bezel example

Bezel Setting by Christina Dean and Mark Rooker

What is a bezel? The bezel is a thin band of metal that surrounds a stone and is pressed over its edge to hold it in place.  It is probably the oldest and most widely used setting in the world. – Tim McCreight

Part One: Making the Bezel
  1. Tightly wrap bezel wire around the edge of your stone.  The closer the fit the better.
  2. Mark where the wire overlaps (see display, panel 1) and trim wire on marked line at 90 degrees with scissors.
  3. Depending on the height of the stone and bevel and curvature of it’s edge, you may want to further trim the height and contour of the bezel.*
  4. File both ends of wire flat and straight, removing any burs.
  5. Reshape wire so the flat ends fit snuggly together. No light should be visible through the joint.
  6. Pickle and gently de-grease the wire.
  7. Carefully dip wire into flux and blow off the excess.
  8. Hang your bezel on pins stuck in a fire brick so that gravity will help hold the solder in place.
  9. Place one small solder pill (preferably hard or medium) directly on joint.
  10. Heat as appropriate for your size and shape. Be careful to not overheat and melt your wire. Once the solder flows, remove the torch immediately.
  11. Quench. Pickle. Clean.
  12. File excess solder from bezel, taking care not to thin the bezel wire.
  13. Refit the bezel to the stone by passing it all the way through the bezel several times. The bezel should fit snugly and allow little or no light to pass between. If the bezel is slightly too small it can be stretched a little by burnishing the wire against a hard surface such as a bench plate or mandrel. (see display, panel 2)
Part Two: Joining Bezel to Sheet
  1. Trace your bezel onto flat sheet and saw the desired shape. [RECCOMMENDED: (A) Even if you are going to later trim the edge of the sheet flush with the bezel’s contour, saw leaving an extra 2mm of sheet all around the bezel. This avoids having to be precise in aligning your bezel and sheet, and allows you to put your solder on the outside of the bezel where it is easier to file off the excess. (B) Drill one or more small holes through sheet. Later this will allow you to push the stone back out if it gets stuck.]
  2. Flatten your sheet and evenly sand surface with at least a coarse-grit sandpaper.
  3. Tape a sheet of 320-400 grit sandpaper to a clean flat surface, and pressing evenly on the bezel’s edge, gently sand edge of bezel that will be attached to the sheet. This ensures the bezel will lie completely flat on the sheet.
  4. Refit bezel to stone as in step 13 of the previous section, and lay the bezel on the sheet to check the fit. No light should be visible through the joint.
  5. Pickle and gently de-grease the wire and sheet.
  6. Protect the first solder seam by painting it with white-out, taking care to keep it back from the edge you where you want solder to flow.
  7. Apply a thin, even layer of flux to the sheet only on the side the bezel is to be on and dip the bezel wire into flux, blowing off the excess.  Place sheet flux side up on a tripod and heating screen. Position the bezel, checking that it is completely flat to the sheet. Place solder pills on outside of wire.
  8. Heat from underneath the sheet and as appropriate for its size and shape. Remember that your bezel wire has much less mass than your sheet, and will require far less heat. Heating from underneath will allow you to heat the sheet directly while avoiding overheating the bezel.
  9. When your solder begins to flow a brightly shimmering line will develop in the joint between the pieces. While the solder is flowing, check for any gaps in the line, and let the torch linger a little in these starved areas to help draw solder into the gaps. Be sure to keep the torch moving and keep heating only from underneath the sheet. If some pills don’t flow or there are gaps in solder joint, stop heating, pickle and clean, adjust the fit, and repeat steps 5-9 until entire bezel is soldered in place. Do not try to draw the solder to the gaps using the flame directly on the bezel wire (especially the inner-blue cone of the flame) you will instantly melt your wire.
  10. Air-cool, pickle, and gently clean your piece.
  11. Check fit of stone and setting.
  12. File off any excess sheet and/or solder. (see display, panel 3)
Part Three: Setting the Stone
  1. After all other fabrication and finishing is complete, you are ready to set your stone. (Most stones, even those sold as “Cast in Place,” can’t take the intense heat and chemical exposure of soldering operations.
  2. Place a SMALL dab of silicone glue in the bezel cup and insert your stone. Take care to push the stone all the way to the bottom of the setting, and remove any excess glue. Allow the glue to set up. (The glue helps cushion the stone and keep it from rattling around in the setting if your bezel is loose.)
  3. (A) Control and leverage are crucial at this stage, so secure your piece in a ring clamp, vise, or engraver’s ball. (B) Using a bezel rocker, begin at the base of your setting and with the tool almost parallel to the base sheet, firmly push forward and rock the tool back and forth. Repeat this procedure all the way around the stone. (C) Move the rocker higher on the bezel, match the angle of the tool’s surface to that of the stone and repeat the pushing and rocking technique. (D) Repeat (C) as needed until you reach the edge of the bezel. Take care at the edge not to stretch or smear the wire, or slip with the tool.
  4. Firmly rub the entire bezel with a burnisher to smooth out irregularities, tighten the fit, and shine the surface. Take care in (3) and (4) not to press too firmly as this may stretch the bezel and loosen it. (see display, panel 4)


*Tips for Shaping and Contouring the Bezel


For a More Decorative Bezel

All stone settings consist of a seat and a structure to grip the stone against the seat. In the case of the basic bezel setting described in these instructions, the sheet provides the seat and the bezel wire the gripping structure. As long as they still provide support and grip they can be modified in a number of ways.