Hey! Julia from Third Hand Silversmith here. Bezel setting stones is one of my favorite processes in all of metalsmithing. It is so satisfying to set the stone and see your whole design come together!
I'm excited to take you through the 12 steps I take to create a simple bezel-set ring! Keep in mind, there are so many ways to do ANYTHING in metalsmithing, these are just the steps I have adapted to over the years. I will link the materials I used throughout, so look for the bolded/underlined words for those links! I hope you find this guide useful...let's get to 'smithing!
Step 1: Choose your stone!
Step 2: Choose your bezel!
The two types of bezel I typically work with are plain (left) and scalloped (right). The scalloped bezel is more forgiving, so for the sake of showing you how to make a perfect simple bezel, I'll be using the plain bezel today!
Step 3: Wrap and Trim!
Take your spool of bezel and wrap a section around your stone. I always leave a little more room than I think I'll need, and trim more off once I've cut the section away from the rest of the spool (it's just easier to work with this way). You want the bezel to hug the stone snugly, but you don't want it so tight that you have to force the stone into the bezel in later steps.
The plain stock bezel I chose is a little too tall for this stone, so I will straighten out the bezel with my fingers/flat pliers, take a pair of household scissors and trim to my desired height.
It should look something like this!
Step 4: Join the ends and solder!
Don't worry about misshaping the bezel too much during this process, we will reshape it in the next step. Just make sure the two ends are touching seamlessly. You can use a file to gently remove any bits that are preventing the two ends from making contact. Using a small amount of HARD solder, solder the seam closed and pickle! Remove from the pickle once clean, and dry thoroughly.
Step 5: Reshape!
Using a small mandrel, (or anything round and sturdy that you can fit the bezel over, really) use your hands to even out any kinks in the bezel, making it round. Once it looks even, slide the bezel over the top of the stone (make sure not to scratch it!), and use your fingers to mold it to the shape of the stone. Again, the bezel should fit snug, but you shouldn't have to force the stone in or out of the bezel.
Step 6: Level it out!
Using gentle downward pressure, run the bezel along fine-grit sandpaper in a figure-8 motion until the bottom is completely even and flat. I will leave the stone in the bezel during this process if I don't think the stone will be harmed or scratched in the process. Sanding the bottom of the bezel with the stone in ensures the bezel will not become misshapen in the process. This is not recommended with transparent stones as the scratches will be noticeable. Since this is a stabilized, opaque turquoise, I'll leave it in the bezel! If you choose to sand without the stone in, just refit the bezel over the stone afterward to make sure it's still the right shape.
Step 7: Prep your backplate!
And don't forget to remove the protective tape* from the back!!
*BONUS TIP: Use strips of masking tape to cover the back of your sheet metal. It's the first step I take when I receive a new sheet of silver! This will protect it from dings and scratches as you work with it!
Step 8: Solder the bezel to the backplate!
Place MEDIUM solder in the inner part of the bezel, making sure it is touching both the bezel and the backplate, then heat until the solder flows and you can see it has flowed ALL the way around the bezel. Don't worry if you have to do this in a few steps, especially if you are working on a larger piece. If you don't flow the solder all the way around on the first try, just pickle and start where you left off!
I use 22 GA. wire solder, but some prefer using tin snips to cut sheet solder into tiny squares they can pre-place on the piece.
Step 9: Pickle and test the bezel's fit!
After soaking the piece in a heated pickle solution, there is a bit of copper plating and fire scale left. I don't worry about this too much, as I still have a few more soldering steps to do, and will make sure everything is clean during the final polish!
Place some dental floss along the bezel where the stone will sit, leaving enough length to hold on to. Place the stone over the floss, into the bezel to make sure it's a perfect fit. I always test the bezel at this step, because I would hate to spend more time on a ring just to find out at the very end that the stone doesn't fit.
Use the ends of the dental floss to pull the stone out of the bezel.
Step 10: Design and craft the rest of the ring!
Since this demo is about making a bezel, I won't go into the nuances of these steps, but creating the rest of the ring included: prepping my second backplate with my .925 stamp and my hand made stamp, creating the ring band, soldering those all together, pickling the ring, polishing off fire scale using a medium grade silicone disc, and oxidizing the ring!
Step 11: Set the stone!
Place the stone in the bezel making sure it is flat and stable!
Using a burnisher (or another stone-setting tool of your choice) begin to push the bezel towards the stone. Work around the stone, pushing in the bezel on opposing sides, as shown below. Continue to push in on opposing sides until the bezel is smoothly set around the entire stone.
Pushing the bezel in using this pattern will prevent any crinkling or bunching up of the bezel!
Then, carefully run the edge of the burnisher around the bezel, pressing it gently towards the stone to smooth everything out. It is important that the bezel is as flush as possible against the stone to prevent the bezel from snagging or pulling up in the future.
While using the burnisher, be mindful of where your tool is in relation to the backplate, bezel, and stone. It is easy to lose track and cause scratches to your backplate or stone in this stage.
It should now look like this....if it does, it's ready for the final polish!
Grab a sanding pad or steel wool to remove the oxidization you don't want on the final piece! This will remove the oxidization everywhere but the low spots (like where you stamped a design or where two layers meet).
Be sure to polish the back, and ESPECIALLY the inside of the ring band. I try to remove most of the oxidization from the inside of the band to make sure it doesn't rub off on anyone's fingers!
Step 12: You're done! Bask in the beauty of your hand-crafted, bezel-set ring!
Be proud of the work you did with your hands!! Setting bezels is one of my favorite parts of metalsmithing, but it is NOT EASY and takes a LOT of practice to perfect!
I hope you found this guide helpful, please let me know if you have questions in the comments below! I would LOVE to see your bezel work if you used this guide, send me pics to firstname.lastname@example.org!