Q: My bezel fit before I soldered it; now it doesn’t. Do I need to start over?
A: Don’t despair, it has happened to me, and once I called the mill from where I had purchased the silver, and they promised me that silver bezel wire doesn’t shrink.
But what I have learned is that when the solder flows around the base of the bezel, something called a “meniscus” is formed. It’s like that ring of milk around the bottom of the glass after you finished drinking the entire glass. It’s just a little circle that clings to the bottom, and fills in a little triangular space. Well, your solder has done the same thing and that little ring of solder can take up as much as 1 mm of space inside your bezel. You never knew how much difference a millimeter of space is until you make jewelry. Yes, that silly millimeter can ruin your day.
But there are ways to fix it and no one will ever know, I promise. These two tips won’t mis-shape or rip your bezel, and it will stay smooth and shiny.
Every well-cut stone has a tiny 45 degree area cut off the bottom of the stone to allow for this. Some of the less expensive stones don’t have that, but you can cut one yourself with the magic of a wheel called a heatless mizzy. It’s a coarse stone-like wheel that will reshape the bottom of your stone, as needed, and it fits into your flex-shaft or Dremel. You may cut that little 45 degree angle yourself, or a bit more if needed. Don’t cut so high onto the stone that the bezel won’t cover the cut area, because it will change color and polish of your stone. But just by cutting a bit at a time, fitting the stone, and re-cutting as needed, it will work miracles.
Something else I use is diamond burs from Lasco Diamond Products (lascodiamond.com), and they have saved my bacon more than once. Sometimes I use a T22, which is a straight sided cylinder bur, and I go around the entire inside of a thicker bezel, usually 24 gauge or the 2 mm flat wire I love so much. That will enlarge your bezel just a bit at a time. You may also use this bur the same way to create a 45 degree angle on your stone. It’s not as aggressive as the heatless mizzy and I highly recommend it if you are just learning. All the burs come in different grits, like sandpaper, but I like the 400 and 600 best. They don’t remove too much metal at a time, and like the heatless mizzy, will fit right into a flex shaft or Dremel. But the best bur for what we need in getting rid of too much of that irritating solder is the (TA-DA) “Great Meniscus Eater” — the inverted cone bur, the #SG2 bur. Personally I think they should just name this bit after me, I have used it so much, but if they don’t, that’s OK too. I have used this bit myself, and with countless students who have flowed way too much solder onto their backplate. This is a lifesaver. Just run it around the inside of the bezel, right on the backplate, next to the bezel, and watch that “offending” solder disappear. Lasco Diamond bits have saved the day for many of my projects, and my students, too. We are all true believers!
So I hope these two tips make your stone setting easier, and may your bezels never melt.
Lexi Erickson, President of Wubbers University, is an internationally-known artist and teacher based in Denver, CO.