Sunday, January 29, 2012

Making a Bezel.

There has been this serious kerfuffle about making a bezel on Orchid, a jewellery forum I belong to.

There is always one or two posters on any forum who will argue an incorrect point until they are thoroughly proven wrong by the other members.

Then they always bounce onto the next subject and  the cycle starts all over again.

I find this very tiring and I simply don’t join in anymore.

The same happened about making a bezel, which is one of the easiest and most fundamental things a beginner learns when  starting to make jewellery.

It became so ridiculous that I eventually posted (against my better judgment ) and suggested that he and I use our Orchid blogs and show our individual methods of making bezels.

Needless to say, my suggestion was not taken up.

I would have let it lie there, but I received a number of  private emails and responses on the list to please make a tutorial on this subject.

Normally, I make tutorials on more advanced and esoteric subjects, but OK,  while it’s not rocket science to me, there are obviously others who are just starting out who want to know the technique.


And I always start out on a HIDI ( how I do it ) by saying that this is not the only way to do it, and even not necessarily the best, but  this is what works for me.IMG_8749

  One of the posters asked our serial arguer how, using his method, would one make a bezel for a stone that is shaped like a piece of snot on the pavement.

I really laughed at that description, so for  this tut I am going to make a bezel for three stones.

A laminated and carved Larimar and chalcedony stone I made which is indeed shaped like a gob on the pavement. I was never happy with this stone so it is a good test subject.

The other two,  a piece of not so well shaped Pietersite I bought on the internet and an industrial machine cab of black chalcedony.


I will basically use these pliers for most of the shaping and bending. I will use others as well, but with these one can make pretty much any shaped bezel.

For standard cabs like the black one, which measures 12 x16mm one can use a oval triblet, but I want in this tut to use only hand tools.

Also, the tube bender, second from the left, will leave a mark on the metal so I use it only for harder metals like 14 gold.

The one BIG thing in goldsmithing is if you don’t want a mark on metal, don’t put it there in the first place. That is also the reason why all the tips of my pliers are polished.


A lot of jewellers buy premade stock, and  if one does, the best way to make a strip of metal out of plate is to pierce it. Not to use snips, because it deforms the metal and makes accuracy more difficult. An example is in the bottom right of the picture, where I have pierced it halfway by way of  illustration.

I melt and roll out all my stock, so I will be using the three strips of metal pictured.

The left side is 14ct gold and that I am going to use for the Larimar cab, it being the most difficult shape and the hardest material.

The other two will be made with silver.

The thickness of the strip is normally determined by the jeweller. Anything from .3mm to 1 mm can work.

I prefer .7mm as the mean average, but as I said, the particular design will determine the thickness of the metal.

The height is determined by the minimum needed to hold the stone firmly.

It stands to reason that the minimum amount of metal will show the stone off the best, but again, the design of the final piece will be the arbitrator.IMG_8755

I start with the black cab and I shape the metal with the half round flat piers. I bend and fit and bend some more. I use the cab as my guide, check to see that the metal follows the curve. This takes practice but is not actually difficult.


Eventually one get to this stage. This is where I then cut the bezel with my saw, as shown in the next picture.

Now, as in the picture with the triangular cab , I sometime will cut up to five times, incrementally making the bezel smaller. This effort to get a good fit always pays off, because there is no more worry about the stone fitting the bezel as the piece progresses.



The metal can sometimes be wrapped around the stone using the stone as a template. Care should be taken because some stones can be damaged that way.

Now another method used by jewellers  is to work out the length of the metal via pencil  calculations.

In this case it would be the length plus the breadth of an oval divided by two which gives the average diameter.

Then, multiplying the average  by Pi, (3.14), gives the circumference and the adding one and a half times the thickness of the metal to the Pi figure, will give the overall  length of metal needed.

It seldom works , because very few cabs are  perfect and by the time all the calculations are worked out, the metal measured and cut, I have finished using my method and am out to lunch or getting laid. I joke, I joke…..



Then I cut the excess  off with a saw.

No side cutters on snips, because that causes the metal to deform and wastes time fixing the deformation up. Trust me on this one.



Now, were I gong to set this cab using the walls as a bearing surface, I would made it a smidgeon to small, like in this picture. But lets say you have just misjudged the size and it is a little to small. Then all is not lost, as long as its an oval .


Pop it on the round triblet and tap it up just a little bit. I normally make a mark with a sharpie, ( shown on the ‘E’ side ) so I can see how far I have tapped it up. Then, when you happy, anneal it and  bent it oval again using the pliers shown above.IMG_8773

Bingo, she fits.


The next one I start from the base, but it can be really started anywhere. It’s just that bending the sharpest corners first is easier.


I bend the two side up, using any of the two pliers shown.


Then I cut the one side lower and bent the top side over, because I want to solder on the straight side. It is easier than matching the two sides at the top and it is also easier aligning to straight edges.

And as I mentioned before, I will saw small pieces off until the correct size is reached.IMG_8782

Done. The bezel is made far to high because in the many years I have been making jewellery, I have found it is much easier to file something smaller than bigger. So were I to use this stone for a piece of jewellery, I would file it lower until it was in proportion.


Now we come to the more difficult one.

14ct gold is much more hard and springy than silver.

Again, like in the previous stone, I start from the base and generally from the sharpest corner.


I work my way up to the top. This shape will require frequent bending back and forth. This will work harden the metal so I anneal the bezel from time to time. IMG_8788

Until I get to the top and then I anneal for the final time prior to soldering closed.

Now here is the thing.

Once the bezel is soldered closed, it is virtually impossible to adjust the shape. Simply because if you bend any part of the bezel, it will affect another part, normally the opposite side. And you can waste more time trying to fix it up that just starting over.


So I make pretty sure that all is accurate before I solder.


Here is the back part of the lamination cab after soldering. It stands to reason that the tighter the fit the better the job.

But , short of sloppy work, the tighter the fit also brings the possibility of the stone chipping when it is forced into the bezel. Common sense instead of a hammer should be used.

Also, if  the bezel does not fit well, it is at this stage of making the final piece that  the bezel should be discarded.

If it does not fit well, it also will not fit well as the piece progresses.

This will result in a sloppy job, and as I said, it always takes far longer to fix up than starting the bezel over.


And here are the three finished and ready for further working into jewellery.

The total time to make these bezels was hour and a half, with the lamination stone taking 45 minutes, it having a bezel of harder metal and a snotty shape.

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