I thought that although it was a new experience for me,t hat I would get the bezel or rub over stone setting part of class done with, easy peasy, in half a class, get the ring shank soldered and everything put together in one class. Not likely! I am more than aware from my various dressmaking projects that you get quicker with experience, but making sure your setting fits your stone perfectly and that your base is big enough does take some fiddling about with. Not only fiddling, but constantly checking (like you do with sewing and dressmaking) that it fits right.
The piece of metal I got for the base part of my bezel setting was 0.5mm thick and the measurements for width and length were according to the measurements of the oval labradorite gemstone that I was keen on setting, but what I didn’t realise was instead of having the setting go around the outside of the base, it needs to sit on top of your base piece. My base piece was therefore too small, so I ended up having to use a bit of the instructor’s and measuring it as closely as possible so as not to waste any precious silver.
Checking the fit of my newly cut out base piece with my bezel setting
I never do things the easy way and instead of having a four-sided or circular gemstone, I decided to go with an oval gem where you need to make sure the setting is big enough for the gem to slide in and out while you’re constantly checking the fit. Once I finally managed to get an approximate shape, I soldered the short edges of the setting together. I then made sure the shape was more oval and less…wobbly jelly using a rawhide mallet and shaping the sides on a mandrel.
It only really makes more sense when you go and start working on something if you’re not told how sometimes things don’t work exactly as you’ve planned. I was having trouble lining up the faux fur and fleece lining at first for my faux fur throw and my OH had to show me how to do it properly. For soldering to work, you need to be able to get the flame to the parts the solder needs to run. The way I had imagined the bezel setting to work, if I had the setting on the outside of the base, personally I’d find it difficult to pull the solder to the inside, or even getting the 2 pieces to sit together while the torch is on it would be a real hassle.
Anyway, here’s where I am so far with my setting. It took me two attempts to solder the setting, and then another 2 attempts to solder the base to the setting, but I got there finally!
My soldered bezel/rub over cup
I’ve left the labradorite gem in the setting (or the cup) to check its fit. It’s slightly larger than I wanted, I didn’t file enough from the ends to get straight edges for soldering, but it’s fixable by making sure the bezel strip is folded over to make sure it will hold the stone are secure to remove any element of movement in the gemstone. I’ve then got to saw around the sides to remove all the excess silver and give it a good polish. Then it’s soldering the ring shank separately, soldering the ring shank and cup together before setting the stone. We’re getting there!
I’m also excited to be finally using some of my tools at home! So far I’ve only been using the flat file and the scribe, I haven’t really had any opportunity for any sawing but I’ll be getting a ‘V’ cut into my anvil tonight and once I get some other tools this week along with some silver for some early custom orders for jewellery (my first customers!), I’ll be well on my way to building up my toolbox!
It’s not necessary to attend a class to learn how to use this technique, there are tutorials online like Etsy Metal Blog’s or this one from Instructables. I’ve also got the book, Gemstone Settings: The Jewelry Maker’s Guide to Styles & Techniques by Anastasia Young from Amazon UK that I intend on making good use of after my second term of classes are finished.
Watch this space!