Finishing Questions

Nancy LT Hamilton

Last updated:  10/12/21, 7/31/20, 7/28/20, 7/5/19/20, 5/13/20, 11/17/18

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Finishing 925 silver (sterling silver), tarnish, polishing

Question

“I’m glad that I found your video clip on youtube and then your blog and last your Facebook so I can have a conversation with you.
I am new to making jewelry, and I currently work on oxidized silver. However, I don’t know the process for 925 silver products to finish polishing. Do u think I need to do some coating/plating before oxidized?
And more important is which brush is ok for cleaning the dark out on some surfaces and still keep some areas dark.
One time I tried but, it turned out that I over-polished it.  It turned to the color of 925 silver, then 3-5 days later the silver turned yellow.  I was really sad about that.
Wonder how some brands like Trollbeads can change the beads to Not 925 original silver color.
Please help, I stuck stuck stuck here”

Answer

 Lots of questions. Big questions. On finishing your silver, it all depends on the type of finish you want and how much finishing your metal needs. I have a few videos on finishing, sanding, etc. on my finishing playlist on YouTube. Please see this link to More Information, on this page.

Stainless Steel Polishing Medium

   If there are no scratches on the metal and nothing to clean up, like solder blobs, and you want a shiny finish, tumbling with stainless steel shot is the easy way to go. Other methods for achieving a mirror finish involve sanding and then polishing. It’s a huge subject with tons of techniques and a myriad of tools involved. Not answerable here.

Darkening the metal is not usually done until after finishing. Then it needs to have the highlights added by removing the dark color from areas that you don’t want it to be. There are products that can remove tarnish like propolish pads, #0000 steel wool, silver polishes, silver cloths, etc.

Anti-Tarnish Tabs

   If you want to keep your silver from darkening over time, use either an anti-tarnish bag, tab, or strip. You can put the tabs or strips into plastic bags for storage, to keep the tarnish from happening in the first place.

You can’t “over polish” – unless that means you polished so much that the silver was worn away! Is the metal you are working with silverplate? If you polish that too much, you can remove the plating, and if they used brass or bronze, as the base metal, over finishing can remove the silver coating – exposing the yellow beneath. I have never polished something and had it turn yellow. 
Sometimes, silver will start to turn yellow before it fully tarnishes.  Perhaps that is what’s happening?
Do you live in a place where there is a lot of pollution? Pollution can sometimes cause more rapid tarnishing.  FYI, 925 silver is also called sterling silver.  Both fine silver and sterling are silver-colored.  Although sterling can be a little grayer than fine silver, most people can’t see the color difference. 
Perhaps you didn’t rinse the piece well after applying the patina.  Silver turns yellow if it is placed in the liver of sulfur for only a short period of time or it can yellow if the patina has not been neutralized properly.  This ring of mine was only in the liver for a few seconds and it looks like gold, as a result!  The patina didn’t last long as I didn’t seal it and rings undergo a lot of wear and tear – causing the patina to wear off.
Check out my other web pages on finishing:  Finishing Techniques, and  Sanding.

Studio Cleanup – How to vacuum and clean up the dust created while finishing jewelry

Question

How do you clean up your studio after filing or sanding with the Dremel or Flex Shaft?  Do you use a regular vacuum cleaner?  If so, can this vacuum be used for the home?  Will the particulates pass through the vacuum’s filters and contaminate our air?

Answer

My first step is to use a whisk broom to clean up surface messes – wearing an N95 particulate mask!

You might also think about getting a small shop vac for when you are sanding or finishing.  Set up some kind of collection hood.  That way you don’t have a big cleanup. Warning:  they are loud!

Sometimes, if I’ve been dropping many things on the floor, I put a nylon stocking, with an elastic band around it, over the end of my hose.  This lets me catch anything I may have “lost” on my floor.

I assume that you are wearing an N95 particulate mask while sweeping and vacuuming?

I do have a studio-dedicated, small vacuum.  It has a ton of attachments to get into all the nooks and crannies AND (this is a big one!) it’s got great suction!  I don’t recommend using the same vacuum in your studio as you do in your home.

Now, I have an under-bench vacuum that hooks to the base of my bench pin.  The vacuum collects all the metal dust and I just send in the filters for refining, when they are ready for replacement.  Rio Grande, Otto Frei, Stuller, and other companies carry a variety of dust collection systems for a wide variety of prices.

Knew Concepts Face Shield

I also have a Knew Concepts Face Shield to help keep the dust out of my face.

Removing Firescale and Oxidation

Question

You state you: leave too many “fire marks” – what do you mean by that?  Are you using pickle to clean the metal after soldering?  Or are you seeing that gray bruising after polishing (firescale)?  If you are seeing firescale, try doing something like what is in this Rio Grande article. If you have oxidation from soldering, try a nickel pickle:  Here’s one article from Hoover and Strong.

Answer

For getting into all the nooks and crannies, try the 3m Radial Bristle Discs.  They work great!  To learn more about finishing please view my webpage: Finishing Jewelry and my video: How To Finish Jewelry.

Protecting Sterling Silver from Oxidation

Question

“Should I be finishing the metal (sterling silver) to prevent further discoloration? What’s the best way to do that? Do you have any videos that address that question?”

Answer

The oxidation is not going to stop unless the metal is sealed – which I don’t recommend. Although it is fine for necklaces and brooches, sealers wear off very quickly on bracelets and rings – due to the amount of wear and tear.  Protectaclear by Everbrite is one that I am familiar with.  (Although, I am checking out powder coating as a solution – see the last paragraph.)

The type of finishing you do,  prior to adding the patina, doesn’t affect the amount of oxidation in the future.  Silver just tarnishes – even fine silver and Argentium but, fine and especially, Argentium, tarnish the least.  You might try working with Argentium  – it really is a lovely material and tarnishes very slowly.
Another idea is to store and sell your work with an anti-tarnish bag. They reduce the tarnish  A LOT.  Also, keeping the metal in an airtight bag reduces the amount of exposure that it gets from the air.  Air is filled with chemicals that affect the rate of oxidation.

How to Finish and shine bronze

Question

” I would like to ask how do I finish bronze? To make it shinier? I have recently started with metalwork and I have trouble finishing.”

Answer

Have you seen my video on finishing?  I also have a webpage on this subject.  Bronze is finished in a similar method to silver.  The important work is in the pre-polishing.  The surface needs to be free of scratches, nicks, dings, and any other marks that you don’t want.  This is achieved using sandpaper from 320 grit  (depending on how bad the marks are) through 1000 – 3000. Mirror finishes are very time-consuming and involve a lot of elbow grease.

See some of the other posts on this page, especially the prior one.

How to finish copper, as well as brass jewelry

Question

“I would love to make some copper as well as brass jewelry, but I don’t know what I would use to finish the pieces. Can you recommend any type of clear finish that I can coat my pieces in that is safe for the skin? I work out of my apartment, I do not have a studio.”

Answer

Below, is some information from my website:  nancylthamilton.com. This is from my finishing page.

I never seal my jewelry but, many do.  I’m not thrilled with varnishes because, eventually, they crack off.  But, varnish also keeps fingers and wrists from turning green – it’s a tough call.  There are many products out there.  I like ProtectaClear from EverBrite.  Rio Grande carries another type called Midas Finish Seal Lacquer.  But, I haven’t tried this product so, can’t comment on it.

I am going to experiment with powder coating to seal jewelry.  They (you know, “those” people) make a clear – both shiny and matt – powder for powder coating.  I’ll post the results when I try it out.

You could also try Renaissance Wax BUT, it doesn’t last long at all – especially with rings and bracelets.  On earrings and necklaces, it will last longer because there is less wear and tear with these items of jewelry. Renaissance Wax is best used on protected areas – to preserve a patina or inhibit oxidation.  I’ve also read that hair spray will slow down oxidation but, it’s not permanent.

Here’s a link to a discussion board from Finishing.com – which is a great resource BTW! – that talks about sealers for metal.

Sealers

  • Everbrite’s 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.  Heat-treated colors stayed true too. Just remember that the colors will look different, as they are now shiny. and reflecting light differently.
  • Renaissance WaxLiver of Sulfur colors changed as did heat coloration.  Leaves a rather matte, not too shiny finish on the metal.
  • Car Wax – about the same results as with the Renaissance Wax.
  • Spray on acrylic sealers can work if applied properly.
  • Engine enamel coatings work too.  Ditto on the application.

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How Do I Take Off Scratches From Copper Earrings Using Different Sanding Grits?

Question

I am using 18 gauge copper sheet, pierced and sawed in a pair of earrings.   To finish them I followed the same process I use with silver:  Sanding with three grades of snap-on sanding discs from Rio, then onto the 3m radial bristle discs in descending order. But none of the 3m discs will take off the scratches from the last grade of sandpaper. Clearly, I am missing one or more abrasives to use between the sanding discs and the polishing discs.  I have tried all my different grades of wet/dry sandpaper, wire brush, rubber wheel, and various Dremel surfaces to no avail.  I assume my usual methods aren’t working because copper is softer than silver.   I have refinished the pieces so many times that my 18 gauge copper is now measuring at 25 gauge!  Which is actually kind of cool and delicate, but I fear it won’t take much more working before it falls apart.  Do you have any advice for me?

Answer

Copper will finish similarly to silver and it shouldn’t be an issue.

It sounds like you are using too aggressive of a sanding disk.

I usually use about 5-6 different grits for finishing.  Usually, I use 350, 400, 600, 800, 1000, and sometimes 1500.  A lot depends on how badly marred the surface is.  If you’ve been careful, you should be able to start sanding with 600 grit paper.

I make fine sanding discs with 3m’s PSA discs, which you can find at Rio Grande.  They come in grits from 180 – 1200.  I have a lot of information on how I do this on my website.  It takes a while for your eyes/brain to understand when you have sufficiently sanded over the prior disc’s marks.  It can be difficult to tell with the discs.  Sandpaper may work better for you as it is easier to see and you’ll reduce the chances that you’ll over-sand (which it sounds like you are).  

My thoughts are that you need to go through more grits.  Sometimes, I use just regular sandpaper, sanded in one direction to get an idea of whether or not I need to go back a grit or two.  Run something like 600 g over the metal and see how deep the scratches are – that will tell you what grit to go back to.

As you no doubt know, unless the prior grits marks are removed, all subsequent grits will not remove them.  You have to go back and redo it.  I am actually surprised that you didn’t have the same problem with your silver.  Have you ever photographed a piece and zoomed in on it to see how well it is finished?  It’s frightening – using zoom!  I’ll think I’ve done a great job, zoom in and find out that I hadn’t!  This technique is great for stone setting too.  But, be careful about getting too crazy about perfection.  There’s a point where it just becomes obsessive.  Scanning your finishing under a scope could make you crazy and you’ll never finish anything!  Haha!  But, it does make one strive for a machine-like perfection.  I have a love/hate for magnification. 

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How do you finish gold?

Question

I have a question: this is the first time that I tried to buff my jewelry using a brown and a red rouge, with the flex shaft, using a felt wheel. After I buffed it, my jewelry changed color from deep yellow to light yellow. Can you help me with this?

Answer

You didn’t mention what type of metal you were using so, I’ll make some guesses.  I think that your metal (gold, brass, or bronze) didn’t really change color. I think what happened was that you took off the patina that formed there, over time, and exposed the true color of the metal.  Unless, it was plated, like gold plate* (see below).  That’s a different story.

You have a few options if you want that bright yellow back – but there are no guarantees that it will look exactly the same – patinas have a will of their own.  So, below are a few options:

  • Wait – time (and the chemicals in the air) will patina it again
  • Use a patinating product like these at Sculpt Nouveau.
  • Heat, either from a hot plate or from a gas torch, will also color the metal a bit darker – it can also add many other colors. See this page at Brynmorgen.com for heat patinas.
  • See recipe numbers 15 and 16 at The Science Company’s website. The recipes are to make straw and yellow patinas. The Science Company also sells chemicals to complement their recipes.

Test all patinas on scrap metal first.  Prepare your metal to make it the same color as your final piece.  Be sure to clean off all grease, oils, and dirt with hot water, degreasing soap (like Dawn Dish Detergent), and a soft OLD toothbrush.  Obviously, you are never using that toothbrush again for your teeth!  You can also rub the piece with rubbing alcohol too but, it shouldn’t be necessary.  Water should sheet off of the metal and not ball up.

*If your metal was gold plate, you probably buffed off a layer of gold. By reducing the depth of the gold, the metal underneath (which is usually silver or gold in color) dilutes the depth of the original color making it appear “whiter”. Please see my Patinas, Cleaning Metal, and Sculptnouveau webpages for more information. Back to Table of Contents

Protecting the finish on metals

Question

Hi I have a silver figaro necklace and I have watched your video on youtube (how to finish jewelry) and I saw that you sanded a silver necklace and buffed it with the rouge compound and then you suggest finishing it with the LUXI Super Fine White Polishing Compound. I was wondering if it will be the same as what you would get from the jewelry store if not is there a special liquid to give it the stunning shine and prevent it from tarnishing as fast? I noticed you mentioned something about the ProtectaClear at the end of your video but you only said copper or brass. Would I use that for sterling silver? Or is there something better for protecting it and giving it the shiny finish? And also what kind of brush would be the least noticeable if it needs to be brushed on?

Answer

The ProtectaClear can be used on silver too.  Many jewelers use a tumbler to shine up their chains.  Personally, I believe the best way to keep a chain shiny is to wear it or clean it once in a while.  There is a new type of silver out called Argentium  (also see my webpage “Wire and Sheet Metal”, scroll down to Argentium Silver) which takes years to tarnish.  You can purchase Argentium chains from places like Rio Grande. The finish that is done in manufactured jewelry involves large processing plants and vats of stuff which I have no understanding of.  For the small jeweler, you can use Renaissance wax, a product like ProtectaClear, or even a spray-on varnish.  The problem with the coating is that eventually, that coating will chip off and then you’ll have to strip it and recoat it – the main reason that I don’t usually use a protective coating.  As for brushes, ProtectaClear comes with an applicator that looks like a powder puff.  I’ve used sponge brushes too.  Apply according to directions.

To clean Argentium silver, if it is tarnished, spray with Windex (or wet a rag with Windex)  and wipe.  Then wash with soap and water.

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Can the rouge I use for buffing gold be bad?

Question

“What I am buffing is 90% gold and I don’t think it has patina in it. Do you have another solution to my problem? I did some research about the rouge I use and some people said that the rouge I used was bad. Is it possible that rouge can do this? I used Silverline rouges. This is the first time my store has used buffing wheels for jewelry making.  My uncle used to polish gold jewelry with a burnisher and soapy water.”

Answer

So, your gold is 22K.  The rouge shouldn’t be a problem – if it is 22K gold, it should look like shiny 22K gold, after polishing – not change color.

There is a process called depletion gilding where the higher karat gold is pulled to the surface by heat or chemicals.  Usually, the layer of higher karat gold is very thin. Depletion Gilding would make the gold appear yellower.  Buffing with rouge would take off that higher karat layer and leave behind, a lower carat metal.

That said, gold under 24 karat can oxidize – it depends on what is in the air/environment around you.

  • Here is a quote from Chris Corti at Ganoksin (link is to the whole article): “Blackening of High Carat Gold Jewellery in India and the Middle East”.

“Reports of blackening of 21 and 22 karat golds have been received from customers in countries such as India. This is very unusual in that such blackening is usually found only in low-medium carat golds and is attributable to tarnishing (see below). It is normally considered that high carat golds (such as 22-karat) do not tarnish in the conventional sense. It is a problem that is peculiar to India and other countries in the Middle East, apparently.

Recently, the World Gold Council has had an opportunity to examine examples of blackened 22 karat gold returned to retailers in India. The analysis of the blackened layer has shown that it comprises silver (and copper) sulfide. This is a true tarnish layer. That such high carat golds should tarnish is unexpected and points to the jewellery being exposed to a particularly ‘corrosive’ environment at some stage. Perhaps, it is due to being worn during food preparation (some foods & spices are very high in sulfur compounds). Maybe, the jewelry is stored in aggressive sulfur-containing environments. Maybe, the jewelry surface is more susceptible to tarnishing for some reason. At present we cannot be certain as to the cause; we can only speculate. Certainly, the evidence suggests that lifestyle or the local conditions in countries such as India are different from other parts of the world as the problem is not reported elsewhere.

We can say that the jewelry examined was not under-karated or defective in any significant way. Therefore, the manufacturer does not appear to be responsible for the appearance of this blackening effect (tarnish).

If blackened jewelry is returned to the retailer, he should be able to clean off this black layer and re-polish it. Some advice on minimizing its occurrence is given above.”

This blackening they are talking about might start with a general darkening of the metal and your Uncle’s treatment for polishing, would not remove the tarnish but, work it into the metal by “burnishing” it into the metal.

  • Is there mercury in the buffing compound or nearby (I hope not, it is very dangerous)?  Mercury can change yellow gold and make it look like silver. The quote below is from Finishing.com.  It is an answer to a person whose wedding ring went from gold to silver looking after exposure to mercury:

“A. My suspicion is that mercury is the culprit. Mercury forms a silvery-colored amalgam with gold, ruining it. A quiet area in the back of a drawer that once had a bit of mercury in it from a broken thermometer can have an accumulation of mercury gas. This would quickly turn the gold silvery, but if there was only a tiny exposure, I think the balance of the gold can diffuse to restore the gold color.”

  • Also, see this link to how to fix the color if it was exposed to mercury.

So, I would first check that the gold is actually what it should be.  Check with other jewelers to see if they have a tarnishing problem. It would be interesting to see if the gold turned yellow again if left to sit.  Then you would know that it is something in the environment that is changing the color. Maybe try using the torch to burn off anything that might be on it – like mercury. Please read this article from SLAC: Mercury and Mercury Compounds Safe Handling Guidelines.Back to Table of Contents

What compound should I buy for 22k gold polishing

Question

“Do have any suggestion for what compound I should buy for 22k gold polishing? I read about the depletion gilding article, you gave me, and I think my uncle used this method for polishing. He used to “clean” his work by boiling water with some potassium with salt. Next, he used some sort of burnisher to polish it, on his work surface, to get a mirror finish. My question is, can I combine his method and the buffing method with rouge? I tried, but I failed because it looks like the rouge changed the color again.”

Answer

One company suggests white rouge.  Here is their chart. But, others don’t mention it for gold.  Zam is another product you can try. I have used it with good results.  There are sooooo many different types and brands.  Thisarticle might help too.  Otto Frei has many compounds.  Otto Frei says that the Blue Rouge is very popular for polishing gold in Europe.  Here’s another page with information.

I use red rouge for polishing gold and have never had that big of a color change.  Maybe you should find a different rouge supplier or find out what is in it.  If there is mercury in it, it is very, very dangerous for you!  I don’t know who the suppliers are in your country so, I can’t tell you anything about your product.  In the states, we have a thing called an MSDS, which lists the chemicals in the product.  Do you have something similar? Back to Table of Contents

How To Clean And Polish In Tight Spots

Question

“I’m trying to learn how to make conchos for my horses. Three of them are silver and the other one is Nickle. I’m having trouble finding something to clean and brighten between the stones. I either scratch the stones or can’t get it clean and bright enough.”

Answer

I use a variety of tools for reaching into small places.  You can use abrasive tapes and cords, abrasive pins, abrasive discs and points, radial bristle discs, etc.

I would rub a bit of tape over the stone and cut along the interior bezel wall with a scalpel. This will help to protect the stone while finishing.  You can also put your thumb, from your non-dominant hand, over the stone while finishing.

Here’s a little video: Protecting a Stone While Finishing on the tape and thumb techniques.

How To Protect A Finish And Keep The Coating From Clogging Holes

Question

“I am wondering, about sprays for jewelry making: sprays that prevent tarnish on Brass and copper.
No matter what I’ve tried, I seem to get tarnish anyway or/and pebbly finish and the holes of dangles plugged.
How do you go about solving this problem?  If I coat things before putting them together, I often have to redress holes.”
Answer

Well, I don’t usually spray anything.  I feel that the tarnish is what makes the metal beautiful plus, all those coatings wear off over time and then the piece needs to have the finish removed and re-applied.  Not so much for earrings and necklaces though but, rings and bracelets take so much abuse that the finish wears fast. I have applied a protective finish to elements in a bracelet or ring but, I usually set the coated piece in a bezel or some other protective mechanism, that keeps it away from wear and tear.

Look into powder coating with clear – shiny and matte – powders.

 That said, I realize that my opinion is not the only opinion in the world – nor does it matter much to others!   Knowing this fact, I figured out that jewelers needed a solution to their problems.  So, I did some research.  I tested a product by EverBrite:  ProtectaClear.  It works, lasts a long while, and is crystal clear.  There are other great products out there but, I didn’t test them all.  Here’s a link to Finishing.Com‘s site for other ideas. Even though they are discussing big stuff like furniture, you might just pick up a few new ideas! It’s also a great resource to have on hand.

I achieved a smooth, glass-like finish on my test pieces.  enameling-stilts-metalliferous  You can use enameling stilts as drying racks.  Coat one side let set, then coat the other side, the next day.  Ensure that the product doesn’t drip over to the backside – clean that stuff up, immediately!

I have two pages that relate to finishing for your edification:  Q&A:  Finishing and my main Finishing page (links are to issues specific to your questions).  Hopefully, these pages will help.
As to your problem with clogged holes, can you just drill them out (with a new, sharp bit) after finishing (and the coating has setup for at least 24 hours) and then put in the wires?  I don’t see a lot of other choices as the stuff does like to coat and cling.  Maybe you could put wax plugs in the holes, spray or coat with the sealant, let the finish set and then place the pieces on a warm hot plate or in a toaster oven (on tin foil to catch the melted wax) to melt the wax?  You might even be able to just pop them out with a scribe or other slender object.  I’d check them often and definitely experiment first!
round-wax-wire   You can purchase wax wire in many gauges. Many jewelry suppliers carry wax wire in different gauges. Either purchase a range of gauges, like in the link above or purchase a single gauge.  Match the gauge of your drill bit, that made the hole in the first place, with the gauge of the wire.  I don’t know if this is a stupid idea or not.  I hope you’ll let me know!
I am thinking that some type of resist will work.  I would experiment with scrap first!  Well, that’s all I’ve got.  Sorry.

The joy and frustration of being a jeweler are encountering insolvable problems and working out solutions.  If a problem bothers us enough, we’ll figure out a way around, through or over the issue.

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What compounds should I use?

Question

You said in the video that you use red rouge even though you’re supposed to use white. I have only green rouge and platinum white. Would they be sufficient for polishing and finishing my gold jewelry? Also, my rings have scratched that I’m trying to get rid of so I was wondering which rouge should I use FIRST to get the scratches out? I’m guessing Brown Tripoli?? (Although I currently don’t have it) I’m trying to make my rings look brand new, scratch-free! 😀
Also, I have the Foredom flex shaft, the same as yours, and I was also wondering what rotary accessories you would recommend for POLISHING and FINISHING jewelry.

Answer

I only use red rouge.  The pre-finish is, what I feel, is the most important.  I sand with sandpaper or sanding discs from 320 grit up to at least 1200 grit – often higher –  and then I employ the rouge.
You can employ a pre-polishing compound, like brown tripoli or bobbing compound first and then move on to a final finish compound like jeweler’s rouge.
There are so many types of compounds that do the same job, to the same metals but, have different names.  It seems that every company comes up with its own special brand.  I started getting too confused and decided to just stick with the rouge.  It does the job for me.

 As to your other polishing compounds, I would check with the manufacturer or read the label as to their uses.  Determine whether your compound is:  1.  Either an abrasive or a polishing compound and 2. whether or not it is suited for the type of metal you are using.  Test the compounds before using them on a final piece.  See the chart in the burring and polishing compounds link below.

Be wary of mixing compounds on the same wheel or using old buffs and wheels as abrasive compounds could be mixed together with polishing compounds.  That can generate a lot of cleanup work.  I use one wheel with one type of metal, with one compound.  I keep the wheel and the compound, together, in their own plastic bag.  It makes it easier to remember what is what.

Another consideration:  If you are pushing out 100 pieces and need a fast finish – compounds, on a wheel or tumbling are much faster than hand sanding.  So, perhaps, compounds are what you need.  You didn’t mention how many pieces you were trying to finish.
 If you are interested, here’s an article from Ganoksin on mass finishing. The article mainly deals with tumbling though so, maybe it’s not what you want.
I highly recommend the following article, written by John Fisher, called:  Buffing and Polishing compounds.  It is very well done and explains so much. I found this article onGanoksin’s site also. I think you will learn a lot from this article!
Whatever you do, – buy from a trusted supplier –  as quality and grit will vary from type to type.  I pretty much only use red rouge.

Muslin Buffs

I use muslin and feltbuffs, generally, with my flex shaft. I like the loose weave of the muslin buffs (they are fluffier) for some jobs – usually, those with texture and a lot of nooks and crannies and I sometimes use a felt wheel for smooth surfaces or for removing scratches from stones (in tandem with diamond lap paste).

I also likeRadial Bristle Discs (for both the flex shaft) for textured and recessed surfaces. They also make the bristle discs in larger sizes for the buffing wheel. They cost much more though!

Otto Frei Flexacrylic Polishing and Abrasive Wheels Kit

I use silicone points, knife-edged wheels, and other shapes for other types of finishing – like getting into tough spots.  Please see my techniques web pages for more links!

Ottotech by EVE Silicone Polishing Kit of 90

 I also have a buffing wheel that I use various wheel types on.  I like a deburring wheel for general cleanup and pre-polishing.
On cleaning up your scratches:  it all depends on how deep they are.  If they are very deep you might have to use files.  But, I’d start with sandpaper and move on to points, wheels, and discs. Finish with a buff and polishing compound.
I have a friend who only uses abrasive wheels to finish her jewelry, another who only uses the buffing wheel, another swears by tumbling.  Whatever works for you!
I guess my answer is: the job will dictate the tool!

How to finish edges and interior pierced areas.

Question

The edges and interior spaces, on my pierced earrings, look raw.  What do I do to round them and make them look sexy like yours…lol?

Answer

You need to use files and sandpaper!  I love using escapement files for this process.  Escapement files are very small files – smaller than needle files.  They fit well into the small recesses created when piercing metal.

Sanding is also important – when the filing is finished.

One method for sanding in tiny areas is to use Mitchell’s abrasive cord or tapes. You can thread the tape or cord through tiny spots and really smooth down the interior surfaces.

Mitchell’s Abrasive Cord and Tape

Another option is to make yourself a sanding stick. You can make a larger sanding stick (instructions below) or wrap a toothpick with sandpaper.  Sometimes I roll the sandpaper into a point to reach those elusive areas. Watch my two videos on sanding.

Sandpaper rolled into a fine-pointed cone for reaching small areas.

Making a Sanding Stick

These sanding sticks are made using double stick paper, craft foam sheets,  and craft sticks. You can also use paint stirrers.  I cut mine in half to get two out of each stick. You can also make the sticks without the foam.  The foam helps to create rounded edges because the metal can be encompassed by the sandpaper but, foam-less sanding sticks work well too.

Sanding stick with foam

  • Cut the tip off of the stick
  • Measure stick width and length.
  • Cut two strips of double-stick tape or double-stick paper that are a bit thinner than the width of the stick.
  • Apply double stick paper onto both sides of the sanding stick.
  • Cut foam at double the width of stick plus, add a handful of millimeters extra.  You need to take into account the depth of the stick and add a little for the thickness of the foam.
  • Wrap foam around the stick, having both edges meet in the center of the stick.
  • Apply another layer of double stick paper, only to the back of the foam stick (where the seam is).  Wrap sandpaper around the stick with edges meeting on the backside. Press down into double stick tape.

Sanding stick without foam

  • Cut and shape as in the instructions above.  Apply double stick to one side of the stick.  Apply the sanding paper and wrap it around the stick.  See images.

    Materials:  Double stick paper, sandpaper, craft stick & craft foam.

   Craft stick with the end cut off and double stick applied.     Foam stuck to a craft stick with double-stick applied to the back, on top of the foam, to hold the sandpaper in place.

   Apply sandpaper to the back.

  The finished sanding stick.

  • You can also use rubber cement or other glue.
  • Stay away from Elmer-type glue  – too wet and too slow!
  • Another idea is to use an elastic band on each end or just use masking or painter’s tape.
  • You can also make a sanding block from wood or a foam core.

For interior spaces, you can use Mitchell’s abrasive cords or tapes. Tiny files, like micro needle files or escapement files, will also help.

mitchell-sanding-tape-in-saw  I often put these 3m sanding bandsinto my jeweler’s saw frame to sand tight areas.  You can also put Mitchell’s cords and tape into your saw frame.

Is It Ok To Rub A Green-Scrungy-Thingy On 14k Gold-Filled Sheet Metal To Get A Brushed Finish Or To Fine Steel Wool It?

Question

“Is it ok to rub a green-scrubby-thingy on 14k gold-filled sheet metal to get a brushed finish? Or to fine steel wool it? I live in the tropics and tarnish is an issue.”

Here’s a photo of what I’m trying to achieve: one is brass, the other is the gold-fill. I don’t want to sell anything that will tarnish easily, and I don’t want to use lacquer. I’m trying to get away from using brass, and this piece is popular, so I’d like to try gold-filled.”

Nancy

Answer

You can use the green scrubby thingy and steel wool (0000) on the metal – all of it.  Don’t rub too hard.  Hopefully, the gold-filled is of good quality.  There is some crappy stuff out there.  See my page on gold-filled for more information. The gold may tarnish a bit – not too much – not like silver, brass, bronze, or copper.  It tarnishes because it has copper in it.  So, tarnish-free may only be a dream…I don’t recommend sealers, like Protecta Clear – Everbrite, unless it is used on earrings or necklaces.  On other types of jewelry i.e.: rings and bracelets, the wear is too great.  Tarnish can be beautiful – learn to appreciate and stand behind it!

How do you put a scratched (“ice”) finish on metal jewelry?

Question

ice goldice silver

Answer

There are many different types of tools that can give that scratched (or, as this company calls it:  Ice) finish.  Even something as simple as the edge of a square file can do it. Use the file like you would if you were shading with a pencil.  There are checkering filestoo that give a nice texture.

Polishing pads “scrubby wheels”

There are wheel brushes too like this cable twist wire wheel – wear gloves!  Not for the flex shaft. You could try a really rough mini-fiber wheel.  Another option is a Mizzi Wheel.  You need a mandrel to mount them but, you can use them in the flex shaft.  You could also try really rough sandpaper, like 80 or 100 grit.

You could also use an angle grinder with a rough grit.

Sanding bands, barrels, or drums.

Sanding bands or barrels could be another option. They come in a variety of sizes.

George Goehl has a lot of information on Vimeo about finishing metal.  You might have to rent one for 3.00 but he presents some ideas in the trailer.  I know his youtube video talks about a lot of tools for texturing.  He is a sculptor but, the techniques will work for jewelers too.

The big rule here is to test on sample metal first! Back to Table of Contents

Can I Silver Plate Nickel?

Question

“Is there a way to add a light coat of silver on top kind of like a plating?”

Answer

You can have it plated or learn to do it yourself.  I only use a plating pen and only infrequently.  There are places that you can send your work out to but, I don’t know of any offhand. Nickel can be plated. Back to Table of Contents

How Do I Texture My Metal To Match This Pattern (Looks Like Reticulation or A Sandpaper Finish)

Question

Rough-Finish-on-metal  “I’ve looked all over, and have yet to find an answer. And this may be out of your expertise but I’m looking to find out how to make the finish seen here, on this ring by La Masters of Fine Jewelry.

Some call it a wire-brushed finish not to be confused with the common brushed finish.
I’m thinking it may be a specialty rolled impression. Have you seen it before and know how it’s done?”
Answer
It looks a bit like reticulation.  It could also be an embossed pattern.  I’d make a texture hammer, texture your metal and use the back side.  Maybe texture on wood so that the underside keeps its shape.  You could also try running a piece of 180 grit sandpaper in a rolling mill with the metal.  Protect your mill by either making a thick paper sandwich (like watercolor paper) or a brass sandwich around the metal and the sandpaper.
Chances are,  that it’s a machined finish that is proprietary.  But, you can experiment and find something close.
The finish is probably brushed – after the texturing is done.  Have you seen my Questions and Answers page: Finishing Questions? I also have another page on Finishing.  Here’s the link to the specific information that you need:  Brushed or Textured FinishBack to Table of Contents

How to Create a White, Matte, or Satin (“Ice”) Finish on Silver

Question

“How do I create the finish below? Is it a chemical thing?”

clasp

Answer

Without actually seeing the jewelry – personally – I can only guess.  It looks like depletion gilding (some call it “Bright Dipping” where the fine silver is brought to the surface of the silver.  The metal is heated, pickled, heated, pickled, etc. up to 7-10 times.  The problem with this technique is that the layer of white, fine silver, is very thin and easily worn or scratched without some sort of protective coating.  It also could be a sandblasted finish and then depletion gilded. Maybe it is etched and then depletion gilded. Fine and sterling silvers, PMC, or silver metal clay, will all have this white layer after firing or torching then pickling.

Sandblasting will also create this type of effect. A small, portable system may work.  BUT, you need a compressor too.  Match the sandblasting system’s needs to determine the correct compressor to use with it.  Check to see what PSI the blaster requires before purchasing a compressor.  

You can also try Mizzy Heatless Wheels, deburring wheel, or tumbling/polishing media.  Some use steel wool or SOS Pads or something similar.  You can also use 3M’s Scotch-Brite Pads.

3M-Scotch-Brite-Pads

3M Scotch Brite Pads

Mizzy-Wheel

Mizzy Heatless Wheel

deburring-wheel

Deburring Wheel 

porcelain-burnishing-media

Tumbling Media. 

More Information

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