Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Barrel polishing 101


#1

Hello

I’m not a great fan of barrel polishing as I don’t much like the
very bright finish so I have only used it to part finish silver
pieces before sending them for assay so the backs are good. However,
it does produce a more tarnish resistant finsh so I guess it has it
benefits. I have a few questions that no doubt your collective
experience will be able to answer.

  1. Is it OK to barrel polish something that is a combination of
    silver and gold or will it produce an uneven finish? I’m thinking of
    things I have made with gold inlays.

  2. If I barrel polish something that has a bezel ready to set a
    stone will it work harden it so the bezel will be impossible to rub
    over or will it create a bur round the bezel edge so the stone won’t
    fit without further work on it?

  3. Can you barrel polish pieces after the stone has been set? I
    guess this depends on the hardness of stone? If so which stones can
    be barrel polished or what is the lower hardness limit for barrel
    polishing jewellery with set stones?

Thanks for your help
Collette (UK)
www.collettebatho.com


#2

Hi Collette,

Is it OK to barrel polish something that is a combination of
silver and gold or will it produce an uneven finish? I'm thinking
of things I have made with gold inlays. 

I have barrel-polished items made with silver and gold and they have
worked out just fine.

If I barrel polish something that has a bezel ready to set a stone
will it work harden it so the bezel will be impossible to rub over
or will it create a bur round the bezel edge so the stone won't fit
without further work on it? 

I ALWAYS tumble my work with bezels ready to set and then set the
stones afterwards. I do this because I want the small amount of
hardening which tumbling provides, but I don’t want to tumble with
stones set as I don’t want chipped facet meets. Usually, the
settings are perfect for the stone to just pop into, but occasionally
I’ll have to take a burr and do a little easing for the stone to go
in. I tumble for two hours with stainless steel shot and burnishing
compound. I always use a hammer (plus whatever tool I need) to set
my stones, due to lack of strength in my wrists, so I don’t know
whether you’d be able to “rub” the bezel over the stone after
tumbling - but you will still be able to set stones, even if you need
to use different tools.

Can you barrel polish pieces after the stone has been set? I guess
this depends on the hardness of stone? If so which stones can be
barrel polished or what is the lower hardness limit for barrel
polishing jewellery with set stones? 

I wouldn’t - see answer to #2.

Helen
UK
http://www.hillsgems.co.uk
http://helensgems.ganoksin.com/blogs/


#3
Is it OK to barrel polish something that is a combination of silver
and gold or will it produce an uneven finish? I'm thinking of
things I have made with gold inlays.

There is no problem polishing something with both gold and silver.
If the gold is high karat, like 22k, you may see some difference
evenness if you run the barrel more than 20 or 30 minutes. Inlays up
to 18K shouldn’t be a problem. However, a bright finish on a piece
with both silver and gold will make it hard to see the gold - a
brushed or matte finish shows the multiple metals better.

If I barrel polish something that has a bezel ready to set a stone
will it work harden it so the bezel will be impossible to rub over
or will it create a bur round the bezel edge so the stone won't fit
without further work on it? 

Rotary finishing with steel will always harden a bezel - but not
very much. It will not bur the bezel. If you run too long, it may tip
the bezel slightly inward but that is easily corrected with a quick
swipe inside the bezel with a burnisher. It is seldom a problem that
needs attention.

Can you barrel polish pieces after the stone has been set? I guess
this depends on the hardness of stone? If so which stones can be
barrel polished or what is the lower hardness limit for barrel
polishing jewellery with set stones? 

Polishing with the stones set is problematic. Many folks who use
dichroic glass will barrel polish their work with glass in place.
Personally, I would not run faceted stones in a barrel - but many
metal clay artists do. If you were to run faceted stones in your
barrel, use man-made ones. They very seldom have inclusions that
might cause breakage in the barrel. Reasonably clean cabochons of
corundum should be ok, but malachite, turquoise and other soft stones
will likely be damaged.

Judy Hoch, author Tumble Finishing for Handmade Jewelry available
from most Orchid sponsors.