After my last post regarding Gypsy stone setting (also known as flush-setting), thought I’d share the steps my friend and fellow metalsmith, Ginger Meek Allen, demonstrated as I learned how to set a stone Gypsy-style.
NOTE: This post was updated in October, 2021, with additional tips and my own approaches that I have developed over time.
First, you must know the anatomy of a gemstone in order to be able to decipher some of the instructions. This image was downloaded from the Gemological Institute of America’s website.
1 Select a well-cut stone, viewing with a loupe to study its cut – a straight pavilion angle (rather than a curved one) is easier to set. To start out with, select a stone that is between 2-3 millimeters and make sure you have stone setting burs that will accommodate your gemstone sizes. Try using CZs as your first stones – you can purchase a bunch for just a few dollars to help you hone your skills.
2. Measure the depth of the stone and select metal that is deep enough hold the stone.
3. Use a center punch to make a dent in the metal in your chosen location for the stone. Have lubricant ready for your drill bits and burs, and use it often each time you drill. Using a drill bit placed into a drill press, Flex Shaft, or Dremel tool, drill a hole smaller than the width of the stone all the way through the metal. Be sure to keep your drill bit level. The drilled hole should be less than ¾ the width of the stone.
4. Flip the metal over and touch the drill bit to the other side of the hole, to remove any bits of metal and create a clean looking reverse.
5. Select a stone setting bur the width of the stone. Set the stone pavilion-side down on a flat work surface. Place the jaws of a measuring tool over the girdle of the stone. Tighten the jaws of the measuring tool. Tools you can use for this are a brass sliding millimeter gauge or a digital gauge. Carefully ease the stone from between the jaws of your measuring tool. Use this measurement, already handily held for you in the jaws of your measuring tool, to locate a bur that fits into that measurement. This is the size of stone setting bur that will make a perfect seat for your stone. A too-large setting bur will create a “slippery seat,” and it will be impossible to secure the metal around the stone.
6. Change out the drill bit for the stone setting bur. Place the bur over the previously drilled hole while your drill is turning, and drill down just deep enough so the girdle of the stone sits even with or just slightly below the surface of the metal by about .5 mm. Not a lot!
7. Place stone in setting and check fit, re-drilling bit by bit as needed for a good, level seat. A ball bur or bud bur may be used to refine the seat if the stone’s girdle has roundness to it or if the stone isn’t seating properly.
8. Press the stone into position using a piece of brass or copper rod, horn or bone.
9. Use clear adhesive tape to cover stone, then masking tape to cover the metal on either side of the stone, strapping it to a tiny anvil or other appropriate metal work surface.
10. Create a “moat” of metal around the stone: Using a tiny punch held straight down, and chasing hammer, gently tap around the stone at 12 o’clock, 6 o’clock, 9 o’clock then 3 o’clock, and the spaces in between, alternating sides as you go (as one would in cabochon setting). Check progress by lifting edge of the tape from time to time to make sure things are on track.
11. The moat now needs to “flow over” the girdle of the stone to hold the stone in place: Hold the punch at a slight angle pointed towards the stone, and go all around the stone again, in the same manner as above; check progress and continue tapping gently around the stone until you are assured that the stone is hugged by the metal.
12. Remove the tape. Burnish the rim of metal near the stone using a steel burnisher. Do not touch the steel to the stone.
Sweat Test: turn the work over and insert a toothpick into the reverse side opening and push – if the stone remains in place, you’re done setting. Clean your work and admire it! If it pops out, flip your work back over, re-secure it with tape and continue tapping and testing until your stone is secure.
Enjoy your beautiful gypsy-set work of art!