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Bezel thickness for opals - experience

jonathan - cutting, polishing & setting opals comprise the largest
category of my ‘from scratch’ work. bezel setting opals is the only
way i feel that is truly safe; pressure setting with prongs is what
gave them a bad rep when it was actually inflexible jewelers who
deserved the bad name. how i do it:

  1. i almost always add a little depth to the bezel, make it a bit
    higher. solder to base, then feather the top edge with either a
    cratex bullet or a fine diamond dust tapered bur or an old slightly
    smooth one - that means grind the edge until you see almost no rim -
    this will be about 3 - 4 mm wide.

  2. when the bezel is deeper than the opal i coil a piece of wire
    inside the bezel that will bring it up to level so that about 1/16th
    of an inch can be rolled/pushed over the opal edge, dry fit stone to
    check. remove opal, leave wire coil.

  3. spread a dollop (sorry for the technical jargon here) of E6000
    adhesive across the bottom of bezel cup up to the top of the wire & a
    smidgen past it. set opal onto this glue, making certain that it’s
    oriented to the best angle for the display of color: for earrings
    hold opal vertically & rotate till you see the best fire & mark that
    direction with a magic marker arrow on top.

  4. any adhesive that oozes up past the opal edge can be removed by
    gently guiding a tapered wood skewer around inside the bezel - don’t
    worry about it though since it locks in the stone. leave the whole
    mess on a flat surface to cure overnight. next day push in the 4
    compass points of bezel & finish rolling/pushing at points
    in-between, always going to opposite sides with each push - it will
    be very easy to do since the opal won’t move.

ADHESIVE IN A SETTING SUCH AS THIS! ready-cut opals are often
finished with a low domed back - not a practice i recommend. all
that’s needed is a light rotation of the back edge on 800 to 1500
grit paper to smoothe the edge & prevent chipping. the adhesive does
more than hold the stone, it acts as a buffering/dampening backing
for the opal. it also ensures a longer life should the stone
dehydrate slightly over time by stabilizing it against cracking.<=<=

sincerely -

End of forwarded message

Ive, I have a problem with your suggestion to ue an adhesive when
setting an opal, or for that matter most other stones. What do you do
if and when you have to remove the opal to make a repair to the piece,
or to size a ring, etc.? How do you safely remove the opal?


Joel: You have asked a very good question…what do you do when you
have to remove a stone that has been glued into a bezel? Most of the
goldsmiths that I encounter rarely consider that they may see their
creation several years after the sale, for repair or resizing. Some
of us have been at the bench long enough to see our work come home to
us, often looking like it was worn by Indiana Jones…

Whenever I make a piece, I always design it in such a way that I can
easily remove stones,etc., that cannot take the heat of repair. In my
case, I will often make components that are held in place by rivets
or screws so that I can disassemble the piece later.

An opal set in a bezel will always be a challenge to remove. First,
you have to open the bezel by prying back the bezel wall. If you are
using an epoxy behind the stone, a solvent like Attack will help
dissolve the glue. Sometimes, I may have to drill holes in the back
of the bezel to allow the solvent to attack the glue. These I will
fill in later. If the opal is very valuable or irreplaceable, I may
simply cut the bezel open to remove the stone, knowing that I will
have an extensive rebuild later. Bezel set tanzanites, set without
epoxy, can fall into this category.

Before someone complains that this makes the stones too hard to
remove, consider the opposite: stones that are very easy to remove
will often do this without your assistance…

Doug Zaruba