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Think of tabs as prongs cut from a single piece of metal, then folded over to secure an object. No heat is required, so they’re perfect for holding stones or other nontraditional materials.

Create a template by tracing the object you want to set on a piece of paper. Based on the object and your aesthetic, determine the best placement for the tabs. Always use at least three tabs to secure your object.
BASICS_tabs 01
Figure 1
Determine the length and shape of the tabs. The tabs should be long enough to slightly curve over the object. If this piece needs to be connected to another object or suspended, think about how the connection point should work. Add an extra tab where you want the top of the piece to be. Make it long and narrow, then curl it into a bail using roundnose pliers. Or, make the extra tab large enough to drill a hole in it to accommodate a jump ring.
BASICS_tabs 02
Figure 2

Transfer the finished design to your metal. Saw out your shape, then file and sand the edges. Work the metal to the desired surface finish. Place the object on the base to check the shape, and refine the base as needed (Figure 1)

Hold the base and object firmly in place with your nondominant hand. Use nylon-jaw pliers to bend a tab up nearly 90°. Repeat to bend the tab opposite the first tab. Continue bending the tabs, alternating sides as you go (Figure 2).

Use a bezel pusher or burnisher to press the bottom of the tab against the object. Whatever tool you use should be solid enough to push the metal without marring it. Continue pressing the tabs around the piece, alternating sides as you go.

BASICS_tabs 03
Figure 3
Once the bottom of the tabs are snug against the object, use a gentle rocking motion to press the sides and tops of the tabs against the object. This will prevent them from snagging on any clothing and will secure the object (Figure 3).

Use files or sandpaper to remove any marks left by the setting tool; take care not to scratch the object.

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