Pavé setting uses small splinters of metal (called beads) to hold the stones in place. These beads are raised out of the metal of the jewel itself with a fine chisel.
When a single stone is set in this technique it will usually be called bead setting. Pavé setting is the correct term when a surface is filled with small stones, but it is generally used for stones set in a single row as well.
Note that the stones are surrounded by a rectangular border. Inside this border, the metal slopes down toward the stones. Outside of this border, the metal is left untouched so it protects them. In pavé setting, the girdles of the stones are not visible from the side. Compare the untouched sides of the pavé ring in the picture above to the lace-like pattern on the side of a similar castle-set ring
In a multi-row arrangement, the stones can either be set as straight pavé, or they can be set as staggered pavé. The stones are closest to one another in staggered pavé, but straight pavé has the advantage of filling a larger space with the same amount of stones. The diameter of the metal and the diameter of the stones will dictate which technique is most suitable. If the metal in between the stones is correctly finished to reflective surfaces, the larger spaces between straight set pavé will not impact the look of the jewel.
The aim of pavé setting is to make it appear like the complete surface is made of gemstone material. To achieve this effect, the stones must be very close together while still not touching one another. Touching stones become broken stones, so this must be avoided at all costs. Microscope pavé can be set as tight as 0.15mm apart. That is roughly the diameter of two human hairs.
Pavé is also very suited for setting in fantasy shapes, for instance for laying out letters as in the next picture.
It can also be used to form an entourage around a center stone. This will generally result in a more ‘modern’ look than more classical prong entourage.
When pavé is set without the necessary care, it can result in very poor looking jewellery. The following picture shows pavé that has been rushed. The stones sit too deep in the metal and are not horizontal to the metal surface, thwarting their brilliance. They are too far apart in some places, and stones touch in others. The metal in between has not been finished into shiny surfaces.