Gemstones and Gemology Final Project

Creating A Keepsake


John Morrison

Table of Contents

Figure 1. Logo designed by John Morrison ©


This webpage project was created for a Gemstones and Gemology course offered through Emporia State University. The purpose of this webpage is to show the basic steps necessary to create a keepsake jewelry piece of your own.
A lot of people will spend hundreds of dollars on a piece of jewelry that in ten years will have little meaning to them. Then there are people, who would rather create a piece of jewelry that will, in ten or twenty years, still have the ability to stir a feeling of accomplishment. I would like to take this oppurtunity to show you how a few simple steps can influence your future.

To the reader of this webpage, I would like to take this chance to apologize for the quality of the photographs found within. The fault lies at my feet as my digital camera has low resolution. Unfortunately, this is all I have to work with at this point in time.

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  • Figure 2. Logo taken from Emporia State University©

    Materials and Tool List

    Materials list:

    • 3 inches of double half-round Sterling Silver Wire
    • 1 8mm X 10mm Gemstone (your choice)
    • 1 1 Square inch of 20 guage Sterling Silver Plate
    • 2 inches of Bezel wire (your choice, with or without pattern)
    • Self pickling flux
    • Easy, Medium, and Hard solder
    • Assorted grit sand paper (220-1200 grit)
    • Polishing compound (Tripoli®, Rouge®, and Wonder Bar®)
    • A small container of yellow ochre
    • Small container of Sparex® No.2 Pickling Compound
      (Care is needed here, this is a mild acid)

    Photo 1. Photo by John Morrison ©

    Tool List:

    • Paper and Pencil
    • Scissors
    • Rubber Cement
    • Jewelers Saw
    • Bench Block
    • Ring Clamp
    • Ring Mandrel
    • Jewelers Files
    • Bees Wax
    • Jewelers Double Round Pliers
    • Jewelers Diagonal Cutting Pliers
    • Rawhide Mallet
    • Small Torch
    • Assorted Polishing Wheels (for the polishing tool)
    • Fire Bricks
    • Dremel® Tool or a high speed polishing tool (not pictured)
    • Pickling pot (e.g., crock pot will do, as long as the low setting still works).
      [A crock pot is shown in photo 1., gold appliance to the right.]
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  • Photo 2. Photo by John Morrison ©

    Creating the Keepsake

    Step 1

    The first step is to decide what materials will be used in the creation of your jewelry Your material list may vary from this list, but these are the items I will be using for the example. The metal can be silver, copper, brass, or nickel silver. Unless your are an experienced lapidary (stone cutter), I would recommend that you find a source for precut gemstones such as a local hobby shop (in Emporia, Kansas, visit Dayton's Hobby Shop ) or a local lapidary.

    Photo 3. Photo by John Morrison ©

    Step 2

    The second step is to draw a picture of the jewelry piece. Remember to draw it life size as it is the actual pattern used in step 3 that you will be making. You can use templates or any aid in drawing your picture. You do not have to be a great artist to sketch a picture of item to be made. Everyone thinks that they must draw the best picture and truthfully a rough sketch is alright because it is only a starting point, not the finish product. This is the reason step two is a hard step to complete.

    Photo 4. Photo by John Morrison ©

    Step 3

    The third step is to cut out your paper design and attach it to the metal using rubber cement. Then use the jeweler's saw to cut out your design. It is best to lubricate the sawblade with the Bees Wax before you begin. After the design is cut to shape, use the jeweler's files and sand paper to remove any rough or sharp edges.

    Photo 5. Photo by John Morrison ©

    Step 4

    Before continuing please see the Disclaimer.

    Next, form the ring band around a ring mandrel to a specific ring size. Remember to allow enough extra material so that you can file the ends for a tight fit before soldering. Once the ends are ready, place the ring on a fire brick so that it will stand upright. Place a small amount of flux on the joint and a small chip of hard solder. If you want to know what is meant by hard solder, visit this informative external link, but then you must hit the back button to return to this page. Using a small torch, gradually heat the ring until the flux has evaporated (careful do not over heat too quickly or you will boil the flux and blow off your solder). Now, heat both sides of the joint evenly until the solder melts into the joint, at this point remove the heat immediately or you stand a chance of reducing your piece to a pile of molten metal. Prior to doing any soldering, I would recommend that you obtain a copy of The Complete MetalSmith, written by Tim McCreight, as this book is a complete guide for the beginner and the experienced metalsmith. I still use it as in my personal library as a reference for techniques that are not familiar to me.

    Photo 6. Photo by John Morrison ©
    Once the ring has cooled and safely picked up, place it in a ring clamp so that it can be split in the grove between the two half rounds, to approximately two-thirds of the circumference. Spread the split ring to approximately one-half of the length of your pattern, file and sand out the saw marks and the solder joint and set it aside.

    Step 5

    Before continuing please see the Disclaimer.

    Step 5 is the creation of the bezel cup. The bezel cup is what actually holds the gem and attaches it to the ring so this step is important. Take the pattern that you cut out earlier and put it on the fire brick so that it is ready when you are ready to attach the bezel to it. Get whatever you are going to use for a bezel and size it so that when soldered the stone will slide easily into and out of it. Now file the ends so they fit together neatly and solder them together. Again, once the bezel has cooled, make sure the stone will fit easily into the bezel. Clean the solder joint and place it on the cup backing as you had it planned and solder them together. If you are putting any decoration around the bezel, now is the time to go ahead and get it done. Remember between each soldering step the piece should be placed in a warm pickle solution to remove any contamination that might be present.
    For further information about bezels and stone settings please see Shannon Gering's Webpage. Shannon does a very fine job of explaining gem settings.

    Photo 7. Photo by John Morrison ©

    Step 6

    Before continuing please see the Disclaimer.
    At this point you should have completed the ring and the bezel cup, now we must connect them together but first you will need to paint the bezel, the decoration and the front of the backing plate with a thick solution of yellow ochre to prevent the solder joints from melting while the bezel cup is being soldered to the ring. After the ochre has dried, turn the bezel cup face down on the fire brick. Place the split portion of the ring down against the bezel cup so that 1/4 of the bezel cup is showing both above and below the ring. Again, use the self-pickling flux sparingly and place the solder at both of the double half round wires. (Caution, to much heat will destroy your ring.) Carefully solder the ring to the bezel cup.
    Again, wait for the ring to cool! Once the ring has cooled, wash it using a toothbrush and a mild detergent to remove to yellow ochre that by now is stuck very well to the bezel cup. Place the CLEAN ring in the warm pickle solution to remove any contaminants that might be left. Rinse the ring and you should be ready to start the final step of polishing.

    Photo 8. Photo by John Morrison ©

    Step 7

    Step 7 is the longest and most tedious of the steps. How you finish your keepsake will determine whether or not it will have any future value. You start with your jeweler's files and remove any gouges, deep scratches or rough spots. Then you will move to a 400 grit wet/dry abrasive paper which will (with a little elbow grease) remove the file marks. Next, use a 600 grit wet/dry abrasive paper to remove the marks left by the 400 grit paper. You may want to use a 1200 grit paper also but it may not be necessary.
    After you have the ring sanded with all of the scratches removed, buff it with a soft cotton buffing wheel loaded with Tripoli®. Be very careful with the Tripoli® because it cuts fast and can damage the ring beyond repair. Make sure that you pay as much attention to the back of the ring as you do the front. You should get a good shine from this polish but do not quit, the best is yet to come. Wash the ring with a mild detergent to remove all of the Tripoli® that has built up.
    Now get a fresh soft cotton buffing wheel and load it with Rouge® and polish the ring again. At this point, you should have a deep shine that will reflect the care and time that you have invested in creating this keepsake. Just do not forget the back. Polishing the back of the ring shows that the person who made it has pride in the quality of their workmanship. Now wash it again and carefully dry it.

    Photo 9. Photo by John Morrison ©

    Photo 10. Photo by John Morrison ©

    The Finished Keepsake

    Photo 11. Photo by John Morrison ©

    Photo 12. Photo by John Morrison ©

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    References and Links

  • Maxwell, Deborah. Personal Interviews. 1977-2004.
  • McCabe, Fred. Personal Interviews. 1977-2004.
  • Norris, D. (1999-2003). Tip of the Month: Hard Solder. WWW URL:, a page from Colorado Academy of Silversmithing and Art Metal, Retrieved 5/2004.
  • Gering, S. (2004). How to set a stone.
  • Additional Links

  • Emporia State University, Earth Science Department,
  • Return to the Gemstone and Gemology student webpage listing
  • Email the author of this page at
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    At this point I would like to acknowledge the following people who have played important roles in the development of my artistic endeavors. Without these influences, who knows if I would have gotten this far.


    As this process is inherently dangerous, at no time do I urge you to undertake this project. Neither I, nor Emporia State University, accept any responsibility should you injure yourself in any manner. This is a webpage project and is not meant as an absolute means of instruction. Should you wish to undertake this project, I would highly recommend that you seek an experienced individual that can instruct and supervise you in the proper safety techniques that will assist you in protecting your well being.

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    copyright 2004 © John Morrison. All rights reserved.