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Setting Lightening Ridge black opals


#1

Hello Everyone,

I have purchased a number of black opals from a reputable dealer.
All are all nicely cut to accommodate setting them and minimizing
the risk of breakage. The underside of the opals are just slightly
rounded with some potch still attached.

I have read all that I can find in the Orchid archives regarding
setting opals and was left feeling uncertain about how to set them
properly. I hand fabricate my jewelry and thought that with enough
care and forethought I could successfully set the opals in a form
fitting bezel without the use of any additional aids.

After reading the archives I have become more acutely aware of the
need to provide a cushion of some sort within the bezel to protect
the opal.

However, I question some of what I’ve read written in the archives,
i. e., to use epoxy and then put oil over it so that the epoxy
doesn’t stick to the opal. Really? I do know that oil is not good
for gemstone quality opals.

From the archives I’ve identified 3 different materials that have
been suggested as a ‘cushion’ for setting an opal in a bezel: epoxy
glue, silicone caulk, and Jett Sett. My first concern is if this
setting needs to be repaired or replaced at some future date, will
the opal separate/release without damage from any of the above
mentioned materials?

And, regarding silicone, there are many different formulations in
the market place. Surely, some are better than others, and some may
have additives/chemicals that are risky to the health and well-being
of a delicate opal.

Jim Binnion, can you offer some insight?

I would appreciate hearing from those of you who have real
experience in setting gem quality opals and what steps you take to
protect them in a bezel setting.

Thank you,
Vicki


#2

No glue or padding please. Just be sure that you cut your seat to
fit the bottom of the opal perfectly. Safe stone setting is more
about the seat than the metal holding it in.

I like to use high karat gold for bezels on fragile stones.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer
timothywgreen.com


#3
Safe stone setting is more about the seat than the metal holding it
in. 

This is a great point Jo. This is something I really need to work
on. I’ve put so much work into perfecting my bezels, but my stone
seats leave a lot tobe desired. They’re fine if I’m setting a
precision cut round, faceted stone into a bezel I’ve made, as a
setting burr will sort out the seat nicely, but for fancy shaped
stones or something like a fragile opal, I wouldn’t knowhow to go
about making the perfect seat! I’m guessing that a fragile stone set
into an imperfect setting, with one accidental tap on the stone,
you’d belucky if you didn’t end up with your lovely opal being
broken. Food for thought! I shall be watching out for any tips to do
with this.

Helen
UK


#4
Safe stone setting is more about the seat than the metal holding
it in. 

This is a great point Jo. This is something I really need to work on.
I’ve put so much work into perfecting my bezels, but my stone seats
leave a lot tobe desired. They’re fine if I’m setting a precision cut
round, faceted stone into a bezel I’ve made, as a setting burr will
sort out the seat nicely, but for fancy shaped stones or something
like a fragile opal, I wouldn’t knowhow to go about making the
perfect seat! I’m guessing that a fragile stone set into an imperfect
setting, with one accidental tap on the stone, you’d belucky if you
didn’t end up with your lovely opal being broken. Food for thought! I
shall be watching out for any tips to do with this.

I will pass on one tip, that Kate Wolf teaches in her wax carving
classes, and one I have seen Blaine Lewis use for stone setting in
one of his video tutorials.

First mark you stone and the setting with a sharpie, so you will be
placing the stone into the metal in the same orientation ever time.

After you have roughed out you seat for the gemstone, mark the
inside of you bezel, or other setting with black ink. A sharpie or
art pen works.

Then place your stone back into the setting, carefully letting bind
or rock. Now remove the stone and under magnification study the
bezel or setting, to see where the gemstone has removed the black
ink.

Those “cleaned” spots are your contact points, and there is where
you need to focus you removal of metal.

Repeat this process as often as it takes to get your final tight but
perfect fit, removing just tiny bits of the offending metal each
time.

I use this technique nearly daily when setting valuable, fragile of
difficult gemstones.


#5

After you have used burrs or gravers to cut your basic seat for the
stone, you can use a number of ways to check the stone fit. There is
a spray (don’t remember the name) that is lightly sprayed on the
seat, or alternatively, I have used a black marker to the same
effect. When the stone is placed, rock it gently with your nail, in
several directions. After it is removed, there will be shiny little
marks where the stone is touching the seat. Work on those high spots
only, a little at a time, and recheck frequently. When the stone is
level and does not rock, with no hidden high spots, you are ready to
set. It does take time to do it correctly, and worth every minute
when workingwith high value stones!

Melissa Veres
Engraver and goldsmith


#6
There is a spray (don't remember the name) that is lightly sprayed
on the seat,... 

Thank you so much! You are talking about “Seat Check” from Rio
Grande, and it so happens I have it. I haven’t used it yet so I
forgot about it.

And, thank you Jo for your insights, I will use a high karat gold
for my bezels.

Vicki


#7

You can just use sawdust like the old timers. If you are doing
bezels that works fine. I’d skip all those plastics. The most
important thing is not hitting your gem when setting and then not
putting too much. pressure when setting also. That’s the practice
makes perfect part. If you are a first timer use some onyx and get a
couple under your belt then use your least favorite Opal for your
second setting cause you will probably have beginners luck on the
first which will go great and give you a healthy dose of self over
confidence. Good luck. Sawdust is awesome and natural and you have to
do a little actual work to aquire it which is rewarding in itself


#8

My apologies for piggy-backing on this thread, and thank you to all
those who have offered tips for making the perfect stone seat.

Helen
UK