Thursday, August 18, 2016

Bezel and Bedazzle

I'm really a magpie. A bird that decorates it's nest with sparkly, shiny, bits and bobs. I'm also a minor league hoarder/purchaser. Earlier this year I discovered a seller of sapphire slices on Instagram. What's a slice, you ask? It's a very low profile, faceted, irregularly shaped, cabochon. Flat on the bottom, faceted on the 'dome'. Usually made with second rate (or less) gem, slab, material. That's why they're not clear, or perfect colors, or expensive. And I've bought a few parcels to fondle.

Hen's teeth sapphires and wire stripper 'bezel cutter'. 

One of the parcels was really small in diameter. When I got them I called them 'hen's teeth' sapphires. Pink. Yummy. And I actually have an idea of what to make with them! But of course setting cabochons involves making bezels. I could try to set them directly in metal clay, but because they are cloudy and have all kinds of inclusions that I can't see, and because I really like them - I don't want to chance it. I might experiment with one I don't like so much another day.  In general - sapphire does really well in the kiln.

So today, I'm making bezels. Hopefully 5 of them. I'm on #1, and I'll give you a few minor league tips that I learned many moons ago.

See how the reflection of the wire in the tool looks like a chevron?

This time it's straighter. Hard to take photos with one hand
and hold the tool with the other. I swear if you were in my studio
the wire on the left, in the reflection, and on the right would
all be in a straight line.

1. I  use fine silver, commercial bezel wire. It comes in many widths and I have three.
2. I place the stone on double stick tape to fit the wire around it. (so it doesn't move and jiggle and fly into deep dark corners of my studio)
3. I use a hardware store wire stripper to cut the wire. It creates a very flush cut and if you look at the wire, and it's reflection in the side of the tool, you can see if it's straight. If the wire and it's reflection are in line, chances are very high that you're cutting a perfect right angle. I tried to take a picture - but I'm afraid it doesn't really 'read' online.
4. I use a coffee stirrer stick to form the bezel around the base of the stone. Once you have correctly determined the width of the wire, that's pretty much all you should care about at this point. That the bezel matches the contours of the BASE of the stone perfectly.
5. I fuse the bezel closed instead of using solder. That way I don't have to think extra hard when I want to use it with either a metal clay base or a sheet metal base. A fused silver item can be fired onto the base with slip/oil paste/overlay paste or soldered.

The bezel is too small and doesn't touch the pink paper/double stick tape
all the way around.
6. If the bezel is just a tiny bit too small, you can put it on a steel tool like a ring or bezel mandrel, and roll it on a steel bench block, and it will stretch a little bit. I'll tell you another trick. I have a set of really inexpensive Harbor Freight dapping tools to use just as mandrels! I form metal clay beads and long container shapes on them, make jump rings of all sizes, and occasionally dap with them too. Great tool to get for alternative uses.
7. When the bezel is attached to the base plate, and the stone is inside, I use a chopstick to push the wire into place. Fine silver wire is very soft, and as I'm not an expert stone setter I sometimes use too much 'push power' and have been known to scratch the stone. Wood doesn't scratch. When the stone has been set securely, I switch to traditional metal pushers et al.

The only way to become proficient at anything, is to practice, practice, practice. So that's why I'm making all the bezels at once. And I might make even more bezels for stones that I don't know what to do with yet. Practice makes proficient.


Caroline said...

Thank you!

It feels good to notice that I make bezels the same as you do! (fusing fine silver, or argentium for that matter, and... double side tape...

The only thing I don't really get (plus I don't have this article in my junk / workshop) is what you do with the coffee stirrer... I can't really picture it? Can you explain more?

Thanks in advance!


Lora Hart said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Georgie Galante Artmaker said...

See #5

Lora Hart said...

Caroline, I find that if I use my fingers to form the bezel wire around the stone, especially when the stone is as small as these are, that I tend to 'tent' the wire over the dome of the stone, which makes the base of the wire too large. I use the coffee stirrer to push the base of the wire tight to the base of the stone, and don't worry too much about the 'attitude'/shape of the top of the wire. Hope that makes more sense. :D

Vickie Hallmark said...

Great tips! I love the tool reflection idea - I haven't heard that one before. ;-)

V Harris said...

Awesome! I love that you used chopsticks! I am self-taught at many things lol and part of my joy is figuring out a new purpose for a well-used tools. Love Harbor Freight.- will have to try the new uses for the dappers!

Tree Of Opals said...

How do you fuse please?