How to Prong Set Stones: A Step by Step Guide

Learn how to set stones in prong settings! This tutorial covers stone vocabulary and the basics to prong set both faceted stone and cabochon cuts.

 

We’ve just added over 45 new sterling silver prong settings to our inventory! Included are 4 and 6 prong settings, faceted and cabochon settings, ovals, rounds and even strip settings. Of course, you could fabricate your own out of wire by soldering, filing and notch cutting; but, these pre-made findings can save you a lot of time when you are using calibrated stone sizes in your work.

Stones are said to be “calibrated” when they are precisely cut to even diameters such as 4mm, 6mm or 8mm with a traditional shape (round, oval etc) and a standard crown and pavilion height. These are the most commonly used stones in jewelry making and we have setting findings available to fit a broad range of options. Fancy cuts or stones with unusual proportions will need custom fabricated settings.

I’m also really impressed with our new X921 stone setting pliers. I love this tool! I’ll get into the details in a moment, but first, let’s go over some stone basics.

The illustration below shows a faceted stone. Our SEF series of prong settings are designed for this type of cut. On the right-hand side of the illustration is the basic “anatomy” vocabulary for a faceted stone.  If you’re new to gems, you’ll need to know these terms in a minute. On the left, I’ve added a close-up of a pre-notched prong. The girdle of the stone should nest right into the prong notch.

Halstead - Loose Gemstone Terms

 

Now, to the new tool we carry. We have several gem setting tools to choose from at Halstead, but our new tool stands out in the way it was made. If you’re used to using regular pliers, this looks a little daunting. But,  I assure you, it works great!

Gem Setting Pliers - X921Easy Mount Gem Set Pliers are made to close prongs with a parallel motion, which gives you more control of the pliers. Plus, less strength is needed because the jaws do all the work.  The jaws are made to move only 1mm at a time, alleviating the possibility of damaging your stone. By turning the adjustment wheel, you can set prongs anywhere from 2.5 – 15mm high.

In addition, it only takes one hand to work these pliers. That allows you to hold onto your setting while adjusting the jaws to the width you need. Here’s a photo of the proper way to hold the tool in your palm so your thumb can reach the adjustment wheel:

Tripps Easy Mount Gem Set Pliers - X921 in Hand

Onto our new settings! We’ve tested out these pliers with a multitude of prong settings and have broken down the three easy steps to setting a stone. The pliers work great on both pre-notched facet stone settings and un-notched cabochon settings, but we will use a faceted stone in the example that follows.

Halstead Jewelry Blog - Placing the Stone

Step 1: Placing the Stone

Using tweezers or fine tipped pliers, place the stone between the prongs. When you have situated it, make sure it is resting on all of the pre-notched grooves in the prongs and the stone itself is lying flat.

Tip:

Use a small piece of wax on the end of a q-tip or toothpick to help maneuver the stone. It keeps your fingers out of the way so you can see what you're doing and the wax wipes right off the table of the gemstone.

Halstead Jewelry Blog - Adjusting the tool

Step 2: Adjusting the Tool

While holding the tool in your palm, use your thumb and forefinger to adjust the setting until it is resting with the lower jaw on the bottom of the setting and the top jaw on a prong.

Tip:

Practice first! Open and close the prongs several times to get used to them. It is critical that you do not squeeze the lever while you are making the adjustments. This will cause the jaws to depress before you are prepared to close the prongs, at that point the pliers will open too wide to be used.

Halstead Jewelry Blog - Closing the Prongs

Step 3: Closing the Prongs

Squeeze the lever to close your first prong. For your second prong close the one that sits opposite from it. Keep doing that until all of the prongs have been pushed down. Your stone should be secured so it does not wiggle or twist at all.

Tip:

Keep the setting at a slight angle because you want only the tips of the jaws touching the metal.

Let me also add a little information about our new cab settings. As I mentioned above, the Easy Mount Gem Set Pliers will work with all prong settings including cabs. However, here are a few differences. Our cab settings are not pre-notched since cabs do not have facets nor girdles. The flat bottom of the cab simply rests on the bottom of the setting and the prongs are tightened over the curved top surface.

Be sure to choose the right type of setting for your stone cut. Remember SEF prefix items for faceted cuts and SEC prefix items for cabochons.

Halstead - Faceted Gemstone in Cab Settings

As you can see in the illustration above, the culet of a faceted gem would protrude from the bottom of an SEC cabochon setting. Moreover, the prongs would be difficult to secure around the girdle and table of the stone without notches to accommodate the faceted shape.

Halstead - Faceted Gemstones

Prefabricated cabochon settings work best with low dome cabs in calibrated sizes. Deep cut cabs with high side walls may be difficult to secure. The prongs must have room to bend over the curvature of the stone to grip it in place.

Halstead - Anatomy of a Cabochon

Halstead - Checkered Cut CZs

 

Now get out your luscious gemstone stash of beautiful colors and cuts and get started. Shop for our new gemstone settings, Easy Mount Gem Set Tool and loose CZs at Halstead today!

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