Monday, 25 February 2013

Learning To Bezel Set - New Earrings

I thought I'd put my newly-learned bezel setting skills to the test and start making earrings with stones. It's a technique I've been itching to learn for a long time but I'll be honest the prospect of making a "proper" start on bezel set jewellery did daunt me a bit. There's so much that can go wrong - melting your bezel, the cab not fitting, getting to the point where everything is finished and you "just" have to set the stone and then you go and scratch it beyond repair with your bezel pusher......I've done that once (so far!)

I have a bezel roller and a bezel pusher and a burnisher and all three of them have the potential to ruin all your hard work in a second by scratching the stone! I've now started using a peg I took apart and filed and sanded to round the top edge to set my stones.

They're not the most ergonomic design being a bit short to hold but they work fine and don't scratch metal or stones if I slip. I saw this tip for using wooden dowel instead of a metal bezel pusher on the Etsy Metal blog. I still use a burnisher to finish off and smooth the top but I have found I'm very good at slipping and putting tiny nicks on the top edge of the bezel! Practice makes perfect I know!!

This is one of the first pair I made in silver with 6mm carnelian cabs
I found soldering the bezels could sometimes be a bit troublesome! Placing a tiny piece of solder on top of the join then watching it ping off as the flux bubbles meant soldering 6 bezels took me an hour! Admittedly, one of them wouldn't solder properly because the join wasn't very good so I had to make it again (er.......twice!). I also have problems with my max flame butane torch. I don't seem to be able to fill it properly and it only works for about a minute before the flame becomes so small it resembles a cigarette lighter! Having to fill it literally in the middle of soldering something does not help matters. I've since sorted this and now use my propane/butane mix torch with a finer nozzle.

One of the silly things I noticed since starting to make bezel set earrings is that I would totally forget the correct order of work! I think I'm so excited about getting the bezel the correct size and soldering it that I would then have to think about what to do next. Instead of getting everything ready that needed to be soldered I would do a bit then have to make the hanging loops or the earwires or decide what to do with the base I was going to solder the bezel to. In the meantime it would be lunchtime and I'd have to clear away my soldering equipment from the kitchen!
I now make sure I have everything ready to go before starting to solder. Hammering tiny pieces of solder so they are wafer thin and putting the bezel join on top of the flattened solder (no pinging off!) also makes soldering the bezels a lot easier and quicker.

I love the colour of this dyed calcite. I added three flattened balls of fine silver then trimmed the base sheet around the bezel and balls. Still experimenting!

So far I've had to scrap three pairs of earrings. I tend to make three or four pairs at a time - maybe that's not a good idea as it makes the whole process feel like it's taking days! The first pair was when I messed up the hanging loop. It slid about as the solder flowed and my fear of holding small things in place with tweezers (now conquered) stopped me from sorting it out properly and I ended up with solder that had crawled over to the front of the copper earring. It was a mess beyond repair so it ended up in the bin. 
The second pair I ruined by stamping the base too close to the bezel and knocking it out of shape (wrong order of work!). Some over-vigorous prodding of the bezel to move it back into shape meant it was stretched too much and too big for the cab. Another one for the bin!
The third pair went fine up to almost finishing setting the amethyst cab and then I slipped with the metal bezel rocker and scratched the stone. Sweary shouting occurred! I tried polishing the scratch out gently but it ended up looking worse. This one hangs on the side of my scrap pot to remind me to use my wooden pegs and take things slowly!

Turquoise and silver with silver rosette and ball decoration.
 Still experimenting and realizing silver and copper that is textured, stamped or etched looks a whole lot better when it's oxidized than plain untextured metal! You don't get the obvious clean up marks and scratches you can see on plain metal.

I'll be honest there have been several times when I've wondered if bezel setting was worth it. The amount of time it takes me to make something from start to finish feels like days.  BUT I know it will get easier as I start to feel less scared of the whole process and just relax and enjoy it. Any words of encouragement and advice gratefully accepted :D


  1. I think you're doing a wonderful job, but I know what you mean about the time element.

  2. Those pieces are gorgeous. Your skills are getting better & better!

  3. They look great. I did a bezel setting once a long time ago. Doubt I could do it now. :)

  4. Your pieces are all beautiful, so I think you should keep going :-)

    (And just wondering if you would ever do a "clip-on" version of your earrings - my poor ears don't like to stay pierced!)

  5. Thanks for your comments!
    Sam - I haven't ever thought about doing a clip-on version so I'm off to look for the findings to see if it would be possible :D

  6. What a neat new skill! I'm guessing the potential for destruction decreases as you get more practiced at it?? These pieces look great though- good work!

  7. Thanks Nancy. I'm hoping the potential for destruction decreases as I practise :D

  8. You are doing such an amazing job with your metal work! I love the look of a cab set on a piece of handworked metal.

  9. Gorgeous jewellery love the contrast of colour against the metal, stunning

  10. I love your new work! It took me ages before I was brave enough to work in silver... And many pieces were melted along the way :-)
    Looking forward to seeing more!


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