Invisible setting is a technique where specially shaped stones are ‘clicked’ into a metal latticework that sits completely underneath the stones. With square or rectangular stones, it allows the creation of one uninterrupted surface of stones without any visible metal at all.
The stones used in this type of setting must have at least two very fine ‘grooves’ cut into their sides. These catch on the metal grid underneath.
A number of high end jewellers developed this style of setting early in the 20th century. They have made truly dazzling pieces using this technique. Since the 1990’s, other jewellery manufacturers started using machines to cheaply make similar looking items, and these have resulted in many customers becoming disappointed with their purchase.
The main reason is that this setting style has two major disadvantages that become impossible to ignore in the more cheaply made variations of this technique:
All the stones touch one another. Some become damaged on the sides or the corners by the force required to push them in place during the setting process itself. Even if the setting is done carefully, wearing the adornment for prolonged time will eventually result in chipped or broken stones. The hidden metal latticework is rarely strong enough to absorb shocks.
If a stone falls out of an invisible setting, it can only be replaced by one of exactly the same size and colour, with the grooves at precisely identical places.
This usually means the jewel must be returned to the original manufacturer. Customers who have bought invisibly set jewellery made by a less concerned jeweller, will often find themselves with a very expensive item that turns out impossible to repair after the first accident.
In general, we would advise against buying any type of invisibly set jewellery because of these two disadvantages, unless of course from a jeweller who will guarantee its maintenance for many years after your purchase.
Especially when used on rings or bracelets, invisible setting turns out too fragile to withstand daily wear. It should be noted that even the famous houses who originally developed this technique now almost exclusively use it for brooches, earrings and pendants.