10 Expert Projects + 6 Tips: Add Gemstones to Your Metal Jewelry Designs

Adding gemstones to your metal jewelry designs is a great way to add color, sparkle, value, and personality. You can also tell a story with gemstones, such as birthstones or stones that are associated with an idea you want to symbolize, such as aquamarine for water or the regal, royal purple of amethyst.

Whenever I have a new cabochon to use or want some inspiration for adding gemstones to a jewelry project (or a refresher on how to do it), one resource I often turn to is our gemstone project compilation eBooks. I like our 10 project  compilation eBooks because they have 10 separate but related projects in them, by a variety of designers, so I see a variety of ways to do similar skills. For example, our 10 Stunning Gemstone Jewelry Projects eBook has projects from Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist favorite experts like John Heusler, Tom and Kay Benham, Roger Halas, and more. So while several of the projects may feature a tube-set gemstone, for example, you'll see how more than one metalsmithing expert does it. I love learning that way!

Here are six helpful tips I found in this eBook that will come in handy soon!


1. To hold a stone for polishing: "Get a Grip! Using a small, T-shape handle constructed of duct tape folded back on itself allows you to get a good grip and have more control of each disk. There is no worse sound than the twang of the piece you are working being flung across the room from the spinning lap. In addition, the use of the handle allows you to orient the disk on each lap so that it is at right angles to the previously ground scratches. This also allows you to see that the previous scratches have been replaced with another set of finer scratches." (from Tom & Kay Benham)

2. To solder efficiently: Learn to use your torch in your nondominant hand, leaving your steady hand free to apply parts. You will not regret the effort to learn this!" (from John Heusler)


3. To maximize a stone's beauty in a setting: After you mark your stone's placement and drill a pilot hole in the back plate, "Thread a saw blade through the center hole and carefully cut out the space drawn for the stone. The hole should be approximately 75% to 80% of the size of the stone itself. . . . An opening behind the stone allows light to bounce around for more sparkle." (from Terri Haag)

4. To calculate the length of bezel wire you need: Sometimes test measuring bezel wire around a stone is cumbersome, so instead, "measure the circumference with thin string or dental floss by laying it around the stone. Add 2.5mm for filing and fitting." (from John F. Heusler)


5. To shape a cabochon: When grinding a stone to shape it into a cab, Roger Halas suggests marking the shape with a paint pen instead of a Sharpie marker. When you get to the secondary shaping stages, "use a paint pen to indicate where you've eliminated the previous grinding marks-don't use a Sharpie, as the ink may penetrate the stone and discolor it," Roger says. "But if you do make this mistake, don't panic, a little acetone cleans it up." (from Roger Halas)


6. To protect small details during soldering: As Roger says, "we all know that flux always pops, bubbles, and shifts components into undesirable positions. . . . The solution is jewelry investment, mixed into a paste and caked over the delicate components. You can flux, solder, and unclench those white knuckles once you see firsthand that this crazy technique actually works." When the soldering is done, just rinse off the investment, pickle, and continue with your project. (from Roger Halas)

That's just a few of the tips–get all 10 project tutorials with step-by-step photos and complete instructions in our newest pattern compilation eBook, 10 Stunning Gemstone Jewelry Projects. It also has a handy feature on stones you can fire in place in metal clay along with alternative firing instructions. No shipping cost, no waiting–just download it now and you can be making the first of 10 fab projects by tonight!

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