How to set gemstones in blank jewellery settings.

Posted December 2, 2017 By Admin

Setting your own gems is easy with our Blank Jewellery Settings

Many people interested in gemstones have a stockpile of loose gems that rarely see the light of day.  Their real value and beauty is enhanced when they are set in an attractive piece of jewellery.  While custom made jewellery is suitable for very expensive, high value gemstones, it can be difficult to find a good manufacturing jeweller and the work is quite expensive.  Using off the shelf blank settings is a much more affordable option that is ideal for gemstone collectors or cutters.

Blank jewellery settings are generally available in two main types:  a) “snap in” type settings and b) pre-notched cast settings.  See below for more information.


This is a revolutionary new idea in gem setting.  It is so simple that anyone can do it in just seconds !  Although currently available in a smaller range of sizes and designs, these are the settings for the inexperienced to start on.  Once you have done a few of these, it will give you confidence to step up to the cast settings.  Please note the Snap-Sure settings generally are lighter than the cast settings and are more suitable for smaller stones.

If you have a heavier and/or more valuable gemstone, we recommend you go for the cast settings (see further down) as these will be more secure.

Instructions for Snap-Sure Settings:

  • Just turn the stone face down (point up) on a semi-hard surface that will not scratch the gemstone (eg. magazine, etc).
  • Push the mounting down over the gem until it “snaps in”.  Check and make sure the stone is level in the setting – if it is not, a gentle push with your fingernail should straighten it up.
  • Check to make sure the prongs are snug against the girdle of the gem – if they are not closed tightly on the gem, use some smooth pliars to press them across the opposing prongs under the gem.  Do not use serrated jaw pliars as these can scratch the silver.
  • Remember – gentle is the key as too much pressure can twist your setting or damage a valued gemstone.
  • In most cases, adjustments like this are not necessary.  The whole setting process will literally take just a few seconds.

Gem face down and ready to set

Finished set of sapphire earrings in just a few seconds


These cast settings are slightly heavier in construction compared to the Snap-Sure settings.  Therefore, these will wear better and usually hold the stone more securely.  There is no cutting seats or filing prongs necessary as all claws are pre-notched for your convenience.  These castings are also fully finished with just a normal polish necessary after the stone has been set.  Some castings available are only semi-finished and require specialised tools to complete the piece so please remember to check this when comparing prices.

Instructions for Cast Settings:

  • Place your gem in the setting – this can be done similarly to step 1 above by placing face down and pushing the setting over the gemstone.
  • Turn the setting + gemstone over carefully so that the top of the piece faces you.  Level the stone in the setting with your finger
  • Use a pair of smooth jawed pliers to gently bend the prong in against the gemstone but do not tighten completely at this stage.  Work in an X pattern to tighten opposite prongs in sequence.
  • Closely inspect that the gemstone is leve and square within the setting as you work.  If the gem is not square, simply close the opposing prong slightly to adjust this.
  • Once you are happy with how the gem is sitting, tighten all the prongs to complete the job.  A prong pusher is recommended for this step (see below) but is not essential.
  • Remember to be gentle and take your time to avoid damaging the setting and/or the gemstone.  Do not use excess pressure or force.
  • For settings with accent stones, be sure to mount these first before doing the main gem.

Gently tightening opposite prongs with pliers working in a X type pattern - do not over tighten yet

Push the prongs in against the stone gently using the prong pusher to complete the job


IMPORTANT – off the shelf blank settings are designed for calibrated size gemstones – while there is a small amount of adjustment in some cases, you should try and be as close to ideal size as possible.  A gemstone that is not close to calibrated size or is cut excessively deep or shallow is unlikely to fit in these types of settings.  If you are getting your gems cut overseas, we strongly recommend paying a small amount extra for calibrated size cutting as this will make things a lot easier later if you decide to get any of them set into jewellery.

Suitable pliers can be bought here – either flat pliers or nylon jaw pliers are ideal for the job.  However, you may have something already that can be modified to suit. We just use a simple pair of hobby pliers that have the serrations ground off the jaws (see photo)

Prong pushers are recommended for the final tightening step – pliers can be used for this but a prong pusher is designed for this job.  These are also easily purchased (click here to buy) but are very simple to make – just find a screwdriver with a comfortable handle and cut off to convenient length, then just grind the end smooth and flat (see photo).

Grinding serrations off jaws

Grinding end of old screwdriver to be flat and smooth

See our Store Policy page for information on returns, etc.  We do accept returns on any item in original condition but cannot be responsible for any damage done while using these settings.  Please use the instructions above as a guide and be very careful not to damage either the setting or your gemstone.  Slow and steady is the recommended approach.  If you have any questions at all – either before purchase or while you are in the middle of setting your stone, just email us and we will try to help. 


Comparison: Lortone QT12 and Thumler Model B

Posted April 14, 2017 By Admin

When polishing rifle brass, wet tumbling with stainless steel media is now the preferred method – for reloaders, this process is faster and much more effective. There are a number of options when deciding which tumbler to buy.  The Qt12 and the Thumler B tumblers are two of the most popular models so we thought it might be useful to do a detailed comparison to help you choose.  Note for reference – the Lortone tumbler is blue and the Thumler tumbler is red. The following table shows the main differences which will be discussed in more detail below:

Table showing differences between Lortone QT12 and Thumbler Model B tumblers (compiled by Aussie Sapphire)

Footprint of the tumblers is very similar although the base of the Lortone is more robust and substantial.  The design is simple and all parts on both are replaceable/available so you can keep your tumbler operational for years and years.

Both tumblers are belt driven. Note that there is NO belt tension adjustment on the Thumler so once the belt starts to stretch, you will need to replace immediately while the Lortone allows some tightening by moving the motor mounting bolts in the slotted holes. There is a belt guard on the Lortone while the Thumler polycord belt is unguarded.


The barrels are very similar size (see dimensions in table above) – the Thumler has a slightly larger total volume but is also heavier. When weight rating and optimal load volume is taken into account, this means the load capacity is very similar between the two machines. The Lortone barrel is solid rubber with a double lid system with a single central thumb nut (the boot gasket on the inner lid is replaceable) and 10 internal sides for optimal tumbling action. The Thumler barrel is steel with a rubber liner and separate rubber gasket under the lid which is secured by 6 wingnuts – it is hexagonal shaped. Unlike rock tumbling, brass polishing is a non-abrasive process so you are unlikely to wear out liners or gaskets.

Motors are very similar – the Lortone is fitted with a slightly more powerful version but both handle the job easily.  Both run hot – it is normal for either motor to run too hot to touch but they are designed to work continuously for years (replacement motors are readily available and easily fitted). The Lortone has an in-line switch while the Thumler must be turned on/off at the power point. The Thumler is mounted via two bolts on an L-shaped bracket – if you find the motor vibrates in use, you can block underneath it with a small piece of dense foam. The Lortone is more securely mounted to the base frame with two slotted holes for belt tension adjustment.  Note that it is possible to fit a high-speed motor to the Thumler – the standard speed motor is fitted by default but it can be swapped out if desired.


Rotary tumblers run a drive shaft and an idler shaft both of which have nylon bearings.  These should be oiled before use and regularly thereafter with a suitable light oil (suggest Singer Sewing Machine Oil or similar product).  Use of a thick grease or other unsuitable product can damage shafts and cause other problems (gummed-up shafts can also damage drive belts for example). The motor on the Thumler should also be oiled (there are two oil ports either end of the motor) – the Lortone motor does not require oiling.

The Thumler shafts have rubber guides to keep the barrel in place – it should be placed with the lid nuts facing away from the pulley. The Lortone has a barrel guide which fits the lid nut recess as shown below.

Ultimately, either of these tumblers will do a good job polishing rifle brass. Which one you select is down to your particular needs and budget. Note that we do stock smaller Lortone tumblers for those who do not need the capacity of either of these two options – similarly, if you need even more capacity, we suggest you consider the larger Lortone commercial series tumblers (up to 40 pounds compared to the 12-15 pounds of the Qt12/ModelB). When considering what size you need, please use the volumetric capacity data given in this data sheet.

Our full range of rotary tumbler is listed on our website here. If considering other options, please consider availability of spare parts and warranty support from an Australian dealer who is subject to local consumer protection law.  Compared to the very cheap reloader vibe tumblers, these rotary tumblers are a significant investment – make sure you choose one that will be reliable for many years of use and buy from a dealer who can support you with a full range of spare parts.

Note:  this information compiled by Aussie Sapphire for the benefit of our customers. Copying or distributing without permission is not permitted   Click here for a downloadable version of this article.



Diamond Saw Blade Types

Posted February 26, 2017 By Admin

Have had a few questions recently about the different types of saw blades so thought it worth a post.

Essentially, there are three main types of diamond saw blades used in the lapidary field – all have their pros and cons.

A) Sintered Blades

Sometimes referred to as Continuous Rim Blades, these blades are more expensive but tend to be longer lasting and offer better performance. Sintered blades are made embedding diamond particles in a metal bond around the rim of the blade – the diamond extends through the full depth of the rim and so as the metal bond rim wears away, new diamond particles are exposed and keep the blade cutting.

These blades are available in premium or economy versions – the manufacturing process is essentially the same but a premium blade will be better quality.  Please note that even though the sintering process will give a more durable blade, they can easily be damaged by incorrect usage (insufficient cooling, rock jams, etc).

For smaller blades, the sintered metal bond rim will be continuous around the whole rim while for larger blades (say above 16″ diameter), there may be sections cut out along the rim to improve coolant flow and debris removal – these are called Segmented Blades.

The 301 Gemking Blade made by Barranca/MK Diamond is often called a Notched Rim Blade but this is a bit misleading.  This one is still a sintered blade but the deep notches along the sintered metal bond rim allow for better coolant flow. This blade is designed for cutting of harder material but MUST be used with oil – water should not be used with these blades. This blade is just a slightly different type of sintered blade.

As the diamond particles are embedded in a metal rim, over time the surface of the metal bond can glaze over the diamond particles and affect cutting performance.  If you feel that the blade is not cutting as it should, we recommend “dressing” the blade by cutting into it a few times with an abrasive material (ie. dressing stick, old silicon carbide wheel, house brick, etc).  This process re-exposes the diamond particles allowing the blade to cut properly again.

B) Notched Rim

A classic notched rim diamond blade is made by pressing diamond grit into the edge of a solid steel core – the process leaves small notches along the rim where the diamond works to cut the material.  This is a much cheaper process compared to sintering and so these blades are generally much cheaper.  They will not last as long but are very low cost for those on a budget.

They can be made very thin which can be useful for those cutting material where you want minimal wastage.  The notches can be very thin or slightly thicker as shown in the photo at left but there will be less diamond to work with compared to a sintered blade so factor this in when considering a blade of this type.

Like the sintered blades, these ones can be dressed if they appear to be slowing down but do this only as needed as these blades are nowhere near as durable as a sintered blade.

C) Electroplated 

Electroplated blades are made by electroplating a thin layer of diamond usually in a nickel metal bond on to the surface of the steel blade. As the diamond is only adhered in a very thin layer onto the surface of the blade rim, these blades are not as durable as a sintered blade.  They are generally quite a bit cheaper than a sintered blade but will not last as long – we do feel that they are better quality than the very cheap pressed Notched Rim blades though.

One advantage is that they can be made very thin so may suit applications where you want minimal wastage of valuable material.  They have also proved popular with our glass customers as a blade that cuts clean with less chipping. Generally not available in very large diameter blades and not suitable for slab saw applications.

These blades should NOT be dressed – this will just wear them out with no benefit. Make sure you are using plenty of coolant – the diamond will rip off in seconds if these blades are used dry or with insufficient coolant.

These are the three most commonly available lapidary saw blades – there are a few other less common types suitable for specialised applications (eg. CBN blades for cutting meteorites or iron-rich material).  Please consider your usage and available budget when selecting a diamond blade.  The three most important specifications are blade diameter, blade thickness and bore size (ie. centre hole) – please note that these measurements are usually quoted in imperial measurements (inches).

If we can assist with any advice, please email us any time.


Gyroc Model B – what’s the problem??

Posted September 17, 2015 By Admin

The Gyroc Model B has been the workhorse machine in many jewellery studios for many years – the smallest 3 pound model is an ideal size for the small scale polishing requirements of jewellery makers.  While the 3A Lortone Rotary tumbler is a similar size and also a fantastic machine for the job, we do find that there are a lot of people out there who learned to use a vibe tumbler and prefer to continue with the method they are familiar with.

Unfortunately, the manufacturer of the Gyroc Model B can no longer supply a working 230V version of this tumbler and therefore we (and other Australian dealers) can no longer supply this machine.  The story is a bit more complicated (you can read more below if you are interested) but here is the current situation.

  • 230V/50Hz Gyroc Model B tumblers are no longer available. The 60 Hertz motor will NOT work correctly in Australia.

Current Options for people needing a tumbler:

  • You can still purchase a 110V version from the USA and run through a power transformer – warranty support will be limited or non-existent but this is an option you may consider.
  • You can refurbish an older or 110V machine by fitting a compatible 230V motor – available here. This is a simple job that does not require any electrical wiring.
  • You can buy a rotary tumbler such as the Lortone 3A instead for cheaper option with similar capacity.
  • You can buy the slightly bigger Thumler Mini Bowl  (available now) – these have a better build quality compared to the Gyroc but offers only one speed as opposed to the two speed pulley of the Gyroc.

gyrocIf we can answer any other questions about tumblers for jewellery polishing, please email us.  For more on the whole sorry saga, read more below: Read the remainder of this entry »


Tumbler Size Options

Posted March 9, 2015 By Admin

We are often asked about sizes of the various tumblers in our range. While information about barrel/bowl dimensions is included in the listings, it can be a bit confusing to compare between them. So we have put together a chart which outlines the dimensions and volumetric capacity of the most popular sizes.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW the PDF document on Tumbler Barrel/Bowl Sizes

Note that we do list volumetric capacity in the chart as well as physical dimensions.  While almost all tumblers are described in terms of weight capacity (usually in pounds), this rating usually includes the weight of the bowl or barrel and can be influenced by a range of factors.  We find that it is more sensible to think in terms of volume (described in Litres) or available space with consideration taken not to overload the motor.


Whether you are tumbling rocks, rifle brass, or another material, just work out the batch size as it relates to the effective capacity of the barrel.  You can use a kitchen jug to help visualise the space taken up by a volume in litres.