Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

New to bezel setting


#1

Hi all,

I’m new to bezel setting. I’ve done it successfully with round
shaped stones, but for some reason, I am not successful with odd or
square shaped stones.

I have been at my bench for 7 hours today, trying to get just one
bezel setting done. It shouldn’t take this long. I feel like crying.

I am using 24 guage sheet metal, some fancy bezel wire, and medium
solder paste. I have a small butane micro torch that has worked fine
other times, so that shouldn’t be the problem. I do make sure
everything is SUPER clean, and the paste isn’t dirty or anything.

I think that my problem may be that I can’t seem to get the bezel
wire 100% flush with the sheet metal. I file, and file, and file,
and file until I just want to crush the piece. But I can’t seem to
get it all the way flush. I’ve gotten it pretty close, with maybe
one corner showing a wee bit of light through, but then I use my
’extra hands’ to try and push that corner down while using my other
tongs to push down the other corners while soldering. But it doesn’t
work. The solder paste doesn’t flow. As I said before, I have no
problems at all with round shaped stones. I must be doing something
wrong?

Please, does anyone have any suggestions for me? I’m about to lose
my noodles.

Marci


#2

Firstly, I would can the paste solder. It doesn’t flow as nicely
because, imho, it doesn’t have enough mass in any one spot to feed a
capillary action well. And that’s what you need to go around corners
and along a seam.

Use a balled up snippet of sheet solder placed at the outside
corners of your fancy shaped bezel, and then along the length of it.
I know a lot of people place the solder on the inside of the bezel
but I feel that just makes it harder for the heat to reach it. Which
means you pour on more heat and risk melting the top edge of your
bezel wire. I like to have the backsheet larger than the bezel and
apply the heat first to the ‘flange’ sticking out and then move in to
the bezel. Hard solder is, again imho, more agreeable to flowing and
making a nice smooth fillet. You can draw the solder along the seam
with your torch, as solder flows towards the heat.

As for flat… instead of filing try using sandpaper on a dead flat
smooth surface, glass is good, and with your finger pressing on the
top of the bezel, move it around. While a back and forth motion seems
natural, it tends to abrade the metal in an uneven way, because in
some places the abrasion is happening along the edge and in some
places its across the edge. It will abrade faster across the edge. So
lap the piece in a circular motion so you get uniformity of abrasion.

Absolute perfection of fit is not really all that necessary.
Contrary to what’s been written, solder will bridge a gap as long as
its not crazy, a coupla thousandths of an inch gap is tolerable. Oh,
and if the sanding produces a bur along the edge, just knock that off
gently with a file or sandpaper, just so its not so sharp an edge
which impedes flow.

Now go get your noodles back.


#3

Dear Marci,

I am a few months into making jewellery and at the moment am doing
exclusively bezel settings. I have through trial and error come up
with my own method which works for me so I’ll share it with you.

You will get lots of people telling you all about having a clean,
tight joint, fluxing well, heating larger parts first, etc, etc even
though you’ve said you already do that. But anyway, I too used to
struggle and would end up with my settings not having that crisp
square look that I wanted. But running up to Christmas and setting a
lot of square and princess cuts, I came up with the following
method.

I use sheet silver, not bezel strip. I cut the length of the strip
the same as the outside perimeter of the stone, so that for a 4mm
square, I’ll cut it 16mm long - regardless of the thickness of the
metal. I used to shape it into a square and solder it closed but now
just bend it round roughly, solder it together and then shape it and
stretch it up to size on my square bezel mandrel, carefully with a
hammer. Keep shaping and stretching and fitting until it sits
perfectly over your upturned stone.

As for height of bezel, it depends whether I am only setting the one
stone or more than that. If more, I will base my height a little
taller than the stone with the deepest pavilion to be set and have
all the bezels the same height. Height equals pavilion depth plus
girdle plus a little for folding over. Measure this for the deepest
pavilion stone and it’ll work.

Then for the bearer which I also make out of sheet. I usually make
it by cutting a rectangle a couple of mm shorter than the bezel strip
and a mm or so shorter in height. I don’t bother soldering it closed.
I bend it into a square (with as crisp corners as you can manage) and
keep test fitting it into the back of the already made bezel
setting. I usually need to trim and refit a couple of times until it
fits perfectly.

My real trick that has worked an absolute treat for me is that I sit
the stone upside down on a flat surface, sit the bezel over it
(which by now fits perfectly) and fit the bearer into the top (bottom
really). Push it down until it is in contact with the stone. By now
the bearer should be a nice tight fit so that it won’t fall out when
you pick it up. Upturn the whole thing and inspect the stone in the
setting. If you have your desired amount of silver showing above the
girdle, giving you the right amount to fold over, you’re good to go.
If there’s too much, adjust the bearer in the bezel until the
desired amount of foldover is achieved. Once you’ve done this, turn
it upside down again, remove the stone carefully without moving the
bearer within the bezel. Flux it carefully and solder it upside down
so that the bearer is permanently soldered into the bezel.

Oftentimes, the bearer will stick out of the bottom of the bezel but
merely needs filing flush. Once this is done, you have a VERY neat,
square bezel setting custom fit to the stone in question. The same
method works for me for pretty much every shape. For trillion stones
(I don’t have a trillion bezel mandrel), I shape it using my
triangular bezel mandrel then the round one, to give the curved
edges and more rounded corners. For pears I cut the strip the same
size as the stone but allow for the thickness as I don’t have a
mandrel to stretch it up with, but I can shape a pear bezel using my
triangular plus oval or round mandrels depending on the pear’s
proportions.

It may be crude to some more experienced folks out there but it’s a
method that has evolved over a few months and it works great for me.
Hope it helps.

Helen
UK


#4

Hi again Marcie,

I meant to mention setting the stones. If you’ve read the posts
recently you’ll have read all about the dangers of setting princess
cut stones and how vulnerable they are at the corners. I’ll tell you
what I used to do and what result that gives and then I’ll tell you
how that evolved into how I set them now.

I use Thermo-loc which is a thermo plastic - soft when hot and hard
when cold. JettSet is a similar product which works in the same way.
I push my jewellery into it and set it in my bench vice. Take care
when setting it in the vice - if it is an open backed setting, the
thermo-plastic will try to squeeze up into the setting and if you
don’t notice, there’s no room for the cullet and pavilion of the
stone and you have to set it up again - so just push it down with a
narrow tool while it’s still warm if this happens.

I don’t have enough strength in my wrists/hands to use a bezel
pusher/ rocker/roller (or whatever they’re called) and so I use a
flat-ended prong pusher (which I’ve polished to a mirror finish) and
a hammer.

My original method for setting them was to turn in the sides first
in a sort of 12,6,9,3 pattern and then do the corners in the same
manner. However, I ended up with a look of having too much metal at
the corners so now I very carefully start with the corners, just
turning them over slightly to stop the stone coming out. After I’ve
turned the corners down a bit, I move onto the sides. But for each
side, I work from a corner into the middle of that side, then the
other corner into the middle. This seems to eliminate that excess
metal look. I do this for each side in the 12,6,9,3 method. I then
carefully go round all corners and sides again.

After that I sort or burnish the turned over edges, still using the
polished prong pusher and hammer with a sideways and upwards motion
to smooth out any tool marks.

It works for me (as long as I’m not too heavy handed and don’t break
the corners!).

Helen
UK


#5

Marci,

Shape the bezel around the stone. Solder that seam with hard solder.
Now put the soldered bezel around the stone and smooth it with
something that is flat and won’t push the top of the bezel over the
stone. Once that is fitting right take the bezel with the stone and
sand it on 220 or finer sandpaper on a flat surface. You can cover
the back of the stone with masking tape if you don’t want to scratch
up the backside of the stone. Once you can see that all the metal
has been sanded check to see if the stone still fits nicely. Cover
the back plate with flux, (I prefer paste flux for soldering bezels
to back plates), and press lightly. Then heat the piece, preferably
from the bottom up with the piece resting on a screen supported by
fire bricks. Once the flux dries out take a solder pick and lightly
press down an gaps while still heating. Then add solder and solder as
normal. I use wire solder and free hand it. If you are going to use
chips of solder you will have to stop and place the solder.

HTH

Rick Copeland
Silversmith and Lapidary Artisan
Rocky Mountain Wonders
Colorado Springs, Colorado
rockymountainwonders.com


#6

Marci–

Your extra hands are creating a heat sink. The little butane torch
can’t overcome it, which is why the solder won’t flow.

To remove the gaps from the beginning, try sanding the bezel flush
on a piece of sandpaper glued to a very flat surface, like a piece of
glass or masonite. To see the high spots on the bezel, first mark
the bottom of the ring with a Sharpie. Don’t stop sanding until the
color is gone. Then sand the top side of the backing plate the same
way. Oftentimes the sheet metal will have a slight camber that isn’t
readily apparent but will keep the assembly from mating precisely.
You will see the high spots immediately if it isn’t perfectly flat.

Depending upon the size of the bezel, you may want to use a charcoal
block, or even use a soldering tripod that will allow you to heat
from below without hitting your solder with the flame. You can use a
small pair of soldering tweezers to squeeze the bezel down to the
backing plate where you have a gap. The extra hand tool is probably
soaking up too much heat for your little torch. Save it for another
project.

John Walbaum


#7
Your extra hands are creating a heat sink. The little butane torch
can't overcome it, which is why the solder won't flow. 

This is the problem with working with little butane torches,
especially if you don’t have enough experience with “real” jeweler’s
torches to realize what the problem is. They just don’t produce
enough heat for many many situations.

If solder won’t flow, look to the Four F’s-- Fit, Fastidiousness
(cleanliness), Flame or Flux. With a butane hand-held, it ill almost
always be Flame.

Noel


#8

When I have a small gap under a portion of my fine silver bezel
strip, I hang just that part of the bezel over the edge of the sheet
and give it a little push to bend it down a bit. Then I most likely
will sand the bottom again, and see what it looks like then. I
regularly sand bezel bottoms without the stone in place, and then
check the shape again, because I often want the stone’s back to not
be scratched by sanding. I roll the stone-filled bezel on a hard
SMOOTH surface to get it shaped properly, only contacting it at what
will be the bottom edge of the bezel.

M’lou


#9

Marcimarie,

First I will describe the problems you are having as I see it, then
some solutions.

First: As someone who is fairly new at soldering, I think I
recognize the main problem you are experiencing. That is,
insufficient heat. The items you are using to hold down the bezel
against the sheet are large heat sinks. They need to be at least as
hot as the metal itself to not pull heat away from your work.

Second, filing an item to create an absolutely flat surface is
frustrating.

  1. A butane torch does not get as hot as the average jeweler’s
    choice of torch, which is gas and oxygen or gas and air, usually
    propane, natural gas or acetylene for the gas. These are much
    hotter, with not only more intensity of heat but also more volume.
    Jewelery makers choose them over butane because they start wanting
    to use hard solder and heat larger pieces, and they need more heat
    to do so.

Without getting a new torch you can try using thin binding wire to
press your bezels down. You just have to attach it so it does not
bind too near the previous solder joint, so it won’t get stuck to
the piece. You tie it on like a twist tie. Actually tying binding
wire is an art in itself. I found good in a book called
Jewelry Making by Murray Bovin, and another one called Form Emphasis
for Metalsmiths by Heikki Seppa.

For a simple bezel you would just bind it like a ribbon around a
wrapped present, its lines dividing the work into 4. Then twist-tie
the ends away from the piece - not on the bottom, but somewhere in
the air between the bezel and back sheet.

It also helps to make a little kink in the wire “in the air” on each
side, so it will stretch, while still pressing down. The expansion
and contraction of the piece and the wire makes it possible that the
wire might contract and dig into your piece if you don’t. I wish I
could draw you a picture here but think of a wire with a kink or a
fold in it instead of being a straight line.

Binding wire will absorb much less heat than a big old pair of
tweezers.

  1. Instead of filing the bottom of your bezel flat, glue or stick
    with 2-sided tape some sandpaper (the wet/ dry kind) onto a flat
    piece of acrylic (like fake windowpane) sand-side up of course, and
    rub the bezel on that, in little circles. It will flatten your bezel
    bottom exactly, unlike a file and the human hand which is impossible
    to control against creating facets.

I hope this helps you!

Connie L.
www.papayani.com


#10
I feel like crying Please, does anyone have any suggestions for me?
I'm about to lose my noodles. 

Hush…shhhhhhh…deep breath…it’ll be ok Marci. Noodles
aren’t all they are cracked up to be. (no pun intended).

Frustration in the learning curve of jewelry making is inherent in
the task. I remember spending days making a gypsy set ring from flat
stock for my high school sweet heart.

In order to get my bezels perfectly flat I used sand paper on a hard
flat surface and use a circular motion on the bezel to get it even
and flat. Filing always seems to come out lopsided with one corner,
as you say, lower. DO be very careful not to sand your fingertips as
you sand your bezel…it is extremely painful the next day.
Watch your heat as you solder and make sure you use enuf flux. When
you apply tongs or third hands they act as heat sinks and it is
difficult to keep the piece hot. I never liked paste solder, I use
chip.

Keep at it, it will come. My kid always says, “My mom is going to
make it look simple, it’s hard.” That’s the learning curve and I
will be the first to admit it’s a long one. But when you get good,
it’s hard to imagine how hard it was to get there.

Sorry if I sound too much like a mom…guess it comes with the
territory.

Lainie


#11

Marcimarie,

First I will describe the problems you are having as I see it, then
some solutions.

First: As someone who is fairly new at soldering, I think I
recognize the main problem you are experiencing. That is,
insufficient heat. The items you are using to hold down the bezel
against the sheet are large heat sinks. They need to be at least as
hot as the metal itself to not pull heat away from your work.

Second, filing an item to create an absolutely flat surface is
frustrating.

  1. A butane torch does not get as hot as the average jeweler’s
    choice of torch, which is gas and oxygen or gas and air, usually
    propane, natural gas or acetylene for the gas. These are much
    hotter, with not only more intensity of heat but also more volume.
    Jewelery makers choose them over butane because they start wanting
    to use hard solder and heat larger pieces, and they need more heat
    to do so.

Without getting a new torch you can try using thin binding wire to
press your bezels down, instead of larger items. You just have to
attach it so it does not bind too near the previous solder joint, so
it won’t get stuck to the piece. You tie it on like a twist tie.
Actually tying binding wire is an art in itself. I found good
in a book called Jewelry Making by Murray Bovin, and
another one called Form Emphasis for Metalsmiths by Heikki Seppa.

For a simple bezel you would just bind it like a ribbon around a
wrapped present, its lines dividing the work into 4. Then twist-tie
the ends away from the piece - not on the bottom, but somewhere in
the air between the bezel and back sheet.

It also helps to make a little kink in the wire “in the air” on each
side, so it will stretch, while still pressing down. The expansion
and contraction of the piece and the wire makes it possible that the
wire might contract and dig into your piece if you don’t. I wish I
could draw you a picture here but think of a wire with a kink or a
fold in it instead of being a straight line.

Binding wire will absorb much less heat than a big old pair of
tweezers.

I have gotten instructions on this forum to “raise a stitch” to keep
bezels in place but that is more for lateral stabilization, not
vertical.

  1. Instead of filing the bottom of your bezel flat, glue or stick
    with 2-sided tape some sandpaper (the wet/ dry kind) onto a flat
    piece of acrylic (like fake windowpane) sand-side up of course, and
    rub the bezel on that, in little circles. It will flatten your bezel
    bottom exactly, unlike a file and the human hand which is impossible
    to control against creating facets.

I hope this helps you!

Connie L.
www.papayani.com


#12

Marci try using sheet solder under the Bezel. Heat from bottom and
the weight of the bezel will help it flow in place.

Thanks Johneric


#13

I don’t think I have read in this bit of info about soldering…the
solder has to be as clean as the bezel and the base. Solder oxidizes
while it isn’t being used. I pull the wire solder through a 3M
Scotchbrite pad before each use…I don’t cut snippets and store
them, they also will oxidize. The same with sheet solder, it should
be cleaned before each use. Storing those extra snippets will not be
clean enough to flow.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” someone said.

Rose Marie Christison


#14
I don't think I have read in this bit of info about
soldering....the solder has to be as clean as the bezel and the
base. Solder oxidizes while it isn't being used. I pull the wire
solder through a 3M Scotchbrite pad before each use....I don't cut
snippets and store them, they also will oxidize. The same with
sheet solder, it should be cleaned before each use. Storing those
extra snippets will not be clean enough to flow. 

That is a VERY good point. This also occurred to me yesterday as I’ve
griped about solder and been on a quest for a particular kind of
solder which I really enjoyed using. I remembered yesterday that when
the said solder arrived with me, it was somewhat grimey as it was in
the same bag as polishing compound among other things, so I washed
the panels of solder and then pickled them too. Maybe that’s why it
worked better than anything else I’ve ever used! I spent about an
hour the other day rolling solder strip thinner (as it was too thick
to cut small pieces), cleaning it, pickling it and cutting it into
tiny pieces then I stored it in jars. Now I’ve read your post, I’m
thinking that that was probably a complete waste of time. Oh well.

I submit this post at the risk of looking and feeling a complete
fool!

Helen


#15
Storing those extra snippets will not be clean enough to flow. 

I do try not to snip up too much silver solder, but I have often
used leftover pieces with a little bit of tarnish on it and I think
maybe the flux cleans it off a bit. For your present amount of solder
snippets, Helen, I would suggest that you put a small piece of anti-
tarnish paper in the containers with them. If they are tarnished,
you could clean them with the aluminum foil and baking soda method.

One other reason to not snip up too much is that each job requires a
different amount of solder, so I tend to custom snip for each job.
This allows cleaning of the sheet or wire of solder, also, before
snipping. BTW, this is not such an issue with gold.

M’lou Brubaker
Minnesota, USA
http://www.craftswomen.com/M’louBrubaker


#16

Hi Helen,

I use sheet solder and I clean it with scotch brite or steel wool and
then cut it into tiny snipets which I store in little boxes.
Sometimes its quite a while before I use it all up. It doesn’t seem
to tarnish for me and seems to be good until the end. I do live in a
dry climate (Eastern Oregon) and that may make a difference. Just my
2 cents.

Jan
www.designjewel.com


#17

Marci; I have been reading this for a week or so and would like to
give you my input. Since I do a lot of production work with cabs I
have tried to refine my technique to what works well and fast and
remove what I feel are unnecessary steps.

I agree with the need for more heat. I use an acetylene and air
torch and it is capable of more than enough heat. I can use a fairly
low flame.I worked my first year with the mini butane and plumbers
torch types and was always frustrated. I think you can take
cleanliness to the extreme I have solder that has been in my box for
a year or more and while I used to clean it now I just use it I have
never had a problem with it flowing.Same with bezel wire. Use liquid
flux a few quick strokes of the brush and it’s done none of the
dabbing around with paste flux and having a seam halfway fluxed. You
can flux the whole piece easily to porevent fire scale. When you
solder the initial seam on the bezel make sure it is aligned. Most
problems I have come from not having the seam aligned perfectly. If
it is aligned right there should be no need to do any filing on the
bezel except maybe to remove a little solder on the seam. Place the
bezel wire on the sheet and perhaps push down on the entire bezel
with a piece of flat sheet. You can do this after fluxing and drying
the flux with the torch as the flux will make the bezel rise up.
Heat it until the bezel goes back down than use the piece of metal.
I might mention I only usually have to do this only on larger
bezels,say 1 in square.

When I sand the base it’s just a quick sand with a piece of 400 sand
paper. When soldering I use a piece of wire in fiberlocks. Cut a 2
inch piece of med. solder hold in the fiber locks. Go around and
around the bezel with the torch as you do it more you will learn
indicators of when it is the right temperature i.e. color of flux and
or metal as it gets hot. this it the tricky part just when it reaches
the right temp. touch the wire to the inside of the bezel you have to
back off with the torch just long enough to touch the wire then
return the heat still going around the bezel. The solder will follow
the heat It is kind of hard to get the timing down. I spent several
hours just making bezels on scrap and practicing this when I first
learned it but it is well worth the time as it can save you untold
hours later. If you do it right you will see the solder shoot around
the bezel. If it is a large bezel you might have to do it in a couple
places have your pick handy to push down on any place the bezel might
not be down on the sheet. I might add if you can see a wee bit of
light it is usually ok the solder will fill gaps to some extent of
course the less the better. I hardly ever use binding wire or other
means to hold down the bezel unless it is extremely large. You will
find that the more you practice the easier it becomes. If you work on
this you will be surprised at how fast you can do a bezel and how
easy it becomes. Hope this helps.

Dave


#18

Hi Jan,

Well I got a delivery of plumb silver solder from my friend the
other day and started to use it. To my chagrin, it would not flow
nicely as it had done the first time I’d used it. Then I remembered
that I had cleaned and pickled the first lot when it arrived as it
was a little grimey. So I pickled one of my new panels and tried it
again et voila perfect solder joints!

I may well pickle a few panels and snip them up as I have been
doing. I’m sure if they’re pre-pickled and stored in a small air
tight jar they should be good for as long as the jar’s contents last.
We’ll see.

Many thanks.
Helen
UK


#19

Hello all,

I can’t say I’ve ever had a problem with “grimey” solder not
flowing. Some of mine is pretty tarnished, but still seems to work.
Commonly, when solder won’t flow, it’s because things aren’t hot
enough.

Just my experience - your mileage may vary,

Judy in Kansas, who has lost her dearly loved “Powercat” watch. Sniff.


#20

In Garrison and Dowd, Handcrafting Jewelry (1972), pp. 38ff., it
discusses, with good pictures and drawings, how to bezel-set cabs
that are rectangular or trapezoidal.

Judy Bjorkman
Owego, NY