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Setting Amber


#1

G’day all…

I have a medium sized amber cabochon with an insect of some sort
trapped within. It really is a beautiful piece and I would like to
set it as a pendant for my wife.

I know I should be able to pull this info from the archives, believe
me I have tried. I got a lot of very interesting info on shaping and
polishing amber, but not a lot on the does and don’ts of setting it.
I can bezel set cabochon stones fairly well and don’t have any
issues with the procedure… but having totally ruined a couple of
nice little opals… I am loath to endanger this amber piece
through lack of experience. Can any one out there tell me of any
special considerations when setting Amber in a Sterling bezel? I know
its soft and intolerant of heat, but what about the pressure when
rolling over the bezel (the ghosts of my opals are glaring at me
reproachfully)… I would hate to crack it…

thanks in advance for any help offered

John Bowling


#2

John, I would recommend using fine silver for the bezel itself. Much
less resistance to your tools and should roll down on the amber
smoothly. Keep to smooth, not sharp, tools. You might also consider
cutting the bezel strip from the top edge towards the middle. you
could file down along the cut to create room to fold each piece
down. This would require less pressure. I’ve set amber, as long as
you don’t scratch it and work without sharp blows you should be fine.

Marianne


#3

Hi John,

I know many are going to cringe at this but when I was doing my
apprentceship in Melbourne many years ago with a Latvian jeweller who
made traditional Baltic jewellery, we made extra thick bezels for the
amber pieces around 1mm (depending on the size of the stone) and put
a couple of dabs of epoxy on the sides of the stone to hold it in
place. Don’t use too much glue and don’t put it on the back of the
stone as it may show through if transparent.

Roger


#4
I can bezel set cabochon stones fairly well and don't have any
issues with the procedure.... but having totally ruined a couple
of nice little opals..... I am loath to endanger this amber piece
through lack of experience. 

As I said before, bezels are not easy. Just because one can manage
some setting scenarios, it does not mean that experience can be
translated to others. You must prepare the bearing precisely, no
matter how long it takes. After that only a little pressure will be
required to close the bezel. Problems arise when bearing is not
fitted well, and extra muscle is used to close the gap. This must be
avoided at any cost. Precision is the key. Forget about using burs.
Only gravers will give you control, which is required for this
procedure.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#5

Hi John,

but what about the pressure when rolling over the bezel 

What method are you using to set your cabochons? It might sound an
obvious thing to say, but it may simply be a case of using less
force to upset the bezel. Do you know what went wrong when setting
your opals? What are you using to support the setting whilst setting
the stone and what tools are you using?

If you can give some more maybe we can narrow down the
problem?

Helen
UK
http://www.hillsgems.co.uk
http://helensgems.ganoksin.com/blogs/


#6
Can any one out there tell me of any special considerations when
setting Amber in a Sterling bezel? I know its soft and intolerant
of heat, but what about the pressure when rolling over the bezel? 

John - You are correct that setting amber is a bit different from
other material. Amber with included insects is especially brittle
since it has not been annealed. Annealing would have covered the
insect with the typical tiny discs.

I’d suggest using an open-back setting. Make a bezel with 26 to 28
gauge fine silver or 22K as usual and solder to 22 or 24 gauge
backing. I tend to make amber settings just a very, very tiny bit
looser than most cabs. I don’t want a really tight fit, just tight
enough. Often amber will require an inner seat to accommodate a
rounded edge. Quite often, the seat isn’t even because the stone is
very irregular. It just takes more time to get it right. I usually
make the bezel taller than usual so that I can file it to the correct
height. I place the amber inside the bezel (and it’s a lot easier
with an open back) and then scribe inside the bezel to mark the
varying height of the stone. Use a small scissors - like the Joyce
Chen ones - and trim down to your scribe mark, then file and sand to
the center of the mark. Get the entire piece completely finished
prior to setting the amber.

Then set as usual doing the 9 oclock, 3, 12 and 6 oclock points to
start bringing in the bezel. I use a roller bezel pusher rather than
a pointy one. Finish bringing in all the intermediate places to where
it all holds the stone without movement. Bring the bezel down on the
amber tightly by very carefully placing your roller pusher at a 45
degree angle to finally snug the bezel to the amber. If you are very
steady, burnish the edge of the bezel with a flat graver. If you have
slipped in the setting, clean up the marks with a rubber wheel and
very carefully bring up a finish shine by hand.

If your design doesn’t permit an open back for the stone, you need
to leave enough space for dental floss to get your amber out after
marking the height of the bezel.

Finish the piece by rubbing the amber on your clean jeans to remove
the tiny scratches that happen while setting.

Judy Hoch