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Setting regular and irregular cabs


#1

Hi Everyone!!!

I’m working on setting some regular and irregular cabs. I am having
a LOT offrustration with this b/c the fine silver I was taught to
use melts before the solder. So, I try fusing instead. Then, the
silver deforms. I have tried altering flames size, distance etc.
Nothing works. I have had success in the past. but I think the
silver bezel wire I used was NOT fine silver…(it was during a
class-we just used what we were given…)

Is it OK to use 925 or Argentium for bezels/settings and NOT use
fine silver?

I am new to setting stones, so any and all input will be graciously
acceptedand appreciated!

Thanks!
Ara


#2

I have either made using my roller or used purchased sterling silver
bezel wire for years. Solder its closed with hard solder and,
depending on how many joints are left in the piece, solder it to the
back with hard solder. If there are no more joints or they are a
ways from the bezel/back joint, solder the bezel to the back with
medium or medium hard solder. You can also vary the thickness of the
bezel material, just remember that you will have to be able to roll
it a bit to secure the stone. Sounds like your current material
either isn’t fine silver or you need to work on your soldering
technique. Make sure that the joint is square and clean, that your
soldering block is not contaminated with something, and that you are
very careful with the torch. Thin fine silver bezel material will
heat very quickly and slump before you know it. Use the torch like a
paint brush getting closer and closer until the solder runs, then
get out of there. You might also try setting the bezel on edge so
that the joint is pointing up. You can put the solder on what will
be the outside surface of the bezel and pull it through the joint by
heating from the inside of the bezel. There will also be less solder
to clean up on the inside this way. Good luck. When I have these
kinds of problems I decide that it is time to clean the shop as
something has contaminated my work space. Be sure to clean all of
your soldering blocks. A good scrubbing on clean concrete works for
the charcoal. It also gets it back to a level surface. Good luck.
Rob


#3

You can use almost any solderable metal as a bezel. The reason for
using fine silver for me is the ease of forming it around the stone.
If I heat the back of the bezel setting, not heating the fine silver,
I have had good luck with melting hard solder and having it flow
before the fine silver melts. I need to remove the torch as soon as
the solder flashes. I successfully solder fine solder bezel wire to
Sterling silver, copper and brass.

John


#4

Are you keeping the torch moving at all times? It sounds like you
are concentrating the flame on the joint which is incorrect for
precious metal soldering. You move the torch around until the entire
piece heats enough to draw the solder into the joint. I am sure
someone else here is far more experienced, but to me it sounds like
you are not moving the torch. Fine silver has never melted on me and
I have used some very thin bezel in my short time.

Teri


#5

Hello Ara,

Fine silver has a higher melting point (1,763 F or 961.8 C) than
sterling (1640 F or 893 C). Therefore I believe that your bezel metal
is NOT fine silver, as it should not melt before your solder. It is
just fine to use regular.925 sterling or Argentium for bezels;
however, as a beginner you will find the fine silver easier to
manipulate. This is especially true for heavier gauge bezel
wire/strip.

You don’t say where you are located. If you are in the U. S., you
can purchase some fine silver bezel from a reputable dealer such as
Rio Grande or Indian Jeweler Supply. Either will sell without all the
paperwork to obtain a wholesale account, and you can buy in small
quantities. While you are at it, you should also buy some solder so
that you can be certain of the quality and temperature for use.

There are some other things that could affect your soldering
success, such as the use of flux, even heating of the metal, etc. My
response only addresses your question about the metal, so I hope it
helps.

Judy in Kansas, where today should be absobloominitly perfect. Light
breezes, temps in low 80s, sunshine. A great day to be in the garden

  • BUT I have some ideas for lovely things that will only come from
    the bench.

(Sigh) Decisions, decisions!


#6

You can set stones in any metal you want. Fine silver is just softer
and easier to move than sterling.

Annealed sterling is plenty soft to set with.

You say you are new to setting. Have you done much torch soldering
yet? This sounds more like torch control than a metals issue.

Many folks like to solder from underneath when soldering a thin
little bezel on top of a heavier piece. This can be done with a
tripod and an iron soldering screen.

I prefer to do it from the top. I use a paste flux, place my
pallions on the inside touching both the bezel side and the base of
the piece at the same time. I solder the side of the bezel after
shaping with hard solder and then duck down to medium solder for
assembly. I then use a softish annealing flame brushing it back and
forth to slowly warm the base of the piece. When it gets close to
solder temp I then gradually add more oxygen for a higher heat to
walk the melting solder around the circumference of the bezel.

What takes a long time to heat up will take a long time to cool
down.

That would be the body of the piece. What heats up fast will cool
down fast, like the lighter weight bezel. As you fan the flame the
bezel is going hot cold hot cold hot cold While the heavier part is
slowly getting warmer.

After soldering be sure to remove any remaining unmelted pallions so
that the stone sit flat.

It’s not rocket science believe me. I’m not the sharpest knife in
the drawer. If I can do this any one can. It just takes practice.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer
timothywgreen.com


#7

Lori,

Fine silver melts at aa higher temp than Sterling so your logic is
faulty.

Hard silver solder melts at a lower temperature than Sterling and
consequently signicantly lower than fine silver. Practice soldering
fine silver bezels with hard solder until you are regularly
successful. It’s a basic skill You need. Make sure you heat the bezel
until the solder flows and not the other way around,

Hope this helps,
Fred


#8
I prefer to do it from the top. I use a paste flux, place my
pallions on the inside touching both the bezel side and the base
of the piece at the same time. 

And I prefer soldering from the bottom. I usually use tweezers to
hold an edge of the back plate, having the opposite side resting on
a charcoal block, or several tweezers, sometimes three, holding the
piece in the air. I do exactly as Jo does, pallions touching back
plate and bezel. Tricky part is to not heat the back plate close to
the tweezers if using one pair of tweezers, the piece can sag
andthen you just have a mess.

I am of the fast and furious school of soldering, take risks, save a
lot of time. The reason I do it the way I do it, I can solder the
bezel with hard solder, and then use hard to solder the bezel to the
backplate.

Advantage, torch control. I have been soldering for 40 years, I like
tokeep the edge of having to concentrate on what I am doing, knowing
I can blow it in a second or two.


#9
I then use a softish annealing flame brushing it back and forth to
slowly warm the base of the piece. When it gets close to solder
temp I then gradually add more oxygen for a higher heat to walk the
melting solder around the circumference of the bezel. 

yes again very good advice from Jo. This is what I do and it works
well.

But do not use too much heat as you will get “porosity” pits on the
solder join.

all the best
Richard


#10
I have either made using my roller or used purchased sterling
silver bezel wire for years. 

My experience is that sterling bezel can work harden while moving it
to set the stone. Then it is a spring. Fine silver will slump, if you
do not have the right torch or if you donot have the right practice
of heating what you are soldering.

A large bushy flame is important.
A flame with a sharp cone of blue
will not work.
Most have never used a mouth torch, oxygen supplied by your breath.
Veryhard to melt anything with that. Convenience has lead us away
from that. The whole piece has to get hot, you can get the
temperature to the point wherethe joint you are working on will have
the solder run while all other previous joints remain intact, solder
does not flow to the back plate. I have been soldering 40 years.
Started with a hand held plumbers torch with disposable propane
tank. Self taught. Lots of scrap along the way.


#11

Sterling is absolutely okay to use for bezels. It’s all I use. I
simply don’t understand the popularity of fine silver bezels for use
as a stone setting. For me, even sterling is too soft for my liking.
It dents, scratches and loses its polish far too easily, so I would
never use fine silver as it’s even softer. I have made a baby rattle
using fine silver and hated the way it slumped and lost its shape,
so using it for stone settings, where they will get some abuse,
seems a little strange.

The use of fine silver for bezels seems to be preferred by people
who hold the jewellery in one hand and use some sort of bezel
"rocker"or"pusher" held in the other hand, to set the stone. In such
a case, the bezel strip must be thin enough to be able to manipulate
with just the strength of one hand and a dodgy tool. Free up both
hands by securing the piece in setter’s shellacor a thermoplastic,
and then use a vice, engraving ball or similar to hold the jewellery
securely. Both hands are now free to use a hammer and setting punch
to set the stone.

This method enables you to use harder metals, and chunkier bezels
strips. I personally like a chunky bezel, so cut mine from sterling
sheet. On larger stones I cut bezels from 1 mm thick sterling sheet.
The thicker the bezel material, the more it absorbs the forces of
setting. You can do square (or even sharper angles shaped) bezels
without having to make ugly slits or notches atthe corners, and you
don’t get the gapping that you so often see when very thin metal is
used for bezels. Thinner metal springs out while you’re trying to
push it over the stone’s edge.

My apologies for the lengthy post!

Helen
UK


#12

Lori said,

I am having a LOT of frustration with this b/c the fine silver I
was taught to use melts before the solder.

If you’re using the standard 30 gauge bezel wire, it’s easy to melt
because it’s so thin. I’ve fried fine and sterling silver thin wire
before, and even some gold. Moving up to using 26 or 24 gauge you
cut from sheet can help. It’s a little more work to set, but you’re
not going to fry it as easily. I’d rather spend my time working on
slowly and correctly setting a stone with thicker (thus longer
lasting) metal, than worrying about if I’m going to fry it when
soldering. It also seems to free up my designs more because I’m not
so worried about, “if I put it here where I want it, there’s more of
a chance I’ll fry it. Oh well, I’ll put it here instead.” Try
thicker metal. :slight_smile: El


#13

Thank you for the info, I try with sterling for bezels before and I
found it hard to set thigh to the stone, is there a good method when
setting with sterling? You mention about the square setting, I love
square setting and love to learn how to do that with sterling, would
be wonderful if you could put more detail info on that or you could
email me directly if you like, appreciated so much. Thank you.

Anna


#14

Thank you to everyone that has replied to my query! I really do
appreciate all the input.

I am not making a closed back bezel: I guess I should have clarified
this. I am making open back step bezels (with a ring of wire
inside).I haven’t had an issue with solid-back bezels. It is these
open bezels for unique irregular cabs and faceted stones I am having
issues with.

I also want to add embellishments to the outside of the bezel. like
twisted wire or granules. but since I am ending up with slumped
silver (which I just cut up and make into granules), I haven’t even
gotten that far yet.

Contamination of the soldering blocks IS a MAJOR issue. I work out
of studios that are not mine (I can’t do soldering work at home) so
I am restricted to what they have there. I always try to select the
cleanest kiln block. I cannot really mess with what isn’t mine. I
did try using a Solderite board I bought - but the darn board burned
a hole in it the first time I tried to use it - and, I had no idea
these boards were not to be cleaned (it didn’t come ith any info) -
so - when I tried to wipe it down with a damp cloth and scrape off
the dripped flux and the burned area - it literally crumbled!!! I am
guessing I will have to buy my own kiln brick and travel to the
studios I use with it.(I am not a fan of charcoal due to the fact it
keeps burning - and when you quench a charcoal brick enough to
ensure it is not still “glowing” - it becomes a royal MESS!!!)

Also, I frequently use solder from the studios as well. Again -
can’t always guarantee cleanliness there. I know for a fact their
source is Rio, and the padillions are pre-cut (impossible to
clean!!). I do have some of my own solder, but as I already precut
it months ago, it has fingerprint residue on it. I am guessing that
is a problem as well.

I do understand the melting points of metals and solders. that is
why I am flummoxed - what I am experiencing doesn’t make scientific
sense.

I have NO problem with copper - I have successfully made copper (and
brass) open back bezels without issues.

From everyone’s responses, I am guessing that I am not moving the
flame perfectly. I was not having any success moving the flame as I
do to solder rings or fuse fine silver (probably the
hot-cold-hot-cold thing is happening with the thinner metal.) so I
slowed down my movement. so now I am guessing I am going TOO slow -
it is just me learning and finessing the technique - and creating
more scrap!!!

Since I have been successful in the past soldering pieces other than
thin bezels, I guess it is just practice and finding the right
materials I can trust.

I have been showed about 5 different ways to apply flux/place the
padillions/wire pieces/solder the bezel and wire “step” into the
bezel ring (the same as the many ways people have to solder rings,
etc.).each person has what seems to be the most successful for them

  • and not everyone has the same luck using someone else’s technique.

That is why it is great to get input from many people.!!!

A couple of follow up questions:

  1. What flux do people prefer? (I really don’t like the
    Handy-Flux/borax stuff, but that is what the studios have and what I
    bought when I started doing this. It causes quite a mess. I recently
    tried some unnamed greenish stuff in an old bottle that was simply
    labeled “self-pickling flux” said to placed the solder right on the
    flux and let it dry before you soldered. I have no idea what this
    stuff was at all!)

  2. What size torch tip are people using for this? (again, I have
    been shown how to do this using a 00 to a 2.).

  3. Is Argentium a bit easier to work with than 925 or finee This is
    what I have overheard in convos at the studios. I only have thin
    Argentium from my wire-wrapping days, so I don’t have any and am
    hesitant to spend the $$$ for it if it is more touchy to work with.
    (I already have a bunch of thin silver wire that is essentially
    useless to me now that I am not wire wrapping anymore - I may just
    sell it back to Rio for scrap. and I don’t want to end up with more
    expensive scrap!)

  4. Why does everyone seem to prefer Rio? I have found a few sources
    cheaper than Rio - AND they don’t fleece you on the shipping as Rio
    does. these other companies have been in the biz for decades, so they
    can’t be all that bad. (Someone mentioned Indian Silver - odd, as I
    was recently told that they can be unreliable.) I know other
    companies exist that require State certificates etc before they will
    sell to you. if I master these bezels maybe I will be successful
    enough to get these certificates one day!

Thanks again for all of your input.


#15

Nice to hear from you Helen. Been a while since you posted, always
good advice.


#16
Nice to hear from you Helen. Been a while since you posted, always
good advice. 

Thanks very much Saboiam. It’s lovely of you to say so. It’s nice to
be back. I’m hoping to be able to make it back to my bench some time
soon as well. I’m currently babysitting my granddaughter full time
and playing violin and cello where I get the chance, as I play in
two orchestras (and a quintet and trio), so jewellery making has
inadvertently taken a back seat. I enjoy reading people’s
contributions to Orchid though, and occasionally will pipe up with a
reply.

Helen
UK


#17

I have been reading the posts here and most address what type of
metal or thickness of metal is best. That will become obvious as you
get better you will find something you like or a look you like and
go with it. There are most likely a handful of things you could be
doing wrong as a beginner 1. is the back plate clean. give it a
quick sand with 400 grit sand paper it doesn’t have to be a
production just rough it up so its not shiny. 2. did you get the
bezel soldered straight? when you set the bezel on the plateit
should sit flat No visible gaps. Where ever there is a gap the metal
will not transfer heat to the whole piece but instead melt. Which
brings me to why I prefer fine silver. No annealing. just fit it,
solder it, press over the stone to reshape, set in on the plate and
solder. Secondly as mentioned it is like butter to set. there are
those who say it is that very reasonyou should not use it. It’s a
mechanical device to hold a small stone in place not an automotive
component. I use 28 gauge for my production work if you are doing
some type of elaborate, expensive piece go with a thick bezel that
has to be hammered if you want that look otherwise why put in a lot
of time on something that greatly increasing your production time?
Teri had it right about keeping the torch moving. don’t worry about
the solder, heat the piece round and round the bezel fairly fast
keep itmoving you’ll get to know about timing it right with practice
and observation of what the metal and flux does only practice will
teach you this. Use the snippets on the inside for your solder. Also
I prefer for this step liquid flux. Why? It doesn’t really require a
high temp flux and 2 the stuff is a pain. use a small brush and a
quick swish around the bezel and if it’s flat the capillary action
will pull the flux evenlyaround the bezel do both inside and outside
to make sure. At some time in the future try to learn to feed the
wire into the bezel to solder it but wait till you get good at
soldering the wire fed method eliminates all those snippets that
have to be cut and placed, another time saving method. Eventually
you should be able to make a bezel and have it soldered to the back
in 5 minutes. I know production jewelers who say they can make a
hundred bezels a day using this method. Good luck Dave


#18

Dear Anna,

I try with sterling for bezels before and I found it hard to set
thigh to the stone, is there a good method when setting with
sterling? 

coupled with seeing the results of setting stones with thin fine
silver vs sterling, I can only conclude that using sterling should
be no more trouble than fine silver - if using suitable tools.
Imagine a goldsmith setting diamonds and other precious stones into
high karat golds and platinum. They don’t makeor use settings using
virtually paper thin metal, or necessarily set with one hand and a
rocking tool. They set the jewellery into shellac or thermoplastic
and then mount that in a suitable holding device, which frees up
both hands. Many times a hammer hand piece of a flexshaft will be
used - or a hammer and setting punch, which is what I use.

The biggest difference, however, is in the use of thicker metal.
Yes, if youcontinue the one handed setting approach, then thicker
metal is going to make life even more difficult, but if you give the
both hands free method a try, you’ll find that thicker bezels are
far more forgiving. Still, the aperture for the stone must be a
really good fit, with neither gapping nor areas that are too tight.
The height of the bezel above the stone’s girdle (or equivalent in a
cabochon) must not be excessive, as a) it’s not necessary - you only
need a very small amount of metal to hold the stone securely, b) it
produces a very ugly end result, and c) can lead to the bezel not
fitting tight to the stone, ie unsightly gapping.

The amount of force necessary when hitting the setting punch (brass
square section rod mounted in a handle, of which I have very
slightly domed the end)with the hammer is very small. I work in
small increments, only pushing thebezel in by very small amounts
each time, and always working on opposite “sides” of the stone.
Imagine a clock face. Move the bezel in toward the stoneat 12
o’clock, 6, 9, 3. Then I work between those places, so midway
between1-2, 7-8, 10-11 and 4-5. Inspect it with a loupe and then go
at it again ifthe bezel needs moving more. I usually find at this
stage that I need to work in a more downwards (with some inwards)
direction as opposed to the inwards (with a bit of downwards)
direction of the first movement of metal. If you’ve used thicker
metal than you’re used to, you’ll find that ability of themetal to
compress, is actually your friend. Move thin metal inwards around
the “clock”, and you may well find (especially if also too tall)
that when you’re trying to push the metal inwards, it will move out
in adjacent areas, and that no amount of work will ever make it
tight against the stone. Move thicker metal inwards around the
"clock" and you will find that it compresses and moves inwards, and
won’t spring out again, as the thicker metal won’t allow it to.
There are numerous advantages to using thicker metal, but my
favourite is the fact that it just looks better. It just looks more
expensive andluxurious if your bezels are made with thicker metal,
and so would potentially be able to sell for more money too. When
the metal is down onto the stone sufficiently, I like to go round
with my setting punch in a burnishing action, so sideways along the
bezel top (outside edge). This helps to smooth out any tool marks
which I may have inadvertently made. A file and then polishwill
remove any which are more stubborn.

One thing I almost forgot to mention is that to make the most of my
thicker metal settings, I make sure that before setting, the bezel
top is sanded absolutely flat, using a very, very fine sandpaper.
This creates a definite, visible surface (unlike the razor-like edge
of thinner metal) to the top of thebezel, which after setting, takes
on a more angled appearance, similar to a45 degree angle which
really frames the stone beautifully and can then be
polished/burnished to a mirror-like shine. Hopefully the link below
will showa ring I made my daughter last year. I made the bezel from
1mm thick sterling silver. You can see the surface that was once the
top, flat surface of the bezel.


#19

Everyone is commenting on soldering technique and I think that might
be the issue as well. Make sure your metals are positioned so you can
heat them probably from below, that might mean resting on other
specially bent angles just to get your work of your soldering block
[which is a big heat sink].

Like someone else said as soon as that solder flows take off the
heat.

Fine silver shouldn’t melt sooner just have to be cautious. Change
technique good luck.


#20

I used to make bezels by the bazillion working at places where I was
a silversmith. We were given standard 30g fine silver bezel coil,
and hard wire solder. Typically, I’d lay out a row of bezels sitting
flat, but some people liked to stand them up and solder to the
inside. I liked then sitting flat because with some touch, I could
only touch the wire solder to the top edge at the joint, and let just
a tiny bit of solder flow down into the joint. Of course care was
needed to deliver heat to the right spot, and not so much as to
crysrallize (too much time spent near melting temp, right ?) or melt
the bezel. Silver would usually just up and melt, but the 14k bezel
would sometimes not melt, but crystallize, and then crack and/or
crumble when you wnet to set the cab); not good !.

I’ve ‘always’ used fine silver and hard solder for bezels because
that’s how I learned, and there are good reasons for it(which should
be obvious : ease of setting fine silver, and the abilitry to do
subsequent solderings with medium and easy solder without melting the
hard that you started with. The only time I (really remember well)
made a (significantly) different bezel was earlier this year. I
hadn’t silvesmithed for at least 10 years (too busy making dies and
walking Chis, you see), when my wife pulled out some old hematite
cabs and said “I want some rings”. I wanted to do something
diggerent so i made bezels out of 18ga sterling, and beveled them
down at about a 30 degree angle, and hammer set them. I hadn’t really
made anything like that so it was interesting and even fun. It had
it got to where working on jewelry wasn’t fun, back when I was doing
production bench work and supervising Yahoos. But that was 30 years
ago, and I found that a lot of the burnout was gone.

Anmyway, with irregular stones -and we used to set a lot of
irregular and nugget turquoise cabs ‘back in the day’ and even with
fine silver bezels, we would sometimes have trouble with spots on
some stones where the bezel would have to be pushed so far over that
it reached the limit of it’s bendability (ductility or malleability
?). At that point that spot on the bezel became springy and wouldn’t
stick in contact with the stome without a little help from the great
KRAGGLE (Lego movie joke). Yes, we all had a bottle of superglue
handy ; was it gauche?..of course it was, but that was the 1970’s.
People were wearing polyester leisure suits and Disco dancing ; I
hardly think a little superglue on a piece of silver and turquoise
jewelry is a serious crime, considering.

Cheers,
Dar