What’s the difference between a jeweller and a setter?

pendant setting diamond wedders wedding band set

Even the best builders can’t single-handedly construct a house on their own. Instead, they draw on experts with niche specialities - architects, plumbers, electricians, landscapers and so on - to help them fulfil their overarching vision. Sure, he or she might oversee the project to ensure the finished product is in line with the client’s expectations, but building a home is very much a collaborative process.

The same goes for creating handmade gold jewellery in New Zealand.

Making a piece of intricate jewellery from start to finish typically involves input from multiple specialists, who all play important roles in the wider industry. CAD professionals, for example, will be called in from time to time to produce three-dimensional renders of a design, while jewellery valuers are often enlisted to determine the true value of a piece.

Another critical cog in the machine is the gemstone setter. We’ve noticed a fair bit of confusion when it comes to setters and how their role actually differs from that of the jeweller - and we want to set the record straight once and for all.

What does a gemstone setter actually do?

A setter’s main task is to attach gemstones to jewellery. A good setter will have an arsenal of setting techniques up their sleeve, with some of the most common being:
  • Prong or claw setting
  • ​​​​​​​Bead setting
  • Gypsy setting
  • Bezel setting

...and many more. This might sound like a relatively straightforward job, but setting a gemstone in a way that enhances the jewel without attracting unwanted attention to the method of setting is very much an art. Gemstones not only need to be secured tightly and accurately to the jewellery, but also set thoughtfully so that they complement the overall design of the piece. A poor setting job can really detract from what might otherwise be a magnificent piece of jewellery.

Add in the challenges that come with dealing with brittle (and often very expensive) materials and you can see why gemstone setting is rightfully considered an industry in its own right!

Why don’t jewellers do the setting themselves?

While some jewellers will be able to do the setting in your custom-designed engagement ring, the vast majority (including Alex!) prefer to outsource to a dedicated setter.


Simply put, it comes down to division of talent. A good jeweller is a master of design and manipulating metals to bring a concept to life, while a setter’s strengths lie in affixing gemstones in a way that enhances the jewellery. Much like a team of tradies working together to build a house, a jeweller and setter working in collaboration are capable of creating something far greater than either could on their own.