In February 2016 I traveled to London, England, for a week-long Advanced Micro-setting Masterclass taught by Alexander Sidorov, a renowned Optical Diamond Setter.
My trip to London was another step in my journey to become a specialist in Precision Diamond Setting; the next step will be a three-month course later in the year at Alexander’s own school in Antwerp, Belgium.
I learned to set stones at the Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts in San Francisco, as part of the JTI program in 2013. As my jewelry designing and fabrication skills developed after the Revere Academy I started to take a special interest and enjoyment in the setting of stones, especially pavé setting of small diamonds. In 2014 I started working with a microscope and acquired a GRS GraverMeister engraving tool. The microscope is invaluable for performing any detailed metalwork and I would recommend it to any jeweler. Working with a microscope also allows you to really focus mentally and become entirely absorbed in the work – maybe because of the narrow field of view.
Through 2015 I spent a lot of time working with my engraver. The tool expanded my creative horizons but I unfortunately also encountered ergonomic problems related to the vibration and the use of the foot pedal. In late 2015 I replaced the GraverMeister with a GRS GraverMach AT, which is relatively low-vibration and has manual control (hand-operated), making for greater comfort and precision.
Working with the GraverMach expanded my horizons once again. I felt the possibilities of what I could achieve and decided that I wanted to learn precision stone setting, the right way, from the very best teacher I could find. When I made that decision I knew it was the right thing for me to do – it filled me with excitement that hasn’t gone away since.
I learned of Alexander Sidorov and his three-month Professional Stone Setting course through a jeweler friend. I did some research and discovered that Alexander is arguably one of the finest stone setters in the world, with an established school in Antwerp called the Alexandre School for Optical Diamond Setting. Alexander’s three-month course is widely regarded as the gold standard, but requires a certain level of proficiency of its applicants. The first week of the course is actually a ‘test’ week after which the applicant may or may not be accepted to continue. I didn’t want to take the risk of not making the cut in Antwerp so I first enrolled in a week-long course in micro-setting taught by Alexander at the Goldsmiths’ Centre in London, England. This would show me if I was even capable of completing the three-month course, and what areas I needed to improve on before arriving in Antwerp.
The Advanced Micro-setting Masterclass at the Goldsmiths’ Centre in London was fantastic. The course itself was excellent – well-managed and expertly taught and together with the travel, experiencing a foreign culture and meeting people from all over the world was an experience I will treasure forever.
London is a busy and vibrant City with exciting culture, vibe and architecture. The Goldsmith’s Centre is right in the middle of downtown in a great location. I stayed in a hotel nearby so I could focus on the work. This also allowed me to relax after days in class and spend time with my classmates exploring the local area.
There were just four students in the class, including me. We had very different backgrounds and skill levels, but the small class size meant that Alexander could tailor his lessons and guidance to each of us individually to maximize our learning.
I am really glad that I went to this short course before the long course. Alexander showed me which skills I needed to develop before I join him in Antwerp in May – I am currently spending my days cutting countless circles into copper plates, trying to maintain perfect line, depth and angle of cut. Practice makes perfect (I hope – either that or I go crazy!). I hope that if I follow his advice and keep practicing, I will make the cut in Antwerp.