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Going nuts in this jewelry class

for god’s sake keep me from going nuts in this jewelry class

Hi Ganoksin family it’s me again.

I’m in class at SVA everyone knows now. Yes thank all of you for your
comments on being patient & taking my learning Jewelry making lumps
but this is too much i need all of you to think carefully. Ganoksin
answer if you are the one who is most experienced. My Instructor L.
Hollander has an assistant who said the way to raise a cabochon stone
inside a bezel is to use cardboard. We are using fine silver bezel
wire about 4mm tall. my Onyx is 5.86mm in height at the highest point
& 4.75mm at the midpoint before the edge. the Bezel wire is too low
in height so i said i’ll cut a piece of 20 gage fine silver and make
one at home so i cut it at 4.75mm came out nice. Okay here’s my
question if i made the bezel tooo too high over the stone what method
is the most professional to raise the stone inside the bezel after
the back of the bezel is soldered???


Please don’t make me get beligerent on the (assistant) in class.



You could file the bezel to make it lower… But if you want to
raise the stone, some people do use shirt cardboard. Native
American’s use sawdust. I use Lignum Vitae dust.

Paf Dvorak


If you bezel is too high file or sand the difference to the right
height. However, it is not unusual to see sawdust or match book
covers (pieces) under stones to raise the cab in height.

The Indians have been doing this forever to raise turquoise to the
proper height.

Russ Hyder

Hi Sabra,

Well, if you want the ‘official’ answer, there isn’t one. It depends
on the situation. In my most anal-retentive moments, I’d probably
file the bezel down a smidge until it was the right height.

(After it was soldered on, and using a fairly fine file, like #4)
That’d probably be the “proper” answer, in a world where time had no
meaning or cost.

On the other hand, I’ve seen all sorts of weird things inside bezels
that I’ve taken apart over the years. Sawdust, newspaper, curls of
wire. Pretty much anything can be used to jack the stone up. When I
do it, (not that I ever do) I tend to use snipped out bits of
plastic milk jug. The plastic’s stable and inoffensive. It also
won’t react to water or humidity the way the cardboard will, and it
doesn’t compress while you’re rolling the bezel. (Or so I’ve heard.
I wouldn’t ever do anything like that.)

Actually, I have taught pretty much exactly that technique (using
the milk jug bits instead of cardboard) to my beginning students,
for the following reasons:

(A) they were beginners, and I was trying to get them out the door
with a wearable ring in about 4 hours of contact time. Sometimes
much less. (Like 3 hours flat, including learning to solder without
setting themselves on fire.)

(B) I had one size of bezel wire for the whole class, and all sorts
of 50 cent gemshow special stones, which means that the thickness
and dimensions were all over the map. Any student could have had
any size stone. So I had to get bezel wire that’d take the biggest
stone I’d be likely to have to deal with. Anything else could be cut
down or jacked up to fit.

© To prevent failure. Remember, these were beginners. It’s much
harder to create a screwup that’ll trash their ring if you’re
jacking up the stone. In a class of 24 continuing-ed students, I can
absolutely guarantee that at least 3 of them will over file, or
otherwise trash their bezels if I try to get them to file it down to
the ‘right’ size. Which gets us into individually supervised repair
work, which takes time away from the rest of the class.

If I’ve got a smaller class, or a more predictable supply of stones,
I try to tailor it a bit more closely, but jacking the stone up,
rather than cutting the bezel down is what I do with a big class. It
sounds like your instructor is doing something similar.

Sometimes, the needs of the class take precedence over 'perfect’
technique. This seems like it might be one of those times.



Before you “get belligerent”, know this. If you made the bezel too
high you measured wrong in the first place which means that you
shouldn’t have soldered that bezel together much less soldered that
too-high bezel to a platform or base of any kind. Methods to raise?
Solder or place a step inside the bezel with square or round wire.
Alternately, file down the bezel. Or… to raise the stone by quick,
inexpensive methods: sawdust…or…yes… cardboard. I can’t count
how many American Indian turquoise jewelry repairs I have opened up
to find either cardboard or sawdust. The work was beautiful and had
held up for many many years. Usually a repair due to wear more than
anything else. Yes, there are better methods than cardboard, but
don’t dismiss it entirely.

So… don’t go off on the assistant. Make your bezel correctly in
the first place. Good luck with the classes. Remember to take a lot
of breaks, breathe, smile, listen to music, dance once in a while
and try not to make what should be enjoyable deadly serious.


(Up to 80 fruit trees here at the poquito ranchito. My Spanish has
improved immensely and the garden terracing is almost finished!)
Topanga, CA USA

Lisa Bialac-Jehle
byzantia[tm] jewelry

The best solution would be to file the top of the bezel down until
it’s the right height. No spacers required.

If for some reason there absolutely had to be a spacer, I certainly
wouldn’t use cardboard though. First sign of moisture and that’ll
break down. Plastic would work if there’s no more heating, but I’d
rather use a metal washer, either bent from wire or pierced from


Hello Sabra,

the way of approaching a problem and solve it gives you an idea of
how the jeweller works.

What whould happen if one go’s out swimming with that jewel, doing
the loundry?

One can make it out of plastic. Someone else whould use a wire and
another person whould roll some metal and make a small inlay to
support the stone. The way you solve that specific issue mirrors your
skills. If one likes it to work cheap then use the cardboard, if not,
then go for a solution of another kind.

What happends if another jeweller get’s his hands on your work
filled with ‘cardboard’ and what about the customers feelings?

What go’s around, comes around.

I whould go for an inlay of the same material (in the shape of the
stone), in other words, shaping a plate of the thickness which is
required for raising the stone. Sawing the inside out of that shape
ending up with a spacer. File, sand and polish the spacer and insert
it. Set the stone properly. Finish the upper rim of the bezel (high
polish or by using a millgrain) Sanding the bezel with very fine
sanding paper if needed. Polish with the proper polishing
compound.Clean your work in a ultrasonic or with the tools you have
available. Dry it and polish with a leather stick, a last inspection

Make it the way you’re proud to present that jewel in all honnesty
Sabra. It’s your work, your pride and your way to show people how you
make jewelry.

Have fun and enjoy

My Instructor L. Hollander has an assistant who said the way to
raise a cabochon stone inside a bezel is to use cardboard. 

Quit this class immediately. If they refuse to refund your money, sue
them. I would be glad to testify on your behalf that they are
complete idiots and should not be trusted with brooms arrangement in
janitor closet, let alone teaching someone.

Leonid Surpin

Hello Sabra,

It’s common for native Americans to use sawdust to raise a stone in a
bezel setting. That’s not much different than using cardboard…
HOWEVER, as the jewelry is exposed to water, such organic materials
deteriorate and the stone loosens as it drops in the setting. Not a
good thing.

Here are some options. If you collect your silver filings, they can
be packed into the bottom of the mounting and the stone placed on
top. No deterioration, but that stone had better be well 'mashed’
down to compact the filings. Easier is make a loose coil of wire
that is dropped into the bezel and supports the back of the stone.
The coil is hammered to reduce height as needed. Even easier is to
file down the bezel by rubbing the edge in a circular motion on sand
paper until it is the right height.

Judy in Kansas, whose pressure canner has a tiny crack in the bottom
and will be recycled. Bummer! That canner is older than I am, so I
shouldn’t be too surprised.

Sloooooow down grasshopper.

Many things are used to fill in that little space under a cab if the
height is not correct. Cardboard is not unusual, sawdust, cork,
plastic, wire, sheet, etc. etc. is also used. I got the best tip ever
here on Orchid years ago. Use the black plastic microwave dishes from
frozen entrees. Ask around, they work great, and they’re cheap!

The key here is to remember you need to deal with the extra weight
of the material you use, that’s why I like the plastic. You can also
layer it easily for the right height.

Cork and sawdust will expand if it gets wet, (like with rings and
hand washing). So it’s best to forego this material all together for

In my years of doing repairs, it was fun to see what "professional"
jewelers used under their stones! I once found a wad of newspaper!

Now, take a breath and get back to learning. I have 40 years under
my belt and am constantly learning new tricks and tips. Keep an open
mind; you’ll be amazed what you’ll learn.

And if you aren’t comfortable with using anything under your stone,
just file your bezel to the right height.

Enjoy yourself, make lots of jewelry!

We use sawdust or cardboard to raise cabs in bezels.

Sam Patania, Tucson

Is it not possible to simply file the bezel down to an appropriate
height for the stone? I cut most of my feature stones, so making fun
and original bezels has always been a successful feature of my
products. Back in the day, the stones were backed with old LP’s (flat
large black discs, used for the same purpose as Cd’s). Turquoise in
particular, but also other soft stones used to be backed with Devcon,
a brand name epoxy that was essentially plastic steel. You rough up
the bottom of your stone (if possible) clean it thoroughly, then mix
up a glob of Devcon (carefully and thoroughly), plop the glob down on
a piece of wax paper and place your stone right on top of the Devcon.
Squish the stone down into the glue, but not all the way to the
bottom;you could easily leave a couple of millimeters below the
stone. If you have mixed correctly, in 3 or4 hrs, you can pull the
wax paper off and use a razor knife to cut around the edge to remove
excess. The remainder should cure for 24hrs, but then you can sand it
easily, if the stone is too high, simply place bottom down on a piece
of 220 grit sandpaper on something flat, and rub it back and forth
till you get you desired height. I hope this is helpful, Thomas III

Dear Sabra: In my experience, cardboard is not the way to go. I would
make an inner “seat” of silver to raise the stone. Or, you could turn
the piece up-side-down on wet/dry corundum sanding paper and, sand
the bezel down using a figure-8 pattern. There is a trick to this
which Lori herself taught me many years ago. Have you asked Lori
herself? Since you are in NY, and this is a little difficult to
describe in writing, I would be happy to show you both ways in
person if you drop by my office. If your bezel is nice and neat and
even, the safer way to go is the inner seat.



Sure Sabra, why not? There was a family of native American
silversmiths who were widely known for using pink toilet paper.
Personally I prefer sifted hardwood sawdust because it’s easier to
get the height perfect. This is for down-and-dirty, lesser priced
work. If it’s wanted or needed, then you make a piece of wire around
the girdle that raises the stone. Whatever works though…

I don’t know how professional this is, but I use plastic from
margarine tubs. It’s waterproof, won’t deteriorate if the item gets
dunked in water.

Vicki K in SoCal wondering if it’s ever going to cool off.

Over the years I’ve repaired many Native American pieces. Sawdust
is the standard. I’ve also seen cardboard, tissue, etc. Every now
and then you’d run across some chewing tobacco or snuff. When doing
a repair on a N/A piece I will replace the saw dust to maintain the
originality of the piece. Of course the old reason for using sawdust
to cushion the stone but if you whack a turquoise cab hard enough
it’s going to break regardless of what’s used for filler. A lot of
time sawdust was used because the cab was a tumbled turquoise nugget
or a primitive cut that was uneven at the bottom and the sawdust
acted as a leveler.

The reason Devcon Steel Epoxy was used was to "get the weight back"
of the stone lost during grinding of the cab. So when you are buying
turquoise cabs be mindful of how much Devcon is used for backing
since you are generally buying cabs by the carat weight. I’ve seen
backing so thick that 3/16 inch bezel wouldn’t cover it. I would
have to roll out my own bezel or grind the Devcon off. These cabs
where usually from customers who got “such a deal” on turquoise cabs
they bought at a flea market or some dealer on the side of the
highway or a guy selling off the back of a pickup truck in Tucson not
part of an organized show.

When I’m cutting turquoise cabs, I use JB Weld. Better backing,
flattens out nicely, and no one can accuse be of “putting weight back
on the stone.”

For my own work I use the plastic lids off of any sort of margarine,
sour cream, etc for filler. Also, those lids are good for mixing
epoxies on. The rule around my house is the container goes in the
recycle bin but the lid gets put on the counter by the door to the
garage where my shop is.

Rick Copeland
Silversmith and Lapidary Artisan


I handle a bezel that’s too tall in two ways. Sometimes I will just
sand the bezel down to the height I want. That’s if the piece is in
a position to do so. I won’t hand sand with a file, but lay it flat
along sandpaper and using a light circular motion, sand, sand, sand
until it’s the right height.

If I like the height of the bezel but the stone is too short, I use
cut up credit cards under the stone. If that’s too high, I’ll use
cut up plastic from packaging. I don’t throw a lot away, plus this
stuff is always in my recycle bin anyway. I wouldn’t use cardboard,
or newspaper or cotton (all of which were given to me as advice).
They get wet, could swell and push the stone up and out plus it could
cause the silver to tarnish. The tarnish could then leach upwards,
out and over the stone over time. No thank you.

Anyway, those are some of my solutions. You mileage may vary.


You *could* file the bezel to make it lower... But if you want to
raise the stone, some people do use shirt cardboard. Native
American's use sawdust. I use Lignum Vitae dust. 

Just a side question.

When I wanted to raise the stone I’d use strategically placed pieces
of sterling (I’ve only made bezels in sterling), also to level the

This could get costly if you were using gold, but apart from that…
anything wrong with that?

Regards Charles A.

Quit this class immediately. If they refuse to refund your money,
sue them. 

Maybe you could explain your process? It would probably be more
helpful. CIA

For a too tall bezel, after soldering, use tape and fasten a bit of
dental floss to the back of your cab so that you can remove it. Put
the cab in the bezel and run a scribe or some sharp object around
the inside of the bezel. That mark from the scribe shows how tall
your bezel should be. Sand or file or cut off the excess, clean up
the edge and re-test the fit of your cab.

This works especially well when setting a carved stone with an
uneven profile.

Judy Hoch