PMC3 tutorial #2 - making a bezel gemstone ring
Bezel set gemstone rings are all the rage nowadays! Its design is simple and elegant, and highlights gemstones perfectly. It is probably the simplest type of setting to make from scratch, making it a great and economical choice for both shoppers and independent jewelers.
So why not try to make one out of PMC3? I've always wanted a bezel stone ring, but I didn't want an engagement one (I wanted something classy and timeless). I recently discovered a plethora of faceted cabochons on Etsy. They are so beautiful and are perfect for this task.
Note: If you're completely new to PMC3, I would recommend visiting my first PMC3 tutorial and going through that first to get a feel for the clay and the tools.
Finished product - labradorite ring. Looks fancy in that box, yea?
For your first time making a bezel ring, it is best to use a round faceted/non-faceted cabochon that is at least 7mm in diameter. I started out with 6mm, and it can be pretty finicky to work with even for my small hands.
All of these things can be bought for fairly cheap online at sites like riogrande.com, or in craft stores with jewelry specialty.
- PMC3 of course - 6.3g is enough for most ring sizes
- Fine silver bezel wire - 1/8 x .010" (30 gauge) worked well, you only need a 1" strip or so. Make sure it's fine silver, not sterling. Example from Rio Grande
- Round cabochon of your liking - should be at least 7mm in diameter
- Metal file set - (~$10)
- Sandpaper or nail filers - various grits between 400 and 800
- Burnisher - (~$4)
- Butane torch - any ol' kitchen butane torch will work
- Olive oil
- Distilled water
- Bezel rocker / pusher (optional, ~$4)
step 1 - figure out your pmc ring size
You need to know your ring size to figure out the PMC3 ring size, which is 10-12% larger because of shrinkage. Use this online conversion to help with that.
- Say you're a (US) size 4. According to the conversion chart, size 4 has a diameter of 14.86mm. Assuming PMC3 shrinks 12%, then divide 14.86mm by 88%. In other words:
14.86 / .88 = 16.88mm
- Now pick a larger size on the online conversion until the diameter shows something close to 16.88mm. In this case:
Size 6-1/4 = 16.71mm Size 6-1/2 = 16.92mm
So our PMC3 ring size is around 6-1/2. You will wrap your PMC around that mark on your mandrel.
step 2 - prepare the bezel
- Prepare a little PMC paste by mixing a tiny amount of PMC and a tiny drop of distilled water. I have heard essential oils like lavender oil work well in the mix here too. Mix the paste until it has a yogurt like texture, adding more water sparingly if necessary. This will act as the glue for your putting silver pieces together.
- Take the fine silver bezel wire and wrap one end around the cabochon. Mark where the wire meets for cutting. Cut a little more wire than the mark to allow for filing.
- File both ends of the bezel wire so they're even and smooth. Wrap wire around the gem again to ensure it fits just right.
- Spread a little bit of PMC paste onto both ends of the bezel wire. "Glue" both ends together. If the wire bounces back apart, tighten the curve by wrapping it around something smaller, like the file handle. Make sure there is not much PMC oozing out from the inside of the bezel or it will block the cabochon later.
- Let bezel airdry or use a hairdryer/heat gun.
step 3 -make the ring shank
I won't go through all the steps here, as that's all covered in my previous tutorial, except I didn't flatten the shank here, I left it round.
Rolling out the clay with an acrylic block. Oil surfaces to prevent stickiness.
- Cover the mandrel with some parchment paper to prevent stickiness.
- Wrap shank around the mandrel where your PMC ring size is marked.
- Using some more clay, make a flattened circle for the base of the gemstone bezel cup. Make it a bit bigger than the gem because it will shrink 10-12%.
- Glue base to the shank with water or the PMC paste.
- Let ring airdry or use a hairdryer / heatgun. When dried, carefully remove ring from the mandrel.
- At this point, carefully file and sand the ring into a style you like. You can sand the shank flat at the sides so it's not as round or add any other designs to it.
- Carefully sand the cup base so that it is flat and will hold the bezel wire without gaps in between. You can also sand the base smaller if necessary, but remember to accommodate for the shrinkage. Do this carefully as the clay is still brittle, you can continue to make refinements after firing.
step 4 - the firing
You will fire the bezel and the ring shank separately first.
- Fire the bezel for about 2 minutes (again, for basic firing instructions, refer to previous tutorial). Quench in water to cool.
- File and sand the extra bits of fired PMC smooth on the outside so that the bezel looks like one continuous piece. Do not sand too deep.
- Next, fire the ring shank. Quench in water to cool.
- File and sand the ring shank to your desired finish.
- Place the bezel over the cup base of the ring, ensuring the bezel is round and centered. Use a fine point permanent marker to trace around the bezel on the cup base (see picture below). Now sand around the cup base until you reach the circle and the bezel fits right on top of base. This part can be tedious if your base is much bigger than needed (took me almost an hour), but you will get to it!
step 5 - put it all together
- Rewet and reform that PMC paste if necessary. Spread paste along one side of the bezel loop and glue it onto the base. It is better to use more than less paste. Make sure there is not excess paste inside the bezel that will be in the way of the gem (outside is okay). Scratch off excess with a toothpick or needle.
- Apply more paste onto any areas on the outside where you can still see the seam between bezel and base. Let dry.
Bezel "glued" to cup base with PMC paste
- Fire this piece once again, for about 3 minutes. Quench to cool.
- File and sand smooth, making sure not to sand to deep and breaking the connection. File and sand the bezel shorter so it fits the size of the gem. It should not be too tall, but just enough to hold the cabochon at the sides.
- Place gem into the bezel cup. If it doesn't fit immediately, use some pliers to bend bezel into a fitting shape.
- Use the bezel rocker/pusher to push the bezel flush against the curve side of the cabochon.
- Complete any finishing touches and sand entire piece smooth. Polish with the burnisher until you reach a high shine, if desired.
There you have it! It may be tedious work making one of these from scratch, but it's totally fun and rewarding in the end!
- If your bezel wire is too thin or small, or you didn't spread enough paste between bezel and cup, your fired bezel cup may break unexpectedly as you continue to work with it. Try reattaching it if that is the case.
- Try some variations! If you're confident now, try some other designs, like oval stones, or multi-stone settings!
- In reality, you can kind of cheat through this whole process. Places like Rio Grande sells blank, completed fine silver bezel cups. You COULD just buy that and attach it to a ring. But then, you're not really learning a whole lot, yea? ;)