why would I use stakes to make a bezel I could make by using the
stone as a form??
You’re going to be using the stone as a template in any cast,
checking the bezel against the stone to check the fit. But I’m sure
you never put the bezel around the stone, and, finding it a bit too
tight, hammered the metal around the stone. not only would the bezel
not fit down around the stone if it were too tight, but hammering the
bezel using the stone as a mandrel is a great way to produce stone
fragments and powder.
For ordinary round bezels, the Fretz stakes are not likely needed.
Any decent round bezel mandrel does the trick. The things that get
interesting are with larger stones especially, and thicker metal than
typical silver bezel wire. Goldsmiths often use thicker gold sheet on
pieces, such as in rings, where they may wish more durability or the
heavier look. These bezels don’t just flex to fit around a stone and
stay there. You have to make them the right shape as you go, using
the stone only to check the fit. For these, the miniature Fretz
stakes are great little forming tools. Again, not so much for plain
round bezels, but for odd shapes, trillions, cushion shapes, ovals,
etc, it’s common for the shape you need to not actually be available
in a standard bezel mandrel, or you don’t have that mandrel. The
Fretz stakes are then used to forge those bezels, shaping and
stretching the metal to adjust the shape. Typically, you’d use
slightly thicker metal than the end result, and make the initial
shape just a tad small. Then, careful forging on the fretz stakes or
whatever you like, is used to stretch and adjust the bezel until the
stone is the exact fit you wish.
And of course, bezels aren’t the only use for those stakes. They are
simply a nice varied set of shapes, securely mounted to the bench,
with varied curves on which you can shape any piece of metal you wish
that fits that scale and the curves they supply. At jewelry’s small
scale, you may often want to shape small pieces that simply don’t fit
the curves of larger metalsmithing/raising stakes, dapping tools,
mandrels, etc, so these fit the bill very nicely.
Are they essential? Nope. They’re kind of pricey too. Innovative
jewelers have been using whatever bit of steel they can find in
whatever tool supplies it, to form metal around, for eons. But these
little stakes happen to be very nicely made, look great, and for the
jobs where they’re suited, they sometimes are able to get the job
done better than jerry rigged improvised tools might, and with less
time and frustration. I can’t say I use mine as often as I thought I
might when I bought them, but they get enough use that I’m not at all
sorry to have done so. Some jewelers might find they get constant
use, and others might use them only rarely. For me, they’ve paid for
themselves, I think. Many times over? No, probably not. But enough.
And they’re really cool looking too… (grin)