Anastasia Young gives a step-by-step guide to channel setting.
By Anastasia Young
Anastasia Young’s book is a complete guide to using precious and semi-precious stones in both classic and contemporary jewellery designs. Join us as we dip into the chapter on channel settings.
Channel setting allows stones to be lined up along a channel, with no metal separating them, to create the appearance of an uninterrupted band of gems.
Faceted stones are most often channel set: square, baguette or brilliant cut. Calibrated stones are essential for an even and level line of stones, although this will be less apparent with round stones set on a curve, as opposed to baguettes set on the flat.
Choosing a metal
Harder precious metals are more difficult to set in a uniform manner, but are far more durable and are therefore suitable for harder, valuable stones such as diamonds, rubies and sapphires.
Commercially, it is common to cast the mounts for channel setting with the stones already in position in the wax. Special tools for cutting the groove in the wax to hold the stones in the wall of the piece are available, and CAD is used to aid the creation of accurate mounts.
True channel setting is a rub-over technique, with a seat cut for each stone, and the walls folded over once all the stones are seated.
The seating can be problematic if using square or rectangular stones, because all the stones need to be seated at precisely the same level or the piece will not look right. However, the term channel setting can be interpreted as any type of setting in which the stones are secured in a channel; if a groove is made along the inside edges of opposite walls, it is possible to slot the stones into position. The ends of the channel need to be secured somehow; whether plates are riveted or screwed into position to prevent the stones from moving, or grains are raised at the ends of the grooves, you can find plenty of ingenious solutions.
Another variation on channel setting is to have a wall on two sides, with the stones seated in the channel in between. The walls can then be rubbed over the ends of the stones to secure them. The wall should be a little thicker than is needed, so that it can be cleaned up to an even level after setting – though this will make rubbing over the walls harder work. For less malleable metals, keep the extra thickness to a minimum. You’ll likely need to perform the setting with the use of a hammer-action burnisher in a pendant motor, because this provides more force than setting by hand or chasing the walls over.
STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO CHANNEL SETTING IN AN ANTICLASTIC RING
This project looks deceptively simple, but forming the ring to exactly the right size for the stones is something of a technical challenge. Square-cut brilliants are most easily set using this technique, but you could use other shapes.
0.5-mm thick (24-gauge) silver sheet
Doming punch, mallet, steel rod
Stones for setting
Flat steel block
Silver rod (optional)
Polishing materials, burnisher
Form an anticlastic ring from a band of 0.5-mm thick (24-gauge) silver sheet. The height of the strip should be roughly twice the width of the stone. Open up both sides of the band using a doming punch to force the top edge out. Anneal the ring, and use a mallet to knock down the edges so that they form a flat-sided channel.
Force the channel to a perfectly even width by opening it up along a steel rod of the same width as the stones. Place the ring on a mandrel, and tap the rod into the groove. If the channel becomes too wide, mallet it narrower on a flat steel block.
If stones are not being channel set all the way around the ring, solder a piece of 3 mm (1⁄8 in) rod into the channel. Cut a groove in each and on the rod for the girdle of the stone to sit in – the rod must be exactly the correct length to allow no gaps between the stones.
Polish the inside of the channel. Position the first stone under the ledge in the end of the rod, and continue placing the stones in a row along the channel. The shape of the stones means they will support each other in the confined space. Use a burnisher to begin rubbing the edges of the channel over the stones’ girdles.
Continue burnishing until the edge of the channel makes continuous contact with the stones and appears even and smooth. If necessary, clean up the ring with fine emery paper and polish it.
This extract was taken from The Guide to Gemstone Settings by Anastasia Young (RRP £14.99). To order a copy please visit acblack.com or call 01256 302699. Professional Jeweller readers can enjoy a 20% discount by using the code