Intro: Making a Simple Bezel Set Ring
Here's how to make a simple ring with a bezel set stone. This is a great first project for someone who wants to make a ring with a single stone as it can be fabricated very easily and it can accommodate a wide variety of stone shapes.
Let's get started!
Step 1: Tools and Materials
I covered in great detail most all of the tools that jewelers use in this instructable so please refer to that for learning about all of the tools and how they are used. Reading through that instructable first will also explain a lot of the terminology used. If there are ever any questions about tools or procedures please don't hesitate to ask!
There are a couple of tools used in the making of this ring that aren't in the mentioned instructable, most notably the jeweler's torch. My torch of choice is the Hoke brand. I've been using one of these torches for over twenty years at my work and it's been great. For gas I use a mix of Oxygen and natural gas. The Oxygen regulator is set to 35-40 psi and the natural gas is pumped straight into the building at approximately 5 psi. Another good setup is the Smith Little Torch and that's what I have at home since I use an Oxy/Propane setup there. The Little Torch is a bit smaller and lighter weight than the Hoke torch and the hoses are a bit smaller and more flexible.
While this ring is made from 14K yellow Gold you could just as easily make it from Sterling Silver (or even Platinum.) A couple of really good sources for jewelry metals and solder are Rio Grande and Hoover and Strong. Both are great companies with an excellent selection of materials.
Step 2: Forming the Bezel
The stone used in this ring is a round brilliant cut Diamond. For first timers a round brilliant cut stone that is higher up on the hardness scale is probably the most forgiving to set. Good alternatives to Diamond are Garnet (which comes in a huge variety of colors), Sapphire, Ruby, Cubic Zirconia and Tourmaline.
To make a bezel for a round stone start with a piece of heavy wall tubing that is slightly larger in diameter than the stone- 1 mm to 1.5 mm larger is usually good so you end up with a bezel wall thickness of around .5 mm to .75 mm once the seat for the stone is cut. The inside diameter of the tubing should be slightly smaller than the diameter of the stone- the stone should not be able to fit into the tubing. The length of the tube should be cut so that it is a couple of millimeters greater than the total height of the stone.
Often you cannot find the exact size diameter tubing you want so it is necessary to buy tubing that is a bit too large and cut it down to the proper size. This is done by cutting a thin slice of metal out of the tube using a jeweler's saw or a thin separating disc with a rotary tool. Using a separating disc will give you a cleaner/straighter cut that will make soldering the tube shut easier- you can check the cut by holding up to light to see if there are any gaps in the seam. The easiest way to cut the tubing is to hold it using parallel pliers while cutting a little bit out at a time- this will enable you to squeeze the tube shut and check the fit of the stone as you go.
Once you get the diameter where you want it solder the tube seam using hard solder. It's important to use hard solder as you don't want the solder seam to come undone when you go to attach the ring shank later. Once the tube is soldered shut to can tap it round on a round bezel mandrel.
Step 3: Making the Ring Shank
The ring shank is made from a length of round wire- 1.5 mm to 2 mm diameter is usually good. The larger the bezel size, the larger diameter wire you want to use to balance it out visually.
Most wire is shipped half hard so you first want to soften the wire a bit by annealing it in order to make it easier to form. Annealing is done by heating the wire to a dull red color for a bit and then quenching it.
Form the ring shank by bending the wire around a ring mandrel. You want to bend it around just barely under your finished ring size. Now you want to cut the wire to fit the tube bezel properly. This is done by cutting an opening in the wire slightly smaller than the width of the bezel and then carefully trimming it using a ball burr. By cutting the ends of the ring shank with a ball burr you can get a really good fit between the ring shank and the tube bezel which will result in a much stronger soldered joint.
Fit the ring shank to the bezel, make sure it is straight, and then solder the shank to the bezel using a medium solder. One trick I do is to cut tiny solder chips and then ball them up with a torch before applying the solder to the joint with flux. This allows the solder to flow a bit better as it will perfectly rest between the two pieces to be soldered. Remember with solder you always want to heat the metal to be soldered and not the solder itself.
Now shape the underside of the bezel using a rotary tool with a sanding drum so that it sits properly on a ring mandrel. Tap the ring round using a leather mallet if necessary and make sure the ring is the correct size. The ring will stretch ever so slightly as it is tapped round- that's why the ring shank was originally just barely under the finished ring size.
Once the ring is round clean up the solder joints using a file and abrasive wheels with a rotary tool.
Step 4: Setting the Stone and Finishing
To set the stone you need to cut a seat using a straight stone setting burr. The trick is you want the stone to fit snug (but not tight) in the bezel. In a perfect world you would use a burr that is the exact same diameter as your stone. Unfortunately this rarely happens, even with calibrated stones as most burrs sold are slightly undersize so a 4 mm burr will typically measure around 3.95 mm diameter- pretty darn irritating if you ask me.
So what you do is find a burr that is as close a you can get (without being larger than your stone) and cut straight down to the desired depth and then carefully move the burr around to remove a bit more of the inside diameter of the bezel until your stone fits. As far as depth is concerned I like to have the top of the bezel just sticking up over the edge (girdle) of the stone by maybe .5 to 1 mm. The critical thing is that the stone should fit straight/flat in the bezel where the top of the stone sits level. It's very important that the stone not be tilted one way or the other.
To tighten the stone in place you want to gently tap the metal down around the edge of the stone using a chasing hammer and a small round punch (made from an old burr.) It will not take much force at all to make the metal move so do this slowly and carefully, working from one side of the bezel to the other and making sure the stone stays flat as you go.
Once the stone is tight you want to burnish the inside edge of the bezel using a burnisher. I make my burnishers from old kitchen forks- I cut off a fork tine and mount it in a wood handle or graver holder and radius the tip of the fork tine and polish it. Fork tines are great but they are relatively soft and won't damage most stones (provided you don't push too hard.) Just run the burninsher around the inside edge of the bezel next to the stone. What you are trying to do is smooth the metal while also making sure there isn't a gap between the metal and the stone.
Once the bezel is burnished smooth you can clean up the inside edge next to the stone using a small flat graver. This is only necessary if the inside edge is not smooth and round. The graver is used only in situations where there is some waviness to the metal. The trick with using a graver like this is to make sure it does not touch the stone as it can easily damage the facets cut into the top of the stone.
At this point you want to take a small needle file and smooth the outside edge of the bezel to get rid of any bulging or waviness in the metal.
Once you get the bezel shaped up the way you want you can either polish the ring using tripoli and rouge with polishing buffs or you can go for a brushed finish by rubbing the ring with a red scotchbrite abrasive pad (which I personally think really suits this style of ring.)
Once you get the finish you want stand back and admire your handiwork!
The last step I do is put a hallmark on the inside of the ring. Some people do this with punches but that can easily deform a delicate ring so I prefer to engrave it by hand using a rotary tool and a modified burr. I shape the burr to a needle point and then put four flats on the tip with a sanding disc- this makes a very inexpensive and great engraving tool.
As always, if there are any questions please don't hesitate to ask!
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