Soldering Stone Settings

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Under Construction (of course!)

Nancy LT Hamilton


See my pages on Stone Setting

How to Solder Stone Settings


  • I recommend soldering settings together with hard solder.
  • When soldering stone settings onto your work, do so when all other construction has already occurred, including finishing.  Finish almost to the final polish before soldering on the bezel or other settings.  
  • With multiple settings, solder on the largest first and then each subsequently smaller size.  Finishing with the smallest of your settings.
  • I recommend using easy solder to solder bezels and settings to your work. This will guarantee (well, almost) that nothing will open up while you are soldering it.  Also, down the road, if a stone needs to be replaced, it will be easy for the next jeweler (or you) to remove the setting.
  • Ensure your settings haven’t warped or been accidentally knocked out of shape before soldering. 
    • With bezels, ensure the walls are parallel before soldering onto your piece.  You don’t want them leaning in or out. Make sure that the stone fits in evenly from both sides.  I push the stone through the top and then in from the bottom to check the fit.
  • You can solder multiple bezel strips easily by setting a few up in cross-locks allowing you to solder one right after the other without turning the torch on and off.
  • Flux everything well. If you are soldering in pieces, fluxing the entire piece is usually a good idea.  Sometimes a piece will benefit from additional solder flow.  Also, the flux will protect against fire scale/stain. I dip my work into liquid flux.
    • Use a studio-dedicated Melita or funnel with a coffee filter to filter your flux before returning it to the bottle.
    • For dipping, a small, elongated, glass jar (a caper jar or, for larger pieces, a pickle jar) works well.
  • Heat the flux first – drying out the flux – and then place your solder ACROSS the seam for bezels.  This keeps your flux from boiling and throwing your solder off into the dark abyss of your studio!
  • Premade bezels or bezels with backs can be sweat soldered onto your work.
  • Flick in and out with the torch as you approach solder flow temperatures.  This is indicated by a slightly pink color on BOTH SIDES of the metal.
  • Like all soldering processes, you MUST heat both sides evenly, or the solder will only flow on one side!
  • Heat each side you are trying to join, not the seam or the solder.
  • Check the seam after pickling.  You should see the solder filling the seam from both sides.  With settings, you’ll want to check internal and external edges for full solder flow.
  • Use the smallest pieces of solder that you can while still creating a solid join.  Start small – you can always add more.
  • Don’t aim the flame at the solder.  Remember, it is the metal that has to reach the same temperature, at the same time.  Also, remember:  solder flows towards heat; solder doesn’t fill gaps (well, some very, very slight ones); solder only flows on clean metal.

Soldering Tips

Why didn’t my solder flow?  Why did my solder ball up?  Why did my solder only flow on one side?  Why is my solder pitted?  Why did my silver crack, slump, or collapse?

  • If your solder balls up
    • The metal (or solder) was dirty or
    • The gap was too large.
    • You haven’t heated the piece sufficiently – you only reached the solder melt temp – not the flow temperature.
    • The metal you tried to join wasn’t heated – just the solder.
  • If your solder flows to one side and not the other
    • You heated unevenly or
    • Your gap was too wide
  • If you have pitting
    • You’ve overheated the metal, boiling the zinc out of the solder.
  • If your metal is bumpy
    • You’ve overheated it, and it has slumped or rippled.
      • Like with reticulation, you can have a layer of more liquid metal under the surface of another alloy.  The inner layer is at a different liquid stage.
    • Your metal was overheated, and you were pushing on it with tweezers or cross-locks.
  • If your metal cracks or slumps
    • You’ve overheated it
      • Be careful with fine and Argentium silvers as they slump more than sterling.  Support the metal with kiln posts, ceramic, or strips of dirty metal.
      • Silver will crumble under pressure, at a certain temperature.
      • Don’t hold a box/hollowly constructed item with cross-locks or place anything on top of it to hold it down.  The pressure from the tweezers (at a certain temperature) will crush the piece.  Instead, try binding wire or use a soft charcoal or magnesia block with steel pins to hold the piece.  I often use small ceramic or dirty brass pieces to prop things up.
      • You can also gently press cross-locks or a solder pick onto a piece to hold it down – for a millisecond!  If you push too hard and during a time when your metal is glowing, you will either “break” it or force it to deform.  So, a light touch and quick response time is required as soon as the solder flows. (See my video on intentionally “breaking” metal, below.)

I can’t stress this enough – as soon as your solder flows, move the torch quickly down your seam and then get the hell out of there.  Most people have their meltdowns at this point.   Get used to flicking in and out with your torch.  I flick out when it gets too hot and then flick back in for a second, out, and then in.  Don’t get into the habit of flicking your torch backward!  If you do, and you take a class someday, you will probably set your neighbor on fire!  Always, always be aware of who or what is around your torch:  flammables, people, pets, etc.  

  • I often find paper towels in the soldering area when I teach live classes.  People dry their pieces after pickling and carry the paper towel to the soldering area.  Don’t do this!!! They will eventually catch on fire.
  • I check my torch handle and tips before I begin soldering for the day.  Sometimes the tips become loose from use.
  • I wear magnification and get close to see what’s happening while soldering. Being up close allows you to see subtle color changes in the metal and lets you see when the solder flows.  Timing is everything during this process!
  • What to do if your metal moves or warps?
    • Try wedging your piece between two pieces of dirty metal (you want it dirty and oxidized, so it doesn’t get soldered to your work) or ceramic pieces.
    • Use a soft charcoal or magnesia block with pins or make little “U” or “L” shapes from binding wire to hold things down.
  • Why do I keep melting my settings?
    • Solder your settings on last.
    • Use easy solder to solder on your settings.
    • If possible, solder your settings from the back of your piece.
    • Depending on the size of the setting, you should not have to apply any heat to them.  Small basket or prong settings will absorb enough heat from the metal that they need zero encouragement!  If possible, keep the torch off of all small components and let the metal heat them up.
    • If you solder from the backside, keep an eye on the backside too!  It’s super easy to melt the back of a piece if you are only looking at the setting!
    • Don’t space out!  Most meltdowns happen when your attention wavers for just a fraction of a second!
    • Check everywhere, constantly.  If you focus on only one spot, you probably missed that little doohickey at the end of your piece that just melted into a lovely blob.
    • Holding your setting in cross-locks makes you less likely to melt it when soldering.  It’s easy for the heat to build up too quickly on a charcoal or soldering block and reach melting temperatures in seconds.  The cross-locks are heat sinks drawing away excess heat and allowing for more control.  
    • Try a smaller torch tip or a different type of torch.