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Setting Tanzanite


#1

Help! One of my co-workers just gave me 1,400 $ worth of
tanzanite to set in a necklace for his wife. This would be a neat
project but its a bit over my head. Any suggestions? Normally I
use cabachons and am a bit leery about these. For a special piece
like this do you all usually hand make all the settings or do you
order them already made? Is white gold very difficult to work
with? Thanks in advance!


#2

Jennifer you can as i see it go three ways. set the tanzanite in
bezels i would suggest you use 18kt it is much softer. set them
in tiffany style heads which are usually white but can be
ordered in yellow and solder them in place. I suggest the peg
style as they are less likely to break at the solder point. and
last set them in basket style also available in white or yellow.
and most important i suggest you have a professional setter set
them for you if you are inexperienced with faceted stone.
Tanzanite is soft and can be brittle and not a safe set for a
beginner. especially $1,400.00 Tanzanite!!! frank


#3

Hi Jennifer, not sure what shape these stones are, hopefully
RBC. They aren’t especially tricky to set if their cut well and
not by, “Omar the blind stone cutter”. If the girdle is
reasonably wide and there are no real thin points on it, then
just go ahead and set them like any other faceted stone. If the
girdle has a thin spot, mark the stone at that point and
pre-bend the corresponding prong. Yes, unfortunately, white gold
is somewhat less workable than yellow, but you can pre-anneal
the setting by bringing it up to dull red with your torch,
waiting till the red leaves then quenching it in denatured
alcohol. Make sure the alcohol is in a steel container and you
have a lid for it handy, if the setting is too hot when you put
it in, you’re liable to set it aflame…not to worry, thats
why you’ve got a lid for it. If this doesn’t appeal to you, try
to talk your friend into using palladium settings instead,
they’er Much easier to work with. Finally, fab, wax or buy the
settings, dealers choice! Good luck. Roland


#4

hi,

tanzanite is a pretty darn brittle stone so special
consideration is warranted. since you don’t have extensive stone
setting experience i suggest that you farm this aspect of the
job. no sin in this.

if you are of the brave and ‘throw caution into the wind’ type,
here are a few considerations: if you want to use white gold, use
a palladium alloy. it is more malleable and ductile than the
nickle alloys. it also wears longer. it would be more
expeditious to use store bought findings (available from hoover
and strong) than fabricating your own, but nothing is like a
handmade setting. also, your situation may call for you
handmaking your own finding. this would depend if your gem is a
standard shape or something wild. if your tanzanite has a point
( marquis, pear, square etc.) it will be pretty easy to chip so
it would definitely help if you have a malleable alloy. a round
or oval is much less riskier but still a risk.

setting tanzanites is a little worse than setting emeralds,
though the make on tanzanites is usually much better than
emeralds. making a perfect seat is very important so it won’t
bind the stone at the wrong moment (thats the moment it chips).
closing the prongs or bezel also must be methodical and accurate
or you will have a chipped stone. tanzanite is not a very good
gem to start practicing with. hope this helps.

best regards,

geo fox


#5

Help! One of my co-workers just gave me 1,400 $ worth of
tanzanite to set in a necklace for his wife. This would be a neat
project but its a bit over my head. Any suggestions? Normally I
use cabachons and am a bit leery about these. For a special piece
like this do you all usually hand make all the settings or do you
order them already made? Is white gold very difficult to work
with? Thanks in advance!

Show your co-worker some of your work to make sure his wife will
like your style of jewelry. I was on tenterhooks a couple weeks
ago about a ring I made for a couple- I faxed crude drawings back
and forth, got a budget, shopped for the stones (faceted
sapphire, 2 emerald cabs and diamond mele) carved and finished a
wax casting- luckily it was (very!) well received.

…And tanzanites will look so nice in matte finished 18k yellow
gold bezels… (selling tip!)- (You could use 18k palladium
white which is also easy to set, can be soldered with high
temperature high karat white solders, and would work with
tanzanite color-wise, or a white/yellow combo which would be
stunning.) Complete the piece if necessary with an 18k chain
(Herco in CA has a nice selection).

It does sound like a project that will either be a great
learning experience or a possible nightmare (a disastrous
learning experience).

In general you should hand make the settings so that they fit
and support the stones correctly- tanzanites are a bit brittle
and a relatively soft stone. Inspect your client’s stones for
proper cutting and relatively thick girdles (a plus in this
case)- a knife edged shallow cut tanzanite represents more than a
challenge to setting…

How many stones, and what sizes and cutting shapes, what color
saturation?

Good luck with it- good easily be a wonderful chance to make a
great necklace!

Rick Hamilton
Richard D. Hamilton

Fabricated 14k, 18k, and platinum Jewelry
wax carving, modelmaking, jewelry photography

http://www.rick-hamilton.com
@rick_hamilton


#6

Hi Roland,

First, welcome to Orchid; glad to have you! Second, I have a
couple questions about your reply to Jennifer:

What is RBC? Round brilliant cut? Reasonably b… calibrated?
Other?

Also, I’m easing into some gold work (usually work in silver)
and have been quenching the annealed gold (14k yellow) in
Sparex. Is there an advantage to the alcohol…or disadvantage
in the acid? I know firescale isn’t as much of an issue with
gold… do you ever use Sparex to pickle gold work?

Thanks,

Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio
Charlotte, NC (USA)
dave@sebaste.com
http://www.sebaste.com


#7

Hi again David…didn"t finish, yes sparex is the industry
standard for pickel for gold as well as silver…and don"t let
your guard down, if you don’t coat your gold projects with boric
acid and alcohol you WILL get firescale…espicially 18k!
Roland


#8

Hi David. Yes, RBC stands for round brilliant cut. About
denatured alcohol. Set up three beakers, one with H20, one with
sparex and one with alcohol. If I’m not mistaken, if you time
the three, you’ll find the reaction or guench time works like
this. Quickest with water, second quickest with sparex and
slowest with alcohol. Listen to the hissing sound and you’ll
know what I mean. I’m no metalurgest, but when I was going
through my apprenticeship this is what I was taught…length of
time seems to be the determining factor…Check it out
Roland


#9

Hi Jennifer

How many stones, of what size? Are they calibrated? If not,
you’ll be hard pressed to find commercial pre made heads. 14kt
white gold? What alloy? I would not use nickel! What cut, size
& shape of stones? One stone or multiple - will they be
surround stones or separated, links between stones? If you’ve
never set Tanz before, I would seriously suggest having someone
else set them - they are not the easiest, and if the stones are
matched it would be very expensive to replace even one if
damaged. Have you ever prong set zircon? I’m assuming the
person doesn’t want the tanz bezel set - get a couple of
practice zircons (cheap ones that are flawed) the same cut &
size of tanz, set them in a setting like you would be using for
tanz. see if you’ve any problems setting the zircons; I
practised on cz, quartz & topaz before trying to set more
valuable & difficult stones. Good Luck!

HTH, Kat OK now for unsolicited advice. I STRONGLY recommend
before starting the project that you have an agreement in writing
about the price to be paid for the finished necklace, what the
design is that you’ve both agreed on, who pays for the stone
setting if you do farm it out and what happens if a stone is
damaged. Is there an apprasial on the stones? Not to doubt
your co-workers assessment of the value of the tanz, but how did
he arrive at that figure?

Family & friends can be the toughest to do work for - they
wouldn’t dream of walking into a jewelry store & asking to have
something made at no charge, but don’t realize that it costs you
time & money (in tools, electricity, gas, loss of time on
projects that you would be paid for) to make even a simple
piece. If a head is ruined, or you underestimated how much gold
you needed to make the necklace, will he pay, or does it come
out of your pocket? If something goes wrong, how will it affect
your work relationship (is this co-worker in a position to
influence your job evaluations / rasies, etc?) This is why I
suggest having what each of you expect in writting so he can’t
say “but gold is only $320 an ounce, this is 3/4oz of 14kt, how
can it cost more than $150? How long can it take to stick it
together & pop a couple stones in?” What would a store charge
him? Please don’t take this wrong, I ask from experience - is
he asking you to make the necklace because he likes your designs
& jewelry, or because he thinks it won’t cost him very much?
(You get metal at wholesale cost & no charge for labour?)


#10

Thanks to everyone who replied about the Tanzanite. I’m so glad
I asked! I think I will do the piece but let a professional
stonesetter actually set the stones. Great advice about the
written contract-I tend to be a pollyanna about things but in
this case the repercussions could be sooooo bad. I’d have to high
tail it for Mexico. Its frustating, however that in graduate
school, we dont do a lot of faceted stone setting-a skill we
need for REAL WORLD. I’ll let you all know how it turns out and
if you dont hear back I’m in Mexico…


#11

You’ve gotten excellent advice, all correct as far as I could
tell. Just thought I’d pass on one of my “tricks” though.

For more “important” pieces of Tanzanite I fabricate the gallery
part of the setting in 18K and use pure gold for bezel or tabs
to hold the stone. Not only does it take most of the pressure
off you for setting (you can simply mush the metal over the
stone with a burnishing tool) but the richness of the pure metal
with nice dark-bright tanzanite is incredible. Folks rave about
the look. I’ve set alot of delicate stones that way and it
works well. Good luck. G


#12
   Hi David. Yes, RBC stands for round brilliant cut. About
denatured alcohol. Set up three beakers, one with H20, one
with sparex and one with alcohol. If I'm not mistaken, if you
time the three, you'll find the reaction or guench time works
like this. Quickest with water, second quickest with sparex and
slowest with alcohol. Listen to the hissing sound and you'll
know what I mean. I'm no metalurgest, but when I was going
through my apprenticeship this is what I was taught....length
of time seems to be the determining factor....Check it out  
Roland

hi roland, doesn’t your yellow gold turn pinkish when you quench
in alcohol? we had a guy working here, i always wondered why all
his work looked pink, he was also taught to quench in alcohol so
the metal would cool more evenly. i can’t quote where i read it,
but i believe i read that the alcohol evaporating at the surface
of the metal oxygenates the metal (turning it pink) somehow. is
this your experience? anybody else? i’ve found the few times
i’ve experimented with it beforehand, this is the result i’ve
gotten. could my former worker and i being doing something
wrong? i used a boric acid w/ alcohol solution, it would be hard
to say exactly what my former worker was doing.

best regards,

geo fox


#13

George, to eliminate the pink tint, coat your item,( stock or
wire ), with boric acid and alcohol, burn it off, then go to
annealing. Also, over heating the item will cause that pink tint
with or without the boric acid treatment. That should eliminate
the problem. Roland


#14

Could you please give me some on Tanzanite? Can it be
resized without damaging the stone? If so can you tell me how?

Many thanks
Julie Murdock


#15

Julie, Tanzanite is a fairly fragile stone with a Mohs’ hardness of
only 6 1/2 - 7. I would suggest that you remove it from the setting if
you are going to be doing any soldering. Joel Schwalb
@Joel_Schwalb www.schwalbstudio.com


#16

Yes, it can. However, be extremely conscious of the heat and make
all possible efforts to insulate the stone from high heat. Also,
when performing polishing, be cautious that you do not polish the
stone as you can actually soften or remove faceting on Tanzanite due to
its soft nature. Good luck!


#17

Dear Julie, I am afraid that Joel has oversimplified the
Tanzanite/soldering problem. It is not just a matter of hardness and
heat sensitivity, but also one of brittleness. If you do as Joel
says…remove the Tanzanite before soldering, you then have the
problem of resetting the stone without breaking it. Unless you are
well experienced in setting fragile stones, you should probably not
work with Tanzanite ( Or opal or Emerald.) Better safe than sorry !
Ron at Mills Gem, Los Osos, CA


#18

I completely agree with Ron, " when in doubt don’t " don’t solder
with those stones, they are just waiting to break. I never even let a
flame near those three noted items. Its either they all come out
completely or I won’t give the job to the jeweller. Even taking out
some of the stones is not good, heat travells all the way around the
gold. Heating up Emeralds, Opals or even Tanzanite are not flame
companions, you might even consider Onyx as bad “bed friends” too! You
see, its not necessary the localized heating, its the constant high
heat and cooling that’ll destroy them all. As for Emeralds, some of
the oil leaches out, Opals have minute hair-line cracks in some of
them, so in closing, why ask for troubles? I once set a 6 carat
Tanzanite, yes, I was a tad nervous (full bezel) removing one will be
no great fun either! & I’ve been setting for only 42 + yrs. As for
re-setting, you never really know if there are any inclusions waiting
to spread, covered chips under the claws, any further pressure or
force might chip a facet, then all the extra work will be in …:>