This is not a complete how-to, for the beginner. Instead, it is more of a process, showing people who already have some knowledge of general jewelry making practices how I create one of my pieces of jewelry. An intricate piece of jewelry, like this, can often take me several days to complete.
Step 1: Stamping the Bezel
A lot of my jewelry is set with decoratively stamped bezels. All of the stamping is done by me, by hand. I take a length of silver bezel wire, and meticulously stamp the design all the way across the bezel. Each one of those marks means I've placed the stamp precisely, and used a hammer to impress the design onto the metal. Each tiny little dot, too. A 6" length of bezel wire can easily equal over a hundred different strikes with the hammer. This photo shows the bezel stamping in progress, but not quite done.
Step 2: Fitting the Bezel to the Cabochon
Once the bezel is decorated the way I want it to be, I hand form the bezel around the stone, ensuring that it fits precisely, with no gaps. The gap that you can see in this photo is where I will use my torch to solder it together.
Step 3: Filing the Bezel
Once the bezel is soldered, I fit it back around the stone. At this point, if the stone is uneven at all, I will hand file the bezel until it follows the edge of the stone. This stone is triangular, and each of the points of the triangle is lower than the longer flat areas. If you look closely, you can see where the bezel on each side is narrower/lower, than in the center.
Step 4: Disk Cutter
This is a tool (a disk cutter) that I use for cutting out disks. It makes my life MUCH EASIER.
Step 5: Decorative Appliqué Stamp
This shows the triangle stamp, stamped in 18g sterling silver. It also shows where I cut the circle out with the disk cutter.
Step 6: Cutting Out the Appliqué
Here I've drawn in black guidelines, and am using a jewelers saw to cut the stamped triangle out.
Step 7: Ring Clamp, for Hand Preservation
The wooden tool is called a ring clamp. It is useful for holding tiny items, like this triangle, while I file and sand and otherwise work on it. The triangle needs to be perfectly smooth before I go on. The ring clamp SAVES MY HANDS. Seriously. Gripping tiny things like that with your own fingers, and holding tightly while working on the item, is really hard on your hands.
Step 8: Stamping the Bail
Here I'm stamping the circle, which will be the bail, when this piece is finished.
Step 9: Bezel, Soldered On
This shows the bezel, soldered down to the back plate. At this point, it will be quenched in water, then put into a citric acid solution, to remove the cooked on flux.
Step 10: Stamping Around the Bezel
This is the pendant, after I have stamped the decorative lines around the bezel. Anyone care to count those lines? It's a LOT of stamping.
Step 11: Soldering on the Stamped Appliqué
Here's a shot of me soldering the tiny triangle that I cut out earlier, onto the backplate, right above the bezel. This will once again be quenched and pickled, to remove the flux.
Step 12: Jump Ring Hanger
A small twisted jump ring that I made and soldered together.
Step 13: Cleaning Up Excess Solder
I used a bit too much solder, so I use my Foredom and an abrasive bit to remove the lump, so that the cabochon will sit flat when I finally set it.
Step 14: Cutting Out the Back Plate
Showing where I will cut, to remove the excess silver. Sharpies are my friend! I could use the jewelers saw, again. But since this is a fairly simple cut, I will use my chunky scissors.
Step 15: Refining the Pendant Shape
Now I'm using my Foredom and a sanding disk to refine the shape of the pendant.
Step 16: Surface Finishing the Pendant
At this point, I have used various grits of sandpaper to sand the outside edge of the pendant, making it very very smooth. This photo shows the back of the pendant, which has also been sanded with several grits of sandpaper, and now I've textured it with a heavier grit, leaving the matte finish that I love so much.
Step 17: Decorative Wire Bits
Here I've used half-round ball wire, and shaped it so that it fits around the bezel. Then it will be soldered down, quenched, and pickled again.
Step 18: Bail Progress
This is the bail. In the first photo, I'm in the process of soldering on a decorative ball. I've already stamped the sheet, and soldered on this bezel pan to the front, and the hanger to the back. The hanger was a real pain in the butt to get the shape right, with heavy 10g wire. My hands aren't super-strong, and I really struggle with some of the stuff that requires lots of muscle!
Step 19: Attaching Bail and Pendant
Here, finally, both pieces are done, a jump ring has been put in place to hold them together, and soldered closed.
Step 20: Adding Patina
Now it is taking a bath in the stinky, stinky liver of sulphur solution. Which, as you can see, oxidizes the silver, and gives it a dark, antique patina.
After, I give it a quick scrub with a green kitchen scrubby.
Step 21: Setting the Stone!
Now it's time to set the stones. My favorite part!! On stones with corners, such as this one, you have to use a tool called a bezel pusher to push the bezel at the corners down first.
And keep pushing those corners down, working my way to the straighter parts. This really requires quite a bit of force. Once again, I'm a bit of a weakling, so it's not very easy for me. You have to be very careful, also, that the tool you're using to push the bezel doesn't slip, and gouge either the stone, the metal, or your hand. Any of those would be painful lol.
Step 22: Still Needs Polishing!
Here the pendant is, finished, with the top small turquoise stone set, in the same way as the larger stone. Now the pendant just needs to be polished, to highlight all of the details that I worked so hard to add. Polishing consists of first scrubbing the whole thing with #0000 steel wool, then a fine abrasive polishing pad, and last I'll rub it with a Sunshine cloth, to give it a nice sheen.
Step 23: Finished Pendant!
And, here is the finished product! It's a huge amount of work. But, if everything works out right, you've got a nice piece of heirloom quality jewelry!