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Tube-setting a gemstone

Figure 1

Select thick-walled sterling silver tubing that has an outside diameter (OD) that’s at least 0.5 mm larger than your stone’s OD and an inside diameter that’s at least 0.5 mm smaller than the stone’s OD. Anneal one end of the tubing. Pickle, rinse, and dry the tubing; use a brass brush to polish the outside of the tubing.

Secure the appropriate-size setting bur in a flex shaft. Hold the tubing annealed-end up against your bench pin. Set the bur lightly into the end of the tubing and start the flex shaft. Keep the bur level and press gently to grind away the inside surface of the tubing to create a seat to hold the gemstone (Figure 1)


Check the fit of the stone in the tubing. The stone’s table should protrude just a bit above the edge of the tubing. Make sure that the stone’s table is not tilted. If you grind the tubing down too far, the edge of the tubing will cover the crown of the stone when you burnish the tubing against the stone. If this happens, use a flat file to level and file down the ground end of the tubing. If you don’t grind far enough, there won’t be enough tubing to burnish over the stone to hold it in place. If this happens, use the bur to grind a bit more.

Figure 2

To set the stone, place it table-side down on a piece of stiff cardboard. Press the seat you’ve just made in the tubing straight over the stone. Holding the cardboard against the stone, turn the tubing so the stone is facing up. 

Picturing the stone as the face of a clock, use a burnisher to gently push the edge of the tubing against the stone at the 12:00 position. Then push the tubing at the 6:00, 3:00, 9:00, 1:00, 7:00, etc. positions to capture the stone with even pressure (Figure 2). Use a burnisher at a 45º angle to further compress the rim of the tubing over the stone’s edge.

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