The Easiest "Prongs" You'll Ever Make: Modifying Bezels with Tabs

4 Oct 2013

I love soldering and I love using a torch, but there's a time and a place for cold connections. Not everyone solders, first of all, and not everyone can use a torch in their homes, but also many metal pieces that need attaching can't withstand the heat of a torch. That's where cold connections come into play.

There are many kinds of cold connections--riveting jewelry is the most common, along with using brads, bolts, and screws, plus connecting with jump rings and other wire connections. There are also tabs. I admit I've never been a big fan of tabs--they seemed to cover too much of what was being set in or connected with them and they just didn't look very professional or finished to me . . . until now.

 
Photos from Punched Metal Jewelry.
I found this bezel-set design in Aisha Formanski's book Punched Metal Jewelry and I was immediately struck by the simplicity of this piece featuring a stamped, dapped metal component set inside a bezel using tabs. Aisha simply cut sections of the bezel wall and bent them in like you would any other prongs or bezel wire (press a little at a time, going around the piece from one side to the opposite side, until all sides are equally set) to hold the metal component. Brilliant, simple, and attractive too!

About her technique, Aisha wrote, "I was using many different styles of bezels with images and resin a few years back. I had quite the collection and was excited when I came up with this alternative way to use them. These bezels can be found in a variety of metals; play with mixing metals to add contrast to your designs." And don't stop with resin or punched metal--with the right size bezel and the right number and placement of tabs, you could set gem slabs, cabochons, shells, glass, enameled components, and more using this technique--no heat required.

Here's a quick look at how Aisha made her bezel:

Thanks to our friends at Nunn Design, I had an excellent selection of bezels to try out this technique. You should know the metal you're dealing with so you'll know if you can snip the tabs in the bezel wall using wire cutters, metal shears, or if it will require a jeweler's saw. If you have a jeweler's saw and know how to use it, I think that's the best choice. No matter what metal you're cutting, you'll get straighter, cleaner cuts that will require less finishing work. Less finishing required is always a good thing!

 
You could use three or four or more tabs, depending on the shape of your piece and your design. Make your tabs wide or thin, symmetrical or asymmetrical, in even numbers or odd, matching in size or two small on one side balanced by a large one on the other side--there are so many possibilities. You could even snip the bezel wall all the way around and press every tab down, resembling a bottle cap effect. Hmm . . . You could even do this technique with a bottle cap, too!

Explore more cold connections and the myriad ways to connect two or more metal (or wire, or glass, or paper, or fiber, or . . . ) elements together in your jewelry designs by watching Wire Weaving with Mary Hettmansperger on Craft Daily. In it, Mary shows many ways to connect metal pieces without the use of a torch.

You can view Wire Weaving with Mary Hettmansperger as often as you like with your subscription to Craft Daily--along with many other videos that could improve your jewelry making techniques, including hand or machine finishing jewelry, adding textures and patinas--both of which would also aid in making a project like this. Check out the jewelry niche video subscription on Craft Daily and see all that you could learn! Plus more videos are being added regularly to help you further expand your skills.

 


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