Setting stones in wax

by Gerry Lewy on November 1, 2012

I prefer to write this setting stones in wax essay in an ‘easy to understand’ form. I want everyone to learn, not from many difficult worded phrases, right?

Once you have explored the innovative method of securing either genuine stones or Cubic Zirconia into a wax ring. You will now need to know how to prepare these rings and make ready for the actual casting process. I will not go into the actual investment pouring. Neither will I intend to explore the preparation of powder to water ratios. These temperatures of the oven will be written later on.

In this detailed setting stones in wax essay, you will see how to assemble your wax rings to the “wax tree”. My many photographs will show you some of the “errors” that could, and might occur.

I have read recently “how to do this and that”. Let me ask those prolific writers what happens if you make a mistake? I will show you some of those mistakes in putting rings on a wax tree!

No one is perfect, mistakes will happen. Yet you must know how to correct them…That is why I am here, to guide and help you!
One of the many important rules in making a wax-tree is to keep the wax shaft perpendicular. It is not advisable to allow any slanting of this wax, why? When the round metal flask is placed around and into the rubber base groove, it will come in contact with some of the wax rings. The resulting action is that there will not be sufficient investment in allowing the ring to be formed. The hot metal will puncture through the cement wall and blow a hole through the side! The result will be 1,000F gold all over the centrifugal container! I’ve actually seen this, and it’s no pretty!

Have all of the wax rings on a 45 degree angle facing upward from the base, why? As the hot metal is flowing, it has to reach all of the ring investment cavity at once. If the wax is flat, the metal will not flow easily. The hot gold has to flow fast and easily!

All of the holes in the wax-ring must be cleared out and not filled with any wax. These then must be cleaned for setting after metal casting.
Do not try to put any wax-ring near the top of the wax-tree, why? You need a separation of tree-wax to the investment topping, a form of a bumper is totally needed! When the gold is shot into the investment cavity, you don’t want it to keep going through the top!

Remove all wax of of the stones before attaching the rings, why? Where there is wax, then there will be metal over the stones, thus making it extremely difficult to remove afterwards!

Remember to have the ring-sprue thick, even at the joining of the the ring-sprue to the tree! Do not make any sprue thin…anywhere!!!
With a thicker wax-tree, this allows the hot metal to reach all of the wax rings as quickly as possible. If the tree is thin, the hot metal will not reach many of the rings and the centrifugal force will be then wasted. It is not advisable to give the hot metal a chance to cool down while in the casting process.

I prefer to have the thickest, or more larger wax rings at the bottom of the tree. When the hot metal is poured in the investment, it has a greater chance of filling the heaviest ring. This is thickest rings at the bottom, wax set-rings at the middle and the solitaire rings at the top!
It is advisable to have your tree at a height of no more than 6-8 inches from the base to the very tip. If the tree is longer, the hot metal will be cooling before it reaches the top of the “tree”.

This will result in an incomplete filling of the investment cavity. Then some wax-set rings will totally ruined, labour lost, & partially formed!

What kind of stones are favorable in this gemstone-casting? There are only a few gemstones allowed in this hot metal casting process. Read further on this very important note!

The colours are Red, White and Blue: Blue Sapphire, Diamond, Ruby, Garnet, Cubic Zirconia. We are looking at 8.5<=>10 on the Mohs Hardness Scale!

The softer stones that you must totally avoid are as follows: Emerald, Opal, Topaz, Turquoise, Pearl, Lapis, Peridot, Jade, Coral, Tourmaline, Blue Zircon, Aquamarine, especially Amethyst.

It is advisable to experiment on your own with any other stones that you need, if mass-production is warranted. This is your decision.
When the investment flask is finished being “thrown” or the metal is cast. Do not plunge the hot flask into cold water, let it sit on the floor to cool down for at least 30 minutes. Another suggestion is to place the flask back into your “cooling-down” oven. The rapid cooling, or quenching into cold water with suffer the stones to crack within seconds! This is with diamonds or other gemstones. I’ve seen this happen, trust me!

The only time to remove any investment is when the cement is cool enough to touch with your fingers…not before!
When placing each ring on the tree, you must not allow any ring touch the adjoining ring. There must be a separation at all times!
Inspect prior to the ‘set-up’ that all of the stones are not touching in their setting,why? During the initial extreme pushing of the gold, some stones might move and hit it’s neighbour, resulting in ‘facet’ damage and broken ‘girdles’! Basically, all stones ‘must’ be tight. I prefer to have my channel set stones have a slight separation in their setting.

Have all of the stones secure, don’t have them moving around in the wax ring. They might be cast crooked, & very difficult to correct!
Do not wax-set square, large “Princess” diamonds, there are too many chances of breakage at the four corners. I prefer to “hand-set” these stones. As they are ‘waiting to break’ in the casting process. Diamonds with many inclusions are more likely to break further, or get more damaged. If any diamond is below the SI quality, the chances of increasing the damage is greater. Inspect all of your stones prior to any casting.

Do not make the claws on any stone shorter than desired. It is far better to file down the claws afterwards. What you save at this point is loads more difficult to add on claw tips after gold casting!

Make sure your sizing of your ring is done prior to the wax injection stage. This will save you much time once its been cast.
Keep all of the wax-set stones clean, remove all of the extra wax. ..everywhere!

What size of stone do you need after the casting? There will be about 3-8% shrinkage. Do not measure the needed stone before each casting. Decide the size of stone after the ring is cast, not in the wax.

Do not allow the ‘electric pen’ to come close to any ring when fitting the wax ring to the ‘tree’. If this occurs, many rings will get melted and then you must reset all the stones, more labour & time lost!

Do not wax-set large Engagement rings, there will be a danger in this procedure! You might not see any hidden inclusion and hot metal hitting the stone will be a definite major financial loss to you!!

There is no possibility in post-cleaning of any claws if large stones are wax cast, such as polishing any of the claws. Please keep away from any large stone larger than .05-.10 point sizes.

As a Diamond Setter, I prefer not to have any stones pre pave-set during this procedure of casting. In polishing, all of the beads will be appearing to be worn down. Resulting, no metal to bead-set!

What happens when the diamonds are burned? These will be very difficult or near impossible to re-polish, and have milky or rough texture to their surface. Any diamond that has to bear 1,200F or more will definitely get ‘ruined’. I prefer to have diamonds cast at 1,050F or less, and 1,000F for other gemstones!

Time allotted is depending on who is placing the stones in the wax. As “Channel Setting” in wax, as against metal, the time required is seconds as compared with metal setting in 5-6+ minutes. “Gypsy Setting” that was measured in minutes is now in seconds. “Mini-Claw” setting is the same..so who wins?

Of course, “Setting in Wax” is the ultimate winner! But if a “wax to metal” error occurs, the wax preparation is lost, labour is lost, digging out the stones from a gold ring. Expertise in wax placing, is the deciding winner!

Pricing your time in metal setting, can range from $4.00 to $6.00 per stone. But if it is in wax. The time in money spent is in pennies per stone!

Cleanliness is the most important aspect to consider. There must not be any residual wax laying alongside, any stone. If you are setting a large gemstone, get rid of the wax. Don’t overlook any little flakes of wax, this will be metal once cast!

If you set a stone too high in a ring, remove and reset the stone now. Once it is cast, it is impossible afterwards!

All of these ‘errors’ have been photographed, and now appear in with these attached pages. I have covered as many of the problems that might befall anyone trying this for the first time! If I overlooked any ‘errors’, my apologies.

Setting stones in wax images:

Gerry Lewy

Gerry Lewy

With over 42 years experience as a stone setter, Gerald N. Lewy, president of Gemz Diamond Setting, is known throughout the diamond setting community as 'Gerry the Cyber-Setter'. Gerald Lewy started his 9-year apprenticeship with a jewellery manufacturer and tutored by a gentleman 'setter', in Haddon Gardens, London England. Gerald has redeveloped himself into more than a master setter; his purpose is now to be a teacher of the art as well. If you have any questions on Diamond / Stone Setting you can contact him through this blog

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Alfredo Palomo March 28, 2016 at 4:03

Hi, excellent article, Gerry thank you for share your skills and experience. I have some issues with the wax set because the prongs are broken, and i don’t have idea what is the problem. I changed the temperatures for the ovens and put the sprues in different places change the type of wax etc. but i have the issue yet. I heard about that my molds should be specific to wax set but i want to know, what is the difference betwen a normal mold and the mold for wax set? is not the same?
i hope you could help me.

thank you
regards from Mexico

Hagit March 15, 2016 at 4:03

Hi Gerry. I also spent the 80 ies in Hutton garden. Trying to get back on the horse. Saw some interesting casting by Polly Wales . Trying to understand how it’s made. Is the casting made on top of the stones? Thanks. Hagit.

Dilip Jana February 20, 2016 at 4:03

I want to work stone setting in wax. please cal l me ph. no. 09093948471
purba medinipur (west bengal)

Salah December 7, 2015 at 4:03

Thank you for the great article and the advices.
I have a question and i will be grateful if you could answer.
I have tried wax settings and I used cubic zirconia my problem if after casting the stones loses it’s shiness. The stone fade out.

Gerry Lewy May 22, 2015 at 4:03

I suggest using “New York Pink!” This memory-wax can be purchased through Kerr, Stuller or even Rio-Grande.

Asif May 22, 2015 at 4:03

Hi thanx for ur advise but I want to know which wax is better for stone setting reply me fast

Jawaad Mahmood June 3, 2014 at 4:03

Hi thanks for clear explanation. My problem l cast 22k gold in stone wax casting how to easy fit stones in wax and better temperature in kiln to cast

Louise Wright March 26, 2014 at 4:03

Hi, thanks for the clear explanation.
Is there a way to clean silver off the top of a small ruby once it’s been cast?

Dinesh Rohilla September 16, 2013 at 4:03

conventional method is better than newly developed in sum Technics in present time ie electricpen

Gerry Lewy December 20, 2012 at 4:03

Hi Chittaranjan Pramanik
Your telephone will be quit expensive for me to call. I live in Toronto, Canada. What would you like to do in helping you with “Setting Stones in Wax?” WE are “-5 hrs GMT”. If you want me to travel to your country, I am available…lets talk further…Gerry!

chittaranjan pramanick December 20, 2012 at 4:03

i want to work stone setting in wax. please cal l me 9735499307
howrah(west bengal)

Roger November 9, 2012 at 4:03

Good advice. One thing I am wondering is why you sprue the rings on pointing away from the rubber base. It is way easier to attach the ring sprue onto the main tree with the rings angled toward the rubber base. When you get all the rings attached to tree cut the tree from the rubber base to weigh it. When reattaching the tree turn tree the over and attach to rubber base. This way of attaching the rings helps to prevent hitting the already attached sprues with hot tool, since you do no longer need to put the tool down between the rings. have Fun

Alby November 2, 2012 at 4:03

Nice tutorial!

Jim Sivertsen November 2, 2012 at 4:03

There are a number of excellent articles on wax set casting on the SRS investment web site – http://www.srs-ltd.co.uk, click on technical and see both headings Stone in Place Casting and Stone in wax Setting. A few papers by the late Dr. Hubert Schuster are available for down load there along with some articles from United. A good read for anyone getting into wax set casting.
Cheers & Regards,
Jim Sivertsen – United Technical Dept.

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