I feel that this essay is very important, for everyone. Even if you are just a beginner or advanced in the jewellery trade, this setting essay is important.
This essay first appeared in the “Bench” magazine in 2005, but is still very handy for all concerned.
‘Setting stones in wax’ is not at all intimidating as it appears, so read on and enjoy!…Gerry!
Setting Stones in Wax!
- Tapered Wooden Dowel
- Wax Melter, with a fine blade tip.
- Fine tipped “copper or brass” pusher, to be used after gold setting.
The one of the most revolutionary advance in recent years,is the method of “Setting Stones in Wax”. It has created impossible designs and allowed the manufacturer to forge ahead and created many difficult setting projects. Otherwise, that company might have had to re-design their ideas and to have the stones hand set. A jewellery company can now replicate with numbers of thousands of each design with the same degree of professionalism.
This stone in wax setting method was the ground breaking process for “Invisible-Setting” we all know today. This is one of the most economical methods in stone setting. It removes the high labour stone setting fee’s of setting projects.
It is revolutionary and letting us know nothing is impossible!
I remember in the early 1970′s, a jewellery company in Toronto was attempting to master this same idea. All “setting-in-wax” was done behind closed doors and no one was allowed to observe this method. I even saw a wax setter with curtains around his bench. No one could see how he was setting diamonds in his wax forms. How time has changed our attitudes?
Our jewellery knowledge has exponentially increased with bench jewellers trying new innovative ideas. They can now express their ideas and pass them over to the rest of ‘us’ around the world, in the form of magazine articles.
Imagine setting a diamond in 20 minutes and then with this “wax-set” method it can be done in only minutes? What a time saving technique?
Now lets all see how this method of “setting-stones-in-wax” is done and how easy it really is. I teach my stone setting class this method in just a “one day” session.
After the metal designer makes his silver-model and prepares all the claws with little undercutting grooves. He will then make the final computations for the final selection of diamonds and make a rubber mold of his pattern.
As most rubber molds have with the usual 6% shrinkage. His degree of professionalism must take in affect this scaled down size of claws, channel settings and bezels from the original size. Now the “wax injector” will use a wax that has a ‘memory’. This is when the wax is spread out with a stone enclosed, it will use this innate ‘memory’ to return to its original shape.
I will not attempt to delve into the casting techniques. This is in oven temperatures, cool down cycles, investment mixtures and burning out the wax in the appropriate ovens.
But I will try to identify one temperature control and that is that gemstones of any nature will not survive over 900 F for along period of time. It is a proven fact that rapid cooling with aid of water will fracture any stone immediately. This is very true with diamonds.
In one jewellery shop, 25 carats of melee diamonds were ruined by just rapid cooling a very hot “out of the centrifuge” flask then into cold water!
Please allow wax-set stones while still in their hot flask to cool down by air-cooling. You can let the hot flask cool in a “cooling” oven. Then break open the flask when you are satisfied the flask is cool to touch. The heat of the fingers will distort the wax you are using, it will make the shank go out of shape after a few minutes. Put your wax on a wooden tapered spindle and try not to hold waxes in your hand.
Use your round bur and clean out any left over wax fragments. As this will prevent any stone from sitting in its correct place. Do not use a flex-shaft for this procedure. Holding the bur in your fingers, rotate and see if the holes are clean. Do not touch the claws themselves at this point, but get your stone and place it into the channel or claw setting. It should just “slide” in. I must state that there are only a certain kinds of gemstones that can be set in wax. Do not use Aquamarine, Garnets, Opal, Turquoise, Pearls or any soft stone. Leave these to setting by hand!!!
Think of the colours of the American Flag! Red, White and Blue!
These are the only colours of stones you can set in the wax form. No other stone will withstand the heat of wax casting. There might be breakage if there are any “inclusions” in any of these stones. When placing stones in wax, DO NOT LET ANY OF THE GIRDLES TOUCH!.As the gold is entering the flask and the sudden rush of gold will disturb the stone in the investment and jar it a bit loose. Then slamming against the neighbouring stone and subsequently two stones might get broken. There should be slight separation of these two stones.
You will see the claws spread out by themselves and return again to their original position. If for any reason you feel that the claw tip is not strong enough, or not to your liking. You should with great care, apply some wax to any part of the claw tip, this will greatly provide more security to the gold on the stone. This can be done with your wax melting machine. I sometimes touch the stone, only at the table of the stone.
This will heat up the stone and enable it to very slowly sink further in to the wax. I prefer to have wax to gold in holding the stone. I would not to set large Princess or irregular shaped stones in wax setting. The gold will be touching these fragile corners and render them useless. In the aspect of channel-setting in wax, please make absolutely sure the stone is held in with two walls with the wax. It is an embarrassment if the stone works itself loose in the final polishing. It may be because not enough gold was made from the wax to hold the stone securely. You must observe if the wax is over the girdle, not against it! If any wax is on the stone, this wax will then be gold.
Here is a simple algebraic equation for you to think about!
“NW=NG=L D = L$” No Wax = No Gold = Lost Diamonds = Loss of Dollars!
You should also watch out for the spacing when wax setting stones. You cannot move the stones after casting, almost impossible! After casting, remove the investment by hand and remove any particles of cement.
Do not to steam out the investment, you might just blow away any small diamonds not held securely. In a “magnetic tumbler” you will also fine clean the intricate sections of the gold pattern. If you have a setter at your premises, let him check for any loose stones. Now, he may use his copper or brass pusher to tighten any claws that may not be over the Crown Facets. If there are, he may hammer tight or use his pair of fine small pliers. Making sure there are no marks remaining on the sides of the metal. Pumice wheel, #180 grit, for cleaning.
You can use your pliers to secure the claws and cup-bur as usual. File and trim to your needs. When you decide to polish these items please, please use the finest polishing wheel as you can. Do not force the ring into the Tripoly or Rouge buff. You will then find yourself looking for diamonds. Handle with great care.
If you handle this style of settings correctly, your customer will have a ring that will last for many years…
“Gerry, the Cyber-Setter!”
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