Hi All, This might be a simple question, but important nevertheless.
As many people find commerical bezels to be too thin, it would be
interesting to know how thick you think bezels have to be, both when
working with Sterling and with several karats of gold as well as with
stones of several degrees of hardness. I use up to 14 gauge myself,
but I find it difficult to gently hammer the bezel closely to the
stone and actually broke some (cheap ones, happily). Thank you for
reading. Best, Will
Hi All, This might be a simple question, but important nevertheless.
Hi All, This might be a simple question, but important nevertheless. As many people find commerical bezels to be too thin, it would be interesting to know how thick you think bezels have to be, both when working with Sterling and with several karats of gold as well as with stones of several degrees of hardness. I use up to 14 gauge myself, but I find it difficult to gently hammer the bezel closely to the stone and actually broke some (cheap ones, happily). Thank you for reading. Best, Will
With fragile stones i take my time, work opposing sides with some
form of burnisher, to avoiding breaking the stone. Make sure the
bezel is annealed it makes things easier and as the metal work hardens
gently coaxing with whatever tool you prefer may be inevitable.
Removing metal from the bezel wall will give you less metal to
actually move over the stone but has drawbacks. Knowing what size
stone you are bezel setting is important and you alone can determine
which bezel thickness is needed for a given project to keep it from
falling apart and of course to ensure it is proportioned/pleasing to
Jon in Montreal
All, I believe selecting the thickness for a particular bezel is part
personal (how one wants the piece to look in its final form) and
technical. The first probably will not change in any event so let’s
look at the second.
Strength. No doubt about it, fine silver does not make as strong a
bezel as SS. On the other hand it is easier to work, especially with
setting delicate stones such as opal or turquoise. But, let’s look
deeper into the bezel construction. The join where the bezel wall
meets the back plate is very important. I find most of my students
who have had some training at one time or another, have little idea
about proper soldering techniques. As a result, they over do it in
the solder area and end up with blobs of solder intended to hold a
26ga bezel to the plate. The idea is…more is better- right? Not
right! Lets assume you are doing a pretty standard setting say,
22X30mm free form jasper cab. If you are looking for a strong rigid
setting, use 20 ga (or minimum of 22ga) of either fine or sterling
bezel wire on 18/20 ga plate. Use less solder (don’t starve it but)
try using 4 medium sized pallions at the north, south, east, west
positions. The result should be a perfect join that won’t bend or
Workability. Study the cab to insure the shoulder angles are
sufficient for a good mechanical hold by the bezel. Many cutters just
cut…they have no true idea what the setter needs present the stone.
Thus, stones may be extremely high dome with steep shoulder angles
or they may be very low with nearly no angle at all. Cutters do this
because their job is to show the beauty of the stone (or often simply
because the shape of the rough didn’t allow much leeway). If the
shoulders are very steep, you may have to plan on a wider bezel that
seats higher on the shoulders. If very low, you may only need a mm
or two to get a seat. This bears on how easy it is to ‘work’ the
bezel. Wide bezels may require more than one pass to form them to
the shoulder before seating the lip to the stone.Narrow ones can
often be seated on the first pass. Thus, heavier/wider bezels may be
more difficult to seat on the stone. The answer is to bevel the top
1/2 to 1/3rd of the bezel. Bring it in to slightly less than 1/2 the
original thickness of the wire. Then, if the bezel is properly fitted
to the stone in the first place, the forming and seating process
should be easy no matter if it is fine or SS.
I set many antique ceramic pieces. They are relatively thick and
very delicate. I grind a slight bevel along the top of the vertical
girdle and proceed to set in either fine or SS. The actual bezel
seat is only 1/2 to 1 mm wide. This calls for perfect bezeling all
around the piece with strickly controlled pressure. My point is, it
can be done if one pays close attention to how much bezel they really
need and how to properly prepare it.
One more point. Burnishing a bezel is asking for trouble. I
rarely, if ever use a burnisher except to harden a bezel or smooth it
a bit when the stone’s surface is uneven. But only after having
formed and seated the bezel. If you do not get the bezel formed to
the stone and seated (two seperate actions) the first time, the
burnisher hardens the bezel making it springy and nearly impossible
to seat. Learn to properly use a bezel rocker (some call it a
roller). With proper control you can form the lower 2/3 of the bezel
to the stone on the first pass and seat the top 1/3 on the second.
This will work regardless of the original thickness of the bezel
wire. I also shun hammering except in rare circumstances such as a
design requiring a very thick bezel lip.
Sorry this is so long but I see too much poor bezeling out there
when there is really no reason for it. Pay attention to fit, prepare
the bezel carefully and learn to properly hold and use the right
tools for the job. So that’s my $.50…war inflation you know!
Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry! @coralnut1
I use up to 14 gauge myself, but I find it difficult to gently hammer the bezel closely to the stone and actually broke some (cheap ones, happily).
Hi, Will, I’m actually far from an authority on thick bezels, but
just returned from a stone-setting intensive, and all my new
knowledge is “burning a hole in my pocket”. One trick you might try,
to hammer metal onto stone without breakage, is to “relieve” the
point where the girdle of the stone touches the vertical wall of the
bezel by running around it with a teeny-weeny ball bur (around the
setting, not the stone). That gives you a bit of open space at the
girdle when you hammer the metal down, like closing your fingertips
and thumb on the stone with the edge in the open part of your hand.
Is that confusing enough? If this is clear as mud, try to get ahold
of Blaine Lewis’ stone setting video. If you try this and it works,
credit Blaine Lewis. If not, blame me! --Noel
I use 0.5mm fine silver usually, but I have hammer-set 1.2mm
The trick I use when hammer-and-punch setting 1.2mm sterling is to
hit more downward than sideways, so as to upset the top of the
bezel wall (a forging term for swelling or thickening the wall
thickness at the top), thus gently closing the inside diameter and
holding the stone in.
Many cutters just cut...they have no true idea what the setter needs present the stone. Thus, stones may be extremely high dome with steep shoulder angles or they may be very low with nearly no angle at all. Cutters do this because their job is to show the beauty of the stone (or often simply because the shape of the rough didn't allow much leeway).
Hi, Don- while many cutters just cut, it is equally true that there
is no consensus among jewelers and metalsmiths regarding the optimum
cab cut in terms of bezel height, angles, etc. Some like no
well-defined bezel at all, with a gradual curve from the bottom of
the stone to the top. Others like a bezel which is vertical, or
nearly vertical, with a shallow dome and a sharp demarcation
between the bezel and the dome of the cab. This latter style enables
one to bring 1/16th of an inch or so of the bezel wire above the
bezel and onto the dome, which creates the illusion that the bezel
wire is much thicker than it actually is. Commercial cutters are
left trying to figure out which style sells better, or whether they
should be using a compromise cut somewhere between these two styles.
So exactly what style of cab cut do you all prefer? Voice your
preferences, so cutters can cut what you like to set!
So exactly what style of cab cut do you all prefer? Voice your preferences, so cutters can cut what you like to set!
I originally began cutting my own stone (primarily Cripple Creek
Turquoise) so I could have more control over the entire creative
process and also to cut down on my material costs. Plus it is very
exciting to cut whatever new turquoise that Harriet and David of Bad
Boys Mining Co. dig up.
With stone cut from commercial cutters I often found I had to shim
the stone to get it to set right in standard width bezel wire (3/32,
1/8, 5/32, etc.). Now with cutting my own stone I can grind the bevel
to fit a standard width bezel and I also found I prefer the angle to
be what I’m guessing is 5 degrees. I cut only freeform cabs as I
find cutting calibrated sizes wastes material and may remove some
unique characteristic of the stone.
I like cabs with enough taper to be held securely without covering
much of the stone. I don’t usually like particularly high domes, but
don’t want them thin enough to be weak, either. I REALLY don’t like
ones with such straight sides that you can’t ever get a secure
setting job. Overall shape depends on the job at hand. Sometimes I
like conventional domed cabs, sometimes bufftops.
Jim in western NC where it is still raining…
Rick and all,
The first thing I learned was stone cutting. So… I went through a
period of several years before I took up silver/gold smithing and
learned how to make bezels, etc.
For some reason, I guess it was my instructor, the shoulders on my
stones always seemed to be easy to set. I was taught to strive for
medium domes with shoulders of between 5 to 10 degree completely down
to the girdle. This provided plenty of ‘grip’ and yet accommodated a
number of bezel heights. These days, I cut stones of any thickness
and therefore, have to accommodate varried domes. But from my early
experience, I always cut with an eye toward providing a shoulder that
will give the setter (even if its me) some leeway with the bezel.
My father-in-law used to cut stones with ‘bezel collars’, a
perpendicular collar about 3 mm wide between the dome and the girdle.
But his dome always rose quickly from the collar and provided a good
Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where we have
been setting record high temps and where simple elegance IS fine
As a cabber, I have another question. Are there descriptive terms
that everyone (jewelers and cabbers) can use to describe what style
of cut they want on a cab? What is the bezel slant part called? What
percent of the height of a cab is this to thickness of the cab? If
the part of the cab above the bezel line is more than 50% of the
cab, would this be considered a “high dome” cab? Is a “buff top” cab
a cab with fairly straight sides with almost no dome (fairly flat
top)? Can we come to some descriptive words to use so the cabber and
jeweler can communicate?
Maybe some pictures on a web site we could all go to for an actual
Larry A cabber who would like to cab what others would like to set.
Maybe some pictures on a web site we could all go to for an actual visual definition.
Hi Larry. I like your idea of coming up with a vocabulary to
describe the cut of stones but I think your suggestion above is the
only way to go about it. There are too many variables and subtleties
for words to work well, although the temptation to try is pretty
There will also be differences depending on whether you’re talking
about transparent or opaque material. I prefer transparent gemstones
to be distinctly domed; while I like opaque material cut thin, with a
perfectly flat back, straight but slightly tilted-inward sides, and a
top that appears to be flat but is actually slightly domed. See! I
succumbed to the temptation myself .