Introduction: Bezel-Setting Tutorial
Make your own bezel-set ring or other piece of jewelry following this tutorial!
You will need:
Basic to intermediate metalsmithing skills
set of jewelers files
sandpaper grits 200-400 or 600
Fine silver bezel wire, 30 gauge, appropriate height for selected stone
Sterling silver sheet, 24 or 26 gauge, for backing the bezel
Sterling silver stock for ring band, bail, earwires, pinback, etc
Ring mandrel (used to hold the ring in place while pushing bezel)
Step 1: Select an Object to Bezel Set.
For this tutorial, I will be using an ocean jasper cabochon (flat bottom, smooth round surface). Any flat bottomed object will work for following this tutorial, such as a button, glass, etc.
Step 2: Bezel Wire Length
Shape fine silver bezel wire around stone to determine length, mark and cut. You want the bezel to be slightly larger than the stone - but not too loose. Knowing the right length will come with practice.
Step 3: Trim Height
Trim any extra height from the bezel with snips.
Step 4: File the Ends Flush.
Using a flat rectangular file, gently file the ends completely flat and flush with one another. They need to line up perfectly for soldering.
Step 5: Matching Up the Ends
Make sure the ends meet up perfectly - no light should shine through.
At this point, it is not important if the bezel is the same shape of the stone - getting a proper join is the key, shaping will come later.
Step 6: Solder the Bezel
Flus and solder the seam with a tiny piece of Hard solder, applied to the inside of the bezel. Pickle, rinse.
Step 7: Shape the Bezel
Shape bezel around stone by gently pushing it over the stone with your fingers - it will be very soft and flexible (annealed) after soldering It helps to have a hard, smooth surface beneath, such as a steel block.
Step 8: Smooth the Edges
Sand both edges smooth with fine grit sandpaper (300-400)
Make sure to apply even pressure, or you will end up with a lop-sided bezel. It helps to move in a circular motion.
Step 9: Check the Height of the Bezel
Check the height of the bezel wall - it needs to just pass the "shoulder" of the stone. If it is too tall, continue sanding until the appropriate height is achieved.
If it is too short, you'll need to start over...
Step 10: Make the Backing for the Bezel
Cut a piece of sheet metal for the base of the bezel - it should be slightly larger than the bezel, and will be trimmed after soldering. Stamp any logo or signature before soldering the bezel in place.
Step 11: Prepare to Solder on a Tripod and Screen.
Set up the bezel on a tripod and screen - this will allow you to heat the piece from below. If heating from above, the bezel wire, being much thinner, will get hotter much faster than the backing, and the solder will want to jump and flow on the bezel, not flowing to the backing. You can also melt your bezel this way.
Step 12: Solder
Solder the bezel to a flat piece of sterling silver using Hard or Medium solder Place the small pieces of solder on the inside of the bezel for easier clean up. Heat from below to avoid melting the bezel and to control flow of solder. Pickle, rinse.
Step 13: Trim the Bezel
Use the jewelers saw to cut away the remaining silver sheet. You could also leave a border around the stone if you'd like.
Step 14: Finish the Bezel Cup
File and sand the bezel cup - finish with 400 grit sandpaper.
Next, (not shown) solder bezel cup to ring base or other component for your piece of jewelry. A jump ring for a bail, pin back for brooch, etc.
Step 15: Place the Stone in the Bezel
Once all soldering and clean-up has been completed, place the stone in the bezel. Make sure the stone sits completely flat in the bezel, and does not rock.
Step 16: Pushing the Bezel
Begin folding over the bezel with a burnisher or bezel roller (I am using a burnisher) I find it easiest to start at any corners or tight round edges first, leaving flat sides for last. I place the ring on a steel ring mandrel for support.
If setting a round stone, use the cardinal directions as starting points - N, S, E, W. If you work your way N,E,S,W, you will end up with "too much" bezel wire all bunched up. not fun.
Step 17: Burnish
Once the bezel has been pushed down over the entire piece, begin burnishing the bezel over the cabochon. It is extremely important that your burnisher is perfectly smooth and shiny. Any scratches or dents will show up on your finished bezel, and are not fun to sand out. Burnishing should be the last step to finishing the bezel, no sanding should be necessary.
Step 18: Keep Burnishing...
Continue burnishing the bezel over the stone. This will work-harden the metal, making sure the stone stays in place, as well as makes the bezel nice and shiny.
Step 19: Finishing
Once burnishing is complete, you can leave as is, or, as shown here, use a patina solution such as Liver of Sulfur to darken the metal. After the patina, I use a brass brush and steel wool to buff and burnish the piece.
Note: some stones are very fragile and should not be exposed to patina chemicals, such as pearl, malachite, turquoise, moonstone, lapis, etc. In this case, you can choose to patina before seating the stone.
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