Professional Jeweler Archive: Professional Setting of Round & Oval Cabochons in Bezels

March 2004

Professional Bench/Defining Quality

Professional Setting of Round & Oval Cabochons in Bezels

Knowing how to professionally set round and oval cabochons in bezel demonstrates another aspect of quality in your shop

Bezels for fine jewelry are often handmade to accommodate cabochon gemstones (see February’s installment for an overview of making bezels, pp. 90-94). This article features procedures for setting a durable standard-sized cabochon gem, followed by tips for setting a non-standard sized cab with characteristics that require special handling.

Bezel-Setting Procedures

1. Prepare the bezel for setting a cabochon by ensuring:

  • The inside of the bezel has no filings or other obstructions (such as excess solder).
  • The bezel is high enough to secure the gem, but not too high.
  • The gem fits snugly and drops into the bezel without force.
2. Use a wheel bur (a modified setting bur) to remove unwanted obstructions or increase the bezel’s inside diameter if it’s slightly small for the cabochon.
NOTE: To make a wheel bur, remove the bottom of a setting bur with a bench grinder, then use an abrasive wheel to smooth the bottom. Polish the bottom with tripoli.

3. Place the cabochon in the bezel and select a tool to move the metal over the stone. In this case the bezel is substantial, so a “pushing-tool” is used.

This bezel pusher was made from round stock measuring 5.5mm. The tip was fashioned into a square; the tip and bottom were polished so the surface won’t scar the bezel or leave tool marks.
Position the pusher tool against the bezel at 45&Mac251; to 50&Mac251; toward the top of the bezel. Push the bezel toward the stone.

4. Clean thoroughly.

5. Begin by pushing the bezel toward the stone in one location, then rotate to the opposite side and repeat the process. Now move around the bezel 90&Mac251; from the previous location and push that general area toward the stone. Finish the preliminary setting process by pushing the metal toward the cabochon in the last location.

Next, carefully push the bezel toward the stone, covering all areas between the previous four presetting locations. Carefully complete the bezel-pushing, ensuring full contact between the stone and the metal.

6. If you have good and full contact between the bezel and the gemstone there's no need to burnish the bezel. If there are small gaps, burnishing will finish the process.

7. Finish and polish.

Special Handling

Here are some tips for unique bezel-setting situations:

1. Undercut thick or less-malleable bezels when setting fragile or delicate cabochon stones. Be careful not to undercut more than 40% of the bezel’s original thickness because subsequent finishing could cause the bezel to become too weak or even begin to tear at this junction.
2. File a 45&Mac251; angle on the top.
3. Hammer the bezel metal directly down from the top (at a 90&Mac251; angle). Keep the gem from bouncing by smearing red sprue wax around its edge to hold it in place. Remove the wax after the gem is set.

By Mark B. Mann

Illustrations by Lainie Mann
© 2004 Visual Communications INC.

Fine Jewelry Craftsmanship Quality Guide

Professional bezel setting for round and oval cabochons

A. The bezel terminates at the proper height against the gemstone – high enough to secure the gem but not so high it appears hidden.

B. The thickness of the bezel wall is sufficient for normal wear; it’s flat, even and consistent.

C. The bezel wall is in full contact with the gemstone.

D. The bezel – including the rim around the top – is highly polished.

E. There is no damage from the setting process or the finishing process.

Potential Problems

This bezel was made improperly. It’s too low, and normal wear will cause the gem to dislodge and fall out.
This bezel wall is uneven in thickness and height. Besides having an overall poor appearance, it poses a security risk to the gemstone.
This bezel wall is not flush against the gemstone. Eventually, the gem will loosen and dislodge.
The bezel was “hammered” over the stone, and tool marks from the setting process are still evident.

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This series is sponsored in part by Jewelers of America, (800) 223-0673

By Mark B. Mann

Illustrations by Lainie Mann, Visual Communications Inc. © 2004

Copyright © 2004 by Bond Communications