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Todd Pownell on Pin Setting Diamonds

Hand-fabricating jewelry in his Cleveland, Ohio studio, designer Todd Pownell is always thinking of new ways to set stones. His recent inspiration comes from loose diamonds. “I’m inspired by those little parcels that hold diamonds,” comments Pownell. “It’s the excitement of opening the parcel and that something unexpected that you see when the diamonds are loose and have that spilled look. I started to think about how I could get that loose, spilled look in a piece of jewelry.”

Floating on the Surface

It took some experimenting to get the look that Pownell wanted and he accomplished his mission by developing Pin Set Diamonds, a new setting style. “I was always looking for new ways to secure a diamond to a metal surface,” says Pownell. “Once putting drill holes into diamonds came about, I wanted to pin the stones to metal rather than embedding them in metal.”

Todd Powell pin set diamond jewelry
Mixed fancy shape rose cut diamonds, 18-karat gold and platinum Pin Set pendant

Pin Setting is a technique that Pownell created that takes diamonds with drill holes and then attaches the gems to the surface of the metal. When it is done the diamonds appear to float on the surface of the metal. In Pin Setting, the girdles of the diamonds are visible and the gems can overlap each other, so it looks like the stones just spilled out of the parcel.

Todd Powell pin set diamond jewelry
TAP Bracelet 14.5mm wide hinged bangle with 52.50-carats of Pin Set, mixed shaped, colored diamonds

The Difference Between Pin Setting and Pavé

While Pin Setting has a look similar to diamond pavé, it is quite different. “In pavé the diamonds are set as closely together as possible and they are imbedded in the metal. The crowns are above the surface,” explains Pownell, who attended Bowlman Tech School in Lancaster, Pennsylvania for jewelry making. “We’re not embedding the stones, they can go in different directions and the girdle shows. It’s white and sparkly and cool because of how the light hits the stones.”

Marquise diamonds, 18-karat gold, 14-karat gold and  platinum Pin Set ring; Baguette diamonds, 18-karat gold, 14-karat gold and platinum Pin Set ring

Art and Tech Merge

Pownell started his company TAP by Todd Pownell in 2014 with his wife Debra Rosen, who has a background in jewelry design and studied extensively in Europe, including with artist Peter Skubic. While at Bowlman, Pownell earned his stone setting and jewelry fabrication diplomas. With their balance of art and tech the pair were able to find a designer aesthetic that showcases their talents.

Todd Powell and Debra Rosen
Todd Pownell and Debra Rosen

The Layout

When you look at a piece of Pin Set jewelry it looks like the diamonds just fell into place in a random pattern, instead Pownell creates a layout. Most of the diamonds used in Pin Setting are round, baguette and marquise shapes, but any shape can be used. “I do a layout by placing the stones on the metal and then marking it. It’s a little bit of a trick. I want to go in different directions with the stones and get them as close together as possible, like a mosaic.”

Todd Powell pin set diamond jewelry
Drilled marquise Pin Set diamonds, 18-karat gold, 14-karat gold and platinum earrings.

While the Pin Set diamond pieces can be repeated each one is slightly different because it is handmade, “Working with my hands is the joy of it all,” concludes Pownell.

– By Amber Michelle

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