Follow an Antwerp diamond setter as he creates the perfect diamond necklace | A river of diamonds

It is in the very heart of the Antwerp Diamond District, inside a diamond polishing workshop that we meet Steven. This diamond setter from Antwerp is getting ready to start a new workday. In front of him, on his workbench we discover a necklace in 18k white gold and 125 diamonds of 0.5 ct each. It is indeed a diamond “river” necklace that he is going to set under the delighted looks of the tourists who are visiting the diamond boutique. Let us describe step by step the metamorphosis of the simple necklace into a Diamond “Rivière” necklace.

« Patience and length of time….. »

Steven is 39 years old and he has been practicing the skill of diamond setter for the past seventeen years. With a clear passion that still grows stronger each day, the setter handles precious stones and creates amazing pieces of jewellery with various gemstones and diamonds worthy of the high reputation of Antwerp. His secret weapon? “Patience” is what he replies just before he emerges into his very private universe, focusing through his microscope on the diamonds that he’s going to handle.

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Credit : Laura Canducci

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Credit : Laura Canducci

Small diamonds make big rivers…
No less than 125 stones is the number of diamonds that Steven is preparing to set into the golden necklace. But not just any of them, or in a random order. The setter has to sort them out very carefully following size: starting at the middle of the necklace, the diamonds will go decreasing in size towards the clasp. On top of that, all the diamonds within a same ‘rivière’ necklace must imperatively be of the same colour and clarity.

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Credit : Laura Canducci

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Credit : Laura Canducci

Steven’s colleagues place the diamonds side by side on a special white cloth to make sure that the quality is homogeneous before starting the actual work of setting. In the meantime Steven explains that over a time lapse of a few years, diamonds that are being set into jewellery are becoming smaller and smaller. Nowadays and essentially because of that fact, he is working with a microscope, which was confusing at the beginning due to the fact that he doesn’t see his hands anymore while setting.

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Credit : Laura Canducci

Different shapes of diamonds

From the classical brilliant shape to the pear shape, passing through the heart shape or the marquise, there is a very large variety of diamond shapes. For his diamond river, Steven will use his preferred ones: the brilliant shape. As the name already indicates, this shape shines with an unsurpassed brilliance.

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Credit : Laura Canducci

The brilliance of a diamond is partially due to the number of facets polished by the diamond cutter. With its 57 facets, the brilliant cut diamond exceeds in number many other diamond shapes. You will also find at Diamondland other shapes amongst which a diamond with 2 more facets than the classical brilliant, named by the connoisseurs “modified heart shaped brilliant cut”. This latter is shaped with no less than 59 facets!

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Credit : Laura Canducci

The perfect diamond necklace requires a careful preparation

Subsequently, a controller will inspect and register the 125 diamonds of 0.5 carat selected by Steven. Once controlled, he places them inside a little blue folded piece of paper called “briefke” that is as light as tracing paper. This way he can discretely hand over a little rectangular envelope to Steven.
With an extreme delicacy, Steven unfolds his “briefke”. He positions the diamonds one by one in a thin little transparent plastic box. He abandons then his precious stones for just a little while, to prepare the necklace to be set.

The first step is to fasten the jewel on a metal sphere, called “the setter’s ball”. This instrument will hold the necklace strongly in place, while permitting to be pivoted in any desired angle. To do so, Steven uses an electric stripper to heat a dark greyish paste, a synthetic cement on which the necklace will be glued. Once cooled off, the cement is hardened and holds the necklace robustly in place on the setter’s ball. Finally the actual work can start!

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Credit : Laura Canducci

The actual setting step by step
Following the thorough preparation of the diamonds and the necklace, a work of ultimate Benedictine monks patience starts for the setter. Imperturbable, Steven seems not to be troubled by all what happens around him. This is a result of his long experience as a setter, which allows him to ignore the many tourists in front of him who came to visit the diamond workshop in the very heart of the diamond district of Antwerp. He has to keep his concentration where it belongs, on the diamond necklace in front of him.
Everyone is welcome to visit Diamondland in order to examine diamonds a little bit closer, after making an appointment. One is invited to observe from behind a window the way the setter grasps every diamond using a little cone of bee wax. The diamond sticks to it perfectly and will then be placed on the precise spot on the necklace.
In order to know exactly where to place a stone, Steven uses first an electronic caliper and measures the width of the setting and then the diameter of different diamonds. Victory! He found the right diamond for the selected shank. With a drill like the one used by the dentist, Steven will carve a fine snick in each of the 4 claws in which he will adjust the stone. Using another tool he will then push the diamond in place and verify that the stone is properly adjusted. Steven will then bend the claws over the stone, cuts the exceeding metal and forms a very tiny little ball at the tip of each claw using a hollow drill. Here you go, the job is done.
Only 124 more diamonds await to be set by Steven for whom the job will become more and more difficult as he reaches the clasp of the necklace and the required diamonds are smaller.

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Credit : Laura Canducci

The actual rivière – the final touch
After many hours of work Steven finally contemplates his work of art. The whole is magnificent but the diamond universe requires nothing less than perfection. The files, the cement and the drills left many marks on the white gold and on the precious stones. No panic: the setter will push the necklace against the rotating felt wheel of the polishing machine so it will end up with a perfect gloss. The necklace will then be dipped in an ultrasound machine that will remove the last residues of dirt in the detergent solution. Passing it on a steam jet will finalize the cleaning of the jewel leaving it perfectly clean and shiny. After the last dip in a rhodium solution that will enhance the whiteness of the metal, the diamond necklace is ready to be presented in the appropriate showcase awaiting to shine around the neck of a very lucky lady.

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Credit : Guy Kleinblatt

(Adopted from the article «Une rivière coule entre les doigts du sertisseur» which appeared on the blog of Le Soir on 24/07/2012)

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