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February 2000

For Your Staff/Selling Quality


Flush Setting

Knowing how to showcase gems in a flush setting demonstrates another aspect of quality in your sho


Throughout the centuries, bead and channel settings have been the core techniques bench jewelers use to mount accent diamonds directly into metal. When flush setting debuted a few decades ago and challenged bead setting and channel setting, it first was misunderstood, then discredited and ignored until finally gaining acceptance just a few years ago.

Today, jewelry designers view flush setting – sometimes called burnish setting – as an innovative alternative. Freed from the constraints of channel walls, prongs and groupings, flush setting allows a random, almost whimsical, scattering of gem accents.

This installment of The JA Professional’s Guide to Fine Jewelry Craftsmanship explains how flush setting is done, answers some frequently asked questions about the process and describes the features that help you determine whether flush-setting was done in a professional manner.

–by Tom Weishaar

Q: I’ve seen slivers of metal pushed onto flush-set diamonds. Are they supposed to be there?

A: These indicate a poorly set diamond. If the bench jeweler cuts too big a seat, he’ll have trouble tightening the diamond. Out of desperation, he might jab the side of the bevel with a sharp tool, raising thin slivers of metal to help hold the diamond.

Q: I’ve noticed that very little metal is used to hold a flush-set diamond in place; is it really a secure setting?

A: A flush-set diamond is held below the surface of the metal and gets very little direct wear. Diamonds set in prongs or bezels are above the surface and require more maintenance.

Q: I seldom see colored gems flush-set. Why?

A: Flush setting involves techniques that would damage most colored gems, including the use of considerable pressure and a hardened steel tool to rub metal onto the diamond.

Q: Why are flush-set diamonds usually seen in brushed or textured metals?

A: For superior looks! The texture highlights the brightness of the diamonds.

Flush Setting
Channel Setting
Bead Setting

Steps for a Successful Flush Setting

1. Like other setting styles, flush setting begins with cutting a seat to hold the diamond. Unlike most setting styles, flush setting doesn’t allow a small margin of error when cutting the seat. It must be crisp and precise, which demands a level of control that may frustrate and discourage you the first few times you try it. But you can master the technique with practice.
Bur a Seat:
Drill a hole where you wish to set the diamond, then use an aggressive cutting bur to open the hole to 75% of the diamond’s diameter. Cut the seat with a standard setting bur the same diameter as the diamond or slightly smaller.
Tip: Make your final seat cut with a clean, sharp, straight wall setting bur the same diameter as the diamond. If you don’t have the exact size bur, use one slightly smaller and wiggle it. Never use a dull bur or one larger than the diamond.
Cut to Proper Depth:
The seat is cut to the proper depth when the top of the diamond’s table is even or very slightly higher than the surface of the metal.

2. Now fit the diamond into its seat. Ensure the seat is cut to the proper depth and that it’s level, not tilted. I prefer to use a brass pusher with a concave tip that I’ve fashioned and polished.
Tip: Clean the seat thoroughly because flakes of metal or other dirt trapped under the diamond will dislodge it eventually. After fitting the diamond, test it with a bamboo probe to make sure there is little or no movement. If your diamond passes all these tests, then it’s ready to be set.
Fit the Diamond:
Use a brass pusher to adjust the diamond in the seat.
3. Here’s the first of two tricks to help you become an expert flush-diamond setter: make a burnisher out of an old or damaged beading tool (every jewelry shop has 100 or so of these lying about). Refashion the tool into a slender taper, slightly rounding the tip and polishing to a mirror finish. Make several burnishers with varying angles for various jobs. A wood-handled pin vise works well to hold the burnisher.
Make a Burnisher
Turn an old beading tool into a burnisher to use in flush-setting a diamond. Make several with various angles for various jobs.
4. The second trick involves setting the diamond. Some bench jewelers push the metal too aggressively onto the diamond, popping it out of the setting. Try this approach:
  • Place the jewelry in a ring clamp or on a shellac stick to help hold it.
  • Position the burnisher at a 45° angle to the diamond.
  • Rest the tip of the burnisher at a 45° angle on the upper lip of metal above the diamond’s seat.
  • Hold the burnisher firmly with one hand, placing downward pressure on the lip of metal and carefully rotating the jewelry. The burnisher’s tip should not touch the diamond.
  • Pressure from the burnisher will flare the lip of metal toward the diamond. After several complete revolutions, the diamond should be locked in its seat.
Burnishing the Diamond:
Hold the burnisher at a 45° angle to flare the lip of metal around the diamond.
5. Once the diamond is locked into its seat, stand the burnisher upright and use the tip to push the flare of metal down onto the diamond. Then:
  • Rotate the jewelry and push down lightly with the burnisher.
  • With each rotation, increase the pressure to tighten the diamond.
  • The burnisher’s tip is highly polished so it will leave a shiny bevel of metal around the diamond; you shouldn’t have to polish further.
Tighten the Diamond
Push the metal flare onto the edge of the diamond.
Tip: You may need to polish the burnisher after each setting.
6. After a thorough cleaning, check the diamond for tightness. Use a jeweler’s loupe to check that only the very tips of the bezel facets are covered with metal.
Clean and Inspect Metal Around the Diamond
Only a little metal is needed to secure the diamond.
7. Use a bamboo probe to make absolutely sure the diamond is tight. Turn the jewelry upside down and push with the probe on the diamond’s pavilion. A poorly set diamond will pop out of its seat.
Check with a Probe
Be sure the diamond is tight in its setting.

The JA® Professional’s Guide to Fine Jewelry Craftsmanship: Flush Setting


Professionally Flush-Set Diamonds in a Pendant

A. All diamonds are level and even.
B. When set symmetrically, the diamonds conform to an even, pleasing layout.
C. When set randomly, the spacing and placement is pleasing.
D. The tables of smaller diamonds are equal to or slightly higher than the surface of the metal. For larger diamonds (3mm or more), the table facets may be above the metal’s surface.
E. The beveled rim of metal holding the diamond is:

  • Flush against the crown with no
    spaces.
  • At about a 45º angle.
  • Free of tool marks and highly
    polished.

F. There are no chips, abrasions or damage to the diamond as a result of the setting process.

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

 

Potential Problems to Watch For
Tilted Diamond
The diamond is tilted in its setting.
Metal Slivers Around the Diamond
The seat was cut too big for the diamond. In a desperate attempt to tighten it, the bench jeweler gouged sliver-like prongs from the beveled rim around the diamond.
Too Deep
The diamond is set too deeply.
Poor Metal Contact
This diamond will be lost because not enough metal covers its edges for a secure hold.

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications