Finishing Jewelry

Nancy LT Hamilton

Last updated:  11/18/18, 7/7/18, 2/15/17, 1/27/17

  As any girl will tell you:  finishing tools and materials can be addicting.  I have several “hoards” of abrasives.  I’m always trying new products – just ’cause!  This image is of one pile – pre-organization – that I discovered after my studio move, a year or so ago.

Finishing Jewelry

  • Please be aware of safety issues with all steps of the finishing process (and in all metalsmithing/jewelry production and creation processes).  Eye protection AND Lung protection are essential.  These processes are dangerous to your health if you are not adequately protected.  A jeweler friend and I, have benign (Thank GOD) lumps in our lungs.  My guess, is if you cut the node open you would find metal dust.  For years, I did not wear a mask while finishing!  That is, until I heard this:  The finer the dust, the deeper it goes.  Think about it!
  • Please research the individual product MSDS(es), read directions and watch my video on: Jewelry Studio Safety.  You are responsible for your own health and safety.  All processes, tools, and materials, etc., are suggestions only.  I am not responsible if you don’t like a product, if it ruins your clothes or if it hurts you.  Nag, nag, nagbut, I mean it!
  • Tie up long hair, no scarves, no loose sleeves, no dangling necklaces. Wear closed-toed shoes in the studio! Eye protection is a must too!
  • Don’t polish chain in a buffing machine.  Ask my friend what happened to her hand after doing so. It only took a few years to heal after breaking both her hand and her wrist.  Imagine your hand and arm wrapped around the wheel (at very unusual angles)!

Charles Lewton-Brain has an article on Ganoksin titled: Tips for Expanding Your Arsenal of Polishing Tools.  

There are more great links at the end of this page.

Links to Grit/Mesh/Micron Charts

Thoughts on Finishing

  • Finishing is a personal design decision that can have a big impact on how successful your design is.  You don’t have to settle for one finish and can mix up a variety of surface treatments.  Matte and mirror finishes can be mixed.  Brushed and hammered, patina and mirror – It all depends on your design.  Often, in design, opposites (mirror and matte, let’s say) create tension and interest.  Rough and smooth, dark and light – for example just think how beautiful the bright 22K gold looks on patinated black metal – contrasts work to create interest. Here’s a great example by one of my favorite jewelers,  Judith Kinghorn.

klinghorn

  • The Mirror Finish is probably the toughest to achieve because the prep work needs to be perfect.  Once the buffing stage, where your final finish is produced, all flaws – scratches to fire scale – will become blatantly apparent.  Unfortunately, most people – especially those new to jewelry making – want shiny surfaces.  This makes for an often messy combination of inexperience and desire.  It takes skill and practice to finish beautifully yet, many beginners expect a perfect, mirror finish.  If you are starting out, perhaps work on matte surfaces first and learn as you go?
  • There are many different types of finishes:  Satin (matte), Brushed, (although some consider these to be one and the same), Mirror or High Polish, Textured, Patina, Patina and High polish (or other finish),  Plated, Etched, Sandblasted, on and on and on…  I’m going to discuss only a few of the more common finishes here.  Jewelry doesn’t have to be shiny, in fact, many prefer not to have a high shine (myself included).
  • If you are doing any finishing around a stone, protect the stone with tape, a finger or whatever works for you.  The abrasive compounds used can affect the shape and shine of your stone. Not only that, but you can scratch the heck out of your stone!
  • If you do mess up the shine, on your stone, you can use a combination of fine sanding papers and diamond paste to restore the luster or to remove scratches.  Diamond paste comes in many different grits. I use a felt buff, a teeny bit of water and my flex shaft to restore the shine to a stone.

The Three Basic Polishing Steps

See more specific information on Buffs and Compounds, further on, on this page.

  • Lapping/split lapping/rough cut – Process to remove sharp edges, burs, scratches. Very abrasive, aggressive metal removal. Felt wheels will help to keep edges crisp and protect fine detail during this abrasive process. Use compounds like Tripoli, White Diamond, and Bobbing Compound.
  • Polishing– all traces of filing or sanding marks removed, leaves a “dullish” finish. Bobbing or Tripoli compounds used. Moderate metal removal.  The surface is refined. Stitched Muslin, treated or not, or another type of wheel.  Polishing is done with abrasive belts or discs. After polishing, the next step is buffing.
  • Buffing – Buffing employs fabric wheels and compounds.  A cutting compound, the roughest, can remove marks left by 320-400 grit abrasive.

Buffing/Polishing Machines

A note on Fire stain/firescale and buffing

If you are trying to achieve a mirror finish on sterling, brass, bronze or gold (besides 24K), you might discover fire stain/firescale developing as you buff. This is true for flex shaft-based buffing as well.  It is the heat from the buffing that is likely a contributing factor.  The heat from the process is causing copper atoms to rise into the areas where depletion of the alloy has occurred in a process that is essentially the same as when “bringing up the silver“, a term whose technical version is:  depletion silvering (aka depletion gilding).  So, when soldering, protect against fire scale/fire stain (oxidation) by coating all metal parts in flux.   Use Firescoff or  Cupronil to protect your metal from firescale/firestain.  I am sure that there are other brands that will work.  Please see my web page:  Soldering 101 – Oxidation, Flux and Firescale Prevention and my Q&A Page:  Firescale/firestain Questions for more information on this subject.

I have an old Dayton 1/15th horsepower motor which I bought a long time ago, used.  I don’t think they make them anymore.  It’s a small motor and has a small footprint, which I like since I hardly ever use it.

my-buffing-motor

My little motor.

Buffing/polishing motors can be used with a variety of different wheel types and compounds (see below for more info on compounds and wheels).

There is an excess of polishing/buffing motors types and makers so, it is difficult to decide which and whose to purchase.  But, you may already have a polishing motor.  Your flex shaft or Dremel are also polishing motors, although, on a much smaller scale, sometimes less frightening, scale.

What you purchase depends on your needs:  are you buffing large pieces or doing production work? Then purchase a more robust, larger motor.  Only occasionally deburring, polishing or buffing?  Then, use a flex shaft. Somewhere in between?  Try a smaller motor like mine (above).  Another option is to use a tumbler or a split lap – if they will do what you need them to do. Read on – there’s exciting material ahead – oh boy!

You can make your own buffing/polishing motor from parts – if you do that sort of thing. Here’s one way from Canadian Home Workshop.  Have fun! I won’t be joining you!

Some Polishing/Buffing motors come with their own filtration and/or dust collection systems.  Another item to consider when purchasing your tool.

Untitled-4

Foredom Polishing System at Otto Frei

Ventilation and dust collection is suggested when using any of these machines and their compounds.  Many of the compounds contain caustic, poisonous and irritating materials.  The dust produced, is indeed, harmful to your lungs.  WEAR SAFETY GLASSES and the correct type of mask!  Usually, an N95 particulate mask is sufficient but, check the MSDS or SDS for your particular product.

Buffing Wheels

Buffing wheels hold compounds and their abrasives.  There are many types and sizes to choose from.

buff

There are muslin (cotton) buffs, felt buffs, flannel buffs, balloon cloth buffs, chamois buffs, inside ring buffs, pin buffs, sisal buffs, etc. There are also points and tips like this:

felt-buffs-rio-grande

Within these categories are tight weaves, loose weaves, stitched, un-stitched, spirally stitched and chemically treated. There are also bristle buffs and wheels. I’m sure that there are more!

Buffs come in either combed on uncombed.  This just lets you know whether you will have to treat them with a rake or not.  Obviously, uncombed needs some raking (a very fuzzy job)!  With the bigger wheels, they come in 30-60 ply which, also obviously, means how many layers of fabric their are.

Stitched buffs are what to use for final polishing.  A spirally stitched buff is harder than an unstitched or singularly stitched buff.  This hardness allows you to apply more pressure against the wheel which is great for buffing.

The centers of your larger buffing wheels may have a plastic, stitched leather or the cheaper, shellac center.  Plastic and stitched leather buffs will last longer.

The type of buff you use will depend on the type of machine that you use, the type of finish that you want to create, whether you need to preserve sharpness, whether you need to get into recesses or not, whether you are cutting or buffing and, of course,  your preferences.

Be sure to purchase wheels that fit your machine.  If you only have 4″ clearance, a 6″ wheel isn’t going to work.  Another thing to consider is how the wheel attaches to the motor.  Some machines come with plain, cylindrical shafts that require additional parts for wheel attachment – usually a spindle.

spindle

A spindle

Spindles hold the wheel on by centrifugal force. It’s an easy on – easy off system.  Read the instructions and product description before purchasing add-ons.

Some tips for using Buffing Wheels

  • The buff does not do the work, the compound does.
  • Have a separate buff for each type of compound.  Tip:  keep the buffs and the compound that you use with it, in the same, labeled bag. Mixing up your compounds on the same wheel will result in a very confused wheel and the compound won’t do what it is supposed to do.
  • If your buffs are really “thready” or dirty, you can use a regular ‘ole fork to un-shred/clean them.  Run the machine slowly, hold the fork in the bottom part of the buff.  There are also tools, called rakes, that you can buy for this process.  It’s a good idea to clean your buffing wheels occasionally. The process of raking the wheel removes minute (or not so minute) pieces of metal and debris that can scratch your jewelry. It will also make them look pretty :  )
  • Make sure that your piece is clean before starting.  Bits of metal debris, dirt and other flotsam and jetsom can create deep scratches. Remove all remaining investment, on cast pieces, by cleaning with an ultrasonic cleaner or scrubbing with a brush and soapy water.

Compounds

Compounds are added to buffs, wheels and other contraptions to either cut, smooth or burnish the metal.  Some, are very abrasive and leave a matte finish while others, remove very little metal and create a high shine.  What you use depends on your needs and preferences.  Purchase compounds in small amounts, to use with small buffs or wheels, (for the flex shaft or Dremel) and try them out before investing in a large amount. Perhaps a set, like this one at Amazonwill work for you: polishing-compound-set

Use platinum specific compounds, when working with platinum, like the Two-Step Platinum Compound at Contenti.

buffs-and-compounds-2  Some of the compounds and wheels that I use.

Compound types and stages

There are two main categories of compounds:  cutting and coloring.  Both the Cutting and the Coloring categories have 2 sub-categories:  Wet and Dry.  Wet compounds are grease-based and dry compounds are soap-based.  These bases hold the abrasives. Both cutting and coloring categories have wet and dry sub-categories.

Compound use involves 2 stages.  In the first stage, the compound’s abrasive (usually some form of quartz), comes into contact with the metal and abrades it.  This stage only lasts for 30-40 seconds then stage 2 commences.  In stage 2, the compound picks up small bits of metal and then drags these bits across the surface of the metal, burnishing it.  To continue the cutting action, the abrasive needs to be reapplied before stage 2 occurs; 30-40 seconds after starting.

Wet or Fat-based Compounds are composed of fats such as stearic acid and other chemicals – depending on the compound. The fat is a holding agent for the abrasive.  Stearic acid (a saturated fatty acid) is solid at room temperature but, the heat generated by the friction of the spinning buff softens and liquefies the chemical.

Rio-Grande's-Rouge

Rouge (a “wet” compound), for example, is composed of very finely ground iron oxide, ferric oxide, which gives it its red color.  Tripoli’s abrasive is silica/quartz sand (silicon dioxide).  Emery is aluminum oxide and magnetite.

Cutting/wet compounds have advantages and disadvantages (as does everything in life!). This group includes Tripoli and some bobbing compounds among others. Pros:  wet compounds are fast at removing material but, they are messy and need to be de-greased in either the ultrasonic or with hot water, Dawn dish detergent and a soft brush. I like a toothbrush, although I found out that a toothbrush should not be used on pearls or opals.  See this article from IGS (the International Gem Society:  Opal and Pearl Care Guide.

Cutting/dry compounds include White Diamond, Gray Star, (to be continued)

Dry or Soap-based Compounds contain abrasives and a water-soluble, soap-based ingredient that allows easy washing with water. They work the same way as oil-based compounds with the soap holding onto the abrasive.

Luxi-super-fine-white

 LUXI Super Fine White Polishing Compound is one example of a water-soluble compound.

Compound application

Apply a little of the compound, often, rather than a lot.  A good rule of thumb is to apply compound for only 1 second.  The compound is only effective for 30-40 seconds during stage one or the cutting stage.  After that period, it starts to burnish the metal.  because the compound has picked up and is holding loosely,  small particles of metal which the compound has picked from the abrasive action over the metal’s surface. The compound now begins to burnish the metal.  Before this happens, a new application of compound should be applied – if further cutting is required.  Remember:  apply for 1 second, reapply at 40 seconds for cutting.

Which Compounds to Use With Which Buffs/Wheels

There are a zillion different opinions on which compound or buff to use.  There are also a ton of different compounds to choose from.  I’m going to try to simplify this a bit and to recommend what works for me.  You may like something else and thank is ok with me!

Cleaning up after using compounds

Use a buffing rake or a fork to clean your wheel, when it gets really gunky.  Hot water, degreasing soap, and a toothbrush will take away any black gunk, that forms on your piece.  But, you can avoid most of the “black gunk”  by applying your compound correctly and often.

You can also use an ultrasonic cleaner.  Choose a solution, for your ultrasonic, that suits your needs.  There are many choices.  Just be aware if you are cleaning porous materials or soft materials.  Bone, pearls, opals, etc., will require a solution that is not injurious.  Read product descriptions.  For more information on ultrasonic cleaners, read this really good article from Blue Wave Ultrasonics.  The article explains how ultrasonics work.  Don’t use ammonia-based solutions with pearl or opals!

Science Stuff or Why did I research this?

I don’t know why I researched the following things.  But, thought I’d share my confusion.

Fats:

  • tri-ester (3 esters) of fatty acids
  • fats are predominantly saturated fatty acids – as opposed to unsaturated fatty acids (which are generally oils).
  • if it is a triglyceride (3 fatty acids and glycerol) and it is solid or semisolid at room temperature, then it is labeled a fat.  If it is liquid, it is considered an oil.
  • fat-based compounds, such as rouge, are (often) made with Stearic acid  – which is a saturated fatty acid. As we just learned:  if it is solid at room temperature, then it is a fat.  So, rouge is a fat-based compound because it’s solid at room temperature.  Got it? Of course, that doesn’t help us with water-soluble compounds but, hopefully, you are so confused now that you won’t care!

Other Tools for Finishing

  • Bristle-discs-variety  Bristle Brushes
  • Bristle Brush3M Radial, 2″, 6-Ply Assortment
  • Bristle Brush, Nylon
  • Deburring Wheels
  •   Radial Bristle DiscsI like the 3/4″ sizes.  Other sizes (diameter) are: 9/16″ (teeny), and 1″.  Great for getting into detailed areas. Grits from 120 through 1µ (micron – which is the equivalent of 14,000 grit).  Dang!
  • AdvantEdge Plus Polishers – Silicone Carbide abrasive with a soft rubber binder.
  • AdvantEdge Pumice Wheels – Pumice with a silicone binder.
  • Cratex Wheels and Bullets – Rubberized aluminum-oxide abrasive.
  •   
  • Roloc Bristle Discs by 3M.  These are new to Rio and to me.  I have not tried them yet.  They are very abrasive with grits of 50, 80 and 120. Size is 1″. Could come in handy?

brushes-for-compounds

You can also use soft bristle brushes or even stainless brushes, load them with compound and spin away.  These are also great for getting into recessed areas.  Even a Q-Tip impregnated with compound will work.

  • Polishing papers, 3M Tri-M-Ite Imperial Polishing Paper Assortment
  •   
  • Abrasive Cord and Tape – For finishing hard to reach areas around prongs, filigree and pierced work. These are invaluable for cleaning up pierced pieces!  I also put the cord or tape into my jeweler’s saw frame.  It works great. Updated 2/15/17
  • Inside Ring Polisher Kit
  • Inside Ring Polisher, MX
  • Polishing Pins – love them for small areas and hard to reach places. I use them without the mandrel.
  • Sanding Drums/Bands – 3M Aluminum Oxide
  •   
  • Sanding Drums/Bands – 3M IMF Sanding Belts Assortment  I use these belts in my jeweler’s saw.  If you have the same saw frame as me (the standard, regular, boring one), the belts should fit without cutting them.  I opened my frame, all the way, fold the belt in half and thread it into the saw – just like I would with a saw blade.  If they don’t fit in your saw frame, you can cut them but, unless you glue the two cut pieces together, you’ll only have a one-sided sanding surface.  These belts are a blessing when sanding pierced areas and hard-to-reach places. Updated 2/15/17.
  • Sanding Drums/Bands – Trizact (longer lasting than sandpaper).
  •  Dura Bull Split Lap Machine.  This is a flat lapping, polishing, buffing machine that allows you to see your work under the lap due to the splits in the lap.
  • You can also buy kits for polishing motors that include most of the tools you’ll need.  Micro-Tools sells one.
  • Above (Micro-Tools, Wayne Werner Polishing Kit)

Tumblers

 

  • Check out this video by HelloToy21 for a video on a cheap, easy way to replace those annoying rubber tumbler containers (like the ones from Lortone and Harbor Freight). BTW, the Lortone container that I had was so difficult to get on and off that I tossed it.  Any arthritis and you’re in big trouble.  I like Mr. HelloToy’s idea – much easier to open AND you can use those bottle/jar opener thingys. This is my favorite made by  OXO – Good Grips.

good-grips

Stainless Steel Shot Medium – for Tumblers.  There are a ton of other media options for deburring, buffing and polishing in the tumbler. Use with a burnishing compound for tumblers like Super Sunsheen or drop of dishwashing soap in water.

It is best to remove all deep scratches and gouges before tumbling.  The tumbling process will enlarge these areas.

Burnishers

Flex shaft or Hand Held Burnishers:  

Burnishers push the metal molecules closer together creating a shiny finish.  You can use a burnisher with a lubricant.  Try it and see if it works for you.  When trying to burnish out scratches, burnish in the direction of the scratch.  If you burnish across the scratch, you will end up making the scratch wider.  Usually, it is best to use an abrasive to remove scratches and dents and then burnish, when the metal is smooth.

burnisher

Preventing and Removing Fire Scale

Here’s some reading for you:

First off, read my page:  Soldering 101:  Flux, Oxidation and Firescale Prevention and Questions And Answers:  Firescale/Firestain Questions.

Preventative Products

  • Stop-Ox II Anti-Firescale Coating

  • Pripp’s Flux – Make your own.
  • Argentium Silver – per The Studio:  “Argentium…greatly minimizes tarnish and all but eliminates firescale”.

The best way that I’ve found to remove firescale is to sand it off.  Sorry, no magic solutions yet, except for Argentium Silver, of course!

Finishes

High Shine

gold-2

  • A  mirror finish reflects flashes of light, catching our eye.  That sparkle is why a lot of jewelry is made with a mirror finish – we are all Golems at heart – lusting after our “Precious“. (If you don’t know who the Golem is, watch or readThe Lord of the Rings! – You should also, get out more often). Jewelry stores are well aware of this fact which is why a lot of mass-produced jewelry is shiny (in my opinion). (Who would ever have thought that Judith Kinghorn and the Golem would ever share a web page!)

golem

 

  • A mirror finish will soon show all the nicks, dents and scratches caused by wear.
  • One method for obtaining a mirror finish:  Sandpaper, muscle, and rouge. In this method, sandpapers in various grits are employed.  Each successive sandpaper is of a finer grit.  When the surface is as finely polished as possible, a buff or wheel is used to obtain the final polish.  Buffs are loaded with a polishing compound and placed in either a flex shaft, polishing motor, or Dremel.  Alternately, a polishing wheel or a tumbler is used.

Satin Finish

matt2  A matte finish diffuses light, sending light rays in a myriad of directions.  So, essentially, all finishes but mirrored are matte. Therefore, I think that Satin Finish is the correct term for this type of finish. IMHO, a satin finish is smoother than brushed, with much less obvious marks.  Obversely, the Brushed finish, to me, is one with very obvious scratches.  See the image under Brushed.

Tools for A Satin Finish

  • 3M Flap Wheel
  • 3M Satin Finish Buffing Wheel
  • 3M Tri-M-Ite Papers – be sure to mark the grits on the back of the sheets.  There is no marking and it can get confusing.  I use wet/dry 320 and 400 grit for heavier sanding and the 400 grit 3M papers for finishing.
  • Brass Brushes 1″ for the Flex Shaft or Dremel  – used on yellow metals to create a matte finish.
  • Brass Wire Brush 
  • Steel Brushes – Crimped wire creates a more matte finish – used on white metals
  • Wolf Sandblaster – I want, I want…
  • Also:  see Tools for a Brushed Finish on this page for more ideas.

Brushed or Textured Finishing

brushed

I think that a brushed finish has more noticeable “brush” marks and therefore is different from a Satin finish.  Some may argue with me on this point.  I have found no hard evidence to support either argument and, anyway, does anyone care that much?  If so, let me know! Nicely!  Very Nicely!

Tools for a Brushed finish

  • Heatless Wheels – creates a very grooved (not “groovy” you old hippies – hey, I’m one too) finish.  See this video from BenchTelevision.com (Bench Jeweler) titled: Jewelry Fabrication Textured Finishes to see the Heatless Wheel in action – might be all we’ll get!
  •   Mini Fiber Wheels also, check out these on Amazon ({pictured} with my affiliate link, of course!)  The shanks on the “scrubbie wheels” (my term for them) are 1/8″ and don’t fit in my quick change handpiece.  If you have a quick change handpiece, you might try this adapter:    Atoplee Keyless Bit Chuck Adapter.  Adapts from 3/32″ to 4mm (about 5/32″).  Some grits may also be suitable for a satin finish. Use rougher grits for a brushed look.   Updated 2/15/17
  • Sandpaper – either 3M’s Silicon Carbide Wet or Dry Emery Paper (or another type of wet/dry) or 3M’s Polishing Papers.
  • Micro-Mesh Polishing Cloth – adds a medium scratch to a high polish.
  • Unmounted Texturing Wheel – will create textures in coarse, medium, fine and extra fine.
  • Wolf Belt Sander – not only for a brushed finish but a great metalsmithing tool!

Metal Polishes

  • Simichrome Polish – Haven’t tried this yet. Wenol and Simichrome share some ingredients.  See the information on Wenol, below.  I bet it stinks too!  Here’s Simichrome MSDS.
  • Wenol Metal Polish – This is the smelliest stuff.  It makes me want to run away from it!  It contains Ammonia (stinky), Kerosene (stinky) and White Spirits (stinky). White Spirits are a mixture of paraffins, cycloparaffins and aromatic hydrocarbons.  Most Hydrocarbons have a strong, pungent odor because they usually contain Benzene.  See the MSDS on Benzene at Science Lab. Here’s Wenol’s MSDS.  No wonder the stuff stinks!
  • Flitz – Flitz doesn’t contain Ammonia and appears to be less hazardous than Wenol or Simichrome.  Here’s the MSDS.  Haven’t used this either.
  • Master Formula Metal Gloss.  The motorcycle guys use it – I haven’t (of course I don’t have a motorcycle). I couldn’t find the MSDS.
  • Brasso – I guess Brasso has changed their formula.  The purchasers on Amazon didn’t like it at all with 22, one-star votes and  5, five-star votes.  Hmmm…  The product states that it is for copper, stainless steel, chrome, aluminum, pewter, and bronze
  • Here’s a bunch of different metal polishes from NancySilver.com.

Metal Polishing Cloths

I have never used a polishing cloth.  I own several but, haven’t found a need for them yet.

  • Jewelry Care Cloth – people at Amazon seem to like it.  I’ve never used the product.
  • Pro-Polish Polishing Pads – My favorite.  Great to remove liver of sulfur and tarnish. Probably not so great for vessels or chains because of the size of the pads. No MSDS available.
  • Sunshine Polishing Cloth – works great too.  Good for chains and vessels because the clothes are larger than the Pro-Polish Pads. MSDS.

Metal Sealers

  • Everbrite ProtectaClear – This is the only lacquer/varnish type that I can recommend at this time as it is the only one that I tested and found to work.  I tumbled pieces for hours and scratched them up with sandpaper.  Although, eventually, the finish got milky (I’d get milky too if I had to suffer the same abuse), the stuff stayed on!  The spray on varnish that I used, peeled up within a half hour.  I also tested it with Liver of Sulfur colors and they stayed true but, darkened a bit.  Heat treated colors stayed true too (sounds like a song lyric: She stayed true too, oh Honey Boo Boo♫  Like it? No? Oh well…).  Just remember that the colors will look different, as they are now shiny and reflect light back to your eye differently.  Also, this sealant, like all the others, is not permanent. See below**
  • Mohawk Brass Laquer – designed to seal brass (according to others, it works with copper, bronze, and sterling too).
  • Renaissance WaxLiver of Sulfur colors changed.  Leaves a nice, not too shiny finish on the metal. Rubs off eventually.
  • Silicone-based Car Wax – about the same results as with the Renaissance Wax.

** Personally, sealing rings or bracelets and expecting that the finish will stay on is a little optimistic.  These sealants always wear off – it’s just a matter of how long you can get away with it.  They scratch, they chip, they flake and you’ll be redoing the finish forever.   I also don’t use a sealer on rings and bracelets as I dislike having my jewelry returned for repairs – especially for a yellowed or crack finish. Earrings, necklaces, and brooches, will probably be fine as they don’t experience the same amount of wear and abuse.  Sorry, wish I had a magic fix-it-all answer. Learn to love your metal’s natural patina!  That’s the best I can offer.

Related Videos

Related Web Pages

Outside links for compound usage

PJTool.com has nice, detailed instructions on how to use a compound.

Please see Additional Information and Links for more detailed information on Compounds.

Here are two charts from Rio Grande that might be useful.  Click on the chart to enlarge it.  You can find Rio’s charts, online, at RioGrande.com.  Go to any buffing compound and on the item description, click the tab that says:  “More Info”.  Voíla!  You can also check out the MSDS or SDS, for a particular compound, there.

rio-grande's-buff-and-compound-chart Rio-Grande's-Compound-chart

Additional Information and Links

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18 thoughts on “Finishing Jewelry

  1. Hi Shannon, I apologize for the tardy response. I go through thousands of emails and answer them personally. I am finding that I am not able to keep up with them at all! So, please forgive me, I am only one, old person working here.
    The protectaclear: surprised that they didn’t respond. They were very prompt with my inquiries. Don’t know what to say about that. As to the bumpy surface, I have not had that result. I am also not an expert on their product. I’ve only used it and liked it. The only thing I can think of is to use 1000 grit sandpaper and sand it down between coats. You could also use the 3-M TriM-ite papers (http://www.riogrande.com/Product/3M-Tri-M-Ite-Imperial-Polishing-Paper-Assortment/337308?Pos=2), like the 8000 grit on the final layer. If it leaves a slight hazy look, there are products that will buff up plastics to a high gloss. Tap plastic sells Novus 2, which is a plastic polish. I do not know if this will work with the protectaclear! I would ask them. But, it was the only idea I had for polishing. I wish I had a great answer for you. Maybe, you should get a refund.

    When I lived on a boat, I had to varnish it every year with 3-4 coats of varnish. After the first coat was applied, I had to sand it with fine sandpaper and then apply the next coat. I feel that what you have going on is something like this. It could be the inclusion of miniature air bubbles forming and then the varnish dries over the air space. That’s what the sanding would eliminate.

    One final note: One of the things that I do not like about making jewelry that requires a protective surface, is that the surface will eventually scratch, it will rub and flake off. Some products also yellow. It is not a permanent finish and the amount of time, it will last, depends on the product, the amount of wear, the exposure to chemicals and UV and the type of jewelry. Rings, will wear fast, as will bracelets. Earrings, slowest and then necklaces and brooches. Is there any other methods that you can use to protect your metal/color or whatever you’re sealing?

    I wish you luck in your quest and once again apologize for my tardy response. It didn’t help that I was traveling the entire month of June! Thanks again. Nancy

  2. Hi Nancy. I have written on this page twice before asking questions about ProtectaClear. I can’t seem to get a response from the ProtectaClear website either. I am just trying to figure out how to use this for jewelry where it works as well as you say above, and as well as they say on their site. I have the spray on, and I just ordered the dip/wipe on as well. I am hoping to be able to get an even coat with the dip that I couldn’t achieve with the spray. Is there a reason that the previous replies are not showing on the page? Am I doing something wrong? I would appreciate any help I can get. PLEASE?

  3. Hi Anna, Thank you for bringing up a good point! I forgot to mention that anything that will abrade metal will abrade stones! Since silicon carbide is used in lapidary work, I need to make clear, that the polish of a stone will be adversely affected by this material. I either tape off my stones or, if they are small enough, use a finger to cover them – not elegant but, it works. I’m going to add a line on my web page about stone protection – thanks to you! I really appreciate the feedback! Keep it coming. Take care and thanks again. Nancy

  4. Thank you so much Kim! I’ve got a plethora of videos for you to catch up on – hah! Love the 3M bristle discs too. Thank you for the great comment and take care. Nancy

  5. I loved the video and the article, but wanted to add that anything with SILICON CARBIDE is about a 9 hardness, so you can’t really use it around stones. Polishing papers, sand papers, and I think you said even some buffing compounds have it, so everyone please pay close attention to the ingredients in your abrasives and use appropriate care.
    Thank you so much, Nancy, for taking the time to teach. You are a great teacher and artist, and a truly beautiful, generous human being for sharing.

  6. Thank you! I just found you on YouTube and really enjoyed your videos. I use the 3M bristle discs which don’t leave weird wavy patterns. Thanks again!

  7. Hi Maz, Did you check out my Finishing Jewelry web page? http://www.nancylthamilton.com/techniques/finishing-jewelry/ There is a tool there that I think might be what you need. They are called mini fiber wheels: http://www.riogrande.com/Search/mini-fiber-wheels. They leave a beautiful brushed finish and you can purchase them in different grits. Another option is to try a brass or steel wheel. Check out my site for more ideas. Satin finishing is further down the page. Thanks for writing and let me know how things worked out! Take care. Nancy

  8. Hi Liz, Thanks for the comment. I like the term “Penny Brite” although, if not in the know, most would think that just meant shiny. As we both know, cleanliness is very important – unless you like enamel popping off at random moments or solder that never flows…Thanks again. Take care. Nancy

  9. Hi nancy, how do you go about polishing domed surfaces? Do you still use the flexi sanding discs? I use rubber burrs, but on domed surface the finish is like scribbles on the surface. I have gone back to fine wire wool, but I have been told to use scotch brite as a longer lasting alternative. Just wanting fine scratches in one direction. How would you finish?

    Thanks

  10. To prep copper for enameling, it needs to be tarnish and oil-free. In the enameling community, the use of “Penny Brite” is ubiquitous. (I love that I got to use that word.)

  11. Mr. Struble, It’s okay if you don’t read it! I’ll let you off the hook – this time! Go make something wonderful and TAKE A PICTURE OF IT SO THAT I CAN SEE IT! Ahem. I’m done. Talk to you later, my friend. Nancy

  12. Wow, Nanc, this is a huge amount of information. Gonna take awhile to read through it. Thanks!

  13. Holy Whaaa.. This is fabulous! I thank you so much for such a wealth of information.!

  14. Great resources ….if you don’t want to purchase multiples of polishing papers…3M radial bristle discs etc…found a great website and great prices….if the shipping comes out to some crazy price…give them a call…apparently they miscalculated the weights on some products…..
    http://www.jewelerstoystore.com/
    Thanks again for making these amazing videos for us…taking time to produce them takes time and you do it no cost to us…it means a lot to me and I’m sure your many fans…your a doll and make fun to learn…
    Hugs….oh love your kitty…read you have 4…. I have 2 and a pooch…just before Xmas my 17yr old son was out back in our yard…heard crying from the old shed…anyways he recused 3… Appx 3wk old little baby kitties…hours from freezing to death…one little babe wasn’t so lucky….but he was their angel…they all have wonderful indoor homes now….

    Hugs xox Lana aka ( reneesmom) 🙂

  15. Nancy, just wanted to say I love your tutorials!!!
    I also enjoy your sense of humour..

    Thanks so much,
    Rea

  16. Pingback: How to Finish Jewelry | Nancy L T Hamilton