Stone Settings Used in Antique Jewelry

5 styles old jewelry lovers should know

Stone settings



In the fashion and jewelry world, designers take cues from the past and set new trends for today. Take a look at five unique stone-setting styles from days long-ago. These styles vary based on how the stones are displayed or held in the piece of jewelry. These stone-setting styles can be found in both antique fine jewelry and vintage costume jewelry

  • 01 of 05

    Gypsy Setting

    Platinum ring with gypsy set European-cut diamonds.

    Alice Antique Jewelry /

    Gypsy settings (also spelled "gipsy") were popular during the late-Victorian era through the early 1900s. They have evolved greatly since then. 

    In antique jewelry, it was common for a gypsy setting to have a star shape surrounding the gemstone. The star was formed with a graver (a commonly used jeweler's tool). This tool pushed the metal around the stone to form prongs. Dealers and collectors alternatively refer to this style as a star setting and less frequently as a graver setting. Some of the prongs or metalwork in this type of antique setting can look crude.

    The star technique was not used for all antique gypsy settings. On occasion, the metal would completely surround the stone to hold it in place (pictured)—without any shape around it. This loss of the star shape evolved into the modern-day gypsy setting.

    Even with its shifts in design over time, the gemstone still appears to sit flush with the surface of the metal. This remains a constant feature of gypsy settings. Rings made with modern gypsy settings have the stone sunk into the metal. Jewelers most often call this a flush-mount setting, and they appear more sleek and contemporary compared to antique gypsy mountings.

  • 02 of 05

    Invisible Setting

    Brooch with invisibly set rubies, diamonds gold and platinum
    Patrick Gires/Van Cleef & Arpels

    With an invisible setting, a mosaic-like array of stones seem to float seamlessly with no visible prongs or support. In reality, they have been cut individually and very precisely with grooved girdles that are locked into a thin, wire framework underneath. If you imagine how pieces in a jigsaw puzzle fit together, you get an idea of how the stones are kept together. This setting tends to work most effectively using straight-edged cuts on square, emerald, or baguette stones. 

    Developed during the mid-19th century in France, invisible settings were perfected and patented by Van Cleef & Arpels in 1933 as the "mystery setting" (also called the "mystère setting" or "invisibly set"). Technological advances in cutting techniques caused a resurgence in popularity in the mid-1990s.

    It is common to find costume jewelry pieces dating back to the 1930s using rows of pressed glass stones to simulate the invisible setting technique. This may come close to emulating the look, but it does not duplicate the same complicated construction process.

  • 03 of 05

    Millegrain Setting

    Ring with millegrain setting, 3 ct. center diamond set in 14K white gold
    Morphy Auctions

    Millegrain settings use a thin line of beading to surround a gemstone and hold it in place. Also spelled "millgrain" or "milgrain," the word comes from the French meaning "a thousand grains" for the effect of the tiny grains along the edge of the gemstone. This setting is created by rolling a tiny wheel along the edge of the gemstone over the metal. The tool works like a mold to create a beaded pattern along the surface. An effect of the surrounding beading is that it enhances the brilliance of the gemstones.

    It is believed that this ornamental beading style was derived from ancient Etruscan jewelry construction techniques. In the mid-1800s, the Castellani family jewelry firm in Italy revived the popularity of the Etruscan gold granulation (or beaded) art form.

    Millegrain settings became especially popular for use in jewelry made with platinum around the turn of the 20th century. These settings are a typical feature of the highly embellished garland style found in Parisian belle epoque-styles and Edwardian-era jewelry. The style remained popular up through the art deco era of the 1920s and 1930s.

  • 04 of 05

    Pave Setting

    Pavé Set Rhinestone Heart Pin, Ca. 1940s

    Jay B. Siegel /

    Pave (pronounced "pah-vey") is a stone-setting technique using gemstones or rhinestones set as closely together as possible on a metal base with very little of the metal base showing through. Pave is a word derived from the French meaning "to pave," and much like its name, it gives the appearance of a piece of jewelry paved with stones.

    This jewel-encrusted look has been copied prolifically in modern costume jewelry (pictured, brooch from the late 1940s). White metals are often used with colorless stones for this process since they blend together to enhance the paved look of a piece. Colored stones can also be pave-set in either monotone versions or alternate colors to produce a striped look or rainbow effect.

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  • 05 of 05

    Tiffany Setting

    Tiffany & Co. Ring - Classic Tiffany Setting

    The Three Graces 

    A Tiffany-style setting is by far the most popular setting for engagement rings. This setting is used for a solitaire stone with several claw-like prongs (usually six but sometimes as few as four) to hold the gemstone around the thickest part of its edge so that it is lifted above the band while being securely held in place. By raising the stone above the ring band, light can penetrate both the top and the sides of the stone, ensuring the maximum amount of sparkle for the wearer.

    Named for Tiffany & Co., which invented the setting in 1886, it was an innovation at the time. Traditionally, stones had been set deep into the band's shank (the gypsy setting). The Tiffany-style setting is also a standard for stud earrings. The overall appearance is essentially unchanged since its introduction, though the prongs have become slimmer over time.

    The first Tiffany settings were made of platinum. Since the white metal is nearly invisible against a diamond, a Tiffany-set diamond ring seemed to float on the wearer's finger. Tiffany-style settings can be crafted of any type of metal such as sterling silver or plated base metal and may include imitation stones, too.