Most jewelry settings are assembled from parts. Quality shows in both the precision with which each of these parts has been made, as well as the skill with which they are combined. When it comes to jewelry craftsmanship, both the parts and the sum of them are of equal importance.
The prongs which hold gems in place must be substantial and uniform. The gems should be held squarely and firmly in place. If you tap them, the gems should not move. The prongs themselves should be polished and rounded. If you drape a scarf over a finely made piece of jewelry, the prongs should not catch on the fabric.
To tell how well a piece has been made, look closely at the details. Are there any rough areas, pits, or scratches? Is every piece symmetrical? Do earrings and pendants hang well? Are clasps both easy to use and secure? Are the elements graceful and well balanced? In a well-made piece of jewelry the back will be as well-finished as the front. There shouldn’t be anything to catch on fabrics. Rings should be comfortable and not flop over on your finger. Every piece should include both a quality mark with fineness (the karatage of the metal, like 18k or 950) and the maker’s mark.