Introduction: Silversmithing With Bezel Dies
These bezels are made with hand-carved dies that were saved from extinction. :) If you'd like to see where I got my bezels from, check out this link. And for a direct link to the actual bezel dies, use this one. The first link, it's an in-depth instructable on how to use these types of jewelry dies. :) So, if this write-up is foreign to you, make sure you study that. :D
The stone I used in this piece is called " White Buffalo " aka White Buffalo Turquoise , even though it's not turquoise. haha :) The mine is owned by my buddy, Danny Otteson. This stone specifically, has the numbers "25" in there naturally!! Check it out on the right side lol. So, hit me up if you need a 25th birthday present lol.
Step 1: Materials
SILVER....okay this is the most important part ---- I suggest FINE SILVER for these impressions because I am pretty sure that it will be MUCH nicer to press/bend/shape/close the bezel. I used 22 gauge sterling. It was kind of a beast, but I made it work. I'll show you in the photos how you can hack it with sterling.
Pick out some bezel dies!
When you choose your die, make sure you note the depth of the die, which will help you understand the height of the bezel. You can stack these bezels on top of a framework of your own creation, to build the bezel higher, and it will act like a "topper" bezel. For instance, if you have a round bezel die, and you make a circle out of square wire, then solder your fancy impression to that circle, your bezel will be "higher up". To decorate the wire, you can stamp it before shaping it, and topping it with the bezel. :)
You can always manipulate a flat-designed bezel, and bend it to be higher, but just make sure you don't warp it too much hahah. :)
Step 2: Press Your Bezels
These photos are of the dies I have that can be used for bezels, you can see how they differ in height/profile, etc.
I used my drill bit and some lube to drill a tiny dimple on the outside of my die, I used arrows to show the marks. My intention is for those to be "registration" marks, so I know where to lay the metal back into EXACT place, after I've annealed it. I think the round die, I misaligned it and it kinda got nicked up. So next time, these registration marks should help me. Of course, if you intend to stamp on the excess metal, you may not want to mar the surface on the outside of the die. As far as I know, I will always be sawing them out.
Tip for pressing -- the die with the tiniest center opening, that was a "one press wonder". The floral scroll oval, that took a second annealing. And the circle that I went forward with, Takes between 2-3 annealings, and I could have gotten away with 2, I THINK..had I stuffed the center better, to press those scroll details out.
I used buffalo leather and cut it to size with my titanium fiskars. Buffalo leather is the strongest and thickest, commercially available, I believe. I got mine at a local Tandy Leather location, in their scrap bin. Cheap! :D And just like the urethane, I use it to crumbs lol.
Step 3: Saw Out the Centers
I use the dimples in some of these dies, in the center, to hold my drill bit. That starter hole will become the place that I insert my saw blade to remove the metal to accommodate my stone. Once you've saw'd it out, file the details to make it nice.
Step 4: Form the Bezel
Gently tweak and form the bezel to your desired shape. I could have gone further down on the ring mandrel and made the bezel more "vertical" or upright, but my stone wouldn't fit too well, so I kept it at a shallow angle. I think you could even use this technique to stretch it a bit, so it should work for multiple sizes of rounds! :)
I used my file to sand it flush and flat, once I was done giving it some form. You can see in the photo how much it helped. :) I just press the bezel into the file and slide it back and forth, quickly and evenly.
Step 5: Solder and Saw
You should have the bezel flush with the sheet of metal, which will feel great! haha
Tuck the solder inside, under the bezel, around the edges and solder it down. :) Then saw your shape out and file any edges that need to be cleaned up.
Step 6: Fit Your Stone
Now it's time to custom tailor that bezel to your stone.
I use my burnisher to manipulate the metal without marring it. Of course, I used sterling, so that was nearly impossible lol. So I butted it up against the tip of my file, which was butted up against my bench pin. You basically need to man-handle it against something stationary.
Lift and turn, lift and turn, then try your stone to get an idea of fit. I used this same exact technique for rectangle bezel dies, also. I wonder if a square mandrel would come in handy to help the initial forming of the rectangles...probably. :)
But at this step, it's acting like a bezel. You can see the metal that you need to press down to fit your stone, now.
Step 7: Design and Finish
Take a moment to think about what you want this bezel to become. A ring? Pendant? Make a second one for a pair of earrings, etc. Then use whatever elements that you want to add to it, if you choose to add anything at all. I ended up adding, of course. haha I have a problem with simplicity.
Once you're done, it's time to set the stone. This can be tricky, but the goal is to treat it as a normal bezel. You want to fold those edges down and into the stone. And you want to hold the stone where you want it, with your finger firmly, while you do so. Because the stone will shift and flutter about, or even fly away lol. So keep control over the stone and set the bezel as you normally would.
With sterling, this took a lot of strength, but it got done! Fine silver would be easier, but make sure not to mess up the details when you're closing it. You can use the wooden end of the burnisher if you want. Or press the whole piece of jewelry into something wooden, like the edge of a table.
Step 8: Bonus Tip!
If you take the piece to your buffer to polish it, you sometimes get black gunk all over the metal and it's a pain in the booty to scrub off.
If you find yourself a HARD BRISTLE plastic brush, like in my photo, you can dip it in cleaning solution and scrub the gunk off your jewelry and it makes it super clean. (solution of water, ammonia and dish soap).
It will still retain the shine, too. :) Use cold water. The gunk is "heat activated" hahaha.
Well, that sums up this tutorial on bezel dies. You can use them like this, you can simply solder a stone right on top of the impression, or you can saw out the middle in the shape of your stone and use the excess to press around your special shape. Or you can cut a little bigger than your stone's shape, then do a normal bezel setting within it, and make this into a shadowbox setting. :) So many options! <3 thanks guys for stopping by.