Get Your Ducks in a Row

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A step-by-step guide to multi-row pavé setting

By Joel McFadden


Multi-row pavé is considered the ultimate in diamond setting as it involves completely covering a surface with small round stones secured with only small prongs left in the gaps between the stones. Good pavé relies greatly on the eye and skill of the setter because there are no real cheats or shortcuts with this technique. In the basic project I’m demonstrating here, we are creating a three-row band, but the technique can be modified for any number of rows.


1. Begin by smearing beeswax on the ring surface and then placing all of the stones upside down. You want to create a series of rows where every other row is shifted over about half of a stone’s width. You may need to shift them around until you achieve the proper layout. (While there are several techniques for calculating stone placement using math, I have found that eyeballing it seems to work best, especially when dealing with complicated shapes.) Remember to leave a bit of extra spacing between the stones to compensate for the curvature of the ring. As you set the stones in the metal, they will get closer together.


2. When you’re satisfied with the stone layout, remove the stones one at a time and mark the center point of its location. I like to use a micro ball bur for this, but a scribe will also work.


3. Drill a pilot hole for each stone, then use a Krause bur to open up each hole to about 75 percent of the stone’s width. If you notice that your stone spacing is a little off, this will be your last chance to make any adjustments. To do so, drift the bur to adjust the stone placement as you open up the hole.


4. Next, use a setting bur that is 90 percent of the stones’ diameter to create the seats. The trick here is to have the ledge of the seat where the girdle will sit the same depth on all of the seats, so cut and check your depths often.


5. With a round bottom graver, punch out the spaces between the seats in each row. Ideally, the depth should be just below where the girdles of the stones will sit. This will give the stones a floating appearance.


6. Now it’s time to make the cross cuts (shown here in red and blue) that will run diagonally from the centers of the seats. Match the depth of the cuts to the cuts we made earlier. As you do this, you’ll notice that you’re creating triangular prongs.


7. Use an onglette or a knife graver to cut the borderlines that will define the edge of the pavé as well as create the outside prongs.


8. With a graver, split the outside prongs in half taking care to save as much metal as possible. I like to use a 000 knife graver for this step.


9. Use a heart bur the same size as your stones to touch up each seat to make sure the stones will fit snugly and then begin setting the stones. With a 52 round bottom graver, tighten the stones. Start with the outside row by first moving the center prong out to tighten those stones. Here, you will notice that three prongs hold the outside row stones, while two prongs hold the inside row stones.


10. To tighten the inside stones, move the two opposing center prongs in with a graver.


11. Round off the prong tips with a beading tool that is just large enough to cover the triangular post, and your multi-row pavé work is now complete.