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Tab-Set Stone in a No Solder Necklace

Updated: Jan 29, 2022

This technique has some benefits that might make it attractive for beginning artisans

I have seen tab set stones before, but never considered using that in my jewelry, perhaps because it didn’t seem like “the way of the silversmith”.

Well, that changed the day when I found myself out of gas for my torch (I use MAPP), and quarantined at home because of COVID. So I set aside my pride and decided to take it as a challenge: to make a piece of jewelry entirely without soldering and use tabs for setting the stone - in this case an ocean jasper cabochon that I had cut and polished a while back.

Another first is the use of some parts from a discarded necklace, the three tear-shaped faceted glass beads.

To proceed, I first traced around the cabochon on a piece of paper. This enables me to design the piece and make decisions as to where should the tabs be, how it would be hung and any other important details, like the piercings on the back side of it.

Once the drawing is complete, using an X-acto knife, I cut it out and glue it onto 22 gage sterling. Next, I drill the holes where the piece will have piercings, and cut it according to the design. To create some interest on the back of the piece, I used a stylized bird motif sitting on three eggs. Using needle files, I smooth the marks left by the blade and refine the shapes, as well as remove any burrs and bevel all the edges.

To set the stone, I had to anneal the silver and I did that by heating it at the flame of the stove and letting it cool slowly. This softened the silver and I was able to push the tabs over the edges of the cabochon.

Using a knife-edge rubberized abrasive disk from Dedeco in my Dremel, I smooth all the edges and round the sharp points, followed by polishing on a muslin buff charged with rouge.

Lastly, I scrub the piece with a toothbrush and dish soap, removing all the residue left from polishing and I install the three tear shaped beads.

I enjoyed the process and I think I will use the tab setting method again sometimes, as I think it has some merits, one of them being the ability to expose more of the stone, which otherwise would be covered by a bezel.

In the excitement to finish the piece, I forgot to stamp the metal with the "sterling" stamp and the maker's mark before I set the stone. Oh well, like Salvador Dali said, "Don't worry about perfection, you'll never achieve it".

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