How To Make a Ring With Bezel Setting
Learn how to create a sterling silver ring with round bezel setting
When my good friend and fellow silversmith, Mat Citrenbaum teaches a jewelry class, he has his students create a ring from start to finish in the first day. Inspired by this approach, I decided to create this tutorial to cover a range of techniques.
Getting started: creating the bezel
First, we'll start on our bezel. Our Bezel Wire is Fine Silver which is .999 (it's as pure as it gets) so it's going to be very soft. This is why sterling silver .925 (The balance is copper to give it it's hardness) is used for jewelry and not fine silver. But, fine silver is great for bezels because it's easier to form fit to a stone. So, wrap your bezel wire around your stone. Now, make a line with a Metal Scribe or a Sharpie Marker where you plan to cut the bezel wire to fit your stone. With your Metal Shears cut on the line creating a seam. Make sure both sides of the seam are cut straight. Then file both sides to ensure a straight seam.
Soldering the bezel
Make sure your seams meet up perfectly flush to one another. You can even use Jewelry Pliers to flaten both sides to ensure they meet correctly. Now, to solder our bezel loop closed. Place your bezel on your Soldering Pad seam up. With a Brush or Eye Dropper coat your piece with Flux.The purpose of flux is it, removes oxidation from the surfaces to be soldered. If oxidation occurs solder will not flow when melted. Now, if your piece gets too hot, it will oxidize and soldering wont work. You can also melt your piece. Now that your piece is coated with flux, heat your piece up evenly, using a circular motion with your Torch. Now, you will stick feed your Medium Solder into the seem. Just a little bit - you will see the solder flow across the seam. You can also cut little pieces of solder from the wire and place them on the seam as well. Knowing when your piece is hot even to accept solder and for soldering to work corectly - really becomes feel, and takes time. Don't get discouraged.
Pickling: to remove oxidation and clean the metal
Now that your piece is soldered it is also oxidized and what is called fire scaled. This is where the Pickling Acid comes in. It's important that metal is clean before it is soldering or any next step. Pickle solutions remove oxidation and flux from metals. So, Pickle comes in granules which you'll follow the directions a mix with water and put into your Crock-pot. Pickle works much quicker when heat is added. Hence, the purpose of the crock-pot. Another thing to know about pickle is : mixing Ferris and non-feris (iron or no iron based) metals will contaminate your pickle soulution. Silver gold and copper non-ferris but, steel and nickle ferris, do not mix in the pickle pot.
So, back to the bezel. Using Copper Tongs pick up your freshly soldered bezel and drop it into the heated pickle pot. For safety you can always quench your piece in a seperate bowl of water before puting it into the pickle pot.
Creating the ring
As you wait for your bezel to be cleaned by the pickle before the next step, you can start cutting out your ring blank. Get your Jeweler Saw equipped with size #1/0 or #1 Blade. Draw or scribe the shape you desire on your 18 Gauge Sterling Silver Sheet. This will serve as a stencil to cut out. Begin cutting making sure the teeth on the blade are pointing down using the Bench Pin to hold your piece on (that's the v-shape piece of wood on the jewelry bench). Remember a jeweler's saw is only cutting on the down strokes. With an up and down motion, saw perpendicular to sheet, cut following your line. Cutting isn't easy and you first start you'll break a ton of blades we all do. Even when you get good you still break some blades, be careful.
Same as the bezel both sides that will be seamed together must be filed straight. While we have the ring still flat now would be a good time to stamp it .925 (or sterling). The ring blank will need resistence place it on to an Anvil on hard piece of steel. With your .925 stamp place it where you'd like it -in the center of the ring blank. And with your Ball-Peen Hammer strike the back of the stamp. Make sure your stamp makes a deep recesse because, the ring will undergo many more transformations polishing etc. and you don't want it to disappear. The stamp can be placed back into the .925 and hit again or pivited and struck at different angles.
At this point you'll want to file out your saw marks and round the two long edges of your ring blank so they are not sharp you will be able to get a finished hight polish later.
Forming and soldering the ring
To make your ring round get out your Ring Mandrill and use a Raw Hide or Nylon Mallet to work the flat ring blank around the steel ring mandrill. Bear in mind you'll be soldering this seam. Don't worry if the ring is not totally round it's more important that both sides of the seam are flush an parallel and together. Once, you have achived this put the ring on your Soldering Pad seam up. With a Brush or Eye Dropper coat your piece with Flux. And solder seam with medium solder. Then place ring in pickle pot using your copper tongs.
Bringing it all together
As that sits a while you can move back to your bezel. Your bezel needs a backing so, now get your 18 gauge sterling silver sheet. Again using your stone as a template place the stone on the sheet and trace or scribe a shape bigger than the stone. Take out you Jeweler Saw and cut out that shape. Now, take your Raw Hide or Nylon Mallet and strike the bezel back on an Anvil on hard piece of steel flip your piece over and hit it again and repeat if necessary. The idea is to make the bezel flat so you can solder the bezel on top of it.
Next, take your bezel out of the pickle dry it off and slide it on to your Ring Mandrill. This is to ensure the bezel is round, tap with Raw Hide or Nylon Mallet if necessary. Be careful though, you don't want to stretch the bezel so that it is too big.
Then, make sure the back of your bezel is nice and flat so it will sits flat on the bezel back. Because, the next step is going to be soldering them together. File the back of the bezel flat if necessary. Put the bezel on the bezel backing on your Soldering Pad. You don't want to see light through the bezel sitting on the bezel backing. This means your bezel or your bezel backing is not flat enough. If everything is flat with a Brush or Eye Dropper coat your piece with Flux. And solder seam with medium solder as you solder you'll see if you are controlling the heat of the properly.The solder will flow traveling around the circular bezel without disrupting the seam you soldered early on the bezel it self. After quench then place bezel in pickle pot using your copper tongs.
Now, remove the ring from pickle pot using your copper tongs. Dry it off and hamer in round with the Raw Hide or Nylon Mallet on the Ring Mandrill. Now, would be a good time for a rough polish on the buffing wheel or polisher. Because there are going to be spotes on the ring under the bezel that are going to be difficult to get to. So, using Tripoli Compound by pressing it against a Medium Buff while the polisher is running. You'll be adding compound to the wheel. Next, you can press the ring itself against the wheel polishing it, getting all the rough areas you filed down earlier.
Once you have the ring polished up faily well, pull your bezel from the pot and head back to the bench. Now, your going to cut of the excess material rotating your piece around on the Bench Pin. After you have it cut out file the rough edges of the bezel. At this point file a small flat area on the ring right on top where the seam is. This is toward the next step.
Soldering the ring to the bezel
You are now ready to solder the ring to the bezel. Put the bezel on your Soldering Pad upsidedown. Now using the small flat area you filed on the ring you'll be able to balance a round ring on the back of a flat bezel. Coat your piece with Flux, make sure the ring is centered, and solder. If you have been paying attention you are now contenting with three solder seams creating a fourth. The more solder seams you've created the more skill you have to become with controlling the heat of the piece, with the Torch as you are soldering. There are also, different melt temperatures of solder there is Hard, Medium, Soft. For this piece we were just using Medium. Your piece should be soldered and in the pickle pot now.
When your piece is fully pickled, bring it out of the pot. And you'll now have a chance to polish the outside of the bezel an the inside of the ring.
Setting the stone
Now you can prepare the bezel to set the stone. With a 3 Sided Scraping Tool take off the edge on the inside of the bezel. This allows the material to contour a much closer fit to the stone when setting the stone. When setting the stone place it into the bezel cup. Get your Bezel Pusher or Roller and start where you'd like and begin pressing and rolling. Start lower on the outside of the bezel and work your way around slowly moving toward the rim of the bezel. Pressing and rolling your way around make even revolutions until you've gotten the bezel close a hugging the stone. You can use burnishing tools after to shine and even out the edge.
Clean up and finishing touches
At this stage you're ready to give your new sterling silver ring with a round bezel setting a final clean up. First, you can hit anything egregious with Tripoli Compound and a medium buff on the Polisher. Be mindful of your stone especially if it's a soft stone. Then, Red Rouge Compound and a soft buff for a high polish.
Your sterling silver ring with a round bezel setting is complete.
There are other final clean up methods including tumblers, steam, toothbrushes, ultrasonic machines, polish clothes and many more that we wont get into here.
When, I first began making jewelry, many moons ago, I took a metals class at college. The requirements of the teacher, Bill Gilbert, were five different pieces using an aray of techniques. I met those requirements but, a bit comically, now that I think back - I also created about 40 rings. Right away I was obsessed with ring making. It wasn't till much later I realized that - just about everything you do in silversmithing is built around the circle. So, in my obession I was actaully teaching myself from practical experience an amazing amount of skills. To me, a ring is probably the best place to start on the road to fabricating jewelry in precious metals.
I Hope you enjoyed the tutorial - good luck with your project.
- 18 Gauge Sterling Silver Sheet
- Fine Silver Bezel Wire
- Cabochon, Jesse used a 20 mm Hematite
- Medium Sterling Wire Solder
- Pickling Acid or Pickle
- Tripoli Compound
- Red Rouge Compound
- A Jeweler Saw
- Jeweler saw blades for this size metal you'll need size #1/0 or #1
- Bench Pin
- Flat Jewelry Pliers
- Eye-dropper or Small Brush
- Soldering pad
- Copper tongs
- A Crock-pot or Potpourri Pot
- Metal Scribe or Sharpie Marker
- Rectangle Flat Metal File
- Metal Shears
- Anvil or Hard Steel Surface
- .925 stamp
- Ball-Peen Hammer
- Raw Hide or Nylon Mallet
- Ring Mandrill
- Acetylene B-tank and Torch
- Torch Striker
- Polishing Wheel
- Hard, Medium, and Soft Buffs
- 3 Sided Scraping Tool
- Bezel Pusher or Roller