You don’t say what gauge your 18K bezel wire is but I suspect its
pretty thin, simply because its ‘bezel’ wire. Obviously what I’m
going to say doesn’t apply to those who have success with bezel
strip, I suppose its a touch thing, you either have the touch for a
bezel strip or you don’t. I don’t, generally. I prefer a thicker
gauge. Mostly if I need a bezel I make it from flat wire. 1mm thick
As you discovered, thin bezel strip has springiness to it even once
its annealed. I would guess the reason is not metallurgical but
physical. On a very thin sheet or strip you have two surfaces very
close to each other. So close that they interact. Bend one surface
the other is affected. If you stretch the outer surface over a stone
by nature the inner surface would have to compress. But it resists
compression. I couldn’t tell you exactly why but this is my
With a thicker stock you get what I call the Mush Factor. When you
hammer it, it FEELS soft. It SOUNDS soft. You push it and it moves.
It stays (almost) exactly where you put it. This is particularly
handy on fragile stones. Maybe its the surfaces being further apart,
maybe its just the compressibility of the gold. I can’t be certain.
But I am certain that if I have to hammer set some square cornered,
shallow emeralds into a bezel, I want that bezel thick.
Now as to what to do with your remaining bezel strip, I’d suggest
you score the inside of the bezel along the area where you want it to
fold over the stone. This will be tricky because you want the score
to be deep enough to provide a meaningful relief but not so deep as
to break through during setting and polishing. Also, if its too deep
you will see a clear folding on the outside of the bezel. It’ll look
like an unwanted step instead of a smooth transition. If you make
thin bezel a little larger than the stone, instead of having a
press-in fit, you now have some wiggle room. With a press-in fit the
tendency is to bend the bezel at the point where it touches the
girdle. This means that you have to really compress the metal to
bring the edge tight against the crown. Thin gauge wants to bend or
distort rather than compress. If you have your bezel a tad large you
can bring the top edge in more easily.
I’ve used the word hammer. You can use a hammer handpiece on the
flexshaft or chasing tool and hammer. I see people struggle with
burnishers, trying to move the bezel in. What’s a burnisher but a
stretcher really? You want to minimize stretch, particularly parallel
to the girdle. If you don’t hammer then use a pusher or rocker,
moving the metal straight in toward the center.
Is all 18k the same in workability?
No. I find the Royal yellow very nice to mush about.