Using Bezel Cups in Silver Clay
I like to use bezel cups in my silver clay jewellery sometimes. They are handy wee things that come in a variety of sizes and because they are fine silver you can fire them in place with silver clay. They can also be soldered onto a piece if you work as a traditional silversmith or have already fired your silver clay.
I find them good to use in my work for lots of reasons;
- Measuring and sizing up tiny wee stones to make a traditional bezel setting can be quite fiddly and time consuming.
- You can set stones which would not withstand the high temperatures of a kiln or torch, with a minimum of fuss.
- They are used for cabochons (rounded or oval stones with flat bottoms) not faceted stones. Faceted stones need a different type of setting like a claw or something similar.
So how do they work and how do you set them? Well I prepared this wee tutorial for you that should help you along.
Step 1 for setting bezel cups in silver clay
First choose the stone you want to use and make sure you know its size. Try to avoid the temptation of putting the stone into the cup without first having some cotton thread nearby! See step 7 for more details.
In this example I am using a lovely round pink sapphire cabochon stone which measures 6mm in diameter.
Choose a design which makes the most of the stone and its setting. Consider whether you want the stone to be a focal of your piece or just an accent. In this setting, I want to show off the lovely stone as the centre piece of a flower.
Have a look for a cutter or a template that is slightly bigger than your bezel cup.
The bezel cup should be able to sit in the template but have a small gap around the outside. It will be less than 1mm gap and the bezel cup should be able to move around.
Roll out your silver clay, texture and cut as normal. Cut out a hole for the bezel cup to sit in too. Leave aside to dry as you would normally.
Sand and finish the piece as you would normally too. You will see that between the wet stage and the dry stage, your clay will have shrunk a little, examine the hold you cut for your bezel, make sure that the bezel cup can still fit into the hole and that it still has some wiggle room (this is to allow for shrinkage during firing).
At this stage you have a choice, you can either leave the piece as is, or you can place a small piece of clay over the back. It doesn’t make much difference to the finished piece, but if you are not sure about this process and it’s your first time, then I would advise you to roll out a thin piece of clay, cut to shape and fix it to the back. It just gives your bezel cup somewhere to sit and you can secure it a little more with some syringe or paste.
If you are using this method, sand the bottom of your bezel cup to make it a little bit rough, before fixing into place.
If you’re confident of your sizing then go ahead and leave the hole as is and place the bezel cup within. You should have a little bit of room still, so the bezel cup should not fit tightly into the hole at this time.
Fire your bezels in place with your silver clay, as you would fire any normal piece. I have no issues with firing these pieces at 900oC for 2 hours.
If you have chosen not to put a panel of silver clay on the back of your piece, make sure you lie your piece flat on the kiln shelf and place the bezel cup inside. Ideally, the silver clay will shrink around the cup and hold it in place.
Once fired, finish your piece as normal. I put my items in a tumbler with no issues (so far!!). Once polished and finished (I.e. LOS BEFORE you set your stone) you are ready to set the stone. For added security, have a piece of thread placed in the bezel cup before you put the stone in. That way if you set it squint, then you can pull the thread and pop it out. Your bezel cup should be a snug fit for your stone, push it in straight.
Use a bezel pushed to secure the stone in place. When you are pushing the bezel cup, think about a clock face and first push in from the 12, then 6, then 3 then 9 positions.
This should stop the stone from moving around in the cup. Then continue around, making sure that you do one side, then the opposite side until all parts of the lip of the cup are pushed in. Smooth over the cup with your bezel rocker to make sure there are no wrinkles in the setting.
You should then have a lovely stone setting, with hopefully the minimum of fuss.
We sell both plain edged and serrated bezel cups in a variety of round sizes and serrated bezel cups for oval stones too. SHOP HERE.