Daily Wire Tip: Tiny Gemstones and Buying by Carat Weight

By on July 17, 2010
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip


I recently bought three Yellow Mexican Labradorite 1.5mm faceted gemstones (they’re beautiful!) I saw on TV, but they looked much larger than what I ended up with. I was hoping to make either ring and earrings or pendant and earrings. But I am not sure if I should use snap-set mountings or wire wrap them. What would you do?

-Mary in Santa Rosa, California


This is a classic case of purchasing gemstones either because the close-up on television looked awesome or purchasing by the carat weight, rather than by the actual stone size. Although I am sure they are lovely, melees are very difficult to use in wire jewelry designs. (Personally, I have never used anything smaller than a snapset 3mm round, as smaller sizes can hardly be seen in my wire designs, even when used as accent stones.) As you have asked what I would do, I would either try to find 1mm snapsets somewhere and cluster all 3 stones together so they could actually be seen in a pendant design, or I would take them to a goldsmith with a few other loose stones and have him or her design something special.

When purchasing wire wrapping gemstones from a television source in the future, you may wish to choose stones for their size, rather than their carat weight, as some stones are very heavy meaning their size can be very small. For example, sapphire (corundum) has a density of 3.95-4.03 and quartz (amethyst, citrine, smoky, ametrine, etc) has a density of 2.6; therefore if you were to put an amethyst and a sapphire, each a 10ct brilliant cut stone, side-by-side, the sapphire would be smaller in size.

These facts are why Wire-Sculpture sells their natural gemstones by their size. When a wire jewelry artist sells a design that incorporates a gemstone, we use a scale to weigh it before wrapping, so we can sell the finished piece with the carat weight.

Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong

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  1. avatar

    Carla Benefield

    July 18, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    I use PMC(Precious metal clay ) to make a setting for those tiny gems. Afterwards,( sometimes, Iuse my jewelry kiln and other times, just the butane torch. I can go back , set the stones with Jeweler’s epoxy and then do my wire wrapping.

  2. avatar


    July 18, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    Yes, I have used PMC to create a ‘medallion’ or ‘cabochon’ in which the tiny stones are set. Then the silver-and-gemstone ‘cabochon’ is wirewrapped. This is a lovely way to present the stones.

  3. avatar


    July 19, 2010 at 10:31 am

    Oh my goodness, I can say been there, done that. Years ago before I ever met and took classes with Dale, the DH treated me to a shopping spree on e-bay for Christmas. I bought all kinds of faceted stones, paying little or no attention to size but went by carat weight. Big Mistake!!!
    I ended up with a lot of Brazillian cut stones that looked like monsters and were totally unuseable for wire wrapping. All of them will have to be re-faceted to remove the bottoms of them. The fluorite I bought I did better on, but still ended up with stones to small to wire wrap.
    My suggestion is 1. Do what Dale recommeded,
    2. Keep a set of brass calipers beside you and pay attention to the faceted cut size.
    3. Check out the stones here on Wire-Sculpture as they have been chosen for those of us who wire wrap.

  4. avatar


    March 29, 2012 at 8:11 am

    I have put small gemstones into a snapset and incorporated them into a wire design that way. It is possible to run the wires through the snapset and secure it that way, then continue to wrap your design.