Setting near-translucent cabs

I spent all day today trying to polish the inside of small settings for some rosecut tourmalines, without success. The stones are small and near translucent and a range of beautiful blues and blue-greens.
I started out making sure each piece of silver was polished before assembly, then polished again after soldering on the backplate, bails, and shot embellishments. And then I tumbled in steel shot for 1hr 45min.
Wouldn’t you know, the inside of the setting is still pale white and hazy and I tried everything I could think of, all the tips snd tricks I’ve learned over the years (swiftly points, toothpicks, cotton w/a bit of Zam on a small tapered cone bit, stainless steel brush bit, etc…and nothing would work.
So I even tried creating an open bezel (cutting out the backplate of tiny bezel setting is not recommended - I have so many cuts on my fingers!) but that made the pretty stones look dull and grey. So sad
What do you do to “polish the inside of the setting to a high shine” (as recommended in the Orchid archives)???
I searched everywhere but no one actually tells you how - just to do it. Sigh.

I’m about to embark on a several-piece project that involves setting small cabs, 3mm-5mm, in each piece. I’ll be using grey moonstones, peristerite, adularia, black onyx and amethyst. 4 of the 5 are translucent to some degree, so I will have much opportunity to perfect this polishing method.

I thank everyone in advance!!!

Still waiting for Spring in central MA,

How about a thin wafer of polished fine silver dropped into the setting under the translucent stone?

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This sounds like the steel shot is too small to really get into the tight spots- which has been a recent subject of discussion elsewhere on this board. My usual solutions are very small/sharp polishing points or pins in silicone, or a burnisher. The burnisher seems to be the better option, though it is more detail work by hand. The sparkle will be worth it, though!

Ohhhh. This is a great idea! Thank you!!!

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I was literally just researching polishing points! I have a bunch of tiny burnishers made from old burs, mandrels etc. My last task yesterday (before I left my studio in frustration) was trying to burnish these tiny settings.
It’s ironic that they rings that I am making are going to be priced relatively affordable, but they take far more work than my more expensive pieces. Sigh.
Thanks and I love your user name!

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You need to thrum the inside of the settings. This came up in another thread just this morning. In this video from Van Cleef & Arpels a polisher demonstrates thrumming.

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The silicone points kind of annoy me because they’re not cheap and the sharp points that make them so effective don’t last long at ALL, but they are on even my most pared-down list of must-haves. I’m trying to get in the habit of using the polishing pins for more of these situations because they’re significantly cheaper and stay a smaller diameter as you use them up. Overall they seem like the smarter choice when you’re burning through more of them, but the points are what I got used to when I first started smithing and those habits die hard.

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You probably already do this, bit just in case not, you can refresh the silicone points to a nice point using and old file or dressing stone


I have used a small air powered media blaster (sand blaster) and then stiff flex shaft mounted brushes with tripoli then rouge.

That’s what I was taught to do

This is often what I will do! Re: the thin disk of shiny fine silver.

If the stone is so transparent, why have any backing?

Because against skin, it makes them look dull and colorless.

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Lori, I’m not sure whether you have resolved this, but I had the exact same problem with a perfectly clear quartz cab I was setting (in sterling silver) - looked dull against a highly polished backplate or with a cut-out behind the stone. Quite by accident I found it looked better, brighter and eye-catching on a 600 grit finish. I experimented with this and ended up setting it on a full backplate at 280 grit. I’m not sure if the optical qualities of your tourmalines will produce the same result and I realize what I did is highly untraditional. But, it’s a very low investment to take an old piece of metal and see how your stones look at each polishing step.

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Ohhhh. Thank you! I’m gonna try!!

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I have bad news for you. Silver behind the stone will tarnish over time. Yes, even fine silver tarnishes. It goes a dull grey first, then yellows, turns brownish.

Perhaps try a sheet of white gold or even 18-24k yellow gold behind the stone. Those would not tarnish. The yellow gold might even warm up the stone nicely!

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:confused: That would move my “affordable $45 -$160” pieces into the unaffordable range.

I also don’t have the capital to buy gold. Any gold I use is upcycled from unwanted settings, etc.

I do have a ring I made 11 yrs ago during a class we were told to use silver sharpie (or silver model enamel) on the inside of a closed bezel. Still looks very nice!

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Have you considered adding a piece of foil backing to the setting? The problem with transparent stones on a solid silver backing is that you can get tarnish/discoloration of the silver and then it shows through the stone. Ask me how I know? Ha. A piece of white credit card cut to fit also does a nice job of showing off the color of the stone.

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insert some silver foil or leaf in the depression and set the stone?

Yikes. I use fine silver because I thought it wouldn’t oxidize. I wonder now… I sometimes use a drop of black alcohol ink under small opal cabs, which brings out the colour beautifully, I wonder if a drop of something similar but clear would solve the problem with fine silver?