Raising Stones in Bezel Settings
by Judy Larson
There can be a few reasons why you may need to raise a stone within a bezel. And there are many techniques. Here's just one!
Instructions
The thinner a cabochon is, the more fragile it is. Many thin cabochons that are lower on the Mohs scale of hardness will be backed with a thin layer of another stone or some sort of hard composite to make them less prone to breakage. Why then are stones cut so thin? High grade rough of highly sought after gemstones such as turquoise, 5-6 Mohs, or opal, 5-6.5 Mohs, is extremely expensive.

Stones are sold by weight. Therefore, if thin slabs are cut from the rough, the rough will yield more individual pieces than if thicker slabs were cut, making the cost per piece more reasonable. The three stones shown in the photo were all purchased to be similar in visual size. However, the thin stone at the back cost 1/3 less than the thicker stone in the Holiday Fairy Ornament in the front. The center stone, thinner than the front one and thicker than the back one, was priced between the two. After they are all set in the same height bezel, they will each have the same visual weight.
Pro Tip: Purchasing cabochons on the thinner side gives you the option to choose the visual height/thickness you wish when you can raise them in a bezel.
Judy Larson's Raising Stones in Bezel Settings - , General Education, , raising stones in bezels
The thin pieces of more fragile stones can be glued to a backing, making the thin slab much more stable and resistant to breakage. Sometimes, the thin pieces are also protected by adding a crystal-clear quartz or glass topper. Once these assembled pieces secured in a bezel, it can be impossible to tell they are not originally cut thicker. Assembling cabochons in this manner will make them more durable as well as affordable.

Sometimes a design calls for a cabochon with more visual "heft". Earrings could become too heavy if thicker stones are used. Bracelets may become too bulky and turn on the wrist, especially if the main stone is on the larger side as well as thick. When cost, size, and weight are a concern, raising a thinner stone with lightweight plastic shims can be the answer.

If a flat back cabochon is thin and more stone presence is desired in the piece being made, a wider bezel to cage the stone is used. The problem then is how to raise the stone. Steer clear of any products that can degrade over time such as carboard, thick paper, or sawdust. Yes, these will cushion the stone but if moisture gets to them, they can decompose over time, start to produce unpleasant odors, and no longer cushion the stone or hold it in the original raised position.

Thin plastic inserts, approximately .5mm thick, saved from sliced sandwich meat packages have made wonderful templates/stencils for a variety of often used shapes in my designs. They are easy to cut with a craft knife. I store mine in a three-ring binder in photo sleeves for large photos.
Judy Larson's Raising Stones in Bezel Settings - , General Education, , raising stones in bezels
Judy Larson's Raising Stones in Bezel Settings - , General Education, , raising stones in bezels
The benefits of using thin plastic pieces as shims to raise stones instead of pieces of metal on the sides of bezels to raise them is they don't add weight and the stone is fully protected and cushioned from beneath so should not easily break if inadvertently hit. Because the shims are thin, it is easy to raise a stone to just the right level. The Fire Agate, 6.5-7 Mohs, on the left is thick as well as hard enough to not worry much about breakage. The Amazonite on the right, 6-6.5 Mohs, is much thinner. If raised and set in a bracelet or ring, the two pieces of jewelry that receive the hardest wear, it may not need to be cushioned, but it is still a good idea.
Judy Larson's Raising Stones in Bezel Settings - , General Education, , raising stones in bezels
Trace the inside of the bezel on the plastic sheet, then cut the plastic sheet inside the traced line. Trace and cut as many as needed to raise the stone inside the bezel to the desired height. If the bezel is a tight fit around the stone, it can be almost impossible to remove after soldering the bezel in place. That is why It is important to check the height fit using the shims BEFORE the bezel is soldered down.
Pro Tip: Cut one more than you think you need. If some are not used, set them aside to use in a later project.
Judy Larson's Raising Stones in Bezel Settings - , General Education, , raising stones in bezels
The plastic sheets are thin enough that a disc cutter can easily cut through them.
Pro Tip: To save time later in later projects, cut a full sheet in a variety of sizes to have on hand to raise round cabochons.
Judy Larson's Raising Stones in Bezel Settings - , General Education, , raising stones in bezels
Here is an example of why I raised a cabochon. The bottom "dress" of the Holiday Fairy Ornament was thick enough to be used as-is with the chosen bezel wire. However, since the face cabochon was just over a millimeter thick, by making a bezel with the same bezel wire used for the dress and adding plastic shims, it was raised to be more in line with the height of the cabochon.
Judy Larson's Raising Stones in Bezel Settings - , General Education, , raising stones in bezels

Materials

28 Gauge 3/16" Fine Silver Bezel Wire
H9-28BZL
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 1FT
  • Price: $10.88
  • Gold Club Price: $8.16
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  • Category: General Education
  • Technique(s): General Education