Marylou Forrest loves making bezel-set rings and bracelets with her sea glass. Here is a quick overview of the steps she uses, but each jeweler has their own custom process. If you'd rather watch than read, check out the video "Sharing the Aloha Spirit" showing Marylou's process, plus get a sneak peek at her studio and extensive sea glass collection.
Marylou’s supplies & Equipment:
- Basic to intermediate metalsmithing skills
- Soldering equipment: Solder pick, torch, charcoal soldering block, hard/medium/easy solder, flush, paintbrush for flux
- Crockpot, pickling solution, copper tongs
- Magnetic jewelry tumbler
- Jeweler’s saw, cutting lube, shears/snips, set of jewelers files, bezel pusher, burnisher, ring mandrel, ring clamp, third-hand tweezers, fine-point permanent marker, bench pin, tweezers, jeweler’s hammer, brass brush, miter jig
- Flex shaft, sandpaper grits 200-800, pumice polishing tips
- Sterling silver back plate metal, sterling silver bezel wire, sterling silver stock for ring band
- Midas Black Max Oxidizer Solution and ProtectaClear
- Flat-backed piece of sea glass
Step 1: Make the bezel
- Cut the bezel wire and wrap it around the circumference of the sea glass.
- Mark where to cut it with the pen.
- Cut the bezel and wrap it around the glass to make sure it fits perfectly.
- Make sure the ends go together perfectly (A).
- Put the bezel on the charcoal block and brush it with flux.
- Add solder to the part where the ends touch.
- Use the torch to melt the solder and check the seam (B).
- Quench it in the water to cool it.
- Put the sea glass in to make sure the bezel fits snugly (C).
STEP 2: Make the backplate
- Put the bezel and sea glass on the silver backplate and trace an outline, leaving an edge.
- Saw the metal along the line (D).
- Use sandpaper to buff off all the marks.
- Use hammer to make sure it’s flat.
- Smooth out the bottom of the bezel on sandpaper and make sure it sits flat on the backplate.
STEP 3: Solder the bezel frame to the backplate
- Put the back on the brick and center the frame in the middle.
- Put flux all over the backplate and where the bezel touches it.
- Add pieces of solder inside the circumference of the bezel.
- Use the torch to melt the solder until it melts or “flows” (E).
- Quench it in the water to cool it and drop it in the pickle pot.
STEP 4: Adjust the bezel height
- Put some floss in the ring then lay the sea glass on top (F).
- Check to see if the bezel is too high.
- Mark the height you want with pen.
- Grind the bezel down, checking often until the contour of the top of the bezel matches the piece of sea glass (G).
- Do a final sanding to smooth the bezel edge.
STEP 5: Finish the backplate
- Decide if you want the backplate flush with the bezel or extending outside the bezel (H).
- Snip off the excess.
- Grind the edge until it is smooth.
- Sand the entire piece until it’s all smooth.
STEP 6: Create the ring shank
- Measure and cut the ring metal using a guide for sizing.
- Use a file and a miter jig to smooth the ends of the metal.
- Shape the ring on a ring mandrel.
- File the edges for a snug flush fit (I).
- Smooth off sharp edges inside and along the sides (J).
STEP 7: Attach the ring shank to the backplate
- Put the shank in the tweezers and paint with flux. Add melted solder balls to the ends of the shank (K).
- Use the torch to melt the solder.
- Put the bezel/backplate on the brick and center the ring shank in the middle.
- Put flux all over the backplate and shank.
- Use the torch to melt the solder (L).
- Quench it in water and drop it in the pickle pot (M).
Step 8: Add finish
- Put the ring in the magnetic tumbler to anneal (harden) the metal.
- Add patina.
- Clean with acetone and cover the inside of the backplate with ProtectaClear to keep it from tarnishing underneath the sea glass. Let dry overnight or cure in the oven (N).
Step 9: Set the Glass in the ring
- Clean off the glass and set it in the bezel.
- Using the bezel pusher, gently press the bezel to ward the center, alternating sides of the circumference of the bezel.
- Use a burnisher to smooth the bezel, making sure it holds the glass in place (O).
- Use rubber and pumice wheel to polish the edge, take away any marks.
- Brush with a brass brush to remove the high shine of the metal.
See more of Marylou’s work at alohaseaglass.com.
Watch the process in a video:
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine May/June 2021 issue.