Wednesday, September 25, 2013

New Work- Gemmy Goodness

I started some new projects today-  a little different because I haven't made much since the kids were home this summer and I need to use my skills and use up some gems too (that's right- so I can buy more...)

So I am thinking of clustering gems around a central contrasting gem. The top right is an opal with iolite rectangles, the middle is sugilite with carnelian rectangles, and the bottom is green quartz with rhodolite garnet squares. The top 2 will be necklaces but the bottom could be a ring- a large ring, but not too large for some people's taste. I may decide later to make it a necklace, too. I am going to set the faceted gems upside-down, because a) it's easier and I'm lazy, and b) because it looks cool.

I'm influenced by Irene Neuwirth (those are her necklaces above)- her clustering of gems is magnificent. Plus, she uses a lot of opals so I'm in love with her jewelry. She uses a lot of opal and carnelian together for contrast. Here's her Facebook page:

Of course my little projects are a lot smaller in scale than hers. But hey, I do what I can....

Irene uses prong settings for her work, but since I'm a bezel-girl, I'll stick with that. It's overwhelming for some to make SO MANY bezels, but if you use a production technique, it's not that hard. What you do need are stones that are calibrated exactly the same size. I buy in bulk, so even if some aren't exactly the right size, I can choose another until I have what I need.

I need to make bezels. A LOT of bezels. So I use some of my scalloped bezel wire. I don't use scalloped bezel wire anymore, and I need shallow bezels, so I slice the scallops off, and the bezel wire gets all curly.

Then when I straighten it out, it's not straight.

So I use my pliers to gently bend it straight as I go down the length of the wire. I do this by squeezing on the wire and rotating my pliers a wee bit. I do this every 1/2" or so.

At the bottom you can see the bezel wire before I cut it- then right above it, I actually size the wire around a typical stone (I need 22 rectangular bezels- all the same size). After it fits perfectly, I open it back up, and use that as a template to measure out the same exact length 22 times. This makes production faster.

Next I close all 22 pieces of wire, put a smidgen of solder under each joint, flux and heat until the solder flows.

Here they are pickled, rinsed and dried.

I bought a set of bezel mandrels from Stachura. These are just a few- I have 12 or more. They are helpful in forming unusually-shaped bezels. They are cone shaped but consistent in form the whole length.

I take each soldered piece of wire and because they're fine silver, am able to use my fingers to press the sides against the sides of the mandrel, giving the wires a rough form of a rectangle.

The top pieces are just off the mandrel. Then, I use my chain nose pliers to further flatten and refine the edges and corners (bottom pieces).

In the above pic I have made bezels for all the stones- 33 in all. As it was, I used less stones for the necklaces than originally laid out. I constructed the square bezels in much the same way, using the square bezel mandrel for forming. The smaller stones at the tops have pre-made bezel cups. Now I am tired of bezel-making and my kids are about to come home- done for the day!

Above, the sugilite and carnelian necklace could encorporate some granulation. Should I keep going with that on all the pieces or keep it simple?? (simple is hard for me) Also, should the bottom piece be a ring or should I make it a necklace as well? I also need to decide on what chain I will use. But enough work for today! Hopefully I will finish on Friday! Any feedback is encouraged!!


  1. They are going to look awesome! I ♥ Carnelian.

  2. Well done on the mass bezel production! The colours you've put together are beautiful.
    I think the granulation adds the finishing touch and the silver contrasting with the jewel colours will look fabulous :D

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