Make a Claw Setting

This to me is the final frontier as a jewelry artist.  To set stones!   I have had a tutorial just about this subject page open on FluxPlay’s blog for months and month.  She made it looks so easy. Yet I am stuck, stuck, stuck.  Afraid to just DO IT!  Maria Whetman of Flux Play has allowed me to republish it. Maybe it will inspire someone else like me. To just do it!!image1

Ok, deep breath…it CAN be done. You CAN make your own claw setting. There are lots of tutorials for bezel settings, and those settings can certainly contain a faceted stone, but sometimes a little more light and color will show off the stone better. Below is an “x-wire claw setting”, containing an an Aventurine CZ. It’s my favorite setting because it’s barely-there. I was taught how to make this setting by my tutor at Central Saint Martins, way back in 1990. I have added my sketches just to clarify the photos. image2Of course you can buy claw settings, some are nasty, some are nice. If you can learn this setting I’m showing you here, then you’ll find it versatile because although I’m showing you how to make a specific shape and size, once you’ve made the setting you will understand that the shape can be any shape. The size can be any size (scale up the diameter of the wire accordingly) and you could use other metals too. You could certainly make this setting with 6 or even 8 prongs for larger stones. Make this first, then you’ll understand.image31. I’m using a round, 5mm CZ and 0.5mm round wire. Use hard solder throughout the process.image42. Put the stone upside down on a flat surface and make a circle of wire (jumpring) which sits on the stone just below the girdle (widest part of the stone). You can see the jumpring is the same width as the girdle. Take the circle off the stone and solder it closed.image53. Now make another jumpring which exactly fits inside the 1st one you made.image64. Here you can see how by making one circle perfectly fit inside the other, the gap between the 2 circles when they are on the stone is just right. The Culet (bottom pointy bit) is not protruding beyond the smaller ring.image75. Now make a number 4 that is at least twice the size of your circles, as above. This number “4” is your cross, but made from one piece of wire instead of balancing 2 bits of wire together…much easier.image8image96. Use a punch with a cross filed out of it to gently punch the center of your “4”. This will squash the wires slightly where they overlap, so that they are no longer one-on-top-of-the-other and instead, on the same plane. If you punch too hard, you’ll sever your wires and you’ll have to start again.

You can make the punch with a big cheap nail from a hardware store (cheap ones are not hard strong steel, and therefore easy to file), just file the top flat with a large flat file, then use a triangular needle file to create your cross grooves. Clean all steel off your files thoroughly before you use them with silver again, or keep those files for steel only…otherwise particles of steel will corrode your silver when it’s heated and your pickle will turn into a copper plating solution…all silver will go pink.image107. solder the “4” / cross together at the central overlap where you punched. Now, place your larger jumpring on one side of your cross, dead center, and flux, warm up to set in position, place fluxed solder on each branch of the cross next to the jumpring and carefully solder into position.image11image16

8. Pickle the setting. Turn it over and solder your smaller jumpring onto the other side, dead center as above.image129. If you are going to solder your setting onto a piece where you will be able to see under the stone setting to let light through, then DO NOT SAW OUT THE MIDDLE JUST YET. If as in my ring at the top of this post, you are soldering the setting onto a piece that will back the setting then you have to saw out the middle cross of the setting now.
Notice I have also used a half-round file to file the inside neat and to taper the interior form to accept the sloping form of the stone. It is more difficult to solder the setting into place if you have sawn out the center cross, as the prongs (claws) are now not braced together. If you can saw out and file up after the setting is soldered onto the piece then there’s less risk of the setting collapsing if you aren’t sharp enough with the soldering.image1310. Here is stone in setting so far. Now, bend up the prongs with pliers (you could saw a little nick into the wire prongs where they touch the circle, so that it bends up easier if you want). solder each prong to the top jumpring with tiny pieces of solder. If you’ve used a little too much solder already on the piece, then just flux and what is already there, will flow.image1411. Next, use flush wire cutters to trim the prongs down so that when they fold over, the tips will be resting on the side of the stone above the girdle, but not on the face (“table”) of the stone. Shape the tips neat and tapered by filing. In the above picture you can see that I have made my top jumpring so that it slightly frames the stone, but traditionally you would have none of it showing at all…it’s up to you.image15
12. Solder your setting onto the piece with Medium, or if you aren’t overly confident, with Easy solder. You might want to use a very fine paintbrush and apply rouge paste or some other solder-stop, to protect the solder joins on this piece. Whatever you use, don’t get the solder-stop anywhere you are about to solder. I didn’t use any solder stop when I soldered this setting onto the ring. I soldered with Medium solder and heated the piece mainly from underneath, bringing the heat to the top, close to the setting at the last possible second. As soon as the solder flashed I pulled the heat away at top speed.prongpusher13. When the setting is in place and everything is polished and ready to go, pop your stone in the setting and with your pusher (one of these above), push one prong over gently, then the opposite prong over gently then the other two. Go round the prongs again, working opposite prongs so as not to skew the stone in its setting, bit by bit until the claws are making good contact with the stone. I keep the flat surface of my pusher gently roughed with fine emery paper, so that it doesn’t slip. You can burnish or polish the tips of the prongs afterwards for a shine with a buffing stick. Do not use a buffing machine, the mop will catch the prongs.

I really hope this is helpful. It’s hard to find a how-to for this simple setting these days and it is a skill being lost.

2 Responses to Make a Claw Setting

  1. Cindy says:

    Michelle, what an amazing ring – thank you for this detailed tutorial. I can only hope to try a ring like this one day! :-) Your new site is beautiful – fundametals has a new look and I like it!

  2. Michelle Mahler says:

    Thank-you Cindy!! I hope someday to meet the challenge of setting stones.

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