Choosing a Vise for Stonesetting

tools and equipment Feb 25, 2023

The ball vise is the most popular choice for setters who work under a microscope full time.

It's possible to use handheld clamps or a Benchmate instead, and each has its strengths and weaknesses, but if you're looking to upgrade your setup and need a workholding method that's versatile and well-tested, the ball vise is what I recommend. 

It's important to know that this type of vise is used for both stonesetting and hand engraving, and while the same models are often used for both crafts, the preferred features and attachments can be different. The advice given here is based on my own experience and is intended primarily for setters who work with a microscope and power-assist machine (such as a Gravermax or Pulsegraver).

The main things to consider in a vise are the brand, size and attachments. At the end of this article I'll also address some special features.



While there are a few brands of vise available, the GRS range is featured heavily in this article due to their large ecosystem and having provided me with images to use (but no form of payment).

The purpose of this article is to help you choose the right type of vise for your needs, not necessarily a particular brand, so while the different GRS options are shown here you may want to check what's available from other companies in the size and style you prefer.

GRS (including JURA and Alexandre)

The GRS range is the most widely used in the setting industry and is often the default choice for those who can afford it. GRS tools are designed for setters and engravers, but their JURA and Alexandre attachment sets provide many options that are stonesetting-specific.

GRS vises can be bought from most jeweller's suppliers.



Steve Lindsay is a big name in the engraving community and the quality of his tools is extremely well regarded. I haven't tried a Lindsay vise personally, so I sought the opinion of someone who's used both the Lindsay Palm Control vise and the equivalent GRS Microblock. According to Matthew Tuggle, a jeweller, engraver and setter from Tuggle Designs, it comes down to the fixtures on top of the jaws. The Lindsay vise is excellent quality, but as it's geared more towards engraving, he prefers to use GRS when setting stones. Wide or flat items (including practice plates) fit in the Lindsay well, but the ring-holding fixtures of the JURA by GRS kit are more secure and versatile when setting.

Lindsay vises can be bought here.


Other Brands

Other common brands of vise are from Syenset and RinGenie. I haven't spent enough time with either of these to give an informed opinion, but you can compare features and weights using the other information in this article.

Cheaper brands

Cheaper vises found on sites like Aliexpress and Amazon typically don't have the same quality of construction as those mentioned above and this can affect how smoothly and comfortably you can work, but if your budget's tight you can often find something adequate. As with microscopes, the budget options can't usually compare with the pricier models but they can get the job done. Note that this rule doesn't apply to power-assist engraving machines - I've tried a few cheaper pneumatic units and so far none of them have been of any use, even for a beginner.

In my experience, the main drawback of a cheaper vise isn't the vise itself, but the lack of good-quality fixtures. For example, my $100 Vevor vise functions similarly to a GRS version but isn't compatible with Jura attachments. If you want to go ahead with a budget vise, the GRS ID Ring Holder (see below) is a good add-on.



In this section I'll be looking at the GRS range, but you can compare them with vises from other brands with similar weights and sizes.

It's important to distinguish between the larger and smaller models of vise.

The large models are more stable, which is useful if you're hand-pushing or using a hammer and punch. The problem is that their weight makes them harder to move around to reposition under a microscope.

This well-worn heavy vise is used for hand-push setting


The small models are most popular for setters who use a power-assist handpiece (such as a Gravermax or Pulsegraver). They can be quickly and easily slid around under the scope, which compensates for the limited viewing area that the microscope allows.

This GRS Microblock vise is for power-assist setting only


I teach with and use two of the smaller sizes of ball vise in my workshop:

  • GRS microblock (4.35 lbs, 2kg)
  • GRS microblock XL (7.16 lbs, 3.25kg)

Both of these vises are considered small, but the heavier variant is better if you intend to do some engraving work or occasional hand-pushing. The lighter model, which I use personally, can be picked up more easily for inspecting work from different angles. Either of these sizes are a good choice if you're using power-assist (such as a Gravermax or Pulsegraver).

If you intend to hand-push for the long term, the heavier GRS Standard Block vise (20.9 lbs, 9.5kg) is a better option. The Low Profile Vise (23.6 lbs, 10.7kg) is also recommended by GRS for working under a microscope.

GRS vises L-R: Microblock; Microblock XL; Standard vise


 GRS Low Profile Vise




A basic vise has plain jaws with a number of holes, which accommodate holding-pins and other basic attachments such as the 520 Attachment Set. The jaws can be lined with leather to increase the grip on the work and prevent damage. This arrangement can work well but isn't best suited for high volume trade work. 

The 520 Attachment Set is affordable but I haven't found it to be useful.

Basic jaws on a GRS Microblock


 GRS 520 Attachment Set


An affordable but still quite capable addition to a basic vise of any size is the GRS ID Ring Holder. This gives the option of holding rings with an expanding insert, and it can be repositioned within the vise jaws to re-centre or angle the ring. It's also a good solution to use with off-brand vises that aren't compatible with other fixtures.

GRS I.D. Ring Holder for ball vises


JURA (recommended)

This attachment range was developed by Jura, and uses a modified set of jaws with a quick-change feature. These jaws are mounted onto either of the two sizes of GRS Microblock, enabling the holding fixtures to be swapped quickly and easily. Many different fixtures are available.

I recommend the JURA QC basic set, which can be purchased as a package with the ball vise, or as an add-on kit (note: the package is usually much better value for money). I also recommend a pair of JURA 20mm round top or square top jaws, with leather superglued to the inside faces, for side-holding of rings. The more expensive JURA QC complete set has many other fittings which can also be bought individually as needed, so I don't recommend spending money on these upfront.

JURA QC basic set



Jura 20mm round top and 20mm square top jaws



The Alexandre attachment range was designed by Alexandre Sidorov and fits to the top of the GRS Microblock jaws using six screws. The jaws can clamp items from the sides, or with expanding plastic inserts. An orbital holder also enables rings to be held at different angles.

It's possible to reduce the height of this set by replacing the basic vise jaws with the low-profile Microblock Short Jaw Kit that GRS sell separately. 

I've used the Alexandre kit extensively and found it to be a solid upgrade from the basic vise jaws, but due to the inserts working loose and the orbital fixture not being centred, I changed to the JURA kit (see above) and found it to be more reliable and versatile. 

Alexandre Ring Fixture on a GRS Microblock



While every ball vise sits on a base (included) to prevent it rolling around your bench, most setters will adjust the height of this base to compensate for workpieces that sit lower or higher in the vise. An essential part of working under a microscope is being able to keep the work in focus, and to do this comfortably in all situations you'll want to have a way for the vise to rest at different heights. This can be done by swapping the base for a different-sized one, or adding some form of riser. Solutions are relatively inexpensive, so it's generally easier to buy some plastic bases than to DIY.

JURA offers three bases of different heights which can be swapped as needed. The GRS bases consist of stackable rings ("step risers") that can be added or removed as needed. I've used both extensively and have found the GRS stackable risers to be more compact, less expensive and just as good as the JURA bases.


GRS stackable step risers


Special Features

Some models of vise allow you to slide the top section horizontally and lock it in the new position. This makes it easier to recentre the work in the vise's axis of rotation, making work under the microscope more comfortable in some situations. 

I use the Jura by GRS 3X Vise as my daily vise and it has this feature. The vise is a remarkable feat of engineering and I find the centering feature convenient in some situations, but I don't consider it to be a significant advantage for the sort of work I do, and I don't recommend it to beginners unless they're convinced they'll need it. Most of the regular Jura attachments work on this vise.

Jura by GRS 3X vise



The information in this article is based on my own experience and research. There could be errors, and your own unique situation could make your needs and preferences different to mine. I can't guarantee that what works for me will work for you, or be liable for problems caused by acting on the information and views given here.

If you spot an error or missing detail, I would love to hear from you. I always give credit for significant contributions. Please contact me here.


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