me why we grade
diamonds under a specific level of magnification. I guess that there
are times that I go back and fix what I don’t like and times that I
don’t. This usually depends on whether or not it is possible to fix
it. In the end, I usually remind myself that it is the unaided eye
that will be buying my work and that is how it should be measured.
Sometimes I put a finished piece up coming back to look at it a day
later to decide if I am happy with it. This is a tough discussion
that we all should hold with ourselves often. Thanks. Rob

Rob Meixner

I would be useful to see images of your work David--and Richard.
I've looked in the Orchid gallery and online. 

I’m not sure how images of my work would be useful Andrew, but here
you go. If the objective is to determine whether I’m qualified to
comment on craftsmanship, I would disagree that one has to be able
to do something to be qualified to judge it. To teach someone how to
do it maybe, but to judge whether something’s up to snuff or not,

For instance, I don’t have to be a concert violinist to be able to
tell when someone nails Mendelsohn’s Concerto in E Minor and when
they don’t. What if there was a requirement that a judge must be
able to do it better than the participants to be qualified to judge
sporting events? Who in the world would they get to judge figure
skating and gymnastics in the Olympics?

If the objective of having images of my work is to play a little
game of gotcha, knock yourself out. I’ll bet I can find more wrong
with it than you can. But in all fairness, I do have the advantage
of knowing where I decided to leave well enough alone.

I’ll say it again. The jewelry market doesn’t care about a
craftsman’s feelings. It cares about getting the best quality it can
at a fair price. Telling someone their work is wonderful when it
isn’t, simply because their feelings might get hurt if you tell them
the truth, isn’t doing them a favor. There is no growth to be found
in gushing platitudes, either in giving them or receiving them.

It is also worth noting that the masthead on the magazine cover in
question has the phrase “Professional Excellence in Jewelry Making &
Design”. If it were a magazine devoted to hobbyists or students, the
piece in the photo would be right at home and without question,
appropriate. When one makes a point of referring to Professional
Excellence, I’m sorry, it’s just not quite there. Not that my work
would necessarily qualify either, I never said it does. But there is
work out there that does qualify, and it can’t be all that hard to

Dave Phelps

Hi all

here is a poor quality photo of a cocktail ring and a crystal ball
being finished.

The cocktail ring is not master crafts level but still better than
the MJSA setting. It is a 10mm swarovski cubic made for fun. And I
would definitely not put it on the cover of a magazine.

Wow, Dave! Those rings are beautiful! Thanks for sharing

Dave Phelps, my compliments for your beautiful work, design and
execution, Ican only dream to come close to your skills as show on
the pictures.

I assume you made the base rings with wax/casting?


If the objective of having images of my work is to play a little
game of gotcha, knock yourself out. I'll bet I can find more wrong
with it than you can.

You win.

Because I can’t find anything wrong with that work at all.

Really, really nice work Dave.

But I am not surprised, really.

A few years ago Dave did my tutorial on making a whistle and he made
one far better than my original.

Top drawer work indeed.

Thanks David. Very well made work.

Whether or not one needs to be an expert at something to critique it
was not exactly my point. (Although I believe that being well
informed about a subject makes for a higher level of critical

It just seems fair, to me, that people can see the all the work:
that of the person being criticized and the work of the person
offering the criticism.

That’s why I always asked Leonid–remember Leonid?-- to share images
of what he made along with the strident opinions that he offered.


Take care,

Thank you to all for the kind words, both on and off list. I’m truly

Yes Peter, those pieces (except for the platinum antique
reproduction piece) were made using a carved and cast base piece (or
pieces) and most were assembled and finished with fabricated parts
and pieces. I prefer to fabricate whenever possible, but in light of
the conversation I opted to post mainly pieces with bezels, and most
of the pieces I have done that are not just plain bezels were made
using both techniques. The whistle that Hans posted was done the same
way, the body, innards and bail were fabbed out of sheet and the ends
were carved (turned on a flex shaft) and cast. That was a fun piece
to make. And it’s LOUD!

The antique piece was created using a delrin die and a Bonny Doon
press, and then pierced and assembled, copying the original design
and construction methods as closely as possible without the benefit
of having access to a drop forge. I’ve always had such great respect
for the older Art Deco pieces I would see from time to time, how they
could be made to such a high degree of complexity and lightness but
still endure the test of time that I always wanted to try it. Finally
a client with a worn out ring wanted a duplicate made to eventually
hand down to her grand daughter as it had been handed down to her,
and didn’t really care that it was going to take so many hours at so
many dollars per hour, as long as I documented the entire process,
which I did. I have even greater respect for the people that did that
kind of work now, seeing as they didn’t have much in the way of
artificial lighting and magnification tools like we have now, let
alone power tools.

Oh yeah, I do remember Leonid, Andy. I remember joining with you in
calling him out to show us some pictures proving he had experience
to back up his assertions concerning the right way (only way?) to do
things. My motivation one time was that he was giving not only
incorrect and counterproductive advice concerning gravers, but
positively dangerous advice. Using the wriggle technique with a wide
flat bottom graver for material removal? That’s a good way to shove
a graver clean through your hand. His additional advice concerning
that hazard? Use a piece of leather to cover your palm. Yeesh! As I
remember, we never did get those images, did we? Sorry if I sounded
short in my response to you. You weren’t out of line, but I may have

Concerning the topic at hand, the two people that had the biggest
impact on my learning of attention to detail (which is really the
crux of the issue here) sold high end jewelry. Neither one could even
solder a chain, but they knew bad work when they saw it, which was
almost everything they ever saw. But they had deep pockets and
customers with even deeper pockets.

The greatest compliment I ever got from either of them (maybe the
highest from anyone, ever) was exactly the same. After examining
something I was delivering with a loupe for about two minutes (which
can be an extraodinarily long time under such circumstances) they
would grunt, drop it back in the job envelope and say “You got an

Dave Phelps

I have seriously enjoyed following this topic, as the level of
discourse is wonderfully respectful (IMHO) and engaging. I thank the
respondents for that, since the honesty and critiques of the work and
why have been educational indeed. Bravo!


Make excuses for the prongs on this?
Indesign magazine.

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I do love this group! Great people helping others to be great also…