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Metal clay bezel-set earrings

Embed kiln-safe stones in metal clay for a bezel-set look

Setting gemstones in clusters can add drama and elegance to a design. With this simple metal clay bezel-setting technique, you can set just about any size or shape of gemstone, from marquis to princess cut. You’ll make each bezel component individually, then assemble them as you please, with the stones already in place. If you want to add contrast to your settings, carve into the bezels to add texturing.

Read the instructions on making the bezel components below, or for complete instructions click here for the free project PDF

Materials

  • Metal clay, 45 g
  • Metal clay paste
  • Gemstones: For this project, I used cubic zirconia in the following shapes and sizes:
    - 2 Marquis-shape, 8 x 15 mm
    - 2 Princess-cut, 8 x 8 mm
    - 2 Round, 8 mm
    - 4 Round, 4.5 mm
    - 2 Round, 4 mm
  • Sterling silver wire, 20 gauge (0.8 mm), half-hard, 6 in. (15.2 cm)

Additional tools & supplies

  • Metal clay extruder with 2 mm tube-making attachment
  • Small V-shaped carving tool
  • Butane torch
  • Pickle pot with pickle
  • Cup bur (optional)

Toolbox: Metal clay

Instructions
Metal clay bezel set earrings 1
Photo 1
Metal clay bezel set earrings 2
Photo 2
Make bezel components

Measure the stone’s height. Place the gemstone culet-side up on your work surface. Stack playing cards beside the stone, one at a time, until the card stack equals the height of the gemstone; you’ll know they’re equal when the last card in the stack slides over the culet without touching it [1]. Then, add 3 more cards to the stack to compensate for shrinkage. Roll out a slab of fresh clay to the thickness of your stack of cards.

Form the bezel interior. Push the gemstone table-side down into the clay to make an impression [2]. Pick up the clay, and gently bend it to remove the stone.

Metal clay bezel set earrings 3
Photo 3

Cut a hole in the clay. Use a drinking straw to make a hole in the clay slab. The hole will allow light to penetrate the back of the stone.

NOTE: The hole should be similar in shape to your stone, but smaller than the stone’s girdle. My stone is a marquis-shape, so I needed a roughly oval-shaped hole. I squeezed the straw gently between my thumb and forefinger to create an oval shape [3].

Use the compressed straw to make a hole through the clay. Remove the plug of clay from the straw, and reserve it for future use.

Metal clay bezel set earrings 4
Photo 4

Trim the bezel. Place the gemstone culet-side down into the hole in the clay. Push the gemstone down into the clay until the table of the stone is almost (but not completely) flush with the surface of the clay. Make sure the gemstone is level.

Using a tissue blade, trim the excess clay to roughly conform to the shape of the gemstone [4]. Leave approximately 1⁄8 in. (3 mm) of extra clay around the stone to allow for shaping and refining of the bezel.

Tip!
It’s best to trim your bezel with straight edges. I trimmed my bezel into a diamond shape; I’ll refine the shape to match the curve of the marquis-shape stone after the component is dry.

Set the component on a mug warmer or in a food dehydrator until it is completely dry.

Metal clay bezel set earrings 5
Photo 5
Metal clay bezel set earrings 6
Photo 6

Refine the back of the bezel. Once the component is completely dry, turn it over to expose the hole in the back of the bezel. Use a V-shape carving tool to gently carve the hole into the shape of the stone [5]. Use care to not damage the stone when carving. You can also use a needle file to refine the shape of the hole. Again, be careful not to damage your stone.

Shape the bezel. File or sand the outer edges of the bezel to conform to the shape of the gemstone [6]. Check for any cracks in the clay. If there are cracks, use paste to seal them, and set the piece aside again to dry completely, then sand any repaired areas.

Metal clay bezel set earrings 7
Photo 7
Metal clay bezel set earrings 8
Photo 8

Make bezels for all your stones. Repeat these steps with your remaining gemstones. Remember, the hole in each bezel should match the shape of the stone:

  • For princess-cut stones: Use an unaltered straw to cut a round hole. After the component is completely dry, carve the circle into a square.
  • For round stones: Use unaltered straws for both the exterior shape and interior hole of the bezel. Alternatively, roll a ball of clay that is about 1 1⁄2–2 times the size of the stone. Use the tip of a pencil or a rubber clay shaper to make an impression in the clay ball [7]. Then, use a straw that is smaller than the gemstone to cut the hole through the ball. Set the stone into the clay, and use a tissue blade to cut around it. Remember to trim using straight cuts: Start by cutting the clay into a square shape, then trim each of the corners of the square to form an octagon. Set the piece aside to dry completely. After the component is dry, file and shape the bezel accordingly.

Carve the bezels. After the bezels are completely dry, use a V-shape carving tool to cut grooves into the bezel [8]. Make your first cut at the 3:00 o’clock position; start from the gemstone and carve towards the outside edge of the bezel. Make your next cut at the 9:00 position, then the 12:00 position, then the 6:00 position, and so on, until you’ve carved all the way around the entire bezel.

To complete this project, click here for the free PDF.

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