Channel setting is a type of setting whereby rows of gemstones are set next to each other and secured by metal borders to top and bottom, with no claws or beads used. Each gemstone would be fashioned so they sit right next to each other within a channel, with no metal in between visible from above. It was an ideal way to add swathes of continuous colour, unbroken by the flash of metal.
Calibré cut gemstones were intricately fashioned by hand and worked into special shapes to fit into a specific area. Often calibré cuts fill a tapered row, encircle a stone, or create a flash of colour as a design element to a piece. To produce these exquisite techniques on an often minute scale, every facet and aspect of the stone required skilful and precise fashioning. Typical gemstones used were precious rubies, sapphires and emeralds, creating a burst of colour usually contrasted by bright diamonds.
‘Invisible setting’ or ‘Mystery Setting’ as it is also known, is a laborious and mystifying jewellery technique that gives the illusion that gemstones are suspended, free of any claws or visible settings. The result is a breath-taking, uninterrupted cascade of gems that appear to be entirely free-standing. Because it looks as though there is nothing holding the gemstones, there is a mysterious element to how the stones are set which inspired Van Cleef & Arpels term, “Mystery Setting.”
This incredible technique does not rely upon traditional settings such as claws to hold the gemstone. The metal settings of the gemstones are completely invisible on the surface. Instead each faceted stone is set on invisible gold rails less than two-tenths of a millimetre (0.2mm) thick, about the same thickness as two pieces of printer paper. These seemingly floating gems beautifully mask the elaborate framework of rails beneath them.
The level of expertise required makes mystery setting the exclusive realm of a very small number of master jewellers. While other brands like Cartier have patented similar settings, Van Cleef & Arpels firmly remains the leading master, utilising it more extensively than any other brand.
At Berganza we offer an array of one-off jewellery pieces featuring the beauty of both channel set and invisibly set gemstones. Our extensive collection is available to view in our showroom, online through our website or via a Zoom appointment.