At MJSA’s Expo New York 2005, CAD systems, laser welders, and high-tech casting machines faced tough competition from a deceptively simple new technology: Hoover & Strong’s Tru-Seat settings for princess cut stones. The winner of the show’s Best New Technology Award, the Richmond-based company’s setting attracted attention because of its promise to dramatically speed up the setting of a relatively fragile stone shape, while also reducing setting errors and costs.“The labor savings is a combination of the way the setting is prepared for the jeweler – all the work is done for him in 90 percent of cases – and [the tool] used to bend the prongs,” says Fred Klotz, vice president of findings for Hoover & Strong. “You bend all four prongs at the same time – just a couple hammer taps, and they lay right over.”
In fact, it’s so simple, a child can do it, attests Eugene Gentile, national account manager for Hoover & Strong. “Just for kicks [at the AGTA GemFair in Tucson], I saw a kid coming up with his mother and asked him if he wanted to make her a pair of earrings,” he says. “I gave him two CZs and the settings and showed him what to do. His mother, who happened to be a diamond setter, was looking on, thinking, ‘Isn’t this cute.’ When he handed her the earrings, she took out a loupe, looked at the earrings, and said with surprise, ‘He set the stone. He didn’t just get it into the setting, he set the stone.'”
The secret to the Tru-Seat design is that the seat for the stone is pre-cut into the setting, and the manufacturing process ensures that the seat is always proportional and level. By eliminating the need for setters to individually prepare the setting, the design also eliminates many of the problems that can arise during setting, such as over-cutting the seat, having the bur wrap around the prong and cut the side, or drilling through a prong. “The beauty is the repeatability,” says Klotz.
A stone is set into the Tru-Seat setting by laying it upside down and pressing it into the setting. The prongs of the setting deflect slightly, and then snap into place. The prongs can then be bent over the stones by traditional methods, or, for maximum time savings, by using a tool developed by Hoover & Strong to bend all four prongs simultaneously.
“The whole concept of hitting [stones] with a hammer makes [some jewelers] think twice, but once you do it, you see you don’t have to slam it; it just takes a few taps here and there,” says Klotz. “There’s no damage to the stone. We’ve done and inspected hundreds of them, and there’s no problem at all.”
The setting process is not only faster, but also leads to fewer rejections for unevenly set stones. “The pre-cut eliminates problems with the stone not being even or not set square,” says Lee Nohe of Dialuck in New York City, whose company recently switched to the Tru-Seat for its princess cut stones. “Because I work with major [retailers] and their QC departments, there can be problems if you have a stone set improperly. This puts us one step closer to eliminating quality control rejection.”
The pre-cut design also reduces setting errors that can lead to broken prongs or broken stones. “You know you have enough prong so that it’s not going to fail because [the seat] is over-cut, and you always have enough prong to bend over,” says Klotz. “We’ve taken what we thought was the ideal setting job and we’ve created that one-after-another in our product.”
First introduced in 1995 on a line of cup settings, the Tru-Seat line has been expanded to accommodate a range of shapes, including marquise, emerald, pear and the new princess cut style, as well as solitaires, Tiffany-style heads, and peg settings.
Hoover & Strong is so confident in the potential labor savings the Tru-Seat represents, it offers a money-back guarantee. “We’re guaranteeing 85 percent labor savings or the setting is free,” says Klotz, noting that this reduction in labor costs can represent thousands of dollars per year for a large manufacturer.
For Nohe, though, the biggest advantage is what he’s not getting – rejected pieces from his customers. “If [a stone] is set wrong and it comes to me and my quality control department, we have to send it back to the setter to be reset,” he says. “Tru-Seat just eliminates that quality control issue.” “