Invisibly set jewelry originated in the 1920s from the jeweler’s desire to show only gemstones, hiding the precious metal mountings.
According to journalist Aimee Lee Ball, in 1929 a relatively unknown Parisian jeweler named Jacques-Albert Algier was the originator of the invisible setting.
He developed and patented a method of holding a gem in place without bending metal over its crown—no prongs or bezel.
He did this by carving a groove in the side of the gem’s pavilion and sliding the gem along rails of precious metal, setting gemstone next to gemstone and effectively masking the metal. (http://www.jckonline.com/article/286909)
In March of 1933 Cartier picked up on the technique but did not use it to make any items, leaving the playground open to their biggest competitors Van Cleef & Arpels who filed their own patent in December of 1933 and called the setting “serti mysterieux” – The Mystery Setting.
The Mystery Setting™ is most often used to create daring color, with sapphires, rubies, and emeralds set in VC &A’s larger showstopping pieces, such as in their beautiful flower brooches, stunning necklaces and bracelets, and ornate earrings.
The invisible setting is very beautiful but also the most difficult of all the setting techniques. It requires to groove and cut each stone individually. It is also the least secure setting because there is no metal around the stones.
This setting was used only with color stones, not with diamonds, (The diamonds in the VC &A pieces seen in the pictures were set with prongs.) because diamonds are much harder than color stones and it was impossible for the jewelers to make grooves in the diamonds.
The Mystery Setting was an immediate success. For two decades, VCA designed and sold invisibly set jewelry with abandon. But with the changing tastes and designs of the ’50s, invisibly set jewelry all but disappeared—until the 1980s and ’90s, when the style enjoyed a magical comeback.
At the time, Bez Ambar introduced the Quadrillion/Princess cut into the jewelry market.
The new square cut with its straight corners was ideal for channel setting.
The stones set one next to the other without any gaps in between.
Bez introduced a new line of jewelry with the new square stone.
He created a line of channel-set wedding bands, engagement rings, bracelets, earrings, pendants, and necklaces with one two and three rows.
His unique innovative jewelry designs became extremely popular and the Princess diamond took the jewelry market by a storm.
In 1985, Bez received the De Beers award for his innovative ATW ring.
His ATW design introduced a new concept in the use of diamonds and gold into the jewelry industry.
Bez realized that if he can find a way to set multiple rows of diamonds invisibly without the metal between the rows, he will multiply the effect of the uninterrupted line of brilliance which could revolutionize the jewelry industry.
Since he was aware of the invisible setting technique that was patented in the 1930s, he knew that it was only implemented on colored stones.
By the 80s, new technological advances made cutting and grooving diamonds easier and cheaper.
Bez stipulated that with the new laser saws he might be able to cut grooves in diamonds.
He bought an invisibly set ruby band and took it apart to learn how the stone was grooved.
The laser managed to make grooves in the diamonds, but its drawback was that it left the groove unpolished and a gray shadow was noticeable between the stones when they were set flush next to one another.
Bez was disappointed but not discouraged and he continued to look for a better solution.
On his next business trip to Israel, he examined a heart shaped diamond under his jeweler’s loupe and realized that the machine used to cut a heart shape may be his solution.
He found a master cutter that had the heart-shaped cutting machine. It had a wheel attached to it at a certain angle.
Bez showed him the grooves on the ruby stone and they began to experiment making grooves on the Princess cut diamond.
The cutter faced many challenges. The grooves had to be narrow, have a precise and equal depth, needed to be straight and leave the stone unbroken. After months of experimentations, the technique was perfected and Bez came out with a new collection of rings, bands, earrings, pendants, bracelets and necklaces with 2 to 10 rows of diamonds set invisibly.
The new jewelry line caught on fire and the Bez Amber (the company was called Ambar Diamonds at the time) created multi-line bracelets to large retailers like Tiffany and Mayers Jewelers.
Bez could not get a patent for the setting because it was based on an early patent and with the enormous popularity of the new innovation, other manufacturers began to copy the jewelry. Unfortunately, they compromised the quality of the product to compete with the Ambar Diamonds prices.
The cheap quality of workmanship resulted in diamonds falling from jewelry pieces and the invisible setting began to gain a bad reputation.
In 1992, Bez invented a new technique of invisible setting for round diamonds. He named it “Boundless” and was awarded a patent on it.