Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Tutorial Tuesday - bezel setting tips

I've had a few bezel stone setting projects in Beads and Beyond over the last few months, and there are more to come! I have a very strict word and photo limit to work to when writing the projects, which is good because it makes sure that the instructions are concise, but sometimes it would be nice to show an extra photo or two. Sometimes Becky can accomodate this by having two smaller photos for one of the steps, but it's not always possible. So, I decided to take a whole load of photos when I was setting stones in a pair of earrings last week so that I could show you a couple more details. Mind you, if you have back copies of Beads and Beyond with my stone setting masterclass and with the stone setting projects that I've already had published then it's worth reading through those one after the other if you're learning how to bezel set stones as I've tried to teach something new and show a new detail in each project.

So here goes! As always, if you've got any questions or any tips of your own, please do leave a comment! I know that not everyone sets stones in exactly the same way, but as I keep saying to my students, there's quite often more than one way of getting the job done, but if you get the same end result, are working safely and efficiently and in a way that makes sense for you, it doesn't matter which method you use in the end!

The stones waiting to be set on my desk at the start of the morning! I like to make quite a few settings and then set them all at the same time.

These are the earrings with the stones in place ready to be set. All the soldering, filing etc and most of the polishing has been done. They've been through the tumbler to start to harden the ear wires but I'll need to do a bit more polishing at the end as the earrings will be handled so much while the stones are set. The bezel setting has been bevelled slightly at the top to reduce the thickness of silver (never by more than a third though otherwise the setting becomes weakened) that needs to be pushed over the stone, and it has also been filed slightly lower at the tips of the stones to make it easier to get a neater finish there. If you're just learning how to set stones I suggest that you start with oval or round ones first, and ones that aren't too small and fiddly at that!

I use a bezel pusher to do most of the setting. This is a short piece of square steel rod in a wooden handle. It's always worth checking new stone setting tools when they arrive in case they have rough edges etc. I've filed and sanded the edges of the end square so that they don't leave so many (or hopefully any!) marks on the silver as I'm setting the stone.

To start setting the stone, hold the pusher flat against the setting, pushing slowly and firmly. You may be surprised at how much pressure you need to put on the setting, but if you move slowly you will still control the movements and are very unlikely to slip.

Then push the pusher up and over the top of the stone, again moving slowly and firmly.
I'd usually be holding the stoneand setting firmly with my left hand when using the pusher, but I needed it to take the photos! Just imagine it's there!!

To set the stone evenly you need to push once on one side of the setting and then travel across the stone in a North-South-East-West pattern. If you start pushing at, say, the southern most end of the stone and then continue to work your way around the stone rather than moving across it then you will end up with the silver bunched up when you get round to the finishing point.

It gets a little more complicated when setting a teardrop shaped stone like this one, but hopefully you can see that I've pushed the setting once at the botttom and once on each side.

In this picture I've continued to push between the original pushed areas.

In this picture both stones have been set, the bezel has been pushed or rubbed over the stone evenly all the way round, but I'm not quite finished yet! If your stone still feels a little loose you probably need to continue pushing or rubbing over the setting - you may not have been firm enough the first time round!

This is a burnisher. I've also got straight burnishers and even one made by filing and sanding down an old screw driver! Burnishers are used to rub around the setting, removing the marks left by the bezel pushers. Make sure that you regularly check your burnishers for marks and sand them out, otherwise those marks will be transferred onto your silver, causing more work.

This setting still needs a bit more burnishing on the area that appears duller, towards the top of the teardrop.

And in this picture the marks have magically gone!


All that was left for these earrings was to turn the earwires, hammer them (carefully!) for extra strength and to give them a final polish - and you can now find them on the website here


  1. Great tutorial! Just had a question about a bezel setting I did on some sheet silver. When I soldered the bezel to the sheet silver it seemed to leave a darkish mark around the edge of the bezel. I pickled it but it hasn't seem to disappear? Wondered whether you had come across this before or whether I hadn't pickled it for long enough? I have tried to sand it out but it doesn't seem to move? Any advice would be great! Also see you on Saturday at Winchester, I am there too, very excited!

  2. If only it were that easy! What thickness silver do you use for your bezel?

  3. Heidi, without looking at it I'd guess that you've still got some oxidisation there. If you still have it bring it along to the show on Saturday and I'll have a look and see if I can figure it out!

    Fiona - I use premade 0.3mm bezel strip for most stones, but roll my own strip up to 0.5mm thick for larger stones using a rolling mill. I'm afraid that the ease of setting stones is down to practise, learning how much "push" you can safely do with your tools, taking your time with it and patience, and I still get it wrong at times!

  4. Thank you. The main problem I find is getting the bezel to fit the stone. I must try again soon. I gave it all up in frustration last year. I was using 4mm strip for the bezel. I think it's the patience aspect that lets me down.

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