Sunday, January 12, 2014

My First Bezel: A Comedy of Errors

As I began my first bezel project, I thought to take some pictures to share. I have completed my project now. I'll tell my tale in three parts.

Part One:

All of my supplies aren't in yet, but I couldn't stand to wait, so I got started with making a bezel with what I had. I made every mistake along the way.....

First, the stone I chose-- I picked this up on ebay many moons ago. It's a gorgeous composite stone. The guy really liked making them, but I guess they didn't sell because he quit selling them.

I pulled out some 1/4" scalloped bezel thinking it would work for the stone and got started. I measured a hundred times and got to soldering.

The soldering actually went very well. As you can see, I chose to use a copper base. Didn't want to experiment on silver sheet. I used a micro torch. It worked a charm. :)

I should admit here that the first thing I did was trace out the stone on the copper sheet and try to cut it without a bench pin. Not good. First I learned (Duh!) you have to leave room for the bezel wire to fit and then I learned that a bench pin must be VERY useful. I tried clamping the sheet in a vacuum panavise which kept coming lose. Bad. So I ended up soldering the wire and worrying about cutting later.

My next mistake? Wow! I was so flippin' excited abt my solder join (my first bezel solder) that I pushed the stone in, forgetting to put some dental floss in so that I could pull it out. Yeah, that called for a swear word. After I mangled the wire to get the stone out, I figured this was a lost cause, but I carried on with dental floss. 

So, I put the stone in and found out that the bezel wire was too high. I used a cheat. I put some wire in the cup to lift the stone up.

Then I took my setting tools and turned over the scalloped edges.

It was then that I found out how easily they mar the wire. I also found out that my stone was TOO high and only one side of the wire was holding the stone in. In other words... it was lopsided. So, I mangled the hell out the bezel wire again to get the stone out. I figured all was lost. But, I carried on.

Just then, the UPS guy showed up and brought me some shears. Yay! I cut the extra base off and started to file it down flush.

Check out how badly I mangled the wire with the prong pusher thingie (the black square tool).

Even though the bezel wire is in pretty bad shape, I am going ahead with this. Hopefully, I can get it looking somewhat good.

This is the point I am at so far. I put a smaller gauge wire in the bottom of the cup. It looks like it will work.

Now I need to polish it up and figure a bail. I made a copper bail that would hang from the top silver, but my soldering didn't flow where I wanted it to. I'm going to try a different bail anyway.

I'm off to to scrounge for dremel attachments and get this polished up. Hopefully my finishing supplies will be in soon. In the meantime, I have some things that should work.

I never considered the shape of the stone or the scalloped bezel wire when I decided to start this project. You will see what a mistake that was. It is typical of me to want to start right in on something more difficult than I could easily manage. :)

Stay tuned for part 2.


  1. Tela, I'm giggling as I read about your journey because I share some of your learning experiences. I have trouble choosing the proper size bezel wire for the stone. I had to do the same to mine.

    I was taught to drill a tiny hole in the back of the setting. I really like the idea of using dental floss much better. I don't like the looks of the back with a hole in the middle. Thank you for sharing, I'm looking forward to part 2.

    1. You probably won't believe it, but even as I swore, I was grinning ear to ear. I was having so much fun! I should say that you should use dental tape. It is wider. I broke the thin kind on my next piece and wished I had a hole. I agree, though, I don't like the hole.

  2. Over the years of denting bezel wire and scratching stones, I have found that it's helpful to use a dowel or a toothbrush handle to push the bezel over the stone. (Cut off the brush and smooth cut edges to make the tool.) I do use the metal pushers also but it takes a light touch. If I have problems I have found I can usually file the bezel wire to eliminate (or minimize) the wrinkles or marks in the bezel. After filing I use a fine (400-600) sanding stick to smooth out the file marks. A burnisher is also very handy to smooth out any marks in the bezel wire and get the edges down tight. The petrified wood cab necklace pictured in my Artfire store Bio gallery was a mess of wrinkles and dents because the bezel was a little too tall for the stone, but with patience I managed get a the goofs smoothed out and looking good. it was one of my early pieces and I learned a lot with that one.

    I haven't had much luck with serrated or scalloped wire--especially with a stone with "corners" and since I rarely use an oval--all mine have a corner or point. My stones always seem to have one corner that is lower than the other and it's really hard to correct with that type of bezel. With plain bezel you can file the corners of the bezel so that each corner fits perfectly with no folds or excess material.

    1. Kathy, thank you :) Yup, I got the same advice AFTER I was done with the piece. The bezel wire became a nightmare, as you will find out. This is all trial and error and flying by the seat of my pants. That's ok though, I learn well that way. Despite all the issues I have had, I'm having fun. I've learned a lot and my second piece is coming along much nicer. (Still not perfect, though.) I am really enjoying myself and I love the challenge.

    2. I seem to have "issues" on every piece because I try something I haven't done before so it is always a learning experience! I've probably made every mistake there is to make--plus I add the challenge of doing multiple operations with copper solder which only comes in one "hardness". I have been pretty much on my own learning to work with copper. Silver is easier to work with because you are able to use an "easier" (lower melting temp) solder with every operation. I don't do a lot of silver so I still melt my fine silver bezels trying to attach them to the back plates since I am used to using high heat with copper. I have a bag of melted bezels to prove it. Fortunately you can reuse those scraps by melting the pieces into "balls" to use as embellishments.

      Also, if you want to watch some excellent tutorials on soldering, I recommend the Lapidary Journal/Jewelry Artist video series on soldering by Lexi Erickson. She is an excellent teacher and she gives lots of "helpful hints" as she goes. I really like her style and the pieces that are featured in the magazine.

    3. Funny you should mention Lexi. I just got her soldering book and three jewelry dvds. :) Yes, I agree with your opinion of her work. I wish I had gotten them before my project. I also have Joe Silva's book and dvd. I like his dvd, too. But, as much as I can pick up watching videos, there is so much more to learn. Melting metal (or not) seems to be the way. I agree about the copper. I actually prefer soldering copper. It always seems to go so much easier for me. But, the lack of solder hardnesses does pose a problem.

      @ melting bezel wire. Lexi just makes an "organic" style form of bezel. LOL! It works.

  3. I think my first attempt went very much like this! I mangled mine, over-fired, worked the bezel wire to death... and then decided to wait until my copper supplies came in... so I can practice without such a cost... Today is the day it will all be delivered - WISH ME LUCK! haha

    1. Looking back- I'm kinda glad that I did that. I learn better by doing ..... and by messing up. :)

      Good luck and have fun!!!


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