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Polishing, Other Methods

By Aislyn Bryan March 23, 2003 9813 Views No comments

If you've ever polished the family silver, you've had your introduction to cleaning sterling by means of chemical compounds. There are sprays and dips intended for use on jewelry, as well, but because we prefer to keep our chemical use to a minimum, we have no experience with them. These are the methods we've used.

Polishing Cloths

Polishing cloths are portable and easy to use. The brand we carry, Sunshine Polishing Cloths, are generally most favored because they do an excellent job of cleaning and removing tarnish without the mess of rouge impregnated polishing cloths. They're recommended for all precious metals and can be used until the cloth is completely black on both sides. They are not washable and should be thrown away at that point.

Baking Soda Paste

Before I had a tumbler, I cleaned and polished my sterling using a paste of baking soda and water and an old toothbrush. It really brings out the shine and I recommend this method whenever a tumbler isn't available. To clean deeply tarnished sterling, the piece can be covered with the paste in a bowl and left to soak overnight. I ruined some amber that way once, though, so use caution and don't leave any questionably soft gems to soak.

Aluminum Foil & Washing Soda

Line the bottom of a glass pan with aluminum foil, shiny side up. Boil water. Lay the jewelry on the foil (it must be touching aluminum) and sprinkle it with a generous amount of washing soda*. Let the boiling water cool a bit and pour it in the pan to cover the jewelry. Bear in mind that the water must be very hot and some stones are sensitive to heat. I cracked some fluorite doing this but that's been my only casualty. You'll see bubbles forming. Very quickly, the tarnish will jump off the jewelry and get on the aluminum. It just takes a minute, then you can remove and rinse the jewelry and it'll be bright again.

You know those kits sometimes advertised on tv that are said to remove tarnish like magic? This is how they work. They come with an aluminum plate but otherwise this is the same method. If you use this method frequently, you might consider getting such a kit because the plate is convenient and reusable but try it this way first to make sure you like it.

This method is particularly good for removing tarnish from coils and other tight places. It leaves sterling and argentium very white but not necessarily shiny. If you find that your now very clean jewelry still needs a shine, you can use a tumbler, a polishing cloth, or the mild abrasive action of the baking soda paste method, as described above.

* Washing soda is an old fashioned laundry additive that might be difficult to find locally. Fortunately, you can easily make washing soda out of baking soda. Baking soda will work in this process but it doesn't work as well as washing soda.

Finishing

Stones... To Tumble or Not

"Do you know of a resource that tells you which gems/semi-precious that can/can't be tumble polished with stainless steel? I am looking for a general resource, but specifically moonstone."

I don't know of a definitive resource and I don't really see how there could be one because a lot depends on the quality of the stone. Low quality stones that have cracks and fissures or are chalky aren't as likely to take the millions of tiny pings of tumbling as well as higher quality, more solid stones. And that's just one example of a difference...

More On Tumbling

If you've read our Cleaning and Polishing page reference above, you've seen the bit about the mysterious darkness. Yellowing is the first stage of that darkness, just like it's the first stage of tarnishing. If you get yellow, brown, grey or black on your metal and you've followed the directions for rinsing the tumbler and shot, adding clean water and a lot more Dawn, given it another tumble and it still hasn't gone away, you need to do two things.

Polishing, Other Methods

If you've ever polished the family silver, you've had your introduction to cleaning sterling by means of chemical compounds. There are sprays and dips intended for use on jewelry, as well, but because we prefer to keep our chemical use to a minimum, we have no experience with them. These are the methods we've used.

Cleaning & Polishing Copper

A mixture of lemon juice and salt or white vinegar and salt is a very effective solution for cleaning copper. You might have seen half a lemon salted and used to scrub copper bottom pots. For jewelry, dissolve a tablespoon of salt in a cup of lemon juice or vinegar (measurements are fairly arbitrary and can be adjusted as you see fit) and keep the mixture in a jar with a lid. Drop the jewelry in the jar, swish it around for a moment, then remove, rinse, rub it all over with baking soda to neutralize it, then rinse it again. However mild, lemon juice and vinegar are still acids and you don't want to leave acid sitting on your jewelry. If it isn't neutralized....

Tumble Polishing Jewelry

We highly recommend the use of a rock tumbler and stainless steel shot for cleaning and polishing jewelry. We favor that method so much that most of this page and all the photos are devoted to explaining in detail exactly how to do it, despite the fact that we don't sell tumblers or any supplies for them. We hope you find the information helpful and delight in the relentless shine of the finished product as much as we do.

#finish, #polish Posted in: Finishing
 
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