Bezel Settings Love Stones
You can set faceted stones of any shape and flat gemstone slices equally well in bezels. Helen Blythe-Hart's "Watermelon Parfait Pendant." Photo: Jim Lawson.
I Love Stones, So I Love Bezel Settings
The first time I saw a faceted stone in a bezel setting, I was so taken with it. That lovely rim of gold just framing the gem looked so opulent–and so much more elegant than the spiky little prongs I'd come to expect. Instead of a ho-hum holder, this was an environment that truly set up the stone. It made me think of Renaissance paintings or costume dramas full of velvet, candlelight, and elaborate estates. (Doesn't take much to launch me, does it?)
There's a technical reason, though, why so many faceted stones are prong set. It's the setting that lets the most light into a stone in the most advantageous way: so the facets can break up the light and bounce it around and make the stone really sparkle, which is what they're mostly designed to do.
A highly patterned stone deserves a special yet simple design: a scalloped bezel with a partially scalloped back plate takes this setting a bit beyond a basic outline. "Porcelain Jasper Pendant" by Elias Bernard. Photo: Jim Lawson.
This is also why you don't see a lot of prong set cabochons: there's no particular advantage when you don't have a transparent material or those back facets kicking the light around. But a faceted gem can still sparkle in a bezel, and then you have elegance and bling–one of my favorite combinations.
Bezels also have technical advantages. They offer great protection for a stone, keeping its edges from getting chipped, and hold it securely. They can be complex and challenging, but they can also be simple enough to be a great first setting technique for a new jewelry artisan and usually are.
Bezels Work With You
Settings exist to hold a stone, so a setting must be functional first, but not first and last. Unless you're hiding your gemstones in your jewelry design, settings are very visible, and a setting often improves a design–or takes away from it.
A good setting complements the stone and the jewelry design without overwhelming either, appearing not as an add-on but an integral design element. That's why I like bezels so much. They're so versatile, they can be formed to hold almost any stone, and they can be adapted to work with almost any jewelry design.
A one-of-a-kind, freeform carved sunstone nestles contentedly in a 22K gold bezel. "Setting Sunstone" by Mo Ying Chan; sunstone carved by Greg Fraser. Photo by the artists.
Bezels can rise up above the stone and create depth. A bezel can lie flush atop a gem, beckoning you to glide your finger across the smooth interface, or barely come to the stone's top surface. You can form your bezel a little unevenly on purpose, making it clear your piece is handmade, or you can finish it meticulously any way you want, from a coarse, irregular texture to a highly polished, mirror finish.
This bezel is a continuation of the entire ring, finally pooling around the central inlaid chrysoprase cabochon. "Hollow Form Bezel Ring" by William Fretz. Photo: Todd Murray
As you add gems to your jewelry designs, bezel settings keep you in the designer's seat. You can find all of these and more bezel designs in 10 Bezel-Setting Projects, Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist's newest eBook of downloadable projects, with complete instructions, tool and material lists, and plenty of helpful tips.
So what are your favorite settings? Let us know in the comments below!