Beading With Cabochons: What Kind of Bezel is Best for My Cabochon?

Once you get hooked on beading with cabochons like I am, you want to work with cabochons of all sizes, shapes, and materials. Just looking at my haul from this year's Bead Fest Philadelphia, I noticed that I seemed to have purchased more cabochons than in previous years, most of which were made by independent artists working in polymer clay, glass, and ceramic. (And in one case, I finally found the perfect bracelet finding to finish a cabochon that I bezeled using bead embroidery almost three years ago!)

Since cabochons come in such a wide variety of materials, sizes, and shapes, it helps to know what beading technique works best for which cabochon when you want to use it to create a piece of beaded jewelry. There are lots of options for each type of bezel, and each type of cabochon, depending on what you want to do with it!

Types of Beaded Bezels for Cabochons

First, let's take a look at what kinds of techniques you can use to bead a cabochon bezel.

Bead embroidery uses backstitch and peyote stitch to create a secure beaded bezel that will hold a cabochon in place for jewelry like earrings, bracelets, and necklaces. You'll need to glue your cabochon down to your bead embroidery backing temporarily until you finish stitching your bezel, just to hold it in place.

Off-loom bead-weaving can be used to create either an open or closed back bezel using beading stitches like peyote stitch, right-angle weave, or herringbone stitch to create a beaded bezel for a cabochon. These bezels don't generally use glue to hold the cabochon in place.

Using Calibrated Cabochons

Calibrated cabochons (top row) and free-form cabochons (bottom row)

A calibrated cabochon has a measured, uniform shape. These are the lovely ovals, squares, and round cabochons you'll find from gemstone cutters and beading supply companies that sell cabochons. These cabochons work well in both bead embroidered and bead-woven bezels, mainly because of their shape and their (relatively) precise size.

Pay attention to the thickness of your calibrated cabochons, too, because this can help determine what type of bezel you want to make for your finished project. A thicker calibrated cabochon works better with bead embroidery or right-angle weave.

Using Free-form Cabochons

Free-form cabochons are everywhere! Whether you're using a stunning gemstone cabochon that's cut in an unusual, one-of-a-kind shape or a handmade ceramic piece, making a piece of beaded jewelry with a free-form cabochon is just fun. These miniature works of art are popping up everywhere, and I don't mind admitting that I prefer to use a cabochon that is free-form for my own beaded jewelry project because I love the challenge of designing with them!

Just like with your calibrated cabochons, take some time to look at your free-form cabochon before you start to plan your design. Cabochons like the ones I love from Laura Mears work best for me with bead embroidery techniques, and I take a little extra care to adhere them to my bead embroidery backing for a little extra security. Double-sided tape from my local craft shop works very well to hold these beauties in place, so you may not even need to do more than stitch a couple of rows of backstitch around the cabochon before moving on to the rest of the project.

If your cabochon has smoother or more "regular" edges, despite being free-form, you can still use peyote stitch or right-angle weave to create your cabochon bezel. Stitch your bezel using size 11/0 seed beads, and then use a combination of decreases and smaller beads (like size 15/0 seed beads) to tighten the bezel in the last few rounds. This works particularly well when you weave a bezel using both right-angle weave and peyote stitch.

Experimenting With Cabochons and Bezels

As always, my best advice to someone who is just learning how to bead with cabochons is to bead fearlessly! Don't be afraid to admit it when your beadwork just isn't right. It's better to have beaded and torn it all out than never to have beaded at all! It can be a challenge to learn how to make secure, attractive beaded bezels for your cabochons, but that doesn't mean you can't have fun along the way. If you want to keep your experiments with cabochon bezels lighthearted, try using some of the new acrylic or resin cabochons that come in fancy colors and fun designs.

Aurora Borealis collar by Sherry Lester, Beadwork Magazine April/May 2013

Want more inspiration for learning how to master your favorite bead stitches and how they can be used for capturing your favorite cabochons? You'll find plenty of ideas in the pages of Beadwork magazine. And for a limited time, you can save up to 75% off on selected back issues of Beadwork magazine during the final hours of the Summer Tent Sale. Stock up on some of your favorite beading resources!

Do you have a favorite bezel technique for your cabochon projects? Leave a comment here on the Beading Daily blog and share it with us!

Bead Happy,


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