July 2002

Professional Bench/Defining Quality


The ability to properly accomplish pavé setting demonstrates another aspect of quality in your shop

The French word pavé, taken literally, means to pave like a street or sidewalk. But those who coined the word werent referring to the material that covered the quaint cobblestone streets of old France, rather to the diamonds that covered their jewelry designs. For bench jeweler generalists, pavé is one of the more tedious setting styles to accomplish, requiring patience and good tool control.

The Layout Procedure

The domed shape of this pendant is created by tapping the metal into a dapping block. Once the metal is domed, begin the layout procedure. Find the center by scribing lines from opposing corners, forming an X. Center punch the intersection of the lines (the apex).

Next, coat the sheet with a thin film of sticky (boxing) wax and place the seven stones table down. Place the stone in the center directly over the metals center point and then place the six outside stones symmetrically around the center one. The girdles of all stones should be nearly touching.

Use a fine-pointed set of dividers to measure the distance between the culet of the center stone and the culets of the outside stones. This distance is called the radius. Next, remove the stones and clean the metal.
Scribe a circle onto the metal using your dividers, which are still set to the radius distance.
Use your dividers, still set to the radius distance, to scribe six arcs around the perimeter of the circle. Place one tip of the divider at the top of the circle and use the second tip to strike a small arc where it bisects the larger circle. Then move the divider tip to the intersection of the arc and circle, where you scribe a second arc. Proceed around the perimeter of the circle until you meet up with the first arc. When finished, the last arc should meet up with the first.

Cutting Seats for the Stones

To properly cut seats for melee when set into sheet:
  • Drill pilot holes that are 50% of the stone diameter.
  • Use an aggressive bur (ball or bud) to open the pilot to 90% of the stone diameter.
  • Use a stone-setting bur thats the exact diameter of the stone to cut the seat. Test-fit the stones for tightness. Tightly cut seats are critcal in pavé setting.
  • When seating melee under 3mm in diameter, cut the seats so the tables are flush with the metals surface.

Framing the Pendant

Cut the outer frame lines that will define the hexagonal pendant design. Follow these steps for cutting the frame lines:
  • Scribe indicator marks about 0.5mm away from the outermost point of each outside seat (see red arrow).
  • Connect the marks by scribing a straight line around the perimeter of the metal.
  • The connecting lines should pass next to the stone seats.

Use a knife or an onglette graver to cut the frame lines between indicator points. Position the graver slanted away from the stones. The frame lines will pass slightly inside the stone seats, isolating the outermost prongs.

Seating the Stones

Unlike bead and bright setting, pavé requires stones to be seated before the prongs are isolated. Remove all metal burs and fit stones into their seats. You might use a brass pusher or a piece of watchmakers orange stick to push them in. Check the stones fit and ensure each one is level. Lightly wax them in place. Wipe off any excess wax so you have a clear view of the stones.

Cutting the Prongs

The pendant design is symmetrical, so use a symmetrical prong pattern. Lets look at two detailed variations. (Either pattern is perfectly acceptable, though I prefer to use the shared prong method as shown at left at the top of the next column.)

Shared Prongs

Here the triangle of metal formed between the stones needs to be divided into three equal prongs, shown as circles in the drawing. To accomplish this, start in the center of the triangle and use a small, round graver to roll the tips of metal out and onto two stones. Two stones will share the prong.

Individual Prongs

For this style, again start in the center of the triangle, but instead cut the prongs to the sides of the triangle. Each stone will receive its own individual prongs.


Dont use the graver to push a prong toward a stone. Moving the metal can snap the prong off at its base. A better method is to roll the prong onto the stones. First, seat the graver deeply into the metal. Then use the gravers face as a fulcrum to roll the prong onto the stone.

Finishing the Prongs

Once all of your prongs have been cut, you should have a prong pattern that resembles this illustration.

Steps to Finish the Setting

  • Round off the prongs with an appropriately sized beading tool.
  • Bright cut the frame line with a flat, beveled graver.
  • Add a bail.
  • Millgrain the edges.

By Tom Weishaar, JA® Certified Master Bench Jeweler," Shop Manager at Underwood s Fine Jewelry, Fayetteville, AR

©2002 Jewelers of America
Illustrations by Lainie Mann Visual Communications


The JA® Professionals Guide to Fine Jewelry Craftsmanship


Pavé Setting

A. All stones are spaced closely and evenly and are set at the appropriate height. Tables are even with the top rim of metal.

B. There is no excess, unformed metal left between the stones.

C. There are no tool marks on the bright cuts, and they are at an approximate 45° angle.

D. The beads are evenly spaced, equally sized and properly positioned, and they cover the stones.

E. All corners and bead shapes are crisp, even and smooth with no tool marks.

Potential Problems to Watch for

The beads are unformed and unevenly spaced and dont cover the stones.
The stones have excess metal between them and are spaced too far apart.
The bright cuts are too wide, show too much metal and are poorly executed, showing tool marks and unfinished areas.
The stones are set at differing heights.

By Mark B. Mann, Director of Trade programs, Jewelers of America

© 2002 Jewelers of America
Illustrations by Lainie Mann Visual Communications

Copyright © 2002 by Bond Communications