So many people have mentioned difficulties making small round bezels
that I thought I’d give some tips on how I do it. My designs call
for lots of round accent stones, from 2-5 mm, and over the years I’ve
developed some techniques for speeding up the bezel-forming process.
Fabricating bezel cups will never be as fast as purchasing them
pre-made, but at least you won’t have to worry about improperly
calibrated cabs if you make your own bezels.
The main issue for me was always that round-nose pliers were
inefficient, because of the taper, and chain-nose pliers leave marks
(plus they aren’t round :-). What I needed was a set of non-tapering
mandrels and I found them in a hardware store. They’re brass
rods/dowels which I discovered in widths as small as 2 1/4 mm. I
bought one in each size up to what I thought I might need and I sawed
off about a 3" piece of each. Here’s how I use them – and note that
I work with 22K or fine silver bezel wire; 14K or sterling silver
will make the job that much harder.
I find the brass rod that is closest in size, but not larger than
(if at all possible) the cab I’m working with. Then I take a length
of bezel wire and start a curve using chain-nose pliers. I hook the
curved end of the bezel wire around the rod and use my fingers (thumb
and first or second finger) to roll the bezel around the rod till the
leading edge meets or slightly “underlaps” the excess wire. Think of
the finger motion as similar to rolling a cigarette.
Next I place the now-round bezel wire over the cab. If the mandrel
was exactly the size of the cab all I have to do is mark and cut. If
the mandrel was slightly smaller, as is usually the case, I use
gentle force to push the rounded bezel wire down over the cab; this
causes the curved bezel wire to open out to fit the cab. Finally I
mark where the end of the wire meets the overlap and snip using a
(high quality!) flush cutter. Even a good flush cutter leaves a tiny
tang so I open the bezel a bit and pass a file across the edge once
I should mention that I don’t always get a perfect fit on the first
try, but I do more often than not. I try to err, if at all, on the
too-big side so that all I have to do is use the flush cutter to snip
off a tiny bit more and re-file.
Once the bezel is sized, I solder as with any bezel, first butting
the edges together. The keys to a great looking bezel are getting
the size right and butting the ends of the wire perfectly. When the
butt join is complete, I true up the bezel using a super-small, round
bezel mandrel (available from most suppliers), try it on the cab, and
then solder it down to sheet making sure both the sheet and the
bottom edge of the bezel are clean.
Cleaning up a tiny, round bezel cup is no different from cleaning any
other size, except that the little one is harder to hold on to. I
use flex shaft tools, not files, for this process because I find it
easier (and I hate filing :-). I do the initial clean up with
Adalox sanding discs and the finish with a flexible,
silicon-impregnated, pre-polish wheel, from which I can go to the
I can usually complete a 2-3 mm bezel in 15 minutes – 10 if I push
it – but I’ve known of others who can do it in 5! YMMV :-).