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Bezel Vs Prong setting


I have been studying quite a bit of historical jewelry lately and
one thing that popped out at me was the use of prongs as opposed to
bezels to hold stones/cabs in.

Most contemporary jewelry seems to use mostly bezels (except of
course for diamonds and faceted jewels). Think Petra Class/Todd Reed.
They both have an interesting take on bezels.

I was wondering what you think the reason for that is. Is it simply
aesthetics. An antique look vs. a contemporary look. Do you have a

I ask because I love making “turtles” as Tim McCreight calls them in
his book the complete metalsmith. I have been experimenting in flower
shapes, leaf shapes etc. I don’t like bezels all that much. I do
realize that they have a place, a big place but I have more fun with
prong/turtles. There seem to be so many possibilities with them.

Opinions? Anyone?




For me, there are two components to this choice when I approach a

The first, obviously, is aesthetics. Some stones and designs simply
seem to cry out for a “boundary” of metal helping to define them, set
off the color, or integrate the flow of the design. In other cases,
the stone may have flaws on its edges or be a doublet or triplet that
isn’t all that aesthetically pleasing except from the top.

The other criteria for me is the stability and type of material
being set. Some stones or cuts are too soft, brittle, or otherwise
fragile to feel comfortable setting in anything other than a
closed-back, heavy walled bezel. Others need a bit of extra
protection on their fragile edges, but can be easily set in an
open-backed, light-walled bezel. Still others are just fine in a
prong setting.

My favorite thing, however, is to create a “blended” setting where
the stone is integrated completely into the piece, so that part of
the piece might act as a prong and other areas of the piece act more
like a bezel. Right now, I’m working on a setting for a gorgeous
doublet opal where part of the opal is “buried” in the setting and
the other part “embraced” by the setting. Very organic.

And then there are the many other types of settings… gypsy,
channel, pave, etc.

There are no hard-and-fast rules here. The important things are that
your design is integrated and your stone is safe.

Karen Goeller