Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Crimp Tube Stone Setting

Amphitrite's Ring: Sea glass, sterling silver, brass, 23K gold metal leaf, vermeil, cubic zirconium and Faux Bone
(inspired by a new book on sea glass jewelry by Eva Sherman and Beth Martin - coming later this year!)

I love the accent that a small tube-set stone adds to any design but have always been frustrated to find that I never have compatible tubing, stones and setting burs. This lead me to seek a way to "standardize" the materials I use to streamline the whole process. For me, the least expensive and efficient way was to purchase the following from Rio Grande (prices approx).
This allows me to set 100 stones in Sterling silver for just $0.22 each with a one-time investment of $43 in tools. The disadvantage is that I have only found the stones in clear.

Most often, I am soldering a crimp tube on top of a rivet or screw (they fit perfectly on the brass Crafted Findings rivets) so that I can add a faceted stone to a material that can't be soldered, such as Faux Bone, nylon or glass (shown above). This is very easily accomplished, even if you have no soldering experience.

  • Insert the rivet into a kiln brick or Solderite pad 
  • Set the crimp tube near the rivet
  • Warm the area around the tube and rivet with a torch (to slightly heat the two)
  • Spray on a healthy coat of Firescoff, as directed (be sure to flip the tube over and get inside)
  • Use tweezers to center the crimp tube on top of the rivet
  • Drop in a small solder chip (I use medium
  • Heat the area around the tube until the solder has flowed

The Firescoff, if applied correctly, will act as a flux and prevent firescale, that way, you don't have to use a pickling solution. This also anneals the metal, allowing you to set the stone more easily.

Once the piece is soldered, drill a hole in a piece of wood or Faux Bone and insert the rivet, allowing the tube to sit flat. Hold the tube with crimp pliers and use a setting bur on a flexshaft to create a well for the stone to sit just below the rim of the tube. Set the stone in, making sure it is flat, and with a quick twist of the setting tool the rim of the tube is perfectly burnished over the edge of the stone! (see more info in the comments section about how/when to set the rivets).

The stone setting system above is definitely an economy version and I damaged several of the larger ones when I tried to use them to set larger stones...but for this operation, they work perfectly.

I have done the same with gold filled and copper 3X3 crimp beads, but found with the copper I needed to go up in size with the stones and bur (2.75) since the hole size is larger (.09). It also worked with 2X2 crimps and very tiny stones...but my eyes are too old to keep playing with those!

Thanks for stopping by and create recklessly this week.


  1. This is genius! Thanks so much for this great tutorial. I can't wait to try it.

  2. This is brilliant! Did you buy the rivet screws from Rio as well? How do you then install the rivet on your piece? You mention that it's for items that can't be soldered, so I'm assuming you drill a hole and epoxy it in, rather than hammering to spread the rivet on the opposite side? Thanks so much for sharing this tute.

    1. Thanks for asking for clarification - see the comment below. : )

    2. Hi Melissa, I just viewed your email regarding the silver and blue pendant you made using the hydraulic press. Do you still have classes to make these pieces or is it for sale? It's really beautiful!
      Thanks for sharing,

  3. Thanks for asking for clarification. I always set the rivet and never use epoxy. When/how I rivet has to do with the materials and location of the rivet. For example,

    1) In the glass piece above, I used the Crafted Findings tool since I was using their rivets, which are actually tube rivets at the end. This allows me to control the downward force, avoiding crushing the glass.

    2) Whenever I use a screw, and sometimes with rivets, I will set the rivet before setting the stone. I do this by inserting a hard, flush cut wire (or even cut down another rivet) into the tube and cut it slightly longer than the tube (so I can easily remove it). This prevents the tube from collapsing as I rivet and allows for a straight, uninterrupted transfer of energy down the rivet, necessary for the rivet to spread properly.

    3) If I need to rivet a solid rivet after the stone is set, I use a piece of 1/2" 80A urethane, which has enough spring to protect the stone, but is firm enough to allow me to spread the rivet, especially since the rivet is already annealed.

    Hope that helps! Thanks for stopping by.

  4. This is a brilliant idea, thank so much for sharing this.

  5. I had an email question I thought I'd share for the benefit of the group.

    What size rivet did you use? I used a 11/32" long, 1/16" Crafted Findings rivet to solder the crimp bead into.

    I used 7/32 long rivets to rivet the Faux Bone ring band onto the glass. The rivet head is on the inside, for ease of riveting and comfort. Make sure you heat the band up and let it go where it wants to go when inserting the rivet...I broke one piece of glass by having too much tension at first. Then, when you are done, reheat the ban and shape around a mandrel.

    Thanks for asking Kay!

  6. May you can try using Swarovski chatons the ones use for crystal clay, they come in several "size and colors" I have used them with eyelets and they look really nice!
    Thank's, Mariela

    1. Great idea, and I have a ton of those and they are inexpensive...why I got obsessed with looking for CZs I have noooo idea!! : )

  7. Hi Melissa,
    I have been interested in purchasing a stone setting system for awhile now. When you mentioned you had trouble setting the larger stones, what size were these exactly? I see that Rio has several systems of varying price range and was curious if you have had a better experience with a different set/brand. I would rather save for a bit longer and invest in a setting system that will last me a long time and truly makes my job easier. Thanks so much.

    1. I don't have experience with any of the other ones, unfortunately. I think the stone I was trying to set was a 5mm stone in a bit of a thicker walled tube. Now that I know the limitations, I will likely be more careful and hopefully won't damage anymore. You know who you might ask? Richard Salley...he's been doing a lot of tube setting, lets see what he uses. I'll ask him to chime in.

    2. I had the set melissa pictured for years- a handle and different sizes of 'burs' that you use to set, burnish , round wire ends, etc.and used it a few times. i then got the foredom all-set master system - it even has a milling table that allows you to precisely form raw materials into ewhatever you can dreamand love it- i use it constantly it is hands down the best system for channel setting on the market but it does anything setting related with utmost precision it is so worth the investment. i can't recommend it highly enough (no i don't work for foredom ! ) .put your money into this product- it will last you a lifetime and then continue on after you are gone!

  8. If you are still looking for colored CZs, you might check out HOWACO glass supply.
    Nice selection, good prices.