Setting expensive stones in silver

You guys are saying it’s not a good idea to set an expensive stone in
silver because it’s too soft. What if the bezel or prongs were gold
or platinum and the rest of the piece is silver. Would that work?


In Victorian times a great many precious and semi precious stones
were set in Sterling. The style and design of the jewelry was
different from what we do now.

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Nan- Yes that would work just fine. I often recommend that folks who
have a gold or silver ring set the center in platinum. It’s really
the best for an expensive stone.

A platinum crown will last for generations. A while gold crown with
every day wear will often have to be rebuilt within a decade or less.

The other beauty of platinum is that it galls.

As the ring is worn, with time the platinum will sort of smear down
and the stone will stay tighter than in gold.

I still want to see Stuller do some experiments with Continuum and
it’s wearability. It seems to have enough palladium in it that it
should gall a bit too.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer

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You guys are saying it's not a good idea to set an expensive stone
in silver because it's too soft. What if the bezel or prongs were
gold or platinum and the rest of the piece is silver. Would that

It can. The issue isn’t just softness, it’s overall durability and
security of the stone. There are also setting styles that should not
be done in platinum, because platinum isn’t always stiff enough. In
any setting, it’s appropriate to match the materials to the intended
use, and expected reasonable life expectancy of the piece. If you’re
setting an expensive stone in a pendant, silver might be quite
acceptable because pendants don’t get the kind of wear and tear that
a ring normally does. And silver might be fine for a costly stone if
it’s thick and heavy enough that even though it wears down faster
than gold or platinum (etc), it might still have enough expected life
to be suitable. The only reason the cost of the stone is taken into
account is that sometimes, one might get the feeling that the value
of the stone isn’t matched by equal investment in the mounting.
Investment, though, takes many forms, not just money. Design,
technical skill, aesthetics, and more. If silver is the right metal
for a piece, then it’s the right metal. But if someone uses silver to
set a costly stone because they don’t like the cost of other metals,
or because they simply don’t have experience with other metals, or
because it’s just what they are used to useing with cheap stones and
don’t want to change that habit, then one simply has to ask if the
resulting piece is doing justice to the stone and the design, and the
customer’s expectations. It may well be that the answer is yes, and
silver is the right choice. But for very costly stones (or other
situations which may require consideration, such as setting very
fragile stones), it seems to me that the jeweler has a certain
responsibility to the customer, the stone, the integrity of the
piece, to address these questions. One answer that sometimes must be
considered is whether one is the right person to do a certain job.

Sometimes it’s best to refer a job to someone with more experience
in a specific technique, or to collaborate with another craftsperson
to help with aspects one may not be fully comfortable with. If I’m
making something to be set with cheap stones and I have extras, it
doesn’t matter so much to me to take risks that might mean I break a
stone. If it’s a costly or hard to replace stone, and I’m not certain
I’ll do the best job, I might ask someone with more skill in that
type of setting work, to set the stone once I make the setting, or
to make a setting I’m not as good at making and then I’ll set the
stone, or some other such choice. The idea is simply to try to avoid
cutting corners that don’t need to be cut in order that the resulting
piece is as good as it can and should be for it’s own integrity, for
the craftsperson’s integrity, and for the best result for the end
customer of the work.


Hi Jo - - stumbled across this old thread and you said, "I still want to see Stuller do some experiments with Continuum and it’s wearability. It seems to have enough palladium in it that it should gall a bit too."
Now that time has gone by and you’ve worked with Continuum more, do you find this to be true?

Yes it wears like platinum. I’ve been wearing eyeglasses I made for a few
years now with no sign of wear and very little oxydation. Tim loves to bead
set in it too… Attached find a photo of bead setting in continuum. It is a
pin I made for a favorite charity a few years ago. It is a copy of their
then logo in black and white diamonds.
Nice tall beads that were raised after heat hardening
And as you can see it oxydizes beautifully too.
I really don’t work much in silver any more just 18kt and platinum. But
when I need something light weight and white metal I always go for
Continuum now.
-Jo Haemer


Are there any real-world advantages to the hv’s between Continuum and Argentium 935?

trying to read inbetween the lines of listed numbers

Continuum has a listed age-hardened 150hv while Argentium 125-130hv. Though white gold is listed higher, in the 150’s-160’s, at what point are there limitations, if any in regards to stone setting?

The way I would think of HV is the usability and reliability of a metal to hold stones should be as close to around 150 HV as possible. There are many other things to consider, and we could stay on this subject for a while. Safely and securely holding a stone is most important. I’ve seen metal used at near 200HV, but then there raises other issues where difficulty and destroying stones can come into play. Think of the usability scale of around 90HV to 210HV and in the middle being where we are not only secure but also stone friendly.

If a prong gets caught on something and is pulled with a jerking motion things can happen with the softer metals. So as-cast Continuum is the only Sterling capable of getting in this range. With age hardening other Sterling silvers, they will harden but not like Continuum, so if you are going to go the distance of age hardening than get the best bang for your buck, and protect the stone at a still reasonable cost. Use Continuum! Beat the bush all you want, but there is still no better.

Andy “The Tool Guy” Kroungold
Director Tool Sales & Stuller Bench
Stuller Inc.
P 1-800-877-7777 ext 4191 or 4194

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What exactly does age hardening mean? Is it another word for work hardening, or does the metal get harder if it just sits there getting older? Sorry, but this term has me confused.

And another question I have - If I fabricate a ring out of Continuum, and I work harden it by giving it a nice hammered finish, how hard will it be? Will it harden to 150HV, or will only the kiln do that?

all metals work harden. You can work harden metals until they become fatigued and fail. each have a different rate with which they do this. this is a measure of malleability. Think of it like bending a coat hanger back and forth until it breaks. That is metal fatigue.

the trick of a smith is to work a piece until it holds its shape but will not fail. you can harden a piece intentionally by hammering or tumbling. In doing this you can control the rate that it hardens. Metal dose not technically harden with time however if it is warn or used, over time it will harden because in use you are impacting the surface every time you pick up your keys put your hand in your pockets or run your hand over a bench surface. So over time it hardens.

Some metals when you heat them and then quench them they become hard (ferrous metals). Most if you heat and slowly cool will anneal In the case of silver you can quench after heating and it will be annealed. You can always harden it by hitting (hammering) it and yes you will eventually get to the hardness you want with the continuum however it will be difficult to gauge how quickly this will happen and in the case of a ring how small you need to make it first because it will get bigger in size and thinner in gauge as you hit it. I have never worked with the Continuum silver alloy and am intrigued by the idea of heating silver in a kiln to harden it as silver anneals when you heat it.


There is age hardening en work hardening.
In simple words this is what it is.

Work hardening is easy to explain.
De energy you bring into a metal causes stress due to compresions,
stretching and forming of the molecules and atoms.
By heating, you release that stress by “reordening” all the connections of
molecules and atoms.
Bending, forming, hammering, filing create this stress.
Tomuch stress will result in cracking and inferior metals

Age harding or precipetation hardening is different in this way that atoms
from different metals separate from each other like copper does in silver.
The solubility of metals for eachother is different in a liquid status then
in a solid status.
Copper atoms like to move away from the silver atoms in a cold status. That
movement create stress resulting in a hardening of the metal alloy.
Time and heat are the main source of energys which is different compared
with work hardening.

Again, this is explained in simple words to make it easy to understand.

James Binion (aswell as others) wrote a very detailed explanation regarding
this subject.

Best regards

Age hardening is heating in a kiln for a certain amount of time at a certain temperature. Continuum and some other silver alloys can be age hardened. You can find the time and temperature settings for each alloy online. Say for making a cuff bracelet you order some continuum silver sheet. Cut and form the bracelet while the metal is soft. Then put it in an oven for the appropriate amount of time and it will come out hardened and springy.

Thank you for your replies. I have been dragging my feet here for a long time because I have no kiln and am just not sure if there are any advantages of using this metal without a kiln.

Bree- the first time I tried to kiln harden Continuum I just visited some friends of mine who had a fancy kiln. I heat at 800 F for 40 mins and then quench. Even if you don’t kiln harden it continuum still wears better than any other sterling alloy I have tried. Just the process of setting will work harden the metal nicely.
Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
-Jo Haemer

Hi nan,
Please through some detail in
What is your idea of an expensive stone?
What dollar amount defines “Expensive” to you?
What is the design and it’s intended use?

The older perception of silver was that it had so little intrinsic value that it lived in the fashion / costume jewelry domain.
That wasn’t’ always the case through history, however, as metals go, it’s wear rate can be quite high, and durability quite low. So it’s rarely the first choice for “Fine” jewelry.
And yet…
It’s not my job do define or limit your expression of creativity, but if you are doing client work or are simply not versed in metal hardnesses and workability, I would defer to my first three questions and see who else comes in on this.

Yes Jim this has been true of most of my career. But that ended for me when the price of gold tripled in one year. I make lots of silver jewelry now with precious stones. You just can’t do the same kind of setting styles that you can get away with in white gold. Like a 4 prong tiffany style head.

This is exactly why Jim asked the questions, “What is your idea of an expensive stone? What dollar amount defines “Expensive” to you? What is the design and it’s intended use?” “Expensive” is relative, after all.

Perhaps a useful rule of thumb is that if the cost of materials and labor combined pales in comparison to the price of the stone it is expensive. If the cost of the labor and materials is more than the price of the stone it is not expensive, at least not in that particular piece.

A few years ago, I mentioned the notion of setting “expensive” stones (sapphire, Ruby, emerald, tanzanite, diamond) in silver, rather than just those stones folk refer to as “semi-precious”. I got quite a backlash in response, from the jewellers whose opinions I respect, as it wasn’t the done thing. In the nine years I’ve been making jewellery, I have always used silver to set both more ordinary and my more expensive stones, mainly due to budget constraints. It’s ironic that now you see it everywhere, because metal prices have sky-rocketed so much! I have a ring, which my husband bought me a few (approx 8) years ago. It’s an 18k yellow gold half eternity ring, channel set with ten 5 point, princess cut diamonds (SI/G). It cost £250 (UKP) at the time. They now sell the same ring for more than £1000 (UKP)!!! Its 9k equivalent, with much lower quality diamonds costs significantly more than my husband paid for the better ring. I guess people (including myself) just can’t afford the higher priced metals as much as they could a few years ago. Supply and demand dictates that we have to be more creative and set stones in more modestly priced metal. Thinking of the structural properties of the metal, the wear it will be subjected to, and engineering added strength into the design is needed, so thicker prongs, bezels and ring shanks, etc. If the look is too chunky for some people’s tastes, then filing down the profile of its edges and a high polish gives the illusion of a piece having less metal. I will be interested to see if I can get Continuum in the UK and give it a try.



It is interesting to me that the price has gone up so much in 8 years. That would be 2008, gold’s high in 2008 was a bit less than $1100, compare that to today’s high of about $1200. Yes, in 08 gold went as low as $800, but overall it has not been all that high. I would suggest there is a lot more going on than the price of the gold.

I believe you are correct. I started using more silver after the price of gold spiked in 2011. But as gold has fallen things have not changed back to the way they were. My customers are still looking for lower priced items.