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Stone Setting, Diamonds & Jewellery Design With Goldsmith Sonia Cheadle

We have stocked Sonia Cheadle's popular book, 'Design & Make: Mounting & Setting Stones' for many years now and today we're so excited to share this chat on everything gems and jewellery making with Sonia.

Sonia is an incredible goldsmith, specialising in gold and diamond jewellery, creating truly unique and innovative designs using statement gems and a huge range of skill. We learn all about her jewellery making journey, dive into her designs and learn her top tips for success when it comes to setting stones and finding your signature style. We also hear all about Sonia's experience of writing her popular book and what you can expect from it - could there be another book? Find out below!

“Mum, Dad, I want to be a jeweller!”

Hi Sonia, how did you first discover jewellery making and what was it that drew you to this craft?

It was by luck really… whilst slightly bored during a college trip to view the Ceramics department at Loughborough University, I wandered down the corridor and discovered their Jewellery Studio, I was instantly drawn to the ‘tinking’ of hammers and the heat from the forge.

I returned home that afternoon and proclaimed “Mum, Dad, I want to be a jeweller!”

What colours do you love using in your designs?

I love all things green, and have a draw full of tourmalinetsavorite garnet, beryl and chrysoprase… however I have never used any of them in my work… maybe it’s time to release the greens!

What’s your top tip for those wanting to get started in stone setting?

Don’t be afraid to give it a go, the more times you repeat a technique the more refined it’ll be. Sadly, there is no quick solution to either mount making or setting, it’s all about practice. I have a saying for my students which is “practice makes permanent”.

“practice makes permanent”.

How would you describe your style?

Understated and elegant diamond jewellery, designed to be worn and celebrated every single day.

Favourite metal to work with and why?

18ct Gold is my main metal, it’s an absolute joy to work with and I adore the subtle tonal colours from yellow, to rose and white.

Your photos are incredible, how important is the photography for your business?

Thank you… it took many years of experimenting and trying different photographers, spending varying amounts of money from nothing to hundreds of pounds and with only mediocre results. Then I found Robert Holmes, he understood my work immediately and he is responsible for making my work come alive in image… this relationship is hugely important to my business and his expertise is invaluable in communicating and portraying my work.

"As a designer you have to be constantly inquisitive and not afraid to experiment..."

How did you find your own style and what advice would you give those trying to find their own?

It’s something that was built after years of feeding my creative gene with visual inspiration. As a designer you have to be constantly inquisitive and not afraid to experiment, I often produced hundreds of models and maquettes as I find they assist me with the 3D visualisation of each design.

Tell us about your jewellery collections and the inspiration behind them

I draw inspiration from Art Deco, Early Cartier, Architecture, Maps and City Nightscapes. I also have a self-confessed obsession with engineering, but on a miniature scale and can spend hours solving technical issues like how to make a mount ‘tremble’ or how to make a stone rotate.

"The brief was to create x2 bangles that could be worn either individually or combined… from start to finish the whole project took just over 12 months..."

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Tell us about one commission you’ll never forget!

I was commissioned to re-design an inherited diamond bracelet… it was a very classic piece with both Marquise and Baguette diamonds. The brief was to create x2 bangles that could be worn either individually or combined… from start to finish the whole project took just over 12 months.

The opportunity to work with such magnificent stones and to create something so individual and personal. Bringing new life into an old, over looked bracelet is something I will cherish for many years to come.

We stock your book ‘Mounting & Setting Stones’ – tell us about this book and what people can expect from it

I was commissioned by A&C Blacks to create a book to cover both topics of Mounting & Setting… at the time there was a huge gap in the market as these x2 very distinct disciplines had never been combined before, which is a bit ridiculous if you think about it, as there’s no way you can set a stone unless you are able to make the mount first, right?

The book is designed and divided to look at the 7 main styles of setting; Rub-over, Claw, Gypsy, Pave, Channel, Tension and Set from behind. Each chapter provides an exercise to show how the individual mounts can be constructed, alongside a detailed description of how the stones are then set securely in place. 

Is this book suitable for beginners as well as experienced jewellers?

I hope every level of maker, from complete beginner to established will find the book an invaluable tool for all things mounting and setting related. There are also top Bench Tips peppered throughout and the language and layout are designed to help demystify these two very complex and specialist jewellery making areas.

What was the most rewarding and challenging part of writing a book?

Seeing it finally in print, after 4 years of preparations.

"All stones are fabulous. Mix them up, blend them in, be bold, be subtle, but just use them..."

What’s sparking your inspiration right now?

I seek to find the more unusual cut of diamond and I am a huge fan of the old rose cuts… but I have recently fallen in love with faceted pearls, unbelievably jaw dropping how the surface of each pearl is cut, faceted and then polished to create the ultimate pearls and ones that ‘sparkles!’

Tell us about your experience of being a tutor and your favourite part about teaching

I tutor a short course several times a year on Mount making and Gypsy Setting at The Goldsmiths Centre in Clerkenwell, London. It’s a fantastic two days absolutely crammed packed with jewellery tips and tricks but the most rewarding thing about sharing my knowledge is the little ‘lightbulb’ moments that many students experience once a technique is made clear… then following their progress and seeing how they use what they learnt in their future designs.

What is your favourite stone setting technique and why?

I’m a huge fan of Channel setting, especially with baguette diamonds, it’s so simple by design yet pretty complex to achieve beautifully.

What’s one gemstone you would love to see more jewellers use?

All stones are fabulous. Mix them up, blend them in, be bold, be subtle, but just use them.

Any plans for more books in the future?

Haha…. Nooooooooo. Unless commissioned to tackle the mindfeild that is ‘spectacle’ setting.

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Look Inside Sonia's Book, Design & Make: Mounting & Setting Stones



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