Micro pavé Applications in Jewelry
Pavé setting is one of the most technically difficult setting techniques for a jeweler to execute.  Careful measurements and precision craftsmanship are the hallmarks of this complicated setting style.  Pavé setting appears in jewelry dating back to the 1600s. Popular among royals, from Russian czars to the court of France, pavé diamond jewelry still commands strong interest today. Variations on the technique, especially micro-pavé, still remain a recurring motif in high end jewelry.

Micro pavé, also referred to as “threading,” represents a diamond setting technique where diamonds, typically less that 1.0mm or .005CT, are set by a highly skilled jeweler working under a microscope.  Micro pavé setting techniques have advanced to the point where an extremely proficient jeweler is able to adorn even the smallest surfaces of metal with what appears to be an uninterrupted line of diamonds.  Diamond “halos” around significant focal diamonds, even prongs, can support micro-pavé. The result is diamond-encrusted opulence, where ultimate precision appears graceful and effortless.

When preparing for micro-pavé, the jeweler will first take careful measurements of the diamonds to be set.  The jeweler also will take into account the width and thickness of the metal to insure that once the diamonds are set, the entire piece will remain stable.  Diamonds are frequently lined up with the table facet face-down on the metal to determine the appropriate spacing. In all pavé settings, diamonds are set very close together so that there is very little visible metal in between the stones. The name of the technique literally means “paved” with gemstones.

Once proper spacing and alignment is determined, the jeweler will scribe a notch in the metal where the stones are to be set. The notch is then drilled to create the space for setting.  Depending upon the piece of jewelry to be set, the jeweler may or may not drill all the way through the precious metal, although drilling this way allows for easier cleaning. Many instances demand that the metal should only be partially drilled, especially when setting small stones or if the micro pavé is included on an element of the design that requires structural stability. A fine example would be micro-pavé on prongs which are meant to secure a significant gemstone. Drilling all the way through would not be appropriate, since the overall strength of the prongs could be compromised.

Once the piece is drilled, the jeweler will often coat it in a shellac substance to provide strength during the setting process and to aid with holding the piece securely. Drill holes are then reamed and a seat is cut with a bearing that will match the angle of the pavilion and crown angle of the diamonds. This is a crucial step in pavé setting. Even the slightest variance in the seat may result in a diamond that cannot be secured properly. Master craftsmen working under microscopes with precision tools, including burs, gravers, and beading tools, are able to accomplish this.

The diamonds are seated with the table facets typically aligned with the surface of the metal. The jeweler will then use a graver, an instrument of hardened steel, cut and polished to precise angles, to raise small amounts of metal around and between the stones to hold them in place. A graver looks similar to a very miniature wood carver’s chisel. The graver is held at an angle, and a small piece of metal is pried upwards so that it makes contact with the crown angle of the diamond. This process is repeated until all diamonds are securely set. The jeweler will then take a “beading” tool, which is a tapered instrument with a concave dimple on the end. The jeweler uses this concave surface to compact the metal using direct pressure. The result is a smooth and rounded surface to the metal, appearing much like a bead.

After the metal is shaped to a pleasing finish with the beading tool, the jeweler will then use a variety of gravers to remove surrounding metal from around the pave settings. Additional surface embellishments, such as bright cutting and milgrain, may be added at this time. Bright cutting involves a precision cut around the borders of the pavé settings, revealing a surface of highly polished metal. Milgrain is a technique where an instrument is rolled along the highest surface of the bordering metal, imparting a visually pleasing texture, usually conveying a vintage feel. This is done upon request. Finally, the shellac is removed from the piece with a solvent and the jewel is ready for a final polish or further assembly, as the case may be.

Micro pavé is a demanding technique. Only the most accomplished craftspeople are able to produce it. With an understanding of the precision involved, as well as the process, the fine jewelry customer will be able to recognize quality micro pavé. The allure of pavé, the prestige associated with mastery of it, and the undeniable skill required to perform it, gives pavé jewelry enduring appeal certain to last for centuries to come.
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