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November 1999

For Your Staff: Selling Quality

The Neck Bone's Connected to the ...

Knowing how to assemble heads and shanks demonstrates another aspect of quality in your shop

Solitaire rings account for almost 50% of bridal jewelry sales in the U.S., not to mention solitaires sales in other categories. Stan Pollack, president of the 14-store Pollack and Son Jewelers, Scarborough, ME, fits this national profile, attributing 50% of his bridal jewelry sales and 20% of total sales to solitaires. John Cryan of John S. Cryan Jewelers, Southampton, PA, says solitaires have become such an important part of his business that he's trained his sales staff to offer heads and shanks in a wide range of styles to suit customer tastes.

Regardless of what you call this setting –  solitaire, Tiffany setting, or head and shank – the design is a classic whether set with diamonds or colored gemstones. Because of its popularity, we devote this issue of the JA® Professional's Guide to Fine Jewelry Craftsmanship to the features of quality related to solitaires.

Aspects of Quality in Design and Style

While the design and style of the components may vary significantly, there are some common considerations in designing and selecting the parts of the solitaire setting:

In selecting or designing the head (the terms setting or crown may also be applied to this component) consider:

  • The type and size of stone.
  • Your customer's preferred metal color and karatage.
  • ndividual taste for the overall height of the stone from the finger.
  • Your customer's design tastes.

For the shank, consider:

  • The shank and head must be in proportion to each other and match in style.
  • Your customer's preferred metal color and karatage.
  • Individual design preferences.
  • Your customer's finger size (finger length and ring size).
  • The use of side stones.

by Mark B. Mann, Director of Professional Certification Jewelers of America

Here are four head and shank assemblies and some of their most notable features:

Standard Head and Shank
This classic example, which uses die-struck findings, is clean, simple and easily serviced. Heads are available for many stone shapes, with shanks in various profiles to accommodate them. Jewelers often mix white and yellow alloys, depending on the gem and the customer's desires.
Oval Wire-Type Basket Head
Many customers like the open appearance of this oval head and die-struck shank. It allows more of the stone – and less of the metal – to show. This style is often assembled for use with colored gems.

Bypass Shank
With the "bypass" variation, the shank is extended on each side of the head. This assembly is a bit broader and is especially suited to long fingers. 
Lower-Profile Shank
This design incorporates the use of side stones and an overall lower profile. The center stone is lower to the finger and the shank wider, again an effective design for longer fingers.

Flat-Sided Shank
This head features heavy prongs and flat sides on which the shank is soldered. The flat sides allow the shoulders of the shank to be closer to (or under) the stone, and the heavy construction offers additional security.
Designing for Your Customer
Working with your customers to create the ideal solitaire for their needs requires good communication skills and professional judgment. Review your supplier's catalogs and take into consideration the wide variety of findings available to you. For this article, we used findings from the Stuller Finding Book and the Hoover and Strong Catalog.

The JA® Professional's Guide to Fine Jewelry Craftsmanship Head and Shank Assembly

By Mark B. Mann
JA Director of Professional Certification
Jewelers of America


Professionally Executed Head and Shank Assembly

A. The solder joints are complete, with no pits, visible solder seams or discoloration.

B. The assembly of the head is symmetrical and even with the design of the shank.

C. The finish and polish of the prongs are free of any evidence of die-striking and other tool marks.

D. The base of the head conforms to the radius of the shank, and there is sufficient contact.

E. The shank and head are proportionate.

Potential Problems to Watch For:
Alignment: The head and shank are not aligned in either the profile or the facing views. The top view shows prongs that aren't positioned properly with the shank or in alignment from viewing angles.

Facing View

Profile View

Top View

Head & Shank Assembly
The head and shank have not been assembled properly. Errors in workmanship result in the base of the head being above or below the surface of the radius of the shank.
Tool Marks
Die-striking lines and other tool marks are not removed. All surfaces of the prongs should be smooth and even.

The shoulders of the shank rise above the position on the head and extend into the prong area.

For specific information related to "peg heads" and shanks, see Professional Jeweler, October 1998, p. 141.


Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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