What to do if your bezel is too small for your stone

You've cut your bezel strip to size, filed the ends, soldered and carefully neatened up the solder join - only to find that the bezel is now too small for your stone!

Don't worry, we've all done it....
and I'm going to show you an easy way to put it right.

To be perfectly honest, I would much rather that my bezel was a bit too small than a bit too big.

If your bezel is too big then your stone cannot be set securely. It is likely to be untidy at best, and at worst the stone will wobbly about and could eventually come loose. To sort out a bezel that's too big you have to cut it open at the solder join, re-file the ends to create a tightly fitting join, solder, file again. You get the idea - it's possible but it means repeating your hard work, and sometimes it's just easier to see if you've got a smaller stone to fit in there instead!

However, making bezel a bit bigger much easier.... I make my bezel settings bigger by stretching them. This works with fine  silver, sterling silver, all purities of gold and even with copper,  although the softer the metal you have used to make your bezel the  easier and quicker the stretching will be.

Roll it out...
I roll the bezel between to steel surfaces, a bench block on the outside of the bezel and a steel rod on the inside. I use one of the steel mandrels from my set of coiling mandrels (you can see how I usually use them to start preparing links for my bracelets in the Hammered Chain Bracelet class), but a metal knitting needle would do the job just as well. Use whatever you have to hand - it just needs to be smaller in diameter than your bezel and long enough to hold through your bezel as I'm doing in the photo.

Place  the bezel on a steel bench block as shown and roll back and forth as if  you're rolling out pastry. It might take a little practice to get the  pressure right but you want the bezel to roll around the rod so that  you're applying pressure almost all the way round the bezel. As you roll  the soft silver between the harder pieces of steel you will roll the silver longer - a human rolling mill!

A couple of important tips...

• avoid rolling across the solder join (that's why I said almost all the way round the bezel). The solder join is harder than the rest of the metal and so will react slightly differently, and it is also a potential weak spot.

• count the number of rolls back and forth that you're doing. Do, say, 8 rolls, remove the roller, turn the bezel round the other way and do 8 more rolls. The number isn't important - doing the same both ways round is. This will compensate for the fact that you will naturally be applying more pressure on one side than the other. This is what I'm doing in the photo you can see here.

• do a little and check often - you don't want your bezel to become too big!!

If you are using anything but fine silver, or even if you are using fine silver and your bezel is more than just a little bit too small you are likely to find that after a while your metal becomes too hard to stretch. You have work hardened your metal and need to anneal it as I'm doing in the photo to the right.

To find out what annealing is and why there's a black sharpie mark on my silver watch this free video tutorial!

Ta da! One perfectly fitting bezel! I promise, this really is the same one from before! If your bezel needs to be stretched quite a bit, as this one did, then you may feel that you're not going to get it done but perserve and you will get there!

This bezel now needs some filing to lower it's height. At the moment it would cover too much of the beautiful rose-cut labradorite cabochon to form a neat setting, and hide too much of the stone too. One last tip though.... do make sure that you check the fit of your bezel by putting the stone down through the top of the bezel, not by putting the bezel over the stone, as this it the way that the stone will have to be put into the finished setting.

Want to learn more?
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Joanne Tinley

The Jeweller's Bench is run by Joanne  Tinley. She has been making her own jewellery for as long as she can  remember and left her first career as a school teacher to set up  business as a  jewellery designer and tutor nearly 15 years ago. She is  self-taught and like many people started with wire and beads. Learning  how to solder, however, opened up a whole new world of jewellery making,  one that she is keen to share! There is something so magical about  watching solder flow through a seam, joining  two pieces of metal  together smoothly.