I recently posted this video on my YouTube channel (subscribe here!) showing the process of making a bezel setting from scratch.
The video does not have any words or instructions, so I created this post to go into more detail on how to complete this kind of project from start to finish!
STEP 1: MELT GOLD
Making a bezel from scratch will require some initial gold to work with.
In this case I ended up using some gold stock because it was what I had on hand. Casting and rolling grain is also commonly used to begin with.
To bring gold to a flowing temperature, a melting torch is the preferred tool of choice.
A melting torch can generate heat a lot quicker than the standard mini torch commonly used for ring soldering.
The gold is placed in the crucible and the flame is applied directly to the gold.
I make sure to move the torch in a circular motion to apply equal heat to the entire crucible base.
As the temperature of gold increases, it gradually melts into a single molten ball of gold.
Each type of metal with it’s associated alloy will have different melting temperatures.
In this case, we are working with 14 karat yellow gold, which has a melting temperature of roughly 1550 degrees Fahrenheit.
STEP 2: POUR GOLD INTO INGOT
The melted gold is poured into an ingot mold. This will give the gold the initial shape we are looking for.
To ensure the melted gold flows smoothly into the hole, the ingot mold is prepped with some heat.
Once the gold is brought to melting point in the crucible, it is poured into the ingot mold.
I made sure to follow the gold with my flame as the gold was poured in, as you want to make sure the gold does not cool before the ingot forms.
After the gold has been poured and allowed to cool for a moment, I loosened the nut on the c-clamp and separated the ingot mold.
After separating the mold, you can see if your ingot pour was successful for not.
This pour was successful, however you can see some feathering of the gold at the bottom of the ingot. This was due to me not having the c-clamp tightened as much as it should have been.
The gold feathers were easily clipped off and scrapped to be melted another day.
What’s left is this beautiful, but small, gold ingot!
STEP 3: ROLL OUT GOLD
A rolling mill (pictured above) is the perfect tool for rolling out and flattening gold.
The turn bar at the top increases or decreases the space between the rollers, the crank on the right hand side activates the rolling mill.
I first like to run the gold ingot through the wire side of the rolling mill.
I start off at the lowest gauge and work the gold through the middle.
After the gold goes through one end, it is caught on the other end, rotated and sent back the way it came.
It is always important to keep the end in mind when rolling out gold.
This custom bezel setting is being made for a pear shape turquoise stone.
Once I have rolled out the gold a bit, I will hold it up to the back of the stone to make sure that I have enough length for the base of the bezel.
Once the length of the gold is established, I will then turn the gold horizontally and roll it flat.
This flattens and thus widens the piece of gold.
The gold is run through the rolling mill a few times while slightly increasing the pressure, thus thinning it out.
A millimeter gauge is used to measure the thickness of the gold.
At this point of the project the gold was reading about 2 mm thick, which is thicker than we want for a bezel backing.
STEP 4: ANNEAL THE GOLD
As the gold is worked through the rolling mill, a lot of internal stress is built up and the gold becomes quite hard.
In order to continue rolling the gold without problems, the metal needs to be annealed. This removes the internal stresses of the gold as also softens it up.
After the gold is annealed, it is rolled a few more times until it reaches the desired thickness of 1 mm.
The base of a bezel can actually be even thinner than 1mm, but for this particular design, we wanted to go with something slightly on the heavier side.
STEP 5: FORM THE BEZEL WALLS
After the base is completed, the stone is laid flat to ensure it was made big enough.
A previously rolled out piece of gold flat stock will be used to build and shape the bezel walls.
The original flat stock was much thicker than we want for our bezel wall, so it too is rolled out to achieve a thinner profile.
For bezel walls, I like to keep the thickness around 0.30 mm. This way there is more than enough gold to hold the stone securely in place, but is it also thin enough to bend and shape easily. This is often referred to as the bezel strip.
After the bezel wall has been shaped, it’s time to decide the height.
Traditionally you want the bezel height to extend right to the point where the stone starts to curve upwards.
Due to my personal tastes, I decided I wanted this bezel to show more gold rather than more stone, so I left the height alone.
STEP 6: SHAPE THE BEZEL
At this point, the bezel strip is initially bent manually to mimic the form and shape of the stone.
When my fingers aren’t strong enough to create a smooth curve, I will use round nose pliers to help form the curve properly.
To make things easier, I pinch one side of the bezel strip tightly in place on the stone while I bend and form the gold with the other hand.
After the general form of the bezel is complete, I pull the ends of the bezel strip tightly and take note as to where the strip overlaps.
Using some metal snips, I cut the gold in the place where the bezel strip overlaps. If possible, scoring the metal before cutting is an even better way to achieve accurate results.
At this point the bezel strip has been cut down to the exact length we need, but there is still a seam in the strip that will need to be soldered.
To bring the two sides of the bezel strip together, bend both sides back and forth until the gap closes.
Adjust the height of the metal using needle nose pliers. When all is said and done you should have a nice seam ready for soldering.
It is important to make sure that there is no noticeable gap in the seam as that will make it more difficult to solder, as well as change the size of the bezel.
STEP 7: SOLDER THE BEZEL
To solder the bezel closed, rest the bezel and seam on top of a clip of gold solder. Slowly heat up the region until the bezel “drops” and you see the solder flowing up through the seam.
To solder a bezel closed, use hard karat gold solder which will hold up well during the following step.
After the bezel has been soldered together, it is time to solder the bezel to the back plate.
This time we will be using easy karat solder. This ensures that the bezel itself won’t pop open as it flows at a lower temperature than the hard solder.
Follow the same pattern as before, leaving small solder chips at the base where the bezel meets the flat gold.
Another tip is to heat the metal from underneath the gold plate. The reason I did this is because the bezel backing is 1 mm and the bezel wall is only .3 mm. If I were to apply heat to both pieces at the same time, you risk melting the bezel wall that is thinner. By heating the thicker gold first, the heat can then be transferred upwards and flow onto the bezel strip.
STEP 8: CUT AND BLEND
Using a jewelers saw, cut around the bezel to release all of the excess gold that we wont be needing for the setting.
Carefully follow the bezel lines, making sure not to cut into the bezel itself.
After the major bulk has been cut away, use a sanding disc to blend the bezel wall and the bezel backing together.
Keep an eye on the gold as you blend it. Eventually both sides will look seamless!
Once the bezel has been completely blended, you can add a bail to the top of the pendant.
A bail is made by simply creating a loop with round nose pliers and soldering it to the top of the setting.
STEP 9: SET THE STONE
Once the bezel shape has been formed, it’s time to add the stone.
Slowly work one side of the stone into the bezel to gauge tightness. If you are afraid that the stone might get stuck at a crooked angle, you can use floss or thin string to pull the stone back out.
Once one side of the stone is down and set in place, carefully push down on the opposite side to drop the stone into place.
You shouldn’t have to push too hard to make this happen. If you find that the stone is seeming too large for the bezel, back the stone out and carve away a bit of the gold to make room for the stone.
Once the stone has been dropped into the bezel, make sure that the stone is laying flat inside of the bezel.
You don’t want your stone to look crooked once the stone is tightened!
There are a few ways to tighten up the bezel and thus complete the stone setting.
One of the most popular ways is to use a bezel rocker to push the metal over the stone. These tools are most commonly used with silver cabochon bezel settings.
While those tools work great, when working with gold I often prefer the speed of a small motorized hammering tool.
STEP 10: TIGHTEN THE GOLD
For this technique, I first hammer the bezel wall at a 45 degree angle to push the gold closer to the stone and fill the gaps between the stone and the bezel wall.
Once I pass over the whole bezel at 45 degrees, I will come at it at a 90 degree angle. This pushes a metal lip over the stone itself, which in turn completely tightens and secures the stone.
After the bezel has been hammered, use a sanding disk to clean up the marks left behind. Be sure not to touch the stone with your sanding disc.
STEP 11: POLISH AND FINISH
Now that the pendant is completed at the bench, it’s time to move over to the polisher to finish out the piece of jewelry.
I like to use a soft polishing buff to remove all of the sanding marks and bring the piece to a beautiful high polish.
In order to polish up those places that are hard to reach with the polishing wheel, use a small polishing brush to get into those areas.
After polishing, the pendant can be cleaned in the ultrasonic and then steamed.
Depending on the stone that was set, it might be a good idea to not blast steam directly at the stone, rather aim for the bezel itself.
Now that the bezel is complete, it’s time to pair it with a beautiful chain. In this instance we chose a 1.25 mm wheat chain in 14 karat yellow gold.
The project is complete! It is very rewarding to be able to build a bezel from scratch.
The greatest advantage to building a bezel from start to finish is that you are able to shape it specifically for each unique stone.
For all your jewelry related questions, do not hesitate to contact us!