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Bezel-set sea glass pendant

Learn how to bezel-set an irregular stone. No two pieces of sea glass are alike — we’ll show you how to custom fit a bezel for your own treasure.
pendant 800
Silver bezels in a brushed matte finish complement the characteristic frosted glow of sea glass. 1 3⁄4 x 1 1⁄4 in. (44 x 32 mm).

After years of being tossed in oceans and lakes, each piece of sea glass has its own, often irregular, topography. Bezel-setting an odd-shaped piece can be a challenge, but by taking extra care to custom fit your bezel (including adjusting the height of the bezel wall to follow the contours of the glass), you can set nearly any piece of glass (or stone!) that might wash ashore. My love of sea glass began on a surf trip to Mexico, and it was my desire to use sea glass creatively that led me to metalsmithing.

SUPPLIES

  • Genuine sea glass
  • Fine-silver bezel wire: 28-gauge (0.32 mm), dead-soft, dimensions to fit sea glass
  • Sterling silver or Argentium sterling silver sheet: 24-gauge (0.5 mm), half-hard, to fit base of sea glass
  • Insert material for closed-back sterling silver bezel setting (choose from): 
  • Argentium sterling silver sheet: 28-gauge (0.32 mm) 
  • Fine-silver sheet: 28-gauge (0.32 mm) 
  • Compact disc (CD)
  • Small jeweler’s scissors
  • Radial bristle sanding disks
  • Scribe or compass point

TOOLBOXES

Instructions

Part 1: Bezel setting

Determine whether you will make an open- or a closed-back setting. Follow the steps in the corresponding sections below to complete your setting. Then, to finish your bezel, follow the steps that apply to both types of bezel settings.

For my design, I used two pieces of sea glass. The blue piece’s bezel has a closed back with an Argentium sterling silver insert. The bezel for the green piece has the backplate cut out; the opening lets light pass through.

Seaglass bezeled pendant 1
Step 1
Seaglass bezeled pendant 2
Step 2

Open-back setting

Choose your bezel wire. Sea glass can be uneven; you’ll need to choose 28-gauge (0.32 mm) fine-silver bezel wire that is tall enough to accommodate the highest point of your piece of sea glass. 

Cut a piece of bezel wire. Wrap the 28-gauge (0.32 mm) bezel wire around the sea glass, following all the curves. Using a permanent marker, mark the wire where it overlaps [1], and trim it using jeweler’s scissors [2]. Use a flat needle file to clean up the cut edges.

Solder the bezel. Using hard solder, join the ends of the bezel wire. Pickle and rinse the bezel, and check that it fits the sea glass. Adjust or remake the bezel if necessary.

Seaglass bezeled pendant 3
Step 3
Seaglass bezeled pendant 4
Step 4

Make a backplate. Your backplate needs to be larger than the bezel by at least 1 mm (1⁄32 in.) all the way around; I trace around my glass pieces with a permanent marker to determine the size of my backplates [3]. 

Use a jeweler’s saw with a 4/0 blade to cut a piece of 24-gauge (0.5 mm) sterling silver sheet to the correct size. 

Solder the bezel to the back-plate. Using medium solder, join the bezel to the backplate.

Trim the backplate. Using a jeweler’s saw, trim the excess backplate from the perimeter of the bezel. Using a medium/fine-cut flat file, smooth the edges of the backplate until they are flush with the bezel wire. Be careful about the angle of your file; you don’t want to file away any of the thin bezel wire.

Pierce the backplate. Using a drill bit in a flex shaft, drill a small hole in the backplate. Make sure that the hole is large enough to fit your saw blade.
Thread the saw blade through the hole, and saw around the inside perimeter of the bezel, leaving a 2–3 mm ledge on which your sea glass will rest [4]. Use needle files and sandpaper to smooth this inside edge.

Seaglass bezeled pendant 5
Step 5
Seaglass bezeled pendant 6
Step 6

Closed-back setting

Make the bezel setting. Follow the steps for the open-back setting, with the following changes: If you plan to use an insert in your closed-back bezel, make sure to add its thickness to the height of the sea glass when determining the height of your finished bezel. Also, do not drill into or pierce the interior of the backplate. 

Create an insert. Turn your bezel so the backplate is facing up. Place the bezel on your chosen insert medium, and trace the bezel [5]. 

Using a jeweler’s saw, cut around the inside of the traced line. Use files or sandpaper to clean up and refine the edges so that the insert fits well within the closed-back bezel; it should lie flat against the backplate and not move around inside the bezel. 

Both types of settings

Test the fit. Place the piece of sea glass into your bezel setting to check the height of the bezel wire.

TIP: To make it easy to remove any cabochon from a closed-back bezel during test fitting, drape dental floss across the bezel before you insert the cab [6]. If the bezel is too tight, you can pull the cab out using the floss.

For complete project instructions, click here to download & print this PDF

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