My first bezel settings

I am at the point where i want to attempt my first bezel settings. I
am going through the Rio catalog and am a little confused with my
wire choices. Being my first attempt at soldering and creating my
own mount like this these might be some seriously silly questions.

Rio offers

.999 bezel wire
.925 stepped bezel wire

First what is the reason behind the step in the stepped wire, is this
prefered? Second do they not make bezel wite in sterling? Are there
any concerns in soldering.999 bezel to.925 sheet “back”? If i do this
can i legally still advertize this piece as sterling? My
understanding of the law states that it must be at least.925 silver
content to be listed as sterling but i would like to verify this with
the experts

Thank you

Stepped bezels are used most often in open backed settings. The step
supports the stone. My problem is that I feel the step area is not
really wie enough for anything be very small stones, so I just make
my own steped bezel out of a piece of square wire and regular bezel

Most people use fine silver (.999) for their bezels because it is
easier to burnish against the stone. You can use sterling if you
want, and depending on what size of bezel you want, sterling may be
all you can find from Rio. Personally I like a thicker fine silver
bezel than Rio stocks. I used to get a 26 guage from Swest before
Stuller closed them down which was very nice for my larger pieces. I
refuse to fight with Stuller’s strange and complicated ordering
process so I am having to adjust to the lighter guages that Rio
offers. Maybe I will check H&S and see if they have a thicker fine
silver bezel wire available.


Hey Dan,

I wouldn’t worry about calling your work “sterling” if you’re
soldering a pure silver bezel onto it. After all, the concern is
whether your metal is at least as pure as it is stamped, not whether
it has an even higher total silver content, which the fine silver
bezel would add to the piece.

The reason bezels are often fine (pure) silver instead of sterling
is that when the fine silver is pushed up against a stone, it tends
to stay put, whereas the sterling has a bit more natural “spring” to
it, and will tend to spring away from the stone slightly. The step in
the bezel you inquired about is to “sit” the bottom of the stone on,
or in some cases the girdle of a faceted stone. If you are soldering
your bezel to a flat sterling sheet, for setting a cabachon, I’d
forget the stepped bezel, and use a plain flat bezel. The stone will
sit directly on the flat plate, unless you want to prop it up to a
higher level with something underneath the stone. You’ll want to
solder the bezel together with a hard silver solder, so it won’t melt
apart during the soldering to the back-plate. I’d use medium solder
for soldering the bezel to the backplate. By the way, I’m no big fan
of most commercial- made bezel wire. It is VERY thin, and difficult
to work with. I prefer about a 22 gauge bezel, and even thicker if
the stone is larger. The bezel width will vary according to the
thickness of the stone. The thicker gauge of bezel is much easier to
work with, and makes nicer looking setting job, in my experience.

All metalsmiths have their own preferences and techniques, and you
will undoubtedly find your own, as well.

Good luck!
Jay Whaley UCSD Craft Center

Ok, so for all of you fabricating your own bezels, are you cutting
your own out of sheet? Any secrets for cutting them straight? Still
very much a

newbie at fabricating…

CeltCraft Beads & Jewelry

Thank you Jay and Paul. Now the stepped bezel makes sense. I went
ahead and ordered 1/2 ounce of a few different bezel wire sizes so i
can play. Also just ordered Fine sheet so i wouldnt stress :slight_smile: Anyway
that with solder, pickle pot and flux with a few other tools, I
think i am just about ready to give it a shot. This gives me 3 days
to work on some design drawings.

Again Thanks Much

Hey Jay,

Good point about the thin bezel wire that most suppliers provide !
It IS too thin and it tends to crumple when rolled and/or crimped.
It also doesn’t take much to wear it through when polishing and the
durability of the piece is also diminished.

You might suggest some suppliers who have alternative thicknesses
and, for that matter, other widths. Sometimes I like to inject some
design into the upper portion of the bezel stock and a bit more
width means wider design parameters.

It occurred to me that since you are an instructor at UCSD you might
mention whether your classes are available to the public as are many
other University programs that have broad appeal. Thanks again, Ron

Mills, Mills
Gem Co. Los Osos, Ca.

Ok, so for all of you fabricating your own bezels, are you cutting
your own out of sheet? Any secrets for cutting them straight? 

I use the standard, commercial 28G fine silver strip. Works fine,
looks good.

You can attain the look of thick bezel with 28G. The secret (here I
am giving away trade secrets) is in the cut of the stone and the
height of the bezel wire. If the cabachon is cut with a well defined
bezel, shoulder and dome, and your bezel is slightly taller than the
shoulder of the cab, then you will be burnishing a wee bit of bezel
over the shoulder onto the dome of the cab. The portion which folds
over onto the dome gives the illusion of the bezel being thicker than
it really is.



Yes, you could cut the bezel strip out of a sheet, but I think you’d
have better luck rolling out a square wire of slightly less width
than you want the finished bezel to be. Then, using the flat rollers
on a rolling mill, working on the edge of the rollers, roll the
square wire down, by degrees, to the right thickness.

The key is to make sure your square wire (I recommend fine silver)
is perfectly square and dead straight, and that you are feeding the
wire into the rollers perpendicular to the rollers. That is why I
recommend using the edge of the rollers as a visual guide, to keep
the wire moving straight through the mill. Tighten the mill in small
increments for each roll, and you will avoid having the wire “trying
to escape” the straight line you are working to keep.

It sounds complicated, but with a little experience, you will be
making any width and thickness of bezel in less than 15 minutes,
start to finish, from poured ingot to finished bezel.

Jay Whaley UCSD Craft Center

1 Like


Well, I am one of those “do it yourselfers” who strongly believe
that making your own stock, especially wire and bezel, makes a lot of
sense. I think it gives you a lot more creative freedom, at minimal
expense. Others can disagree with that opinion if they want…but
metal suppliers are NEVER going to make all the different sizes and
shapes of wire and bezel that you can custom-make yourself, for each
unique project. Yes, I do teach classes at the UCSD Craft Center in
San Diego, and since you have offered me the opportunity to promote
my classes, I will do so. Our classes are, in fact, open to the
public, and you can check out our curriculum at our website: (yes, that is a dash after the www, the boss
thought it was more creative…) Our next classes start April 10 and
run for 9 weeks. We also have a studio program where you can just
work in the studio and make use of our equipment and hand tools.

(Thanks for the plug, Ron!)
Jay Whaley

about the thin bezel wire that most suppliers provide ! It IS too
thin and it tends to crumple when rolled and/or crimped. 

You can buy 22 or 24 gauge fine silver stock and mill it to the
desired thickness…or do the same with a length of flat
wire…and you’ll have a custom bezel that should withstand
burnishing and polishing.

Ok, so for all of you fabricating your own bezels, are you cutting
your own out of sheet? Any secrets for cutting them straight? 

I use both store bought strip and sheet material for bezels. When I
cut from sheet, I just measure and draw my straight lines with a
skinny sharpie. Works well so far. I’d love to try the rolling wire
in a mill method, but I don’t have a rolling mill just yet. I just
got my first kiln…next will either be a proper tumbler (my HF one
died) or a proper bench (instead of an old sewing table).

Dawn B. in Taylor, Texas

Hey Jay,

I didn’t mean to convey the impression that I was “shilling” for
your classes. But, I am glad that you perceived it to be an
opportunity for promoting your endeavours. It seems to me that since
you are doing such a great job in China that your domestic classes
might also be an opportunity !You might want to give us a better idea
of what your program is all about, what it costs, what the hours of
involvement might entail and what the schedule is.San Diego is a
great place to visit and your classes might make the trip doubly
enjoyable. Good luck and best wishes,

Ron Mills at Mills Gem Co. Los Osos, Ca.

I am a student at the UCSD Crafts Center jewelry classes. This is my
third year, and believe me it is exceptional.

There are two instructors, Jay Whaley and Carol Sivets. Having
previously taken instructions from both, this semester I am taking
one class with each. They really complement each other.

Jay does make certain his students know how to alloy, melt, mold and
roll. Most recently I am making large diameter tubing. Ain’t easy,
but I will get it done.

I do recommend to anyone in the San Diego area to take a class here.
I promise it will not be the last one. The Studio Program is an
incredible value, bench and all tools. Available any time there is
not a class in session. It is a great benefit for me.

A satisfied student.

Wow, so many different approaches… all of which have been saved
and filed away for future use. Y’ all are just awesome!

CeltCraft Beads & Jewelry

I just got my first will either be a proper tumbler
(my HF one died) or a proper bench (instead of an old sewing

Totally not my business, but…

My own rule of thumb when buying tools, etc, is to buy first the
thing there is no substitute for. For that reason, I still work at a
desk that is more than 50 years old (and has had the legs cut off
and glued back because it didn’t fit through a door 30 years ago). A
real bench would be lovely, but the desk is OK. I only got a buffing
machine because I came across one used, cheap-- nice to have, but my
flexshaft did the job.

Now, a rolling mill-- I’m no where good enough with a hammer to do
without that.



This ancient old smith has used a paper cutter for cutting sheet
silver and gold and has done so for decades. I have several
different sizes and have gotten them very cheaply at garage sales and
flea markets. My experience has been that they will cut very
accurately and effectively up to about eighteen gauge. They are also
very good for making accurate repetitive cuts in heavier stock such
as wire. The older paper cutters are best and they come with heavy
cast iron working parts attached to hard rock maple. The board is
also wooden, but with a quadrille layout for aligning the stock. A
certain amount of technique must be acquired just as it is for
cutting paper accurately…careful tho; paper cutters have
absolutely no conscience and will just as efficiently remove digits !
Paper cutter usage when under the influence should always be
practised near a hospital…Ron Mills, Mills Gem Co. Los Osos, Ca.


Actually that is a good point…a nice bench would be lovely…but a
rolling mill and/or new tumbler would be so much more useful. My old
sewing table works just fine as a work station as it is, bristling
with vice and clamp-on bench pin and stacked with other stuff close
at hand. Not pretty, but it works.

Thanks for butting in :slight_smile:
Dawn B. in Taylor, Texas

In addition to those great old paper cutters (for cutting bezels), I
found that those big “tin snips” were useful for cutting thin metal
sheet to make bezels. Despite their size, these snips are useless for
cutting heavier sheet or wire. But they work well for making long,
straight cuts on thin sheet.

Judy Bjorkman

Actually that is a good point...a nice bench would be lovely...but
a rolling mill and/or new tumbler would be so much more useful. 

I’m as much of a tool nut as the next person, but a real bench is a
wonderous thing. I gave myself one for a milestone birthday. (It
arrived my truck, then I found I had no way to get it inside! It was
fully assembled and very heavy. I had to sit outside with it for
three hours until a friend could arrive to help me carry it in. Now I
know – ask more questions when ordering!)

Anyway, a real jeweler’s bench my improve your speed of product –
so much work space – every tool in its place!

One of my favorite features of mine is this pull out flat space –
they know jewelers tend to cover the top of their bench – so
there’s this pull out board thing you can write on or whatever.

I have a picture up in the bench exchange, probably page 14 or


Elaine Luther
Metalsmith, Certified PMC Instructor ™
Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay

Hi Dan,

First of all I wish you well on your bezel making, and with that, A
step bezel is ideal for a stone that you wish to display both sides
or has no flaw to hide. I would say, experiment with different bezel
wires, some like the scallop bezel wire require little if any work
in closing it around the stone. Now if you solder .999 to .925 you
should have no problem with calling your work Sterling, but you might
want to mention that a finer material is used for the bezel itself. I
would prefer to solder using hard solder for the whole bezel. A
trivet might be of some help if you are soldering the backing on to
your bezel wire.

have fun!