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Using Tabs To Set Stones In Jewellery

I received the May 2014 issue of Art Jewelry last week and was immediately drawn to a piece by Michael David Sturlin in the Metalsmith 101 section called Cold Captures: Push-up Prongs. It covers a method of setting stones or buttons or enamel pieces {or anything with a flat base really} using tabs or prongs rather than using a soldered bezel or other setting that needs to be soldered in place.

I fancied a change and do love a bit of messing about with metal without doing any soldering so I took the magazine to my jewellery night class and had a go. This is my attempt at the above.....

 The millefiore cab was the largest size I possess at the mo as I haven't bought any large cabochons yet {give it time!}. It's about 15mm I think so I used it as a practice piece. I had to draw the shape by hand or rather my scribe as I didn't have anything to use for the curves so it's a bit wonky but I do like the design. I'm not planning on doing anything with this so I left it unfinished and that lovely ginger hue that copper has!
I used 0.9mm gauge copper and I did find it a bit hard to push the tabs over the cab and had to use my mallet to finish it. Michael David Sturlin recommended using a setting punch and chasing hammer to push over the tabs if they were a bit stiff but you would need to secure the piece to something in order to do that and it is likely to leave marks on your tabs too.
 I think it would look lovely using some etched or patterned copper with a nice stone cab and definitely needs to be oxidized :D

I then decided to set an enamelled oval shape in a tab setting but cut the tabs from beneath the enamel piece this time...

This is the first time I've done a "frilly" edge and must say I really enjoyed sawing it! It is surprisingly easy if you use a finer saw blade than the 1/0 I usually use to plow through the metal quicker when I'm cutting things out.
 Enamel isn't the best medium to set using tabs I've discovered. I had to refire this piece as there was a tiny crack next to the top tab that happened as I pushed the tab over that wasn't obvious but because I knew it was there I had to fix. So it was fired again and set again but is now ok and crack-free. The only bit of torch work I did with this pendant was to ball the fine silver pin I used to attach the bail.

I liked doing the frilly thing so much I started another one at jewellery class on Tuesday night using an oval turquoise {stabilised} cab this time. When I was ready to set the stone I annealed the copper as I suspected the small tabs would be a bit hard to push over then pickled it and set the stone....

Annealing the copper made the tabs quite easy to push over and they do hold the stone firmly. I did wonder at first if they were high enough but some stone wiggling and pushing from the back convinced me the turquoise is firmly in place. Thinking about it they are about the height I would make a bezel for this shape stone.
 I need to oxidize this piece and will probably take a risk with the turquoise and tumble it for about 20 mins to work harden the copper a bit. I have {say it quietly} tumbled pieces with enamel before now because I needed to work harden the metal without anything going wrong despite knowing you shouldn't tumble enamelled pieces!

In all I have enjoyed trying this soldering free method of setting but have to admit I think a piece looks more finished with a stone/enamel piece set in a bezel. And now that I seem to be able to wield a saw better than before I will most likely do some more of the frilly thing on the edges of my future creations and the negative space design in the example from Art Jewelry has given me ideas for making a bezel set piece a bit more interesting too......


  1. I'm really liking the frilly edges too. Awesome work.

    1. Thanks Nicole! I'm in the middle of another pendant {bezel set this time} which also has the frilly edge thing going on :D

  2. They all look brilliant! The curvy edges and the etching add such a great interest too :)

  3. Thanks Em.
    Update about the tumbling : The last pendant was tumbled with nothing bad happening to the turquoise :D

  4. Love the etched design with the paisleys and also the frilly edge! Beautiful

  5. I love your pieces -- and even more than the magazine one!

  6. Beautiful saw work...I just love that orange pendant

  7. Beautiful work. Gives me inspiration for the agate cabs I have made.

  8. How do you make the little tab at the top to hold the chain? That is so cool looking!

    1. Hi Jeanne, I cut a bail shape from copper then balled a piece of fine silver wire. That was then threaded throught the bail and pendant and the other end of the wire balled up to make a "pin". Hope that helps :D

  9. Very Beautiful - havnt been on looking in a while - now I see what I am missing !


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