For Your Staff/Defining Quality
Knowing how to professionally manufacture bezels demonstrates another aspect of quality in your shop.
Because they are smooth, offer substantial security and blend nicely with most designs, bezels are one of the most accepted styles for setting cabochon gemstones in fine jewelry. This article discusses why and how to handmade bezels for gems – such as cabochon cuts.
Here are examples of two common styles of bezels mass-produced and provided by manufacturers and suppliers of findings for fine jewelry.
Die-struck round bezel Die-struck oval bezel
Why Many Gems Require Handmade Bezels
While the standard bezels shown in the box below/left are readily available, bench jewelers often prefer to handmake bezels to accommodate stones for three primary reasons:
1. Non-Standard Proportions
Many cabochon-cut gems have dimensions – length or width – that don’t conform to the sizes commonly available in premanufactured bezels. In this case, the bench jeweler either has to custom-manufacture a bezel or use a different setting style.
This illustration shows a non-standard-size stone and a standard bezel. Notice how the stone extends beyond the bezel.
2. Different Profiles
Here are examples of stones with the same outside measurements but with very different profiles:
3. Different Internal Characteristics
Besides different proportions and profiles, cabochons can have phenomenal characteristics such as chatoyancy (cat’s eyes) and asterism (stars). These internal features can be lost if the stone is finished to standard proportions. Consequently, these stones are often crudely finished and can be rough on the bottom. These obviously require hand-made bezels.
Professionally Manufacturing Handmade Bezels
Let’s look at steps in making a bezel to quality standards:
1. Determine the stone’s overall height, then select bezel material of the appropriate height and at least 1mm thickness.
The top three illustrations show that it’s important to select material with the proper dimensions. Material that’s too short will not secure the stone properly; material that’s too high will hide the stone’s overall beauty.
This is how a properly made bezel fits in relationship to the stone. Notice how the top of the bezel secures the stone without obstructing its beauty.
This one is too low.
This one is too high – it hides the beauty of the stone.
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2. Select the proper material on which to seat the stone. In this case, the bench jeweler selected square wire that will provide a secure seat so the stone won’t drop out of the bottom after it’s set.
3. Shape the metal to conform to the bottom portion of the stone. The bezel must fit around the outside perimeter of the stone, and the square wire must not exceed the outside perimeter. The outside bezel wire and the stone must fit snugly with no gaps when assembled.
4. Once you’ve achieved your fit, hard-solder the ends of each of your bezel wires.
5. Constantly check the fit of the outside bezel wire against the stone it’s being made for.
6. Once you’ve formed the outside and lower wires, file the inside of the bezel and the outside of the square wire. Remove all filings. Solder them together with medium or easy solder.
7. The next step is to affix the bezel to the article of jewelry for the stone.
Your bezel assembly will work for a pendant, bracelet, ring or most other applications. Once you’ve assembled your bezel with the article of jewelry, you’re ready to set the stone. Next month, we’ll examine bezel setting round and oval stones.
The JA Professional’s Guide to Fine Jewelry Craftmanship
Making Bezels for Standard Shaped Gems
Professionally Made Bezels
A. The bezel is the proper height to secure the stone in place after setting without obscuring its beauty.
B. The bezel is made of substantial components, appropriate to the article of jewelry for which it’s made.
C. The bezel is of even thickness, symmetrical and consistently finished.
D. There are no visible solder seams where the bezel pieces are connected.
Potential Problems to Watch Out For
Poor Looking Finished Bezel
The bezel is not symmetrical, its thickness is uneven and it’s finished unevenly. More care should have been taken during the manufacturing and finishing of the bezel.
Bezel Is too Low for the Stone. The overall height of the bezel wall is too low to secure the stone. This stone eventually will become dislodged and will be lost.
Bezel Components Are Insufficient for a Ring
The materials selected for the bezel structure aren’t substantial enough for a ring – the bezel is too thin and the seat for the stone is too light. The ring will bend and eventually break through normal wear.
Bezel Dimensions Are too Large for the Stone
The dimensions of this bezel and seat are too large for the stone it was made for. If set, this stone
Illustrations by Lainie Mann – Visual Communications
© 2000 Jewelers of America Inc.
This information is required for the second level of the JA®
Certified Bench Jeweler™ program.
The installments published in Professional Jeweler from February 1998 to July 1999 have been reformatted and published by Jewelers of America as a countertop book titled The JA Professional’s Guide to Fine Jewelry Craftsmanship. To buy a copy, contact one of the following suppliers: Gesswein, GIA Bookstore, Rio Grande and Stuller Settings. Or call JA at (800) 223-0673.
Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications
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