Heads Up

Building a custom four-prong head

By Joel McFadden

Although industry suppliers have made it easy to order pre-manufactured heads and have them delivered the next day, sometimes you can’t find the right shape or size for an uncalibrated gemstone. Luckily, creating your own custom head for the stone can be easily accomplished.

1. The first step is to create the main gallery for the stone. You can use round wire or square stock to create the gallery, which needs to be the same diameter and shape of the stone you’re setting. Take the wire and wrap it around a mandrel that is the same size as the stone you’re setting; in a pinch, you can also use a pencil or dowel. If the stone is an odd shape, you’ll need to manipulate the wire to the proper shape of the stone. In those cases, I usually start with a circle and then shape it with pliers. Once the wire is the right size and shape, solder it closed.

2. To create the bottom gallery, use the wire to form the same stock shape but make it smaller than the main gallery. The difference in size will affect the angle of your prongs: The larger the size difference, the more the prongs will flare. Getting the right amount of flare is also an issue of design. For example, if you’re creating a three-stone ring, you want the prongs to appear to flare out from the center of the ring.