I've been looking at different courses for so long, but options seemed limited to the super-basic, which would have been a bit of a waste of time and the advanced, incorporating pave and channel setting. What I really wanted to learn was the correct way to do tube, round claw, V-claw and flush setting.
So, I started looking into private tuition. Options in London seemed limited to Holts (probably amazing, but well outside my budget) and the London Jewellery school, who could only offer me two separate days some months apart and weren't able to give me the name of the tutor I would have. I just wasn't comfortable signing up for something without being able to see the tutor's previous stone setting work beforehand.
Eventually, some extensive googling led me to Guy Whitney and the Whitney Jewellery School. It's in Brigg, a small village just outside of Scunthorpe, which was obviously a bit of a trek from London, especially as part of the train journey was by way of replacement bus. I emailed Guy and spoke to him on the telephone, told him what I wanted to learn and booked three days tuition. He was very friendly and helpful right from the start.
The cost of the tuition is £95 per day, which I think is brilliant value given that I was the only student there for those three days and for stone setting courses he only teaches a maximum of two students at any one time. On top of that is the cost of the metal and stones that you use - all the castings and stones are provided by Guy based on what you want to cover so you don't have to worry about taking anything with you - and any tools you want to purchase (which you will!).
The Whitney Jewellery School workshop is a great place to learn - full of light and amazing tools and equipment. Guy's lovely daughter, Emma (also a jeweller) helps run the school and very kindly came to get me when my sense of direction failure kicked in and I couldn't find the place!
Here it is:
We started off with a pear shaped setting, as this was one of the shapes I really struggle with and want to perfect so I can add little raindrops to some new rings I've designed for my Rain or Shine range.
Work in progress:
I found Guy's teaching style great - he shows you in detail how to do each thing to start and then has you do exactly the same thing, checking in on you frequently. I have a few books on stone setting that have detailed diagrams of technique, but really nothing beats watching a master craftsman at work!
Learning how to use the correct tools was also a bit of a revelation. My stone setting tools are ones I bought at college and were all entirely wrong for my little hands. Guy makes his own setting tools, and uses GRS quick change gravers (not cheap but so worth it for the elimination of graver-related faffing) and you can buy a little kit at the end of the course to take away with you, which I'd thoroughly recommend doing.
The Whitney Jewellery School also uses the GRS Benchmate system, which I'd never heard of before, but found an absolute game changer for jewellery work. It's difficult to describe, so if you want more information on it check out the GRS website, but basically it looks a bit like this, with interchangable parts (bench pin etc) for different tasks.
Another couple of different shaped settings as work in progress, and a couple of shots of all my finished rings.
I also had a go at learning a couple of more complicated settings, pave and flush set. I struggled a bit with the pave - raising and shaping the grains I was fine with, but cutting around them in the different shapes is going to require a LOT more practice! I shall persevere, however, and will probably go back to the jewellery school next year for a day to concentrate on the pave.
The flush setting I thought I wasn't going to be able to do - it's always been a bit of a mystery to me how the stones are fixed into the surface of the metal. However, this one I managed to pick up far easier than the pave. Some various attempts at both:
And my little flush set stone. I'll definitely be using this technique more!
In conclusion, I would thoroughly recommend the Whitney Jewellery school for stone setting tuition. I felt like I learned so much over the course of the three days. I also had a lovely time, as Guy and Emma are both friendly and professional, and Guy also has loads of useful tips on goldsmithing techniques and tools.
I've been saving up a whole bunch of stuff that need stones set in until after I'd done this course, so I'll be sharing them with you shortly.