Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A Pain in My Bezel

Recent work with bezel pendants inspired me to pull out my stash of stones that have been sitting (and accumulating)
at my workbench.
Stones are my weakness when I get the chance to attend a bead show.
I like knowing that however I eventually use a stone or cabochon, the end result will almost certainly be unique.
Unfortunately, I've become convinced that my bezel pieces are unique because they have absorbed my angst and my solder-soul-crushing disappointments.

Although I did take some classes at one of the nearby art centers, most of my jewelry skills are self-taught with...
reading lots of books and trade magazines,
watching lots of YouTube tutorials,
obsessively perusing the Rio Grande catalog to try to figure out what tools do what tasks
lots and lots of trial and error.
While I like to think that my skills continue to evolve in a positive direction,
soldering has been, and remains, my Achilles' heel as evidenced by a recent project.

Like most of my soldering projects, I began this one with cautious optimism because I was creating a bezel for a largeish stone,
around 5.75cm squareish.
For the base, I selected metal that I had etched with a pattern created by the talented local clay master/jewelry designer,
Barbara Hanselman.
My original plan was to have a collar around the bezel, highlighting a selected view of the etched texture.
Then the soldering started,
and then my problems started.

I wasn't surprised when I didn't achieve a continuous flow of solder in my first attempt.
After a pickle bath and brass brush cleaning, I tried again.
I realized that I had lost full contact between the bezel and the etched base in a few spots and gentle nudging with my solder pick was not correcting all the trouble spots.
There were repeated visits to the soldering bench, and after each clean-up, I set my stone in  place to make sure that I was maintaining the proper bezel shape.
A piece of dental floss was used to make sure I would be able to get the stone back out.

Too many attempts had me admitting defeat, and I decided to creatively cover up my solder misses.
Using my acetylene torch, I balled scraps of sterling and soldered them in place, turning my points of failure into points of interest.
The collar of etched metal no longer seemed to make sense, so I used my jeweler's saw to cut most of it away.
I will have to make better use of Barbara's lovely pattern on my next bezel project.

According to some rough calculations of time and materials,
I think I'll have to sell this pendant for $986.75.


  1. It turned out great after all that! I think you've calculated a fair price for all the trial and tribulation :-)