The first steps in a piece of turquoise jewelry

A little behind the scenes action: how a bezel is made.
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First I wrap the stone with bezel wire that’s the right height to fit the stone. I use a sharpie to mark the cut and a pair of regular old scissors to snip. (I don't think most jewelers use scissors but I've used my pair for years!) I check once again that the bezel hugs the stone and cut any excess as needed. I line up the seam and now it's time to solder!
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I spray on some flux (I use Cupronil) and then using my Smith Little Torch and the #4 or #5 tip I solder the seam with a little piece of hard solder. Solder comes in hard, medium, easy and extra easy. These correspond to the temperature at which the solder flows (melts). The hard solder flows at a hotter temperature, meaning you have to heat the piece more to reach that temp. The first solder joint in a piece of jewelry should always be with hard solder. For subsequent solder joints you use medium and easy solder, in that order, so that the solder you're currently using flows before melting (aka breaking) the previous joint. 
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Once I've made sure the solder flows fully through to both sides of the bezel I place it in the pickle pot. What is a pickle pot?!? It's usually a small crock pot full of an acid solution that removes residue from soldering and, most importantly, something called firescale. Firescale is a layer of oxides that appears on the surface of the silver after its been heated. Sterling silver is alloyed with copper, and the copper combines with oxygen during the heating process to leave a pinkish stain on the surface of the silver, which is the firescale. The acid solution in the pickle eats away at the copper oxides and leaves the silver "clean". There is always a bit of sanding needed to truly clean up a piece, but that usually happens when the entire piece is close to being finished. At least that's how I do it. That would be a whole other blog series on finishing techniques alone...
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Anyway, here's the bezel all snug and shaped to the stone! That's how each turquoise jewel begins on my bench. There are many, many more steps in turning this into a finished piece of jewelry- more for another day!
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1 comment

  • That is soo interesting and I’ve never even asked you about your process. I’ve worn jewelry forever not knowing the steps in the detail and precision for such beauty — it just always seems like magic and I’m in awe of the talent.
    xo

    Rosemary Mark

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