Professional Jeweler Archive: Setting Round Brilliants in Three-Prong Earring Studs

February 2003

Professional Bench/Defining Quality

Setting Round Brilliants in Three-Prong Earring Studs

Knowing how to professionally set round brilliants in three-prong stud earrings demonstrates another aspect of quality in your shop

Because of the growing popularity of three-prong stud earrings, Gerald Ledbetter of Troy Vinson Jewelers, Fort Worth, TX, developed a unique procedure to simplify setting stones in them while significantly decreasing the bench time required to complete the job.

The gallery wire on the cast stud is rounded on the outer side of the finding (A). It’s flat, tapered and smooth on the inside (B).

New Holding Device

Pin vices are often used to hold an earring stud for the setting process. The expanding and contracting part of the pin vice that provides security is divided into four sections. The three-prong construction doesn’t allow this finding to drop into the vice to be secured properly. Consequently, it fits into the vice at its weakest point (the joint of the post-and-prong assembly) and may break when anyone tries to create a bearing in the prongs.

Ledbetter designed and made a holding device to solve the problem. The simply made attachment slides over the top of a standard pin vice. When the stud is inserted through the holding device and into the pin vice, it’s securely locked into position with ample support so it won’t break apart when the bearings are created.

This device is made from the top of a drill bit container. Ledbetter drilled a hole in the top of the device, burred a rounded indentation in the center and cut three slots into the firm plastic material. This will allow the base of the earring stud to drop in and provide further holding security. To bend the prongs, he also filed three pliers support notches – two on a corner and a third on one side.

Creating the Bearing & Performing the Setting

Here are the steps Ledbetter uses to create the bearing and set the stones.

1. First he prepolishes the findings. He places his holding device over the top of the pin vice, inserts the earring stud through it and secures it into the pin vice.

2. With chain-nose pliers, he straightens each prong a bit so when the bearing is cut, the stone will be seated slightly above the gallery wire.

3. He selects a 90&Mac251; bearing bur slightly smaller than the 6.5mm stones he will set. He starts by burring all three prongs at one time. As he continues, he burs individual prongs. When finished, less than 50% of the prongs’ thickness is removed. He removes the metal flashing from each prong with a flat-bottom graver.
4. Next he seats the stone into the prepared finding while it’s secured in the pin vice. To bend the prongs, he braces one side of the flat-nose pliers in a notch he created on his device and the other side at the top of the opposing prong.

He bends it moderately, repeating this step for each prong.

6. Next he trims the prongs with fine cutters and files and shapes each one. His holding device works well in securing the stud for prefinishing and finishing.

Procedure Summary

Setting and finishing 1-ct. stones into three-prong stud earrings using these procedures required 20 minutes.

For questions related to this process, contact Mark B. Mann at

The 14k white gold earring studs used in this demonstration were provided by Roseco, a tool and findings dealer in Dallas, TX; (800) 527-4490.

– By Mark B. Mann

Technical contributions by JA® Certified Master Bench Jeweler Gerald Ledbetter, Troy Vinson Jewelers, Fort Worth, TX

Illustrations by Lainie Mann
©2003 Visual Communications;

Setting Round Brilliants in Three-Prong Earring Studs

A. No more than 50% of the prong’s original thickness has been removed to create the bearing.

B. There are no visible gaps between the girdle and the stone at the bearing.

C. The prongs’ overall height is even with or slightly lower then the table.

D. There is 33%-50% contact between the prong and the crown.

E. The bearing is cut evenly and the stone is securely seated in it, slightly above the gallery wire. The stone is level.

F. Metal flashing on the side of the prong from the burring process has been removed.

G. Each prong is shaped evenly and congruently.

H. All tool marks have been removed and there is no damage to the stone.

Potential Problems to Watch for

The prongs are upright. These prongs are not completely bent over the gemstone and are not in contact with its crown.
Too much metal was removed when burring the seat and/or too much was removed during the finishing process.
The excess metal created when cutting the bearing was not removed.
Too much metal from the tops of the prongs was removed during finishing. The security of the gemstone is minimized and future wear eliminated.

– By Mark B. Mann

Illustrations by Lainie Mann, Visual Communications
©2003 Visual Communications,

This series is sponsored in part by Jewelers of America, (800) 223-0673

Copyright © 2002 by Bond Communications