Imagine a vast expanse of glittering diamonds...
Invisible settings have become very popular in the last decade and for obvious reasons - get the illusion of a much larger diamond using many smaller stones with a more affordable price tag.
Illusion settings are created using smaller stones, in the example to the right four smaller princess cut stones are set directly beside each other to give the impression of a large singular stone.
Except for the four corners of the setting, there are no claws or bezels holding the stones in place - they seem to just be floating in place.
But underneath the stone is a grid that supports the stones from beneath. What you can't see is that there are actually small grooves cut into the stones themselves - the metal slides into these grooves, effectively 'snapping' the stones in place.
Pretty ingenious if you ask me, but I had noticed a steady stream of these settings - always rings - coming into the shop. And more peculiar then that, I was surprised at how reluctant Dino, the goldsmith who loves a good challenge, was to work them.
"There is very little material holding these stones into place and any slight impact could disrupt the tension needed to keep everything together. Any slight shift could cause the stones to fall out or chip. The stones are essentially rubbing together and one whack could cause the diamonds to crack one and other."
"Replacing a stone that has fallen out or chipped not only means having a new stone cut with the v-groove needed to 'snap' the diamond in place - but there is no guarantee that this diamond or the other stones in the setting won't come loose during the repair or after the customer leaves the shop."
"Even the most basic repairs or maintenance of these pieces puts the whole setting at risk. The vibrations caused by the polishing wheel or ultra-sonic (used to clean the inside crevices) could cause stones to pop out".
"It is a beautiful look - but for everyday rings especially - they truly are a goldsmiths nightmare. Anyone with one of these settings that are in need of repair or even a good cleaning will not only face an expensive repair but will have difficulty finding a goldsmith willing and more importantly able to do the job."
Knowing that we have and continue to repair these settings, I asked Dino to give me some insight into why these settings were so costly and time consuming to repair. He explained how in some cases, the entire setting would have to be rebuilt from scratch with a thin bezel being added to the top of the setting to hold the stones - that would need to also be reset - more securely. Reconstructing the setting in this was would cost several hundred dollars.
"Most people are shocked to find out how much repairs to these settings will cost, but since many of these settings are sold as engagement rings there is a big emotional connection to each piece. And this can put people in a painful predicament - having spent money on a ring that is so quickly in need of major repair."
I asked Dino why we had never used this setting in our own work - Dino obviously liked the look of the setting and had seemed to problem solve many of the settings flaws.
"It is not worth it. I almost did, especially when these rings first hit the market and some beautiful work was being produced in this style and they were in huge demand. But the more I thought about it the more I realized that we could not risk our integrity as goldsmiths to create something just because it would be an easy sell."
"The very nature of the beast means that there is only so much you can do to bolster the strength of the setting and it will never be at a level that I would be comfortable with. Our business is based on a loyal client base - customers who come back again and again and refer their friends either for custom work or repairs and selling an item that I could not stand behind 100% could mean loosing a customer and jeopardizing our integrity as goldsmiths. I would always wonder if today is the day my customer is going to come back - dissatisfied with a piece I knew was potentially problematic."
I am no Master Goldsmith, but what I do know is that sometimes, no matter how much we know we shouldn't.. we do it anyways and that most certainly applies to jewellery. I have seen some invisible settings that are remarkable for the way they give the illusion of diamonds seamlessly spread across bands, along shanks and around bezels - as if the rings were carved out of a giant diamond itself. And because of the beauty of these rings, invisible settings are most definitely here to stay.
But most importantly - know the risks. Make sure you are educated about the jewellery you are about to purchase, not only because of the money you are spending but also because nothing hurts your heart more then having the jewellery pieces you saved for or were given by your sweetheart fall apart before your eyes.
This post is going to be first in a series - I learn something new everyday at 18Karat and I hope to share these little tidbits with our readers.
If you have a question, ask us and we will post our answers - combined, we have over 83 years experience! (Guess who makes up the 3, wink wink).