Fed up with paying loads for jewellery? Why not have a go at making your own from loose gemstones? You don't necessarily need any special tools (depending on the type of setting) and it's so easy. If I can do it so can you. Firstly try to buy calibrated gemstones - these are generally easily fittable to ready to set fittings in standard sizes such as 5mm round, 8 x 6mm oval - watch out for odd numbers such as 3.7 X 5.4 which you will find difficult to fit. Sellers description will usually say if the stone is calibrated or not. In general source your settings before you buy the stone. You don't want to end up with a lovely stone but unable to get a setting to fit it. Start out with snap-tite settings for earrings and pendants. These come in various metals such as Sterling Silver, gold filled (similar to gold plated I assume) and 14kt gold. They are fairly cheaply priced for Silver increasing to the more expensive full gold variety but even these are still well within the tightest budget. With Snap-tites you just place the gemstone face down on a smooth even surface and push the setting down over the stone and the prongs just click into place. I buy most of my settings from the USA as they are cheaper (even with P & P which is often much cheaper than postage within the UK in my experience although you can be waiting a week or so with the US Postal system but worth it I think). And I've found the US has a greater selection than the UK suppliers especially for ring settings. However when buying outside of the EU if your order value is £18 or more you will be liable for import VAT at 17.5% and possibly import duty if a percentage of the value equals £7 or more (4% I think- details are on the HM Revenue and Customs website). VAT and import tax are usually payable to the UK Royal Mail before they deliver the item to you. Any way enough of that.
Generally the larger stones are easier to fit - smaller ones can be more tricky. Snap-tites are really simple to use. Place the stone face down on a flat surface (I usually put on top of a piece of paper to ensure there's a smooth surface so stone doesn't get scratched) then simply press the setting gently over the stone until it clicks into place. Small earring settings I find are better to do by pressing the stone gently down into the setting from above- as the prongs can get bent if you press down onto a flat surface. When confident with snap-tites try pre-notched settings. These require a little more effort (but not too much). You basically just need to ensure stone is sitting comfortably and level in the setting, then using jewellers pliers (flat nose ones I use - pick up on Ebay for around £5) gently ease the prongs over the stone until is is held snuggly in place. Again I find the larger stones are easier to set. Practice with silver settings before branching out to the more expensive Gold settings. Have fun!