Nancy LT Hamilton, last updated: 3/2/17
- 1 Setting A Pear Shaped Stone In A Bezel
- 2 Tools
- 3 The Process
- 3.1 Measuring How Long And Wide To Make The Bezel Strip
- 3.2 Squaring Your Metal
- 3.3 Bevel Both Ends Of The Strip
- 3.4 Shaping The Bezel Strip
- 3.5 Soldering
- 3.6 Creating The Inner Shoulder
- 3.7 Pre-Finishing
- 3.8 The Back Plate (Optional)
- 3.9 Setting
- 4 Finishing
- 5 Setting Video
- 6 Additional Resources For Pear Shaped Stones
- 7 Related Webpages
- 8 Related Videos
Setting A Pear Shaped Stone In A Bezel
If at all possible, use a large stone for your first pear bezel. This larger size will make it so much easier, in some ways, to create the bezel.
My fat bellied pear shaped citrine. Many colored gemstones have more facets, fuller pavilions, more weight than diamonds, to make the most out of their color. The focus is on color, not brilliance, as with a diamond. See: How to Buy Colored Gemstones by AJS Gems.
- I used 20g copper for this bezel. Obviously, if you are making very tiny bezels, you will need to decrease the gauge. 20g is perfect for this size of stone, as it is strong and thick enough, for me to have my way with it. 20g copper bezel strip, pre-made is extremely difficult to find – that’s why I made my own.
- A stone (hmmm…wonder why?) Visit my Jewelry Supplies section on Gemstone Suppliers for places to buy stones.
- Sandpaper in various grits. I like 3M’s Tri-M-Ite Imperial Polishing Paper.
- Cotton buff for the flex shaft. Use this if you want a final shine on your piece.
- Use a Mizzy Heatless Wheel (silicon carbide wheel) or a Mini Fiber Wheel (comes in 5 different “grits”) if you want a matt finish. You can also create a very nice finish with files.
- Polishing pins. (Optional).
- Lubricant, like Liquid (or solid form) Bur-Life, beeswax (this particular one, comes with a handy case) or 3-In-One oil.
- Sanding discs (if preferred for finishing). See my Sanding page for information on the sanding discs that I use.
- Solder. See my page on Solder.
- Liver of Sulfur – optional.
Materials For The Ring
- 18g Sterling or Argentium Sheet.
- 12g Sterling or Argentium round wire.
- Ring mandrel – Finger Shaped.
- Cup Burs that fit the end of the 12g round wire. Need a bur with an ID of more than 2.05 mm.
- Bench shear, hand shear or jeweler’s saw frame and blades.
- 1/2 round needle file.
- For making flat edges, I like to use a much broader, longer file. When I am initially cutting I use a double cut, flat hand file (fine cut, 12″) and for my next step I use a mill hand file (coarse cut, 12″). (Double cut, flat hand file, mill hand file and needle files for comparison). Larger files are great because they are usually wide and long enough to file the entire setting at once. Filing the entire area reduces uneven filing.
- Miter cutting vise and jig or a machinists vise. Optional.
- Adjustable square. Optional.
- Wood, smallish piece: 4″ x 4″ or so.
- Leather Mallet.
- Flex shaft or Dremel to drill one hole. You could also use a hole punch.
- Points for cleaning interior surfaces like this Ottotech Flexacrylic Polishing and Abrasive Wheel Kit.
- Knife-edge Pumice Wheels.
- #40 0r #42 graver (optional).
- 320, 400, 600, 1000 grit wet/dry sandpaper
- GRS, Jett Sett, pitch, shellac and holder or other holding device for setting.
- Hammer handpiece . Fits on Harbor Freight flex shaft, BTW. (optional).
- Magnifiers (Amazon), magnifiers (Rio Grande) (optional).
- Ruler. I really like these clear, flexible rulers made by: The C-Thru Ruler Company.
- Binding wire
- Torch, gas, flux, pickle, solder: hard and medium and all the other stuff needed for soldering.
- Bezel pusher.
Hope I didn’t miss anything. Ya never know…
Measuring How Long And Wide To Make The Bezel Strip
For a fast, “down and dirty” guestimate for determining how much strip you’ll need, check out my tiny video (which is unlisted) on YouTube: A Method to Guestimate How Long to Make Bezel Wire/Strip.
Original method for determining rough length of bezel strip
Due to it’s odd shape, you can’t just measure diameter or length/width so, the best method that I have found for measuring this stone is to:
- Push the stone into a flattened slab of polymer clay. You can push it in so that the table is facing upwards or so that the culet is facing upwards. The important thing is to have the girdle even with the surface of the clay.
- Use 24g or 26g annealed wire (I choose copper because it is so flexible), wrap the wire around the girdle. Mark with a Sharpie where the wire intersects. I made one mark on the inside and one across the top. See image above.
- Straighten out wire (hand straighten first then, using a flat piece of wood, roll the wood over the wire until straight). Measure.
- Add .5mm to every edge that will be beveled. For a pear, that will be two beveled edges (at the point), a square 4 etc.
- With the stone I am using, that came out to 65mm + 1mm for the beveled edges = 66mm in length.
If measuring a square or rectangular stone, and you don’t use the wire measuring method, don’t forget to add the thickness of the metal in. There will be more information on setting these stones on another page.
- Measure depth of the stone by placing it in the calipers. For my stone, that came out to 9.11 so I rounded up to 9.5 – which allows me some wiggle room for filing.
- Set your dividers to the ruler and scribe your width line. Mark the length too.
Metal marked and ready to cut: one scribed line and one with pen, marking the length. When using pen, which has a dimension that can affect your outcome, decide which side you are marking and measuring on. I decided to measure inside of my marks.
Cutting The Bezel Strip
You can cut your metal with a bench shear. Alternately, you can saw out the shape with a jeweler’s saw or use French Shop Shears. I put the shop shears to the test – cutting the 20g bezel sheet with them. The metal curled but, I just annealed it and pounded it flat. The best way to flatten metal without marring it, is to place a piece of wood or urethane over it and then bang away; preferably with a heavy mallet.
- A little note on using the French Shop Shears: keep the bottom blade, tight up against the bottom. This helps to keep the cutting line straight.
The easiest way (for me) is using my guillotine shear. Pepetools 196.70 Guillotine Shear 4″ (at Otto Frei). You can also buy bezel strip wire. The gauge you choose should be applicable for your stone/bezel size. If I had used 28g bezel wire/strip for this big citrine, I would have cried because the wire would not have held its shape and would have been very difficult to work with. 26g and 28g are OK for small settings. If you do choose to use thin bezel wire/strip, make sure you use a heftier gauge for the backing. So, if I made a bezel from 28g, I would create the back from 22g-24g to add strength and inflexibility. My setting, made from this gauge, would be small!
Squaring Your Metal
One of the most difficult parts in the construction of this setting is squaring the metal. If at all possible, start with a piece that has one, perfectly squared edge – it makes squaring up the rest of the metal oh, so much easier.
EXCITING (to me, at least) UPDATE
I have recently discovered a new tool for achieving a square 90° corner AND straight sides. It is called a Toolmaker’s Screw-less Vise or a Machinist’s Vise or other things. I just ordered mine from Little Machine Shop. I use it like the miter cutting vise: insert the metal, tighten down so that it doesn’t move and file the top and side flush with the metal of the vise. Here’s the piece I tried it on, with a vise that I borrowed from Chimera: Nice and square and it only took me 5 minutes! Happy dance, happy dance. I also purchased these things called parallel bars. Here’s a YouTube video by The Tool and Die Guy about their use. Of course, we will be using them a little differently. They come in pairs and are placed inside the vise to lift the metal up, while keeping it square. As jewelers, we will probably only need to use one of the plates as our metal is so thin. Not even sure if I’ll need them but, will let you know! More happy dancing.
Accuracy is imperative with the setting process. Use an adjustable square to check for square.
Or you can use a machinist’s square or other measuring device. Machinist’s Square.
Bevel Both Ends Of The Strip
To save yourself a lot of work, invest in a miter cutting vise and jig, this one from Rio Grande. It cuts angles of 45°, 60° and 90° that are very straight. (Please see my page: Tools: Miter-Cutting Vise and Jig, for information on how to use the tool.) For this project though, you’ll be using the 45° on the miter cutting vise. This miter-cutting vise and jig is from Rio Grande ($63.00 US as of 6/1/15). I highly recommend purchasing the higher end vise. I purchased one of the cheaper vises and it is stiff and hard to work.
Mitre the edges. I don’t have the three bevels, miter-cutting vise so, I cut a 45° angle and then, with my arm slightly tilted, I filed the angle a little steeper. I don’t know how the 60° angle, in the three bevel miter-cutting vise, will work for this project as I haven’t tried it. This angle is for the tip on the setting – where the two ends of the metal come together. They are not 45° angles – don’t know what the angle is. I think it depends on the shape of your stone.
Shaping The Bezel Strip
Depending on the size of your bezel, you can either use a bezel mandrel, shank of a dapping punch, ring mandrel or even a wooden dowel. Whatever mimics the shape and size of your stone. With my gigantic citrine, I used a ring mandrel to round the back and begin the shaping process.
I also used 1/2 round pliers to continue the curve. Just found these pliers: by Wubbers – link is to the large pliers. They come in small, medium, large and jumbo. Here’s a little video from Beadaholique on them. I have never used these.
Check the fit on the stone. Anneal often and adjust. You may have to adjust the bevel on the end. Try not to take off too much material, as the bezel may be too short. IF that happens: Anneal, place the bezel on the mandrel, that you originally used (if you used wood, find something made of metal for this as the wood is too soft) and hammer it with your mallet. Check the fit. If the bezel is still too small, move to a steel hammer. Check often. Really. Hammer on the round end of the bezel. If it is very small, make another one. There’s no sense moving on if it won’t fit. Conversely, if it is too large, cut a bit off of each end and re-bevel. Do this conservatively as you don’t want to have to make a new strip, if you can help it!
I used binding wire with this huge bezel. If you have a smaller bezel or one that is made from thinner stock, you may be able to avoid the binding wire – if your fit is perfect. Here is where all that precision comes into play!
I used hard solder for my first join.
Here is the setting wired up, fluxed and solder pallion in place. Please note that the wire twist is at the top. I didn’t want excess solder to get bound up with the twist and didn’t want to put undue pressure on the mitered edge.
Follow normal soldering procedures. The bezel is held in this position with a pair of cross-lock tweezers. You could also use small pieces of ceramic or lay it on it’s back (or front) to solder. The size of your flame is dependent on the gauge, type of metal and size of your bezel.
Creating The Inner Shoulder
Because this bezel is for a faceted stone, it needs to have a place for the stone to rest on. You can make another, smaller bezel or make a seat from wire that fits tightly inside the outer bezel.
I used 24 gauge metal for the interior bezel. Any more material than this is unnecessary and thinner metal will not provide sufficient support.
To determine how long to make the strip, take your original bezel strip measurement and reduce it by the thickness of your metal. So, for my bezel that calculation would be: 66 mm (length + .05 for each bevel) MINUS .8118 mm (the thickness of 20g metal). The result is a strip 65.18. So, I’ll round down to 65 mm. If the strip is too short, I can stretch it, as discussed above.
Bevel the edges and check the fit. It should be snug. You don’t want gaps.
To determine the height, measure from the underside of the girdle to the culet of the stone. This can be a difficult thing. You can try it using calipers, dividers or a ruler.
You can also try using the polymer clay again burying the stone, face down this time, until the bottom of the girdle is flush with the clay.
One of the “real” methods is: the outer bezel should be (1/4 to a 1/3 the height of the stone) taller than the inner bezel. So, using my example: the height of my stone is 9.11 divided by 3 or 4 = 3.037 or 2.25. My inner bezel therefore (should have been) 2.25 – 3 mm’s shorter than my outer bezel or somewhere between (9.5 bezel height) 6.50 to 7.25 mm’s high. (Numbers may be rounded up.)
When I made my shoulder, something went wrong (well, I am not perfect you know!) and it was way too wide so, I put the bezel and shoulder together, pushed in my stone and marked the area that was hanging out below the bottom of the bezel. I cut off the excess AFTER soldering. Somehow, that seemed easier. Then, I got to saw off the excess. Fun.
This bezel required me to place solder on both the top side and the bottom side of the bezel and the inner bezel, because it was so wide. I think it took a total of three or four soldering passes until it was fully attached. You are looking for a line of silver running all around the interior edges – from both sides!
I used medium solder for the second join.
After sawing off the excess, I needed to square up the bottom of the bezel. You want the bottom to be smooth and even. Make sure that your base plate is very flat too.
I dragged the bezel down the face of: first, my double cut, hand file and then my single cut. Creating a smooth, even surface. Next came the sandpaper and I ran the bezel over 320 grit in a figure 8 pattern. Check that there are no high or low spots.
This photo illustrates a low spot (between the black marks). This mark shows me that the base is not truly flat. You can tell because it has a different shine than the other areas on the bezel. If I had soldered it without removing the low area, I would have had a gap between the bezel and the back plate.
The Back Plate (Optional)
(Back plate soldered on.) At this point, you need to make a decision about whether you are using a back plate or not. If using heavy gauge metal, like I did, you could get away without using one. But, generally, you’ll be working with smaller stones and thinner gauge bezel wire so, it would be a good idea to include a back plate in your design.
(Back plate pierced out.) The back plate can be wide open, have a pierced pattern or can be fully closed. The big consideration is how you are going to attach the bezel to the item you are making. I wanted to make another big girl ring (go figure) and I didn’t want to have any metal blocking the light through the stone. So, I made a back plate for this bezel because I felt that it presented a more finished look. I then pierced out most of the back plate, after soldering, to lend to the appearance that the stone was floating. To further enhance this appearance, I soldered the bezel to the side of my ring shank. Now, nothing was blocking the view.
With smaller stones, you can cut “azures” (Michael Bondanza’s article: 3 Details of Jewelry Refinement). (Also see Brad Simon’s article: Cutting Azures.) Azures involve the removal of metal behind the stone, allowing more of the stone’s pavilion to be visible. This finishes the hole and gives it a more polished look. Azures also allow for easier cleaning of a stone. But, you don’t have to do this. Just remember with a clear, faceted stone, that the interplay of light is an important part of its appeal and the more light you allow in, the more sparkly the stone will be. The simplest azure would be a hole behind the stone that is beveled by a ball, bud, cone or setting bur.
To flatten the base, anneal and place a chunk of wood (that entirely covers the metal) over the metal and hammer flat with your mallet. Redo, if necessary.
(Beveled bezel edge.) If you have a thick bezel, you can file a bevel on the edge to make setting easier. You can also bevel a thinner bezel wall, if you want. But, keep in mind that you could over-thin the metal and make the bezel very weak.
I made a video of how I set this ring. The link is below. I should have put the danged thing into Jett-Sett, it would have made my life better and the video better. Alas…
- Cut through the corner, using a small saw blade like 5/0 or 6/0 or even smaller, if your setting is small. Cut about as deep as the blade is wide or to the top of the stones girdle – without sawing into the stone. You may have to adjust the cut again later – especially with thicker metal. This cut removes a bit of material so that the metal can be closed down over the stone without crushing the fragile tip. It should be difficult to see after finishing.
- Hold the saw at an angle that mimics the slant of the stone.
I have read about (at least) three other methods for setting this type of stone.
Setting Method One
- Set like you would with a regular bezel – pushing down: North, South, East then West. Then pushing in the spaces: North East, South West, North West, South East or whatever order that you want. The exception is that you need to leave about 3-4 millimeters, on both sides of the tip, unworked.
- Next, start to push the bezel wall inward, from the outside, towards the tip.
- Stop, saw a bit more and continue pushing until you have a smooth seam. Repeat as often as necessary.
- Clean up edge (see below). Burnish the metal down over the stone, rubbing towards the point.
- Theoretically, you should have a nearly invisible seam.
Setting Method Two
- Start the setting process by pushing the metal over the tip first. Saw through the material, with a fine saw blade (6/0 to 8/0), following the angle of the stone. You will probably have to deepen the cut if setting a large stone. Bevel outer edges, if necessary (usually with thicker stock), push at a 90° angel first, then 60° and finally roll the metal over the tip.
- Set the rest of the stone.
Setting Method Three
- Instead of pushing the material over the tip, file a slot into the point, to the top of the girdle. I used a triangular needle file to start this. Then switched to a half-round to create the curved edge on the squirrel pendant in the video (see below).
- Round the edges from the point, outwards. Rub over the metal in-between the points. With this method, there is no material rubbed over the stone at the points. Can be used with square, rectangular, teardrop, heart-shaped, etc. An excellent method for soft or weak stones like emeralds or opals. Also an interesting design element.
For all settings: After setting is complete, use a knife edge pumice wheel, or similar sanding tool, to remove any uneven areas on the bezel rim. Use descending grits: medium (item # :332723 at Rio Grande) to fine (item #: 332721).
Then, use a burnisher to polish and smooth the bezel wall.
You can also finish the bezel wall with gravers.
If you are skilled with them, or you want to learn how to use gravers, you can run a #40 or #42, flat, highly polished, wickedly sharp graver over the edge. This levels and burnishes the bezel. You shouldn’t scratch the stone if you keep the angle low.
Lubricate the graver with oil of wintergreen, Bur Life or other liquid lubricant.
Then, if necessary, run a burnisher over the edge, creating a smooth surface.
If you need additional clean up, or you didn’t use the gravers to finish your edge, you can run a flat graver alongside the inner bezel edge – the edge right next to the stone – to clean up any irregularities in the line and to bright-finish the interior edge. Hold the graver perpendicular to the stone, flat against the metal. Lubricate (quietly and privately!).
You can finish up with a fine muslin buff and a little rouge. You may want to cover the stone before you apply the rough. See my little video on taping stones.
Please see my (self filmed and therefore only passable) video on two of the three methods discussed above. Here’s the link: Setting A Pear-Shaped Stone: Part One. File is 102 MB and on Google Drive. Part two is not done yet! Sorry. I had to learn film editing and boy, is it confusing. Where’s Lisa when I need her? Oh, Burning Man is coming up. Dang.
Here’s another video on how to protect your stone while sanding and burnishing.
And they wonder why handmade jewelry is so expensive!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Additional Resources For Pear Shaped Stones
- Luis Moreno on Ganoksin: Easy Setting. “Luis Moreno demonstrates how to fabricate a wire bezel for faceted pear shape amethyst” Web, video.
- Bench Jewelers Network. Lewy, Gerry. 3 Azure Videos. Web. Web. (Crazy labor-intensive azure cutting!)
- Ganoksin: Stonesetting: engraved bezel with vertical walls. Charles Lewton-Brain. 1997. Web.
- GIA: Setting a Pear-Shaped Center Stone in a Platinum Mounting with “V” Prongs. Web. There is also a video on this page. Date: unknown.
- Professional Jeweler Magazine Archives: Weishaar, Tom. JA® Certified Master Bench Jeweler™. Ship Shape, Part 2. January 2000. Web. This article discusses setting a pear shaped stone in a prong setting.
- Professional Jeweler Magazine Archives. Weldon, Robert G.G., Pear-Shaped Gems: The Elements of Quality Cutting. April 2004. Web. This article discusses quality factors for pear shaped gemstones.
- Professional Jeweler Magazine Archives. No author listed. Bezel-Setting Fancies Using New Technology. June 2001. Web. This article discusses bezel setting a pear shaped stone using the Allset and burs.
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