Bezel setting transparent stones

I have been experimenting with setting clear or transparent "stones"
in sterling silver bezels and was hoping to acquire some wisdom from
this AMAZING forum.

As one of my biggest concerns with my work is durability and
longevity, I have been testing how my pieces wear and tarnish and
was quick to notice tarnish behind the stones. Thus far, I have
tried: paint, enamel, colored resin, and raising the fine silver
behind the =93stones=94 in an effort to cover or prevent the unsightly

I was curious if anyone else has come up with methods to hide or
prevent this from occurring to the inside of their bezels?

Thanks ahead of time, and thanks for all the previous letters I have
read and learned so much from!!

  • Llama


Sterling silver will always tarnish…that’s the result of the
copper in the alloy oxidizing. If you could seal the surface of the
sterling to prevent any contact with atoms of oxygen, then you
should able to prevent tarnish from forming behind the bezel.

Longevity is the key word here. How long is “longevity?” Ten years?
One hundred years? One thousand years? No one really knows for
certain how long paint or plastic resins will last. Glass enamel, we
know, will endure for centuries. In time, even fine silver will

Platinum will not tarnish. It would be easy to line the inside of
your bezel with platinum foil, or you could rhodium plate the
interior of the bezel. Incralac is a lacquer-type coating used on
copper, brass, and bronze sculptures. It should last for decades,
when used behind a stone.

Now, the problem will be keeping dirt or oil from getting behind the
stone for the next millennium…:wink:

Doug Zaruba

I have an agate (a slab type piece with clear bands) in a pendent
that I set in a silver bezel about twenty years ago. I live in a
humid summer climate and take no special precautions as far as
storing my personal jewelry. It is still untarnished behind the
agate. I do a careful job of cleaning beforehand and really getting a
bezel to fit smoothly and tightly.


I’m not a jewler but would it be possible to plate that area with

Dear Ethereal Llama,

First off, my name is not so neat or enticing to a greater universe!

My suggestion is to NOT set transparent stones in bezel with a back.
Unless the stone needs a backing to show color, etc, simply use an
open backed bezel. Gold will not present the problems of tarnish
apparent with silver alloys. If the gem does need backing, copy the
tricks of the Southwest USA “turquoise” jewelry trade. Most stones
are quite thin, backed with a layer of sawdust,etc. to build up the
height and make simple setting easy and quick but not a quality
workmanship, certainly. Yet, it does sell!

Try backing the stone itself, not the bezel. This might mean a
doublet type of work, sanding the back to flat(assuming cabochons)
and cementing with epoxy a suitable backing. It might mean coloring
an epoxy sugstsance with ceramit(etc) and letting it cure “on the
stone” before setting. Both will work.

I am sure others will have better suggestions than these, at least
this is start. I for one would go for the open back bezel and a
suitable stone in the first place. Otherwise, try liver of sulphur
if a dark back is desired in the full backed bezel or stuffing with
suitable material between the silver and the gem stone back. just
my simple thoughts. Thanks for getting to to think again tonight!

Thomas. a professional jeweler, worn out tendons.

1 Like
    Sterling silver will always tarnish...that's the result of the
copper in the alloy oxidizing. 

G’day; the best comment to that is yes and no! The main reason
for silver tarnishing is that it combines with sulphur in the
atmosphere producing black silver sulphide. There is nearly always a
trace of sulphur about, especially in urban districts, where it comes
from vehicle exhaust and chimneys. There is even some - though very
little - in the countryside, where it comes from animal exhausts.
Yes; copper oxide does form from sterling silver, but mostly when
it it strongly heated, yet the main cause of cold silver tarnishing
is sulphur. Very highly polished metal surfaces take longer to
tarnish than rough surfaces. – Cheers for now,

John Burgess; @John_Burgess2 of Mapua, Nelson NZ

Try backing the stones with silver or gold mylar foil. It’s
inexpensive,effective and extremely durable. Dee


Sterling silver will always tarnish…that’s the result of the
copper in the alloy oxidizing. If you could seal the surface of the
sterling to prevent any contact with atoms of oxygen, then you should
able to prevent tarnish from forming behind the bezel.

Doug, the belief that the copper in sterling silver “oxidizes” to
produce tarnish seems to keep popping up on this forum. It is wrong.
When silver alloys darken in air at room temperature what you are
seeing is (for the most part) black silver sulphides which are formed
when the silver is acted on by sulphur compounds in the air e.g.
hydrogen sulphide, sulphur dioxide etc.

Copper doesn’t oxidize until it reaches a temperature of 648.8
degrees Celsius in the presence of oxygen regardless of whether the
metal is in it’s pure form or alloyed with silver.

You’re of course right to say that sealing the surface from contact
with the atmosphere should prevent tarnish.

Al Heywood

I have 2 or 3 suggestions I’m surprised haven’t been mentioned yet,
since they have been in the past.

  1. If you’re setting your stones in Sterling and want it not to
    tarnish, consider depletion-gilding it several times to build up a
    surface layer of fine (pure) silver. When you do this the surface
    will come out a dull flat white, like China-White. You can leave
    this as is or polish/burnish to bright. I’ve set stones in and over
    both, in bezels and prongs and have had no discoloration for many

  2. You can use various colors of metallic foil, such as florists
    use, or aluminum foil under your stone. Our renowned Beth Rosengard
    does this to great effect.

  3. If that offends your purist sentiments, try white gold as the
    base of your bezel cup. HTH.

Gary Strickland, GJG

Al, You’re correct, of course. Sterling Silver tarnishes in the air
through the actions of Sulfur, with a little help from its friend,
Oxygen. I think the word “oxidizes” get used to describe this
process (like when Liver of Sulfur “oxidizes” sterling) much the
same way we “solder” silver and gold (when we’re actually brazing).

I always believed that this type of is very important
for metalsmiths to learn. Learning technique is great, but you also
need to know the physics behind the techniques to really make them

Doug Zaruba

Why not fine silver?

Why is no one saying fine silver?

Why not fine silver? No one is saying that a nice thin piece of fine silver won’t tarnish,

It is my personal estimation that “fine silver” is rated @ .999! It’s just too darned soft!
My “demo-silver” for my students is rated at “.925”!
The difference gives more ‘strength‘ for bending & hammering and produces a nicer colour to the metal!

Gerry, on my iPhone

Fine silver, like a piece added under the stone. For less tarnishing, I’ve been trying silver Mylar.