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Setting opals


#1

Hi there, i was wondering if there was any kind of product that can
coat an opal or a ny stone for that matter so that you can solder
while it is in the setting.

i am trying to figure out the best way to set this particula ring i
am making. itis to be setinto a casting from the underside. However
itis a very irregula shape in all directions and i am having trouble
getting it to fit inside the carving i have made. It seems that if
one sides fits snugly another is too loose etc etc. i thought
perhaps i could solder a sleeve on the inside of the casting to make
it snug and then fold it over or something…? any info would be
helpful

thanks skadi


#2

There are products you can use…a paste of sorts…though I don’t
remember the names of them…but I’m not sure that they would be
good enough for using on an opal or even soldering very close to the
stone itself. Opals are extremely heat sensitive. One trick I learned
with a jeweler in Maryland for soldering (sizing) an opal or other
stone ring was actually to have a small jar lid with water in it and
setting the stone so that it was touching the water keeping it cool.
But it sounds like you want to solder where the stone is, which would
mean you need to get the local area hot, so I don’ think that would
work either.

Jeanne
http://www.jeanniusdesigns.com


#3

I have a number of small opals that I am looking to set as part of
rings, pendants, and possibly a set of earrings.

Most of them are small ovaloid shapes in the 10-15 mm x 5-10 mm size
range.

Currently I am doing Bezel setting for most of my stone work. I am
very concerned that if I Bezel set them I will loose most of the
stone and the beauty of the opals.

Can folks suggest the best way to set these?
Thanks,
Eric


#4

Hi Eric,

I found this out after I had set two solid opals in bezel settings.

After I had set the opals, someone came up to me and said that in
most cases opals, because they can be fragile, a set with glue into a
fake setting. Fake meaning that the setting is for show only and has
zero structural value.

Gallery wire is another option I guess. I’d be interested in seeing
what other have to add.

Regards Charles Z.


#5

It is amazing how little metal you have to cover the opal with. It
takes very little bezel metal to hold a gemstone well in a bezel
setting. Set it under high magnification, and use no more metal than
it takes to hold the edge of the opal. Once the stone is tight and
secure, trim the bezel back, and you can burnish the edge of the
bezel back to leave almost the entire gem visible.


#6

James,

Ok so I have to ask (and I realize its probably a real N00B of a
question) I was always under the impression that once I push the
bezel over that is it, there is no way to trim it back so get it
right on the first try. So how can I do this, if I understand this I
suspect my work will start improving 10 fold so I am kinda excited
for the answer.

Thanks,
Eric


#7

I do not use glue to secure an opal, except in the cases where I am
doing repairs on poorly made or extremely worn jewelry, when I
customer is not willing to spend the money it would take to do the
job correctly. The customer is always advised ahead of time that I
will be using a little cement if this is what I have to do.

An opal certainly can be set securely and tightly in a bezel, but it
does take experience and skill to do so with confidence. Like any
setting style, it pays to learn/practice on something other than a
valuable gemstone while you hone those skills.


#8
Currently I am doing Bezel setting for most of my stone work. I am
very concerned that if I Bezel set them I will loose most of the
stone and the beauty of the opals. 

My first thought is that the bezels only need to go just past the
apex of the curve on the edge to secure the stone, so no need to
cover much of the stone. White opals do benefit from a dark
background, so some will use a closed back bezel and oxidize if
silver or use some other method to darker the back plate. That does
qualify as an enhancement that should be disclosed to the customer in
my opinion. That said, I think bezel set opals are beautiful and also
practical as the bezel does provide some protection to the fragile
stones.

Mark


#9

A few opal setting considerations:

  1. Glue is tasteless and vulgar; it will yellow given sufficient
    time (yes even epoxy 330). There is a good chance it will let go
    given sufficient time. Should you ever want to unset the stone to
    size or alter or repair a piece it is often problematical to dissolve
    the glue.

  2. A claw setting concentrates the holding force on four or five (or
    however many claws there are) small points. That can be a risk
    factor: I’ve seen many opals chipped at the point of claw contact, or
    cracked right through, the crack starting at such a point. Also in
    the space between the claws the opal may be exposed & unprotected
    against falls and other impact hazards.

  3. Opal is a fragile stone and chippy. Hence protection is
    beneficial. A bezel setting puts a shock absorbing protective metal
    cushion around the entire circumference of the stone and can be
    opened to remove the stone if the need arises.

Cheers
Hans Durstling
Moncton, Canada


#10
because they can be fragile, a set with glue into a fake setting 

Setting stones with glue could be appropriate in arts and crafts. In
goldsmithing, such practice is never acceptable. There is a lot of
fragile stones that are used in jewellery. There is never a reason
to resort to the use of glue, except total and complete
incompetence.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#11
After I had set the opals, someone came up to me and said that in
most cases opals, because they can be fragile, a set with glue
into a fake setting. Fake meaning that the setting is for show
only and has zero structural value. 

My opinion is, no glue ever, except for pearls. I was once told that
glue is to jewelers what drywall screws are to a carpenter, a sign
of incompetence. ; )

Mark


#12

If the bezels are made the correct size so that only the smallest
amount of metal secures the stones, and left open backed, you
shouldn’t lose any (or much) of the stones’ beauty. It’s so easy to
obscure too much of a stone with excess metal and also, if the bezel
is too tall, it won’t close nicely.

Amount of metal above the seat, the minimum needed to secure stone
and thick enough metal so that it compresses rather than springing
out and creating gaps.

Helen
UK


#13
Ok so I have to ask (and I realize its probably a real N00B of a
question) I was always under the impression that once I push the
bezel over that is it, there is no way to trim it back so get it
right on the first try. So how can I do this, if I understand this
I suspect my work will start improving 10 fold so I am kinda
excited for the answer. 

Bezels are trimmed using safe files. Safe files cannot be purchased.
They are made by slightly rounding and polishing sides of escapement
file. Final trimming is done by highly polished graver.

Second approach is to prepare bezel of correct hight right away. It
takes longer, but it results in the best appearance. Stone is placed
in the bezel and height is noted. If adjustment is required, the
stone is taken out and bezel if filed in normal fashion. Process is
repeated until correct height is obtained.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#14

Hi Hans,

 1) Glue is tasteless and vulgar.
 3) Opal is a fragile stone and chippy. A bezel setting <snip>

I was a bit suspicious about glue, and wouldn’t have used it, so I
used sterling and made the top of the bezel very thin.

What about gallery wire?

Regards Charles A.


#15
An opal certainly can be set securely and tightly in a bezel, but
it does take experience and skill to do so with confidence. Like
any setting style, it pays to learn/practice on something other
than a valuable gemstone while you hone those skills. 

Lol, my teacher was cringing when I was setting a solid opal pair. I
just did it because I was short on time and it just had to be done.
:smiley:
CIA


#16
There is never a reason to resort to the use of glue, except total
and complete incompetence. 

I can think of two, Leonid. If asked to reset a stone into an
old/worn out or otherwise in dire need of repair, piece of jewelry,
and setting the stone properly would require rebuilding or repairing
the jewelry first, which would then cost more than the customer is
able or willing to pay. In such instances, sometimes, simply to
satisfy a customer who wishes a stone back in their jewelry and
doesn’t care if it’s permanent or well done… Well, then sometimes,
glue may be the only practical way to accomodate them. This does not
qualify as actual jewelry making/goldsmithing of course. But it may
be something that comes up in the course of being in the business of
jewelry work/selling/repairing, and the end result of satisfying a
customers request, with the understanding that it is not really a
good method and may be temporary, makes such a method practical and
acceptable. Unfortunate perhaps, but sometimes, the right way is
beyond a customer’s budget. This may often occur also in cases where
properly rebuilding a setting to properly allow resetting a stone
might cost more than the jewelry is actually worth. Examples might
include inexpensive silver jewelry… It is valid to say that the use
of glue is not a good method or the right method in general, but in
the real world, there are indeed instances where, for that particular
instance, it’s the best answer, even if not the best practice.

The second instance which occurs to me is in the “setting” of pearls
on posts instead of in prongs or bezels, or whatever. While the
classic method of splitting a post, ftting a tiny wedge, such that
when the pearl is pressed in, expansion of the post makes it
permanent, is nice, I can honestly say that in my whole career, I’ve
only seen this done in commercial jewelry a few times, and those were
old pieces. Everything else has relied on glue. Perhaps this is
simply an illustration of an industry that’s gotten lazy, but it
certainly is common practice.

Peter


#17

Depending on the color type and clarity of the opal, covering up
part of the sides with the bezel can actually make the visible part
brighter by preventing light from entering the sides and washing out
the color. You can darken the inside of the bezel to enhance this
effect. If you are comfortable using prongs and the setting
configuration is reasonably protected, go for it.


#18
I can think of two, Leonid. If asked to reset a stone into an
old/worn out or otherwise in dire need of repair, piece of
jewelry, and setting the stone properly would require rebuilding or
repairing the jewelry first, which would then cost more than the
customer is able or willing to pay. 

Consider the following scenario. Let’s say that you yielded to
customer demand and glue stone in, instead of rebuilding the ring as
required. Some time after such repair, the client may attend some
social gathering, where some other jeweler may be present who upon
seeing your repair may comment “What a piece of kaka”. Do you think
your client will admit that it was he/she who twisted your elbow to
compromise your standards, or your client may say “Yeah, I would not
go back to that guy. He really screwed me up.”

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#19

Mark, there is one exception to this. Many years ago, when I was
repairing lots of jewelry, I would get the simple opal rings made in
Thailand and sold on the then new TV marketing shows.

I discovered that many of the broken opals resulted from uneven
bearings. To resolve that problem without completely rebuilding the
setting, I would cut a new stone and lay in a thin film of 2 part
clear epoxy under the stone’s girdle… Of course the epoxy was not
intended to hold the stone; the prongs did that, but the epoxy would
level things up and provide a good base for the stone. Cheers from
Don in SOFL


#20

Consider the following scenario. Let’s say that you yielded to
customer demand and glue stone in, instead of rebuilding the ring as
required. Some time after such repair, the client may attend some
social gathering, where some other jeweler may be present who upon
seeing your repair may comment “What a piece of kaka”. Do you think
your client will admit that it was he/she who twisted your elbow to
compromise your standards, or your client may say “Yeah, I would not
go back to that guy. He really screwed me up.” That will never be a
problem. I would never make any such move without first establishing
a full understanding of all the options, and costs with the customer
before hand.

In the end it is left up to my customer how they wish me to proceed
after they have had this discussion.

I am providing a service to my customer, and in the end it is their
needs and limitations that determine my path forward on their
jewelry, and not my own ego or wishes.