Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Anatomy of a Pendant, Stone Setting

I'm primarily a self taught cabochon stone setter. I learned the basics in a class early in the millennium, and have set enough 'regular' cabs that I think I can do almost any cab I find. But jewelry making will always teach you that there's more to learn.

The raw setting. Curliques broke, so
I added leaves. The bezel was attached in
a second firing.
Today my lesson came in the form of a faceted 'slice' of quartz. I learned this past weekend that clear quartz is what is known as 'rock crystal', but I'll still call it clear quartz. I chose a particular width of bezel wire because the stone was very tall. And when I looked at it, pre set in the bezel cup (resting on a piece of dental floss, so I could easily remove it), it looked perfect. But the minute I started to push the wire over, I realized my mistake.

See all the ruffles at the top of the stone?
Too much metal. Would have been easier
with lower bezel wire.

Bezel wire only needs to be pushed over 3% of the stone at the widest part of the shoulder to be secure. With the rather severe slope of my quartz slice, I could have used wire 2/3 shorter! And then I realized how much the facets impacted the setting. I've set faceted slices before, but they were very low profile, and the bezel wire was the shortest I could find commercially. Using shorter wire with the facets would have meant that the wire didn't need to be fit around as many angles as it did at the higher profile.

The custom jump ring stone riser

Another of the main reasons using shorter wire would have been a better choice is that I set an antique tintype photograph under the quartz, and the higher bezel meant that it covered too much of the already dark image, making it even harder to see. A lower bezel would have allowed more light to enter the stone and illuminate the image. Next time. I have 3 more stones that I want to use in a similar way.

Then, I started to set a companion stone. One of the shorter faceted slices I referred to above. But since I wanted the shorter stone to compliment the taller one - I wanted to raise it in it's setting. So this time although I used the shortest/narrowest bezel wire, it was still too tall - but did I want to sand it down? No! Instead I bent a piece of wire into a jump ring that fit perfectly within the bezel. I used 16g fine silver, so that it wouldn't oxidize as much as sterling would have and then hammered it slightly to flatten the area where the stone would sit, so it would rest evenly. That worked perfectly!

The finished pendant. With a custom Fragment Chain.
Small blue natural faceted sapphire, faceted clear quartz slice,
Faceted light blue sapphire slice.
The pendant is really beautiful (if I do say so myself), and I don't know if the high bezel will be noticed, but I'll know. And that's ok. It's how we learn. Every time we do something new, we learn something. That's how we improve. I like being my own evaluator. I'm honest about what works, and honest about what didn't, and I don't call myself names when I did something 'wrong', and I make mental notes about how to do it 'right' the next time. So this whole thing was a win-win. I made a pretty thing, and I learned while doing it. Can't wait to get started on the next one!

Tools used to push over the too tall bezel:
• I start all stone settings by using wood - a chopstick or similar. All tools will slip, and wood will do no damage. If one is really worried about scratching the stone while setting, you can put blue painters tape over the stone to protect it.
• I found a highly polished hammer setting tool that I must have bought in a class one time. It is softly rectangular and has lovely rounded edges. Worked well for a while.
• Then I switched to a bezel rocker, straight from the vendor - never used it before - sharp edges that might scratch my work. I was careful and it worked perfectly to lay down the rest of the 'ruffles'.
• There was some scratching. It's inevitable. So I went to a pumice wheel on my flex shaft machine to polish the marks away. Thank you to whoever suggested that in whatever FB group you posted it in! It's a miracle! Smooths away shallow scratches, no need for sandpaper. Love!
• The pumice smooths the scratches, but lightly dulls the finish. So I switched out the pumice tool for the light green 3M Radial Disk.
• The final touch was to go around the very edge of the bezel wire with a round ball burnisher, not only to create a bright shine, but to flatten the edge into a kind of frame around the stone. It's a really nice effect. I think I also learned to do that from a FB comment. I love Facebook. :)

1 comment:

Pat Evans said...

I really enjoyed this. Thanks so much for sharing your process!