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A basket setting is a type of prong setting which is used to hold stones in place. Prong settings are extremely popular for rings, bracelets, necklaces, and brooches, and the basket setting is a particularly common style. This setting is designed to hold a stone snugly in place while allowing plenty of light to flow through and around the stone, creating a rich interplay of light and texture. This characteristic makes it particularly popular with diamond jewelry, as diamonds benefit from a setting which allows lots of light through the stone.
When jewelers make a basket setting, they essentially make a miniature metal basket which has been customized to the stone. Two small rings at the bottom of the setting which run parallel with the top facet are used to stabilize the stone and provide support for four to six prongs which curve over the top of the stone, holding it firmly in the setting. Light can flow freely through the bottom of the stone and the sides of the setting. In a variation on the basket setting known as a martini setting, there is a small stem which elevates the setting above the rest of the jewelry.
There are some issues with the basket setting. The setting creates a number of nooks and crannies which can accumulate grease and dirt, and it is also not ideally suited to fragile stones, because it does not offer much protection from hard knocks and the elements. If the setting is not perfectly sized to the stone, it also has a tendency to be loose, which can lead to loss of the stone, and damage to the prongs can also result in loss.
Stones in basket settings should be regularly inspected for signs that the setting is weakening, and it is also a good idea to schedule regular cleanings for stones which are worn frequently. Cleaning in a jewelry store does not take very long, and it removes encrusted dirt, grease, and other materials which could damage the stone or interfere with the play of light through the setting.
Not all stones can be displayed in a basket setting. Weaker stones like lapis benefit from a bezel setting, which wraps around and protects the stone, while opaque unfaceted stones don't look any more exciting in a basket setting than they do in a bezel setting, because light cannot pass through the stone. A jeweler can examine a stone and determine whether or not it is a candidate for this type of setting, in the case of people who want to set loose stones or convert existing jewelry.