The Magic of Gemstones: Rolex Gemmology and Gem-setting | SENATUS



The Magic of Gemstones: Rolex Gemmology and Gem-setting

11 June 2022

By Christian Barker

The unparalleled skills of Rolex’s gemmologists and gem-setters are illustrated in the wide array of gem-set timepieces in several of the watchmaker’s latest models.

Some of the earliest wristwatches ever created were studded with jewels and today, gem-embellished timepieces — glistening with precious stones such as diamonds, sapphires, emeralds and rubies — are more popular than ever. Among the most sought-after are the gem-set watches made by Rolex, a Swiss manufacture that has created exquisite timepieces endowed with precious stones for more than a century.

The magic behind the Rolex gem-set models that sparkle with exceptional intensity is down to the strict principles adhered to by Rolex. To adorn its timepieces with the most striking gemstones, the brand has its own in-house gemmologists and gem-setters. Rolex is known for its attention to detail and impeccable quality control across all areas, and nowhere are these attributes more evident than in the company’s approach to the exacting standard and impeccable setting of gems.

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Rolex has offered gem-set watches throughout its history and each is the result of countless hours of work for the gemmologist and gem-setter. These highly skilled experts, who train for many years to master their craft, work in parallel with one another, each making an invaluable contribution to the creation of an exceptional piece.

First, the gemmologist must carefully select the most outstanding gems for acquisition, for Rolex accepts nothing short of the best. When it comes to diamonds, for example, Rolex exclusively uses stones within the top grades of the Gemological Institute of America colour scale in colour ranges D to G — the most colourless. No inclusions (or small imperfections) must be discerned when the stone is examined at 10x magnification. This meticulous and rigorous analysis, carried out according to the brand’s own quality criteria, ensures that all the gemstones are of the very best quality.

Every stone the gemmologist singles out for use must meet stringent standards of purity, clarity, intensity and precise regularity of size. When choosing the gems to adorn the bezel of a watch such as the new Oyster Perpetual Lady-Datejust in 18 ct white gold, great care is taken to ensure the uniformity of the stones — Rolex accepts variances in dimension of no more than two hundredths of a millimetre, around a quarter of the diameter of a human hair.

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The process of setting a jewelled bezel requires the steadiest of hands, a keen eye, and enormous patience. With a pair of tweezers, each gem is delicately placed into a groove around the bezel. If it sits too high, the gem-setter removes it and carefully scoops a minute speck of metal with a graver from beneath. This process will generally be repeated three times before the stone’s topmost facet is in perfect alignment with the stone at its side. The gem-setter then begins again, placing stone after stone until the ring around the bezel is complete — and completely perfect.

Subsequently, the gem-setter delicately pushes the surrounding metal into place, ensuring it keeps the gems safely clinched, before giving the stones and their setting a final polish. A precise process very similar to this may be repeated hundreds of times to set one of Rolex’s most brilliant gem-set timepieces.

The savoir-faire of Rolex’s in-house gemmology and gem-setting artisans is exemplified in the Oyster Perpetual Lady-Datejust 28 mm in 18 ct yellow gold, with diamonds adorning every surface. The dial is paved with 291 diamonds, with another 158 set on the case sides and lugs, 596 diamonds sparkle on the President bracelet, and 44 brilliant-cut diamonds on the bezel.

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The Oyster Perpetual Lady-Datejust collection offers a plethora of gem-set iterations; in Oystersteel, in 18 ct yellow, white or Everose gold, or in Rolesor versions that combine Oystersteel and one of three varieties of gold (white, yellow and Everose). Apart from diamond bezels, this collection also offers dials paved with shimmering diamonds or fascinating hues of mother-of-pearl with gem-set hour marker.

The gem-set versions of the Lady-Datejust embody the unparalleled skills of Rolex’s gemmologists and gem-setters, designed for the discerning lady who represents elegance with precision, grace with resistance, and beauty with performance.

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