Whether you’re cleaning jewelry or turning castings into highly polished jewelry, buffing is a necessary part of the finishing process to remove scratches, nicks, and other stains from metal. Polishing restores the original sheen of pale gold, silver, or platinum. If you use the right polish with the right mixture, you will get the best polish possible.
Few things are required to get started. How you approach your tool collection will depend on how you polish it by hand or machine.
You can start polishing by hand and get good results, but adding a little bit of power in the form of a hanging drill or micromotor helps immensely. If you have space, a table polisher can help. You can get good results without it, but it speeds things up, which is essential if this is the business for you.
Dremel / Suspended Motor
If you don’t have the budget to buy a large table polisher, a Dremel or hanging motor is the tool for you. Dremel’s motors or trailers are a small all-rounder tool in the sense that they can be used for polishing, engraving, texturing your silver, and even setting stones. Purchasing this tool is the best way to polish your jewelry and experiment in other areas.
Rubber ridges were a tool I never thought would be a game-changer until I tried it out. I usually use a medium rubber burr to quickly smooth out sharp edges and a super fine rubber burr that runs over my parts’ surface to get rid of scratches. Think of these as small Emory paper patches that you can use with a Dremel trailer/motor.
Finished or polished
What is the difference between finishing and polishing? Although many use the terms interchangeably, they have different meanings. Finishing mainly refers to the final stage of jewelry making but can include almost any surface treatment, mirror finish, texture, color, or another mechanical or chemical process. Polishing specifically refers to the final smoothing of a surface to achieve a high gloss or even reflectivity.
I have always told my students that any visible surface (even the back or bottom) of a piece of jewelry should be seen for a specific purpose; H. Done, but only certain surfaces should be polished. An example of a part with different characters is this adhesion (above) that I recently created for a customer. Note that there is little treatment of the underside. I left the plaster’s surface and just used a prep brush to give it a little shine. The trees, the border around the agate, and the outer edge are very polished.
Tips, tools, and techniques
There are several traditional and recently introduced methods that manufacturers large and small can implement in their stores. Here is an example of tips, tools, and techniques you can use to achieve a flawless finish.
There are several methods of smoothing the original surface. Removing the abrasive is likely a standard approach. This is the traditional technique of sanding the body, often by hand, with successively more refined grains of sandpaper or abrasive rubber wheels. If sufficient smoothness is achieved with coarser dry abrasives, additional smoothness is achieved with polishes and abrasives. Dr. Valerio Faccenda, a consultant in Aosta, Italy, and author of the finishing manual mentioned above describes manual polishing as not brutal, but as “a kind of creative work … very artistic, very in the goldsmith’s dimension” is very useful, to lower the peaks on the valley floor. However, it can be time-consuming for any material and particularly problematic for expensive precious metals due to the high material loss. A precious metal recovery system is an absolute must practice of abrasive removal.