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Practicing setting skills

Does anyone have suggestions for materials (metal and stone (or
glass)) to use to practice various setting skills?

I recently met an older, 70+, gentleman who told me when he
apprenticed he had to set rhinestones until he didn’t break them! He
said he rarely broke stones after that. I would guess you could use
cooper to set them in.


The setting videos by Blaine Lewis come with practice materials
(brass and CZs). Blaine’s teaching techniques, highly magnified
camera work, and computer graphic animation will really help you
learn to set like a master. I know they’re available through Rio and
probably other sources as well.

Bonnie Cooper

Hi Candy, Although not yet 70, I too, learned to bead set using
rhinestones and setting them in copper. I set many before the success
rate started to climb, but eventually I got better at it.

Have fun. Tom Arnold

Hi Msbutch,

Setting cheap stones like CZ, garnet, and synthetics into silver
will provide good practice with the chance of producing useful items
at the same time.

Compared to gold alloys silver is softer and easier to work. Fine
delicate work in silver is fragile when worn as jewelery, does not
last as long, but is beautiful while it lasts. Silver lends itself to
heavier bold treatment so you will be practicing setting techniques
a bigger scale.

Gilding metal behaves more like gold alloys and can be worked finely
and delicately, but even when gold plated it remains just brass!

Cheers, Alastair

Hi all!

In response to setting CZ’s into Silver, I use this metal in all of
my setting classes in my Toronto community college for the past 6
years. I call it a “confidence builder”, why would I use a stronger
unforgiving alloy like Brass that is rather difficult to bend or make
a bearing with? First of all Silver is rather inexpensive, when my
students finish a setting technique they can actually wear their own
created FIRST setting item for years to come. In fact many of them
ask me to let them keep their items to bring back home and brag
about! Brass is still brass, no matter how nice it looks, filing is
loads different than finishing on silver patterns.

Even when I go on my “in-shop” training sessions, I bring silver
items with me for my jewellery clients to practice on. After all, I’m
teaching setting techniques and don’t wish to have them lose their
confidence at first shot!. So the votes are now in, use silver!

Gerry Lewy!

CZ’s are really cheap and for a few dollars you can get a lot of
very small ones.I know some people that use halved marbles to
simulate cabochon setting, but i find them too big to give you a
realistic picture of the process. I recommend trying a 2-3mm stone to
start with.After setting the 2-3 mm stones then go Down in size to
the smallest stone you think you’ll work with, and gain competency
with that,-going to a 4mm and up sized stone seems easily mastered in
comparisson. a trick is to take a masonry cut nail and round the
corners off with a bench grinder or the device of your choice. the
nail is already polished to some degree but a few minutes on a buff
with some compound and it’s burnishing properties are drastically
improved - alternatively you can matte the top and it will make for
quick work if you use it a s a pusher when setting stones- because of
the rectangular shape doesn’t slip off and scratch your cabs or
stones as readily as a square one will.

The GRS benchmate system is excellent as a bench tool- particularly
in setting- but if it’s not in your budget, or you don’t anticipate
fabricating many settings (i.e.- you are going to buy
pre-manufactured castings or die struck ring,pendant,earring
settings,etc.) a shellac stick, pitch pad or bowl or jett sett or
other brand of thermoset plastic are essential for the settings you
will use. Holding the item , fabricated or not, securely is an
essential aspect of setting a stone- if the GRS benchmate system is
in your budget, you won’t be sorry if you make the purchase! The
ring clamp is particularly useful due to the universal pivoting
properties it has. Also the adjustability make it practically
indispensable if you do plan on setting stones regularly- in fact,
other than a couple of types of torches I think it’s the most
necessary tool one can invest in. had a brand of thermosetting plastic that was black,
compared to the white jett sett for a fraction of what jett set goes
for- but i haven’t checked in the past two months to see if they
still have it.It is identical to jett set, but black before it goes
into hot water- then as versatile (use it for tool handle
customization, make pmc stamps and texture plates,graver holds,drill
stops, depth sets and guides, etc.) and removable without the solvent
needed to get workpieces out of shellac or pitch.Settings and odd
shaped items can be pressed directly into it with little or no
movement once it hardens ( about a minute or two out of the water)-
depending on how you fixture your workpiece and it is easily removed
and reused over and over.It makes great quick molds but you can’t
pour molten anything into it. On the other hand, i love orange flake
shellac mixed with sealing wax on a disc of metal with a bar about
20-30mm deep and spanning the length of the disc or plate soldered
onto the bottom of it then held in a ring clamp,shaping table, or a
panavise ( or any vise with 360 degree rotation capabilities) for
setting too ! The most important thing -to me- is getting prongs to
lay, or beads to hold perfectly with the facets of the stone as
opposed to just bent over a stone’s pavillion at a 90 degree angle,
or cutting a perfectly level channel or azures, or attaching bearing
wires level with bezel or shaped strips of metal - so a good source
of magnification and lighting are also part of making decent settings
as is the actual setting of faceted or cabochon stones. The ott light
is expensive compared to purchasing a flourescent shop fixture and
installing some full spectrum tubes, or just adding full spectrum
bulbs, tubes or compacts to existing fixtures.

If you can’t see it you can’t set it…I like a gooseneck and base
magnifier because i can position it so that all the work is
magnified, if i don’t feel like wearing headgear or clipping a loupe
on to glasses - some lightweight visors are readily available and a
cheap one is as good as any branded optivisor in my opinion. I have
visors that have three plate style lenses and an extra 50x loupe that
cost under ten dollars that are more comfortable than some optivisors
costing 80 bucks. I tend to use glass lensed reading glasses that are
a dollar a pair and aviator style if i am doing somthing that throws
bits or hot particles ( like grinding metals) or even just as
protection from dust generated from flexshafts etc. Plastic lensed
glasses ( perscription eyeglasses ) can get easily ruined from
particles, particularly hot ones, pitting and melting the
lenses.Glass is much more resistant. It’s all dependant on what is
most comfortable and practical for the individual and the fabrication
step you are executing at a given time. I have a lot of choices in
magnification because there are vast differences in body positioning
and fabrication steps and spatial considerations as well. By the way
that box of masonry cut nails makes excellent custom texturing
punches, stamps, and heat sinks among other uses i’m still figuring