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Gold bezel wire for a novice goldsmith


#1

Hi, all

I’ve finally taken the plunge and started added gold highlights to
my silversmithing. By some twisted logic (WHAT was I thinking?) I
started out with 3/16 18k YG bezel wire. Looks great, but dang, I had
a terrible time ‘beating’ it into submission to keep the stones in
place.

Having only silver experience so far, I:

  1. got something more robust than the 28g FS I’ve been using so far
  2. annealed the bezel wire like I would SS before forming (but it
    never acted annealed)
  3. used 18k easy solder for the bezel
  4. still have 18 inches of bezel wire left that I’m not sure I’m
    ready to address.

Oh Honored Ones, given your experience, what would you have
suggested if I had asked this first:

I want to set cabachons (between 5mm and 30mm largest measurement)
in gold bezel on silver pendants and rings. What’s a friendly karat
and wire width? Why?

I want to weave a necklace like this (24 or 26g):
http://www.silvermockingbird.com/necklaces/viking-weave.html
What karat & wire gauge will work like SS? This is all cold-worked,
no solder.

Is annealing gold different than silver? What karat is the most
forgiving? Is all 18k the same in workability?

Thanks for the insight,
Kelley


#2

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
or more.

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
observation.

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
your
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.


#3
Is annealing gold different than silver? What karat is the most
forgiving? Is all 18k the same in workability? 

Kelley - another thread I’m sure you’ll get many replies. gold
probably should be annealed a bit hotter - “probably” because there
are 1,000 alloys, unlike having one sterling silver. 22kt. gold will
probably most resemble fine silver, but it comes with it’s own
issues, cost being the first. Other than that, 18kt. is probably the
most forgiving, which is part of it’s popularity, and not all of
anything is the same, of course. I make an alloy, which I’ll post or
tell you if you want, that’s very soft and easily worked - 80%
silver, 20% copper, really (that’s the alloy mix). The thing you’re
coming up against is that gold just is stiffer and harder than
silver. I used to use mostly a leather mallet on silver, and when I
went to gold I switched to steel - the leather just wouldn’t move it
for what I was doing. And you can set a fine silver bezel in 30
seconds with a burnisher, but you’ll never do that in 18kt. gold.
Stuff like that… You’ll get it - gold is way more fun to work in
the long run.

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#4

Kelley,

I want to weave a necklace like this (24 or 26g):
http://www.silvermockingbird.com/necklaces/viking-weave.html What
karat & wire gauge will work like SS? This is all cold-worked, no
solder. 

This particular chain is made by fusing fine silver links and then
weaving them together. There is a book written by Jean Stark that
tells how this is done. I happen to enjoy making them, the fusing
part is the most difficult.

jennifer friedman
http://www.jenniferfriedmanstudio.com


#5

The necklace you are referring to appears to be a loop-in-loop
rather than a woven necklace. All the elements in this type of chain
need to be fused or soldered.

Dee


#6

Neil,

I found your reply this question intriguing. I’m still making my
bezels far too thin but have to set them with a hammer and smooth
faced prong pusher as I haven’t the strength in my wrists to push a
bezel with a rocker or pusher. So, even though I’ve been advised
that I need to use thicker metal for bezels, I was really worried
that I wouldn’t stand a chance of turning thicker bezels so it’s
interesting that you say thicker metal is more “mushy”. That gives me
some optimism. Also with thicker metal, I wouldn’t have the problem
of bezels deforming, although that is not such a problem now that I
am able to make them fit the stones better.

Thanks for your thoughts. I’ll think about getting some thicker
silver.

Helen Hill


#7

Jennifer & Dee -

Sorry, I wasn’t clear enough about the necklace. I wove that myself
from 30’ of 28g sterling wire. I know the loop-in-loop chains have a
very strong resemblance to the woven chains…at the higher gauges
it’s hard to tell the difference from a photo.

Since I’m weaving a 2’ length of wire at a time, I’m looking for the
right karat gold at whatever gauge will handle like dead soft
sterling. Maybe if I just anneal the heck out of it, as John
suggests?

Neil & Beth, thanks for your suggestions! I’ll let you know when
I’ve got something worth showing off!

Kelley


#8
This particular chain is made by fusing fine silver links and then
weaving them together. 

Sorry to contadict my esteemed colleagues, but the chain in the
image is not loop-in-loop, it is viking knit. It is made
continuously, around a dowel, and drawn down. Fun to make,
reasonably quick, with fairly stiff “body”, no heat-work necessary.

Art Jewelry had a nice, clear how-to in the March 2005 issue, though
there should be many other sources as well. If you can’t find one,
contact me and I’ll try to help.

Noel


#9

The necklace is indeed a double-knit (at least a double) Viking
Weave chain and definitely NOT a loop-in-loop. I make both types
quite regularly, have just finished another Viking Weave type, and it
is exactly like the one in the photo.

14k would probably be a nightmare to work with for this type of
chain, so I would go with dead soft/annealed 18k gold wire. 26gge
should do just fine.

Tamra Gentry


#10
This particular chain is made by fusing fine silver links and then
weaving them together. There is a book written by Jean Stark that
tells how this is done 

In fact, this chain looks very similar to the loop in loop chains;
however, if you closely you will see that it is not a loop in loop
chain but a Viking weave chain as was first indicated. I love to use
22 kt 28 gauge for this type of chain. It makes a beautiful delicate
chain. I have found that 18 kt gold in the same gauge makes a
beautiful chain also, but it work hardens a bit too quickly for me.
(Or maybe I just handle the wire too much while weaving this type of
chain.)

For what it is worth: Jean Stark’s book is on my list as a must have
for anyone weaving chains. It is an excellent reference for making
loop in loop chains, but the appendices make it worth its weight in
gold even if you don’t make loop in loop chains.

Good luck with these beautiful chains. Chain making is addictive!

Michelle
Decolletage Jewels


#11

I can’t answer as to what gold to use but it sure looks like viking
knitting to me. This is done on wood dowels and looks like the
picture. I have done both the loop in loop chain and viking knitting.
viking knitting goes faster because there is not soldering and it can
be carried around almost like regular knitting, not that I knit.

marilyn


#12

Viking knit tutorial :-
http://www.fineartbyrocio.com/vikingknitdirections2.html

Good clear instructions and photographs.

mary


#13

Kelly,

I doubt that any gold alloy will be as soft as fine silver, 18K green
(with just silver) is probably as close as you’ll get. I have made
many feet of double wrapped in both sterling and 18KY,.75mm wire and
finished diameter after drawing typically 5mm, very dense. A stout
hook made from a hard dental probe, all metal jug with holes in the
tops of the posts so that I could lever the loops over. A bit brutal
on the wrists (only 6" at a session :wink: but it made a nice chain.

Jeff


#14

Viking knit (great instructions for this in “Great Wire Jewelry” by
Irene From Peterson) is normally done in wire that is 24 gauge or
lighter. I would recommend using fine silver rather than sterling
because it allows for easier handling with less breakage, but
sterling silver will also work (as will copper and other "craft"
wires). It is a very basic wire weave and makes a flexible and
beautiful chain.

Sandi Graves, Beadin’ Up A Storm
Stormcloud Trading Co (Beadstorm)
http://www.beadstorm.com


#15

Hi Kelly,

Firstly a comment to whole group…

I actually run classes teaching in the Viking knit technique,
usually only takes an hour or two for my students to get the hang of
it, the rest of the course is spent refining techniques and teaching
the elaborations that are possible… And yes it is all cold worked
wire, although not one continuous strand.

Now for an answer to the original question…

As to a source of dead soft karat gold wire try sfjssantfe.com (I
assume you’re in the US) they stock dead soft gold wires in 14K and
18K yellow gold. That said their prices are a bit over market norms
but not by much.

Regards, Thomas (in Australia)


#16
I would recommend using fine silver rather than sterling because it
allows for easier handling with less breakage, but sterling silver
will also work 

This is the one situation (so far) in which I use Argentium. It is
great to use in viking knit and the like. Stronger that fine silver,
but easy to manipulate, slow to work-harden-- it actually feels
slipperier than sterling. I’ve used miles of it teaching at beading
events, and no problems (except for the occasional person who tries
to wrestle the wire into submission instead of cooperating with it–
and they’d turn any wire into a nervous wreck!)

Noel


#17
As to a source of dead soft karat gold wire try sfjssantfe.com (I
assume you're in the US) they stock dead soft gold wires in 14K
and 18K yellow gold. That said their prices are a bit over market
norms but not by much. 

Why pay over market? Many suppliers will send you your wire whatever
temper you want. My favorite is Hoover & Strong. They mill their own
stuff, so you can get whatever you want. Rectangular wire 1.25mm x
2.5mm in 18k green? No problem-- we’ll ship it tomorrow! (Made up
example). They were also not fazed when I wanted 14g wire solder.

Noel


#18

Why pay over market? Because I don’t begrudge a company a profit, I
like to make one, and so do they. They are a retailer, so they bought
the stuff they sell, unlike H&S who refine and then make their stock
items…

Some things I buy from H&S (platinum and palladium products come to
mind), and some I shop around for, it really depends on what I need
and how quick. Note I rarely buy from Australian suppliers (I’m in
Australia) as their prices are usually 2.5X US prices even with
exchange rates and postage factored in; I’m not made of money after
all! Even if they can get the stuff to me within two days, and
getting stuff from the US usually takes 5-8days (unless I FedEx it).

Thomas.


#19

The link I posted a couple of days back is incorrect, I made a
typo… The link should have read: http://www.sfjssantafe.com

Sorry.

Thomas.