CAD/CAM to the rescue
Without the assistance of CAD technology to help lay out 208 melee and place the prongs, this ring could become a design nightmare. One of the great features of CAD is dealing with symmetry. Since the ring is perfectly symmetrical, I only had to design and place stones on one quarter of it. Using the software’s mirroring and copy tools, it became a simple matter of taking the finished section shown in green in the above photo and mirroring it into the other three quadrants. The ring took a total of just four hours to design. It would have taken much longer than that just to lay out the stones in one quadrant if I had done it by hand. Also, the results would not have been as good.
The before-and-after photos above show how beautifully a 3-D wax printer can produce a wax model and how well the platinum casting duplicated the details. Setting 208 diamonds into this ring would have been a tremendous task had it not been for both CAD and a grower.
Technology is wonderful, but it does not solve all our problems. The close-up photo below of the unfinished casting shows just how much hand work still remains. All the metal is in the correct places, but each seat still needs to be perfected. This mounting requires many hours of hand-finishing before a single diamond can be set.
All the melee that went into this ring was ideally cut and of exceptional quality. It is routine for a jeweller to call a supplier and order the correct number of half-pointers needed for a job, but this practice doesn’t work well with pavé. When ordering melee by category (i.e. half-pointers), it’s not unusual to receive a mixed lot ranging in size. In this case, the stones would have measured from 0.90 mm to 1.10 mm. This is too large of a discrepancy for fine pavé work. Instead, I special ordered stones that were all exactly 1 mm in diameter. It took more than two weeks for the supplier to assemble the collection; we paid a premium, but it was worth it. I am not usually this fussy, but these stones were to be fitted girdle to girdle, and I did not want any of them to overlap and chip each other during the setting process.
My very first task was to bright-cut the metal between the stones’ seats. I used a 0.50-mm round bottom graver for this task. The graver had just been sharpened with my graver hone and then polished with a ceramic disc coated with diamond polishing liquid. The goal was not only to remove metal, but also to add a bright shine to the platinum.