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Closing a bezel around a gemstone

@stoneflower, have you learned how to polish the faces of your tools?

I mentioned “making your own tools” in an earlier post. This is important. Make a punch out of steel, or possibly brass or copper, spend time figuring out what size the face of your punch needs to be …which will be touching the metal. Your goal is to hammer on the punch, not the metal. The punch can be any size you need to fit the size of the bezel, and this will also help prevent damage to the stone. Therefore, you may end up with a lot of punches, sized to use on the variety of different sized bezels you will make.

It requires spending a lot of your valuable time to soften the faces of these tools before you polish them, so that they do not have any edges or anything that will transfer a mark onto the metal. You soften the face with any tools you can find …grind on it and when it looks good enough, keep going, sand it, slap the face of your punch with old files, and when it’s perfect, finally, give it a mirror polish.

This is a skill you will use repeatedly, because you do not want to add any marks to your metal.

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Good Job!

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Hi Betty,

I did look all weekend, after reading the advice about making my own punches, for a brass something that I can modify and use but couldn’t find anything. I really want to give this a go but have no idea where to get what I need. Is it possible, you or anyone else on here to kindly share a photo of the punch/punches that they have made themselves for the purpose? It might give me a better idea of what I am looking for. What is interesting for me, is the fact that a lot of silversmiths make their own tools, yet no jewellery supplier sells any of those modified implements ( as far as I know). Once I find the right implement to turn into a punch I will definitely follow your instructions as to making it shiny. I do work from my dining table so there are some constraints but I will be imaginative nevertheless. Thank you for your invaluable advice, as always!

Mila

You are too kind! Not that great, but slightly better. At least in the right direction :grinning:.

Mila

I also think that thats’s really the source of the problem! I will need to read up a bit on annealing and the way sterling silver behaves when it’s being manipulated. I thought that when I did the soldering I was annealing the silver at the same time and therefore when it came to setting the stone the bezel should be soft, but I was obviously wrong. I will do a bit of reading on the subject and re-read the replies on here and hopefully things will start happening a bit easier for me next time I sit to make something :grinning:.

BTW, what is the biggest bezel thickness before a hammer is required to close the bezel? What I mean is, I found that for anything over 0.3-0.5 mm thickness, the bezel can’t be closed by just the use of a bezel pusher and needs a hammer. I am guessing everyone else here has their piece properly annealed before setting so that’s probably not the case.

Mila

Following is a link to a series of pictures that show my punches, hammer and a bracelet in an old machine vise embedded in thermoplastic. I now us a GRS standard engraving vise. It is some much easier to get around on the standard. Hope these pictures help…Rob

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I think you should add this to your tool kit. I have one and use it for most setting jobs. I think you will be able to get a good grip under the pendants and a strong push down on the bezel with little effort. I have filled the teeth off the jaws to be a bit flat, but did not remove them. As for thickness of bezel before a hammer, I don’t know. :upside_down_face: :slightly_smiling_face: Add these channel lock pliers and you may never know either. I think these are the smallest made and what i have.

debra

https://www.grainger.com/product/CHANNELLOCK-Straight-Jaw-Tongue-and-Groove-1YHL5

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@stoneflower, I work with steel outside. You need separate tools for working steel.

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Are you using fine silver for the bezel. If you are not, you should and it will make everything a lot easier. Vince LaRochelle

I know a lot of people reckon fine silver is better for bezels, but I personally prefer sterling silver, and the thicker the better.

I’ve seen so many poorly set stones using fine silver bezels that are so thin that they don’t have enough thickness to absorb the compression forces of setting and are therefore difficult to close properly onto the stone, and they are also not well balanced aesthetically as people tend to buy very thin bezel strip to aid stone setting.

A good punch and hammer will easily set stones once you learn exactly how much force to use and exactly where and at what angle on the bezel to exert force. Incidentally, I found that before polishing the face of your setting punch, give it a very slightly convex face, as that way you are less likely to incur tool marks. Too convex and it will make dents, but completely flat and the corners can dig into the metal.

Helen

UK

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I make my own bezel strips from .06 to .08 mm fine silver sheet and have never had a problem. vince larochelle

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Hi Mila!

Pretty! wear with pride!
i love the stones!

Julie

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@stoneflower, here are links to a couple of easy punch making instructions with photos:

https://mjsa.org/publicationsmedia/mjsa_journal/at_the_bench_sneaky_setting_punch

The first link shows how you can customize the punch to fit the job.

You can find metal to make punches in many places. One source is: https://www.mcmaster.com/tool-steel and they also sell brass keyway stock and just about every kind of tool metal.

An average size punch on which to hammer might be 5mm square, but the polished end must be ground to fit the width of your bezel, so a faster alternative might be to use metal that more closely fits the width of your bezel.

You may need to polish a tool every time before you use it. We polish all tools that might leave a mark on the metal, including hammer faces. It can be difficult to understand at first, but eventually we figure out the value of softening and polishing the faces of our new tools.

Polish the tool, not the jewelry …because polishing your work not only removes precious metal from your project but polishing out tool marks will also affect your design.

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I think it’s important to clarify, for those as may be unfamiliar, that “softening” hammer and punch faces does not mean drawing the temper further. You want the faces of hammers, punches, chasing tools, etc. to keep their proper hardness. Softening, in this case, means rounding over any hard edges or corners so that the tool will not leave hard lines or divots in the work.punch%20rounded%20corners

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Hi Rob,

Thanks for sharing. Really useful and it gives me a good idea of what I might need to find. I really want to get one of those GRS vises - when I get better at this to justify the spend :).

Thank you again!!

Mila

Thanks Debra -I would try anything at this point to make setting easier :). Do you use the pliers on sterling silver?

Mila

Vince, other people mentioned that, but I have my heart set on working with sterling silver. I like the look, and feel, and also that it is not easy :). I like robust settings, heavy rings and pendants with thick bezel walls. I am my own worse enemy really :).

Mila

Helen, thanks for that tip -I will follow your advice as I am finding that the cleaning of marks part of the process takes the longest and it’s so labour heavy and tedious for me. I haven’t invested in any time saving tools and gadgets yet as I am working from my dining room table :).

Mila

Thanks Julie - I love those two flawed pieces more than any other perfect piece of jewellery I’ve bought! I am glad you love the stones -I love them too and I wish I had more skill to do them justice but that will come and one day I might re-do them.

Mila

Betty, your post is amazing -thank you so much for the links and the explanation!! I do find that polishing, like you said, takes away and also makes the setting look thinner, which I don’t like. I wonder if I can successfully polish my tools without any fancy equipment? I do everything manually at present (filing, polishing etc) and the only non-manual tool I use is a rotary tool.

Mila