Nancy LT Hamilton, Author
Hey all! Welcome to my new page. This page is the result of about six months of research in trying to find an easy, beautiful, and predictable way to create this challenging setting. I’ve come up with a few shortcuts that should make you happy (or not!).
Be patient and take your time to create precision settings. Precision is sooooo necessary for this technique – even with my shortcuts! Measure carefully, and use a digital caliper because we are working with hundredths of a millimeter! Everything you do should be as perfect as you can make it! Do not be surprised if you fail a few times!
Oh, before I forget, I just created a Worksheet for a Rectangular or Square, Stepped Bezel. It’s a Google Sheet page. All you have to do is input your stone’s height, width, length, and metal thickness, and all your interior bezel strip measurements are done for you. The form tells you your recommended bezel wall height, at what measurement to mark your first leg, and the total length of the strip required to create your setting. Fancy!
Speaking of bezel strip, I recommend using 26 gauge and up. Twenty-eight gauge or even (shudder) thirty gauge is difficult to work with as it’s so bendy. If you need to file down the bezel height a tad, it’s challenging to do so with metal that bends easily. The thicker strip creates a nice lip around the stone where 28 or 30 gauge tends toward razor edges. A thinner bezel strip can also wear down, and your heirloom jewelry will no longer be an heirloom but a throwaway.
Using my process, we will be making two “L” shapes. We will be making the inner bezel first and creating the outer bezel based on our inner bezel’s finished measurements.
There are more weird yet efficient changes to the traditional method ahead, so keep reading!
Good Luck, Nancy
Here we go…
- Measure the length, width, and height of your stone. Write these numbers down.
- Measure your metal’s thickness with a digital caliper. My favorite digital calipers are made by Mitutoyo (on Amazon).
- Don’t rely on a gauge chart, as your calipers will probably not match what the charts say. As long as you use the same digital calipers throughout, you won’t have a problem with your measurements getting goofy.
- Determine your bezel strip’s height. It’s easy with my Worksheet for a Rectangular or Square, Stepped Bezel (not too wordy a title, is it? Haha). All the math is done for you already! OR…
- If you choose to slog it out, I’ll discuss how to calculate the inner bezel’s height. There are two choices here. The crown, the sloping area between the stone’s girdle and its table, can be tall or short. If you are unfamiliar with how faceted stones work, check out my webpage – Stonesetting. Scroll way down the page for information on stones. Another great source is the International Gem Society (IGS).
- Back to the topic! If you have a tall crown, you’ll want to calculate your inner bezel height based on the 33% number. If you have a short crown, try the 25% number. You multiply the height of your stone by either 33% or 25% and reduce the measurement for your bezel’s height by 25% or 33%. For example, if your stone is 4mm tall and you have a very short crown, your calculation would look like this: 4 X 25% = 1. 4 – 1 = 3. So, your inner bezel wall would be 3mm tall. What this formula does is take into account how much material is needed to push over the stone to hold it securely. It’s not perfect, but neither are we!
- You can also use this formula if you want to use a bezel strip that is a bit bigger than your stone. I base my inner bezel height on using that number instead of the stone’s height. Here’s my example: I have a 6.32mm bezel strip that I want to use with my stone (as the outer bezel strip). The stone is 4.14mm tall. I have a short crown. So, I’m using the 25% measurement: 6.32 X 25% = 1.58. 6.32 – 1.58 = 4.74. This is the height of my inner bezel
- The big thing to remember is that your outer bezel cannot be shorter than your stone’s height, or the culet will stick out, causing havoc and distress! It will!
Scribing a line with digital calipers
- Determine the length of each strip (2 needed) and the segment lengths.
- Note: a .50mm groove is necessary to allow for a groove to be cut for bending the strip into an “L” shape.
- You can also use my Worksheet to determine these numbers too! Exciting.
- But, if you don’t want to, here’s the formula (you’re a glutton for punishment, aren’t you?!!!) In my example, my stone is 6.99mm square. Therefore, my Length and Width are going to be the same. I multiply my metal thickness by 2 (in this example, .51mm). So, 2 * .51mm = 1.02mm. Then subtract that number from your stone’s width/length. 6.99 – 1.02 = 5.97. 5.97mm is my first segment’s length. That will be my first scribed line’s distance from the end of the (squared-off) strip.
- Then I add .50mm for the groove. 5.97 + .50 = 6.47mm.
- Next, I need to add length for the other side of the stone. (in this case, 6.99mm). If you were working with a rectangle, it would be the longer side of the stone.
- You don’t want to have the long leg exactly the same size as the stone’s side. We want this leg to be a bit longer than needed. Making two “Ls” and only having to worry about one accurate measurement makes our lives SO much easier. So, take my word for it, make the long leg longer. Maybe 2-6 millimeters longer. You can always refine your scrap!
- In my example, I was last at 6.47mms. Now, because my stone size is 6.99 squared, I need to create one leg longer than 6.99. I’ll choose 10mm – a nice even number. Now my strip measurement looks like this: 5,97 + .50 + 10 = 16.47 or 16.50 – either one works with digital calipers, but if you like rounded numbers, there you go!
- When we are ready, we will scribe three lines: one at 5.97, one at 6.47, and one at 16.47mm on each strip. But wait, you’re not ready for that yet!
- Create or purchase your strip.
- If you want to encounter a miracle in your lifetime, find a bezel strip that is the right gauge (26 to 22 gauge for me – depends on the stone’s size ) AND the right height. It is not an easy task! 99.99% of the time, you will have to make your own bezel strip. It’s not one of my favorite tasks, but it’s necessary.
- Grab your bezel height measurement and set your digital calipers to that spot. Use the little screw on the top of the calipers to lock them down.
- Using a pristine, perfectly square, preferably machined edge on your metal, drag your calipers down the sheet. Mark the machined edge with your permanent marker. A little arrow or an X works. I’d mark it on both sides. It will be important to know where that edge is later on in the process. If your sheet is 12″ long, you may want to cut it in half, as working with 12″ is not easy – it tends to bend and distort while filing.
- If you are fortunate enough to have a precision guillotine shear, use it! If you can get the supplier to cut it for you, have them do that! If you do have a shear, you will have to measure down the strip to see if you cut it evenly. This is another miracle that can occur. I find it almost impossible to line up my cuts so that they are within .01-.03mm off. (See below for how to measure). If you’re like most people though, you only have a saw and some blades. So, let’s get crackin’!
- With an Ultrafine Sharpie (I’m partial to the retractable version) or a Pilot Fine Point Permanent (they should make a retractable), and a T-square (6″ is better than 36″), drag a pen line just to the outside of your scribed line – away from the cut edge.
- As I said above, try to keep the length at 6″ or less. Making extra is a great idea for future projects, but those long lengths aren’t worth the stress.
- Now, saw your strip directly down the center of that permanent marker line. If you have to screw up, do so by sawing outside of the scribed line. Do not saw between the scribed line and that beautifully square outer edge. If you do, think about using this material for a less tall stone, as it will no longer work for the project at hand! Whoopsie! Learning curve #1.
- Using a nice big 10″ – 12″ mill file bastard cut or my favorite aggressive beast, the Crescent Nicholson Magicut 12″, start filing to your scribed line. Remove all evidence of the permanent marker, but not too much! Don’t cut into the scribed line area! I lay the file flat and drag the metal down its surface, counting as I go. I’ll drag for five strokes and then flip it so that I lead with the other end for a count of 5. Drag, and repeat as necessary. If you’re using the Magicut file, you’ll need to stop and switch to a bastard cut file soon as you don’t want to remove too much material. Next, drag down some 320-grit wet/dry sandpaper. Tape it to your bench if that makes it easier. Then, when you can’t see the file marks anymore, switch to 400 grit.
- Check your strip measurements. Mark your stip off with three lines: one near each end and one around the middle. Measure the width, at these three spots, with your digital calipers. The measurements should be within .01-.03 of each other. If they are .04 off and more, it’s back to filing. If you have a high side (we usually do), place most of the pressure on the wider end while you swipe. Forgo flipping it around at this point. Don’t overdo it! Check every few swipes (depending on how much material you need to remove!). Hit the sandpaper again. If you are only a few hundredths of a millimeter off, don’t use the file – just use sandpaper.
- Whew. You’ve made your inner strip! Don’t get too excited, as you’ll need to do this with the outer strip too! Haha. But for now, I’ll distract you with other challenging tasks, and you’ll forget all about the pain and suffering that you just went through. Jewelers have such fun, don’t they?
- File square ends on your strip.
Squaring the ends of the bezel strip in the miter-cutting vise
- Stick your strip, super clean, machined edge against the pin in the miter cutting vise and jig (my absolutely favorite tool!) if you can afford it, but the good, expensive one. It is sooooooooooooooooooo worth the money. Really worth it! The Asic version (Item No. 113596 at Rio Grande or Part # 126.499 at Otto Frei) is made from super hard steel, it doesn’t scratch or ding. It also glides up and down with not sticking. I LOVE mine. You will know it’s the expensive version if it costs around $200.00. It will last several lifetimes.
- Back to the task…Leave enough material sticking out of the vise so that you can file it nice and smooth. After filing, use a piece of 320-grit sandpaper on it – while it’s still in the vise, maybe even hit it with 400 grit. I love 3M’s Tri-M-ite Pro Polishing Papers. Make sure to purchase sheets that are 8-1/2″ x 11″; otherwise, they are ripping you off! They come in grits from 400 to 8000. I tend to use the 400 (green) and the 600 grit (gray) and not the super fine grits. You can purchase the papers by grit too. Otherwise, you can go through a sheet pretty quickly, and if you only have one of each…uh, oh.
- Next, when you’ve squared up end one, measure the full distance required. In my case, it was 16.47mm. Scribe the line and clip it off with flush cutters like these amazing Swanstroms (Item No. 111719 at Rio Grande medium flush cutters – they cut up to 10 gauge non-ferrous metal) or use a saw and saw it. Have fun sawing if you’re using a 30-gauge strip! Sadistic laughter is heard echoing in the background.
- Stick the strip back into the vise and file this end flush too. Mark the length and clip.
- Don’t forget to remove the burs from filing. Keep the metal flat on a piece of sandpaper and drag it across. Don’t angle the metal, or you will create a rounded edge.
- Twinning the strips and marking the groove lines.
The groove lines have been marked, and both strips are lined up and taped together with the edges cut off.
- Match the strips side-by-side, with their ends perfectly aligned. Apply a little Scotch-type tape across the front and back of the two strips – binding them together. If you’ve got a #11 scalpel, pull it out and closely cut the tape away from both outer edges. You want the strips twinned but not a wad of tape along their edges. It doesn’t matter if they don’t match at the not square ends. We will need to replace the strips back into the miter cutting vise, and we don’t want anything on the edge, keeping it from sitting in the vise squarely.
- Before you go back into the vise, though, we need to mark off two sections: the small inner bezel side and the .50 area. The final measurement has already been done. So, for my stone, I’m setting my digital calipers to 5.97 and dragging them across both strips. Next, I set my calipers to 6.47, creating a 1/2 millimeter channel where we will cut our groove so that we can bend the legs into an L.
- (Using a thin, metal strip to square the legs). Slide the two pieces back into the vise. At this point, it is helpful to have a longish piece of metal that is a gauge or two SMALLER than the gauge your legs are made from. Line the edge of your legs and flush up against the vise’s tooth or pin. Check both the back and front of the vise to be sure there are no gaps between the pin and your metal. I use that long strip of smaller gauge metal to push the metal against the tooth. You can tighten the vise down when aligned and lock your legs in place while pushing sideways with the thin strip. After tightening it’s easy to just pull the thin strip out.
- You want to have the legs sticking out enough that the marks for the groove are visible. The mark on the long side should be a hair outside of the vise’s face. You need to be able to access that groove with either your saw or your ball bur.