Making the bezels!

A 'bezel' is the frame around my jewellery.  I do purchase some of my bezels - if the description says 'silver-plated alloy' that means that it's a bezel I've purchased.   But lately I've spent a lot of my time learning to make my own bezels.   So far I've been working in pigmented resin, and in resin with metals powders mixed into the (this is called cold-casting) - but I am looking to working with what they call 'Metal Clay' - which is a very fine metal powder with some additives mixed in that you can manipulate like clay, but then fire in a kiln to get a fully metal piece.

All of the bezels I make follow the same basic pattern though:

  • Come up with a 3D model of the piece
  • 3D print the model and finish as needed (sanding, polishing, etc)
  • Create a silicone mold of the model
  • Fill the mold with resin and possibly pigment or metal powder, and wait for it to cure.  This can be done many, many times with the same silicone mold, thankfully!  More details on this can be found here

As I flesh out my site I'll give more detail on how each of these are done, but here's a very high level description:

I use open-source 3D modelling tools to create the models - I primarily use Inkscape for building 2D shapes and curves, and I've used both OpenSCAD and Blender. OpenSCAD is a lot easier to work with, but Blender makes it possible to do a lot of things that you can't feasibly do in OpenSCAD.

I've used services like 3D Hubs and Shapeways to get 3D prints, but I got a chance in Summary 2018 to use my own 3D printer --- a Kudo Bean resin printer...  It was a *long* learning curve to figure out how to use it, but it's been very valuable to be able to immediately print my designs and then make any changes that are needed.

Creating the silicone mold has actually been the simplest part of the whole process (once I figured out that 3D prints done with a resin printer need to be *very* well cleaned so that the silicone will cure).

Using the mold to actually make the bezels is probably the most fun part of the whole process - there are a lot of different resins out there with different properties and I've spent a lot of time experimenting with them, and trying various ways of colouring them.  I've had interesting results with tinting clear resin, mixing in additives that make the resin look like stone, 'painting' the mold with pigments and then mixing pigment into the resin, and a similar process where I paint the mold with metal powder and mix metal powder into the resin.  The last process is called 'cold-casting', and if done right can create a piece that looks relatively similar to actual metal.