Tension settings

I saw some stones recently that were mounted in “tension
settings”. It is a very unusual mount. Does anyone have
experience with this type of setting and where I could find out
how to do this?



You could try looking up Steve Kretchmer’s patent on the IBM
patent database, or you could also advertise that you intend to
make them for sale and they will contact you. Or so I hear…


I have seen a number of these tension mounts and I understand
that the temper of the metal is key. They are quite heavy as I’m
sure you’ve noticed but if you plan on setting major stones in
your mountings, I would do my research in tempering. Steve
Kretchmeris one of the major players in this area and I
understand that he is very particular as to just which stones he
will set and warrents all his tension sets to hold their stones
or he replaces them free, now THAT’S confidence. You can’t size
them as it destroys the tempering. I find however, that you can
create a very close effect by simply using a narrow but thick
undercarrage just beneath the girdle of the stone and bypass all
the danger and hassle.

Steve Klepinger

Hi Dennis, Tension rings work successfully when there is enough
tension or pressure on the gemstone from the two ends of the
ring shank that come up to meet the stone. This can be
accomplished in several ways; 1. The easiest is to use a metal
with a great deal of regidity like stainless steel or titanium.
Both have enough regidity in their normal state if you use a
shank of sufficient thickness to work quite well as a tension
ring. The German company Xen makes very nice steel tension rings
set with small stones that retail for a couple hundred dollars.

  1. The second way that I know of is to age harden or heat treat
    the metal to give it the regidity to functune as a tension ring.
    When gold or platinum are alloyed with certain components they
    have the potential of being age hardened to the point where they
    will function very well as tension rings. There are several
    companies in Europe and the USA using this technique. In the USA
    Stephen Kretchmer has a patent on the use of heat treatable
    alloys for the use of creating tension rings.

  2. The third technique is to work harden the metal. Most of us
    have experienced how gold or other metals gets stiffer if you
    hammer on it and do not anneal it. This work hardening can be
    used to create enough regidity in the gold or platinum ring
    shank if it is thick enough and of an alloy that will work
    harden. Several German companies such as Niessing and Bunz have
    been using this technique for about 20 years.

Good luck this is an interesting setting technique that can also
be used for other kinds of jewelry pieces as well. I suggest you
look at the designs of a Dr. Fredrick Beecker of German who was
working with tension settings almost 40 years ago.

Etienne Perret

You could try looking up Steve Kretchmer's patent on the
IBM patent database, or you could also advertise that you
intend to make them for sale and they will contact you. Or so I

What is the IBM Patent database and how may i find it? Thanks in
advance Daniel Grandi

http://www.racecarjewelry.com visit the workshop for ideas .

Evidently many people are/have used this ‘technique’ to set
stones which was developed originally in Germany by Friedrich
Becker in the 1970’s. However Steven Kretchmer, in fact, applied
for and owns the patent rights and is extremely protective of
them. Before you start making these, search the web on “tension
set rings”. Many pages are listed by the search engines, but
many of these links will return a 404 because the pages have been
removed on pain of legal action by Mr. Kretchmer.

Nancy Bernardine-Widmer
Bernardine Art Jewelry

Hi Gang,

There’s one practical consideration I’ve never seen openly
mentioned in the discussion of tension settings. Until you
really know what you’re doing & how your metal will perform in
the the long run be careful what type of stone you set.

The ring doesn’t have to open very far for the stone to become
loose & possibly fall out. We’ve all seen rings that have been
severely deformed through ordinary wear & tear. And this
deformity is to a piece of metal that is a complete circle that
has a certain amount of structural integrity.

A tension setting is basically a ‘U’ shape & doesn’t have the
intrinsic structural integrity of a circular shape (as far as
pulling apart is concerned). A tension setting requires the
metal to be hard, but not brittle & resist even small changes in
shape. It can’t be ‘springy’ either, because a shape blow in the
correct place, usually opposite the opening in the ‘U’ could
cause the ‘U’ to open enough for the stone to fall out.

My hat’s off to Steve Kretchmer for the metallurgical research
he had to do to invent the ‘Tension Setting’.

Until you’ve got the metallurgy & fabrication techniques down
pat, I don’t think I’d be setting any 1 ct VVS1’s.


Dan Grandi- You can get the Patent search site @
About | IBM. IBM has had this site up for
some time to search patent databases and now the US gov’t site is
up at uspto.gov finally, I hear. Pretty good way to do prefunctory search, I think. HTH


That advice was given to you - tongue in cheek. It seems that
Mr. Kretchmer has a patent on some alloys used in tension
setting, and he threatens anyone who uses that manner of setting
stones… I myself did some experimenting with this kind of
setting 20 years ago. It can be done without using his alloys.
There is an old thread on the subject - someone began to try
this about 40 years ago - if you cannot find it, email me
privately and I’ll guide you to it.

It is my understanding that Steven Kretchmer owns the patent on
a particular alloy that he developed and the process of hardening
that alloy to allow the secure tension setting of a stone. As
long as a designer avoids infringing on those two patents they
can design and make any piece of jewelry they care to. If I
have misunderstood previous posts on this subject, please correct

Steven Brixner - Jewelry Designer - San Diego CA USA

I can see where Mr. Kretchmer might patent a process, but how
can he patent a principle? I mean, there are many ways of
skinning a cat and I’ll bet my boots that any number of people
on this list have independently figured out some sort of
tension mount that works. Does that mean that they can’t use
what they’ve worked out on their own because they’ll be
infringing on somebody’s patent? Or does this apply solely to
the particular step-by-step process which was patented by Mr.
Kretchmer? Just curious.

Hi Steven, You may want to talk with a patent attourney. I am not
sure how broad his patent is, if it is specific to particular
alloys or to all heat treatable alloys. Patents are granted to
encourage research into new fields by giving the rights to an
invention to those that innovate. Many patents are contested in
the courts and only a portion hold up under close scrutiny.
Often there are ways to skirt a patent and come up with a
similar product that gives the consumer a greater choice at a
lower cost. The legal costs can be high in the patent /trademark
/copyright game. Etienne Perret

Hi Nancy B.- As I was saying…except that his patents covers
the heat treatment of the alloy to cause spring compression only
and not the entire concept of the tension mounting, or maybe
it only covers the ‘specific’ alloys he uses. You read and
deceide @
About | IBM also,
US5188679 It’s all a matter of opinion, isn’t it? And my opinion
is that the kretchmers of the world use the legal system to
stiffle competition unfairly by implying they’ve patent
protection where they maybe haven’t. So if you have the money and
time to go to court,and an inclination to contest it, you could
defend that you’re using work-hardening, and not heat treating,
and therefore not subject to his patents… Jewelers I know
have been contacted by Steven Kretchmer and told to cease and
desist, and they’ve done so because it wasn’t worth the money to
them or whatever reason, regardless of the manner in which they
acheived the tension. This is where the unfairness comes into
play. Say you’re an independant jeweler, and some of your income
comes from dealing with the public, making jewelry. A tension
mounting is just one of many ‘fads’ in the business, and you
aren’t trying to get a ‘line’ of this type of design going or
anything, and you don’t have a big stake in the concept, but then
given that it is a commonly requested style, you make one here
and there. You get contacted by Mssr. Kretchmer, Inc. and told to
cease and desist from making tension mountings, etc. What are the
odds that a jeweler finding themself in this position is going
to agree not to use tension mounting again, even though the
methods used in producing the item Do Not violate the
aforementioned patent? Are you going to fool around with legal
BS, or are you going to say, forget the tension mountings? Good
way to eliminate competition, I’d say, but the small competition.
I haven’t heard mention of their going after large jewelry
companies and the like, such as the ‘onishi’ mountings, etc.-
Anyone else heard anything? Similar situation exists in regards to
cable bracelets and the trademarking, etc. of this type of
design… If you show up offering this type of thing for sale,
you will no doubt be contacted by David Yurman, etc. It’s the
‘golden’ rule, again- he who has the most gold, rules…Not a
mounting you want to put up on your website)

Ricky Low
Houston, Texas

If you are serious, you may want to call Steve and work out a
license for his patent.

Mark Zirinsky, Denver

Cable bracelets? I’ve never heard the term but it doesn’t mean
I haven’t made one. Anyone have a picture they can direct me

And I’m very annoyed about ear pins, it’s a great piece of
jewelery but it’s trademarked. I’m tempted to figure out a new
name of the things and give it a go anyway. See how long a
cease and desist takes to get to me…

Lynn A. Davis
Tephra’s Treasures
Handcrafted Jewelry, Accessories
And Other Fine Treasures


While I agree with your opinion of the tension mount patent(s)
as previously pointed out on this list, the patent for a
mechanical idea is much different than a copyright on a design.
There are several ways to create the illusion of a tension
setting w/o resorting to the extream of the Kretchmer method.
While many people are in love with a label, the majority of them
don’t recognize Kretchmer Designs and would be just as happy with
a simulated effect most anyone can produce. Thanks for your
responce; Steve

Nancy & Ricky,

I just read US Patent #5084108. The “background art” section
very clearly refers to “Conventional compression-spring gemstone
mounting techniques”. If the holder of the patent is aware (as
he obviously was when he wrote the patent application) that there
are industry-standard methods by which a gemstone can be tension
mounted, then he can hardly claim sole-ownership of the concept.
You may not use -his- tension-mounting technique without his
permission. You may, however, use conventional methods to
achieve a tension mount without requesting permission from
anyone. Indeed, US Patent #5084108 is based on the supposed
shortcomings of those conventional (public domain) methods…so
the holder of that patent cannot reasonably claim that his method
of tension-setting is the only one you might have used.


Hi Ricky, I agree there are many brand name products that through
the might of their financial power can intimidate competitors.
The intellectual property laws can be interpreted in many ways.
For this reason we have the courts to decide, unfortunately it
is very expensive to get the opinion of the court. Steve
Kretchmer devotes a significant amount of his time and resources
to develope new product though his research and understanding of
metalurgy. Most goldsmiths would be shocked at the investment he
has in the latest technology. When Steve and I went to school
together in the 70’s we both started at ground zero. He has done
a spectacular job at building a business selling some of the
most interesting product on the market. I believe he is to be
commended for his accomplishments. If you think you have a
product that does not violate his patent go for it. I am sure
Steve will do his homework and protect the advantage he has in
the market, but hey wouldn’t you too. To those who make a
tension ring that does not use heat treatment to give the ring
the integrity needed to hold gems of great value go for it. I am
sure there is a significant market beyond what Steven can
satisfy. Etienne Perret

Hi Lynn Davis- You were speaking about the earrings they call
’huggies’ possibly? Believe me, you send time and money to make
these things and then get a cease and desist- it’s not worth it,
you can’t sell your work. Because at some point the Court steps
in and consficates the items in question, usually after you get
the cease and desist. But then, I remember a jewelry show just a
few years back where they stepped in and impounded a lot of
jewelry due to the David Yurman/ Charriol cable bracelet
controversy. Lots of unhappy campers that day. Thanks for your

Hi Pete- Thanks for your reply. I’m personally not interested in
making tension mountings, as I said. I was only trying to shed
some light on the situation for the ones that are and are unaware
of the pitfalls involved with this issue.

Also, be sure and read the other patent on this, because there
are two of them. And just by working around the patents will not
guarantee you won’t get a suit filed against you. Chances are you
will be made to prove that you are NOT infringing, and in the
meantime, you’ll be paying legal fees, etc. and not be able to
market your goods.There lies the problem. I believe a person will
have a lot of headaches from getting into this. Thanks for your
reply. Rick