The Art of Gem-Set­ting

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TO ADORN ITS TIME­PIECES with the most striking gem­stones, Rolex has its own in-house gem­mol­o­gists and gem-set­ters. Gem­mol­o­gists are re­spon­si­ble for ex­am­in­ing and se­lect­ing the gem­stones re­ceived, re­tain­ing only those that meet Rolex’s extremely strin­gent quality cri­te­ria. The stones then pass into the hands of the gem-set­ters, who are tasked with plac­ing and fix­ing each stone to best re­veal its beauty, colour and sparkle.

Rolex has of­fered gem-set watches through­out its his­tory. In em­bel­lish­ing its watches with pre­cious stones, the brand en­dows them with an al­ter­na­tive aes­thetic, whilst con­serv­ing their iden­tity and all their tech­ni­cal fea­tures, such as re­li­a­bil­ity, ro­bust­ness, and re­sis­tance to mag­netic fields and to shocks.


Rolex uses only the high­est quality nat­u­ral stones. Upon their ar­rival at the ate­liers, all gem­stones – both di­a­monds and coloured stones – un­dergo rig­or­ous ver­i­fi­ca­tion pro­ce­dures. To guar­an­tee the quality of the stones, gem­mol­o­gists have a range of anal­y­sis tools at their dis­posal, in ad­di­tion to their own ex­per­tise. Th­ese tools, some of which are spe­cially de­vel­oped for Rolex, can pro­vide in­for­ma­tion on the stones’ chem­i­cal com­po­si­tion. Di­a­monds, for ex­am­ple, are sys­tem­at­i­cally tested via X-ray imag­ing to con­firm their au­then­tic­ity.

Sources of light

The way in which the gem­stones are cut – the sym­me­try and shape of the facets – de­ter­mines the way in which light pen­e­trates the stones and is re­flected off the pavil­ion, or lower part of the di­a­mond. The cut there­fore di­rectly in­flu­ences a stone’s bril­liance. In the case of di­a­monds, a well­cut stone ac­cen­tu­ates the in­ten­sity and num­ber of reflections, even creat­ing rain­bow hues. The facets of each of the stones – the re­sult of the di­a­mond cut­ter’s pain­stak­ing work – are an­a­lysed in the gem­mol­ogy lab­o­ra­tory. Clar­ity re­lates to the ab­sence of in­clu­sions in a stone. Rolex se­lects only the most translu­cent nat­u­ral gem­stones. For di­a­monds, IF (In­ter­nally Flaw­less)

stones alone are ac­cepted – those in the high­est cat­e­gory of the grad­ing scales gen­er­ally used in gem­mol­ogy.

The colour of the di­a­mond is al­ways eval­u­ated by the naked eye, and calls for sea­soned judge­ment. In their as­sess­ment, ex­pert gem­mol­o­gists com­pare the di­a­monds against cer­ti­fied master stones. The brand chooses to use only the most colour­less di­a­monds; they must fall within cat­e­gories D to G – the high­est grades on the Ge­mo­log­i­cal In­sti­tute of Amer­ica colour scale. This metic­u­lous and rig­or­ous anal­y­sis, car­ried out ac­cord­ing to the brand’s own quality cri­te­ria, en­sures that all the gem­stones on a watch are uni­form, and of the very best quality.


Once ap­proved by the gem­mol­o­gists, the pre­cious stones are then en­trusted to the gem-set­ters. With the pre­ci­sion of a watch­maker, they set each stone, one by one, onto the watches. A gem­set­ter’s craft is multi faceted. First, de­ci­sions are made with de­sign­ers in the Cre­ation Divi­sion about the colours and ar­range­ment of the stones. This is a sub­tle ex­er­cise in find­ing a bal­ance be­tween aes­thetic and tech­ni­cal re­quire­ments. Then fol­lows a con­sul­ta­tion with the case and bracelet engi­neers. To­gether they study the fu­ture place­ment of the stones in or­der to pre­pare, to the near­est mi­cron, the gold or plat­inum into which the stones will be set. For each stone, they de­ter­mine the pre­cise amount of metal re­quired to hold it in place.

The gem-set­ter then pa­tiently sets the stones in­di­vid­u­ally to achieve a per­fect har­mony of colours and reflections, and find the op­ti­mal po­si­tion. Rolex tol­er­ances are to within no more than two hun­dredths of a mil­lime­tre, which is around a quar­ter of the di­am­e­ter of a hu­man hair. The sur­round­ing metal is then gen­tly pushed into place around the stones to fix them se­curely. The skill of the gem-set­ter is show­cased in their abil­ity to choose the ap­pro­pri­ate tool, to find the right an­gle, and to ap­ply the cor­rect amount of force – a step re­peated up to al­most 3,000 times on cer­tain di­a­mond- paved di­als. A fi­nal pol­ish makes the tiny metal set­tings shine, in­ten­si­fy­ing the watch’s splen­dour.

Tra­di­tional tech­niques

Rolex gem-set­ters use four tra­di­tional tech­niques. The most fre­quently seen is “bead” set­ting, which is em­ployed in par­tic­u­lar for sur­faces that are “paved” – or en­crusted with di­a­monds. Here the stone, which is al­ways round, is held in place by three to five small, bead-shaped pieces of metal. Bead set­ting is aes­thet­i­cally sim­i­lar to “claw” set­ting, in which the metal prongs are longer, and more of the stone is vis­i­ble. In a “closed” set­ting, a metal band en­cir­cles the gem­stone, hold­ing it in place. “Chan­nel” set­ting, also known as “baguette” set­ting, is most of­ten used with baguette- or trapeze- cut stones, al­low­ing them to be aligned side by side to form a cir­cle, on bezels, for ex­am­ple. Here, the stone is seated in a chan­nel of pre­cious metal, the edges of which are folded over to se­cure the stone, in a sim­i­lar way to closed set­ting. This reper­toire of tech­niques, com­bined with ef­forts to source the most im­pres­sive stones, il­lus­trates Rolex’s ex­act­ing re­quire­ments. Its gem-set­ters are among the most skilled in the pro­fes­sion, and the brand equips its teams with the lat­est tech­nolo­gies, all to cre­ate gem-set time­pieces that ex­ude ex­cel­lence.

Gem-set­tinG of a Pearl­mas­ter bracelet

roleX oYs­ter Per­Pet­Ual Pearl­mas­ter 34 in 18 ct eVerose GolD, en­tirelY set WitH Di­a­monDs

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