Navajo Silversmiths 1880s

This is a fascinating read from a Smithsonian writer about very early Navajo Silversmiths.

Navajo Silversmiths 1880-1881

Native American Jewelry – Types of Bezels

I know your site by heart. I know there are lots of pages but I look at every one. I know I should be able to figure this out but I see smooth bezel and sawtooth bezel and maybe one more kind and I wonder what exactly that means.

I love your site ! Caryl

Hi Caryl,

Thanks!

That’s a great question !

First of all, bezel is the term that describes the edge of metal (in this case silver) that holds a stone or piece of shell or other material in place. It can be thought of as a lip or flange.

Usually a bezel is made (in the shape of the stone to be set) from a strip of  silver. Then the strip is soldered onto a plate of sterling silver or onto the item where the stone will be set such as onto a bracelet cuff.

Blue Ridge Turquoise stone held in place with a smooth silver bezel (strip)

 

The stone is set in position and the bezel is folded slightly over the stone to secure the stone in place.

A smooth bezel is one whose edges are straight and smooth.

#8 Turquoise set in Smooth Bezels

A serrated bezel, also called a sawtooth bezel, has jagged edges like the edge of a saw.

Side view of a Serrated Bezel in a pawn ring

Usually serrated bezels are purchased with the jagged teeth already in place – it is purchased in strips and cut to length.

Sleeping Beauty Stones held in place with Serrated Bezels

A hand cut bezel can be of any configuration as the strip of silver is notched by hand by the silversmith.

Hand Cut Bezels

OK, pros and cons of each.

The serrated bezel is the most common and fastest to put together and theoretically holds the stone the most securely – BUT – a poor serrated bezel is much worse that a perfectly crafted smooth or hand cut bezel.

Pawn Ring with Serrated Bezels

The smooth bezel requires more skill so is usually seen on finer (more expensive) pieces.

Coral set in Smooth Bezels

Coral set in Serrated Bezels

The most labor intensive (and expensive) would be the hand cut bezel which requires masterful skills to custom fit a bezel for each stone in the piece. A well-done hand-cut bezel combines the best of both worlds – the beauty of the smooth bezel and the added security of a segmented bezel.

Number Eight Turquoise Stones held in place with Hand Cut Bezels

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