Bead Setting, Bright Cutting, Pave aka Cut ‘n Bead

by Gerry Lewy on December 26, 2012

Bead Setting, Bright Cutting, Pave aka Cut ‘n Bead is ‘one’ of the most detailed of essays I’ve written, why? It tries to cover how beads are raised, and then bright-cut. These days, technology has replaced this process with easier methods, as in “shared-beads” or even the use of mini-claws. If these topics are not written, many of our new jewellers or new setters will never know of these very common topics on setting.

It is my wish to put these processes into print, for everyone to read.

Bead Setting, Bright Cutting, Pave aka Cut ‘n Bead

Any name you wish to put to this method of securing stones works; but how many of you jewellery bench-workers know the real way of securing stones this way. Well, let me try and explain to you in the next two articles, starting now with its history!

Years ago, we never had “flexible-shaft” machines. There were only “pump drills” and one had to cut open each and every hole with the use of a “Bull Stick”. Can you imagine the tedium of cutting open every hole by hand? Imagine also an “Eternity” ring with 30+ diamonds and every one of them had to be fitted by hand with a very large #50 onglette graver, called a “Bull Stick”. In those days of yesteryear, there were no regular shaped 57 faceted diamonds! We had only Old-fashioned cut stones, called “Meiner” and “Rose-Cut”. Each of these stones were irregular shaped, and had corners or were dome shaped stones. The setter in those days had to really know how to securely set these rings. It took him about 3-4 hours to set just one Eternity Ring, let alone to do some fancy ornamental “Art-Deco” designed items.

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The setter had to make his own gravers, bead raising tools, bead burnishers, and even make his own burrs. It’s a far cry from just ordering what you need on the Internet and it comes to your front door the next day. Now that I’ve done some history for you, lets go ahead and describe what the setters of today have to work with. The basic diamond setting tools consist of #1 and #2 Onglette shaped gravers, #39 and #40 Flat-bottomed gravers, and a vast assortment of burrs.

I use only two kinds of burrs: “bud” shaped and the “round” shaped for “bead-raising”. I use every conceivable size of bud burrs from #005 up till #030, and round burrs from #005, till #040.1 always buy one or two dozen of EACH SIZE! That’s in any case I get stuck for a particular burr. It’s there at hand! There is no way I want to tell my client that I can’t finish their work just because I don’t have one small burr at my finger tips. Three or four times a year I make an inventory for my burr selection. If I find that one burr is slightly worn down, (teeth missing or grooves in the teeth from touching other stones while the burr turns) I discard it immediately!

My selection of tools must be totally organized with gravers and burrs. Not too mention, extra motors, hammers, and a bench grinder. I totally believe in my “backup” system.

The first item on our agenda, is one thing I stress with my students in my Gem-Setting class in Toronto. How far into the metal do I place the diamond for bead raising? Please have the “table” of the stone at the surface of the metal. The distance from the “table” to the “girdle” is the correct “rule of depth”. This is now your guide in future setting.

If the diamond is too high, you will have a difficult time of “cutting ” around the stones for clean-up and bright-cutting later in this process. The reason is that the girdle will totally hamper you in cutting around the stone, so being lowered into the metal is far easier on you, your gravers and your precious time. I use a round burr to accommodate the size of the stone. Once I feel and intuition tells me that the hole width is the right size, I “open” the hole for the pavilion of that stone with a “smaller” bud shaped burr.

Next, turn over the item to be set and “counter-sink” that underneath ‘exit’ hole. This will aid in the polishing procedure, you are now making available to have all of the polishing material to exit while its being cleaned after polishing. The “bud burr opening and the counter-sinking” drilling is very important, it gives more chance of exposure to that diamond while its in the Gold/Platinum. Plus the diamond won’t “look dark or black” because of captured polishing refuse.

For the initial burr selection, I would prefer to use a ‘fresh and new’ burr as if I use an old one,. the teeth of that burr will not give me the results I need in this fine drilling process. Do not over speed the burr as its turning! You might eventually drill right through the thin metal and or drill too low for the final seating of that diamond. One point that’s important is to use a tine oil for all drilling processes. Oil prevents metal from ‘sticking’ to the burr and prevents it from doing the job it’s intended to do.

Once you feel that the stone is sitting level with the surrounding metal, (check with your I Ox loupe!) press the stone down with a copper or brass pusher until friction tight. Don’t worry, you won’t break the stone, but if you use a steel pusher, you just might! All you need is a light “tap”, now to onto the next stone. Remember all the stones to be bead-set, must be LEVEL, SAME HEIGHT, SECURE and above all, ALL IN A STRAIGHT LINE.

Once this is done, we can now proceed to the next step!

Well now, the actual process of raising beads can be written in one sentence, forming gold over the girdle of the set stone and observing to see if the girdle of that stone is well covered.

Grinding of your gravers is one of the most basic things to learn. Plain and simple – The bead raiser is made from a #2 Onglette graver by making it just a tad thicker at the leading edge or point by rounding off the underneath side. The graver MUST have the underneath thin edge rounded off. Why? When you are attempting to form a bead, the graver won’t break along that thin “underneath edge”.

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Where do you start to raise a bead? Very interesting and also very important question. Imagine that you are drawing a square or picture frame around the round diamond. Now at these “four-corners” or points, is where you make the four beads.

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Start in one corner and raise the first bead. DO NOT RAISE IT SO IT’S OVER THE STONE VET! You should only raise it so its AGAINST the stones’ girdle, now on the opposing corner is where you raise the bead fully and return to this first one and form it hack over the girdle. The “first bead” secures the stone from sliding out as your raise the second bead!

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CHECK ‘WITH A 10 POWER LOUPE! Now at this point do the same with the other two un-beaded corners. Again, check with your loupe! If you have many stones in a row, raise the first beads on ALL OF THE STONES AT ONCE. Then come back and raise the second securing bead. Why do it this way? By raising beads in this manner “the angle of raising beads” is the same with all of the stones, they will all be uniform and in line.

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The next step in this procedure is to “rough-cut” or line-cut, with a #2 onglette graver or maybe a ti 1 onglette graver, only if you feel confident with this thinner graver. Once you start to make the first cut. all of the metal will be removed from around each diamond. Beads must not be removed in this cutting process. The only criteria is that the “under belly”, as well as the point of the graver MUST be always sharp. This sharp edge acts as a “metal separator” as this tool now acts as a guide for the next step, “bright-cutting”…!
Now that we have done all the necessary preliminary “raising of beads” and “line-cutting” in the last issue, we are now ready to attempt the easier part of this technique called “bright-cutting”

Please, do not get discouraged if you do not find the results you are looking for, the first few times you perform this process. This particular “degree of skill” took me 4-5 years to learn, and you might get quite discouraged, in the beginning. So don’t feel its your fault, its a very gradual learning curve.

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Let me start by stating that the “right-sided” graver is paramount in removing the metal from the wall of the line cutting you just finished. This tool will ‘remove’ and leave a highly polished wall that has a “slightly concave” angle. This “angle” will reflect more light than the flat wall created from a Flat Graver. The advantage of the Onglette #2 graver is that as you are cutting you leave a smooth line of cutting; with no visible faceting separation in between the “stop-start” cuts in the metal. So that if you put down your blade and start later, you won’t see a difference of angles. If you maximize and take in your “hand leaning” angle, and get used to this particular cutting angle, you will find how your hand sits while holding the tool/graver. THIS IS ONE OF THE BASIC LAWS, the “hand-to-holding angle” Once you discover how you hold this tool, the rest is easy.

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Why not use a Flat Graver? Glad you asked! There are many apparent problems with this graver.

  1. The graver must be held rather tightly, to have more control over the constant hand angle and maintaining a constant forward action!
  2. The side point of the flat graver ALWAYS ‘hits’ the stone being separated, hence resharpening even after two or three cuts in the metal. The front of the “flat cutting blade” and also at the bottom of this cutting blade is to be reshaped or honed at very frequents intervals. If the blade hits a hard piece of un-annealed gold, a piece of blade is actually broken off and the missing piece is shown on the wall of the metal being cut.
  3.  The hand leaning angle must always be adhered to and the fullest concentration must be given at all times. You really don’t need this aggravation.

I prefer a “right-sided” graver that has a wider cutting on the “right side” of the onglette graver. Prepare this highly polished “cutting blade” by hand polishing with multiple “emery and polishing” papers in a series of smooth well-defined hand strokes. Start with an emery paper of #1, and then progress to a finer paper #2. Wrap the polishing papers around a piece of wood. such as a paint stir, and then rest this piece of wood on the bench peg, this way you can get right. up close to observe the polishing.

Use about 3/4 of the length of the paper with each sideto-side hand movement. Once this is done, examine the results, checking for any “scratches” in the metal. If there are any, redo this procedure. While sharpening, you must maintain the overall “concave-bevelled” angle that the graver was made with.

Polish the blade from the bottom of the knife-edge to the top of the cutting surface on the right-side ONLY! When the blade is clean of marks, proceed to the next range of papers. “Polishing paper #2/0 then a finer #4/0. Use the same method of buffing using quick long strokes on the paper. Examining after every few seconds to make certain there are no marks left in the surface. Any marks in the leading edge of the graver will be transferred to the gold – so make certain you get them all out now!

Go to the last polishing paper and buff like heck and view your new blade. Do not apply heavy pressure on your cutting surface, gentle, definite constant pressure, must be applied. Finally, apply a bit of graphite from a pencil to one end of your #4/0 polishing paper and rub until you have a black surface on this paper. Now, very carefully rub your new graver quickly and lightly on this “black pencilled section”. The graphite will make your #4/0 paper into a #6/0 grit, without buying this additional specialized paper. Once the tool is polished and all the marks are out, you will spend less time to maintaining it in the future.

You have just learned one of the hardest aspects of setting – preparing this very important tool. Maintenance of these specialized hand-made items are so very important. I always check my gravers before attempting a new setting job and never subject them to misuse.

We now have the tools shaped, gravers prepared, and comes the “fun” part. the actual procedure of rough-cutting.

If you are cutting row of diamonds, I would start just “after” the first bead, this way you will start a nice long line of “seamless cutting”.

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What should you look for and where to make the first cut? Have the rough-cutting gravers’ point start right at the bead hole and scribe a fine line along the edge of where the diamonds are.

If you ‘knock-off’ some of the sides of the beads, do not worry. The beads are wide enough and thick enough for this to happen. We have made allowances just for this. For each and every line scribing you should dig deeper into the metal, until you reach a point that the girdle of the stone is now visible. Then stop and do the same to the other side of the stones. You should be “flicking out” the metal by lifting the ends of the graver at an upward angle. Cut each line just enough so that the graver won’t get too deep into the metal. Cut a nice long line from the first “bead” to the very end of the row. Finish the cutting and then go back to clean up all the lines.

What about the spaces in between the diamonds? Make a small scribe again from inside of where the two beads are located and scribe a small square. Go over this cutting groove with your right-sided graver and make this square in to a small, angled bright “pyramid”. As this will soon be polished, it will look like another diamond in between. Delicate and very clean looking is just what we are aiming for. All of these beads MUST be separated from the rest of the metal along the sides and again in between, near the “square”.

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Now that the lines are scribed, beads cleaned and other designs worked on, we can get out our bright-cutter. This is basically the same routine, very easy, just travel along the route you have just made. Have your gravers’ point aimed at the base of the groove and the rest of the shiny part of the prepared blade will do the rest.

As you are trying to bright-cut, aim your gravers’ point towards the edge of the girdle of the stone. This will give a clean affect as you cut. All through this procedure, get rid of as much of the remaining bits of metal that doesn’t belong there. You should now have two rows of bright looking metal. When you have finished all of this cutting, obtain a bead burnisher, (you can buy these at your own tool supplier). Rotate your burnisher over the very tops of the beads.

This will press down the bead on to the stone and slightly polish each and every bead you have just made.

There are two ways of finishing off the ends of the rows. I use either method, depending on the circumstances and the design. The easiest method is the one shown on top, it’s very fast clean and only two minutes of extra work. Use your #1 Onglette graver and cut a ” < ” shape by aiming your tool towards the far end-corners of the metal, clean the metal around the beads and bright-cut. This job is now truly over and are now you all “mavens” in setting.

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

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Dan Harris January 10, 2014 at 4:03

Hi Gerry,

Great article, very thorough indeed. I am looking for some advise on the quickest way to un-set diamonds that are bead set in this manner however. I normally hack away with my saw until I get three of the claws off but this is slow.
Do you have any suggestions?
Thanks in any event, this was a great article to read.

Dan

Valerie April 20, 2013 at 4:03

Thanks for the education!

Jessica Scofield February 4, 2013 at 4:03

Thank you so much for writing this. It is very clear and understandable. I have one question that I hope you will answer. About the right-sided graver: you say to sand and polish only the right side, but if we’re taking a #2 onglet and turning it in to this right sided tool, don’t we have to change the shape of the other side, by sanding or grinding it away? How did you make your right-sided graver right-sided?

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