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Matte finish on sterling silver


#1

Hello,

So I’m finishing a sterling silver ring and trying to give it a
matte finish. I’m able to reach the finish I like but keeping the
finish is the problem as it is easily scratched. Well, I shouldn’t
say scratched because what it actually looks like is that the matte
finish has been “burnished” or easily marked by normal everyday use.
Do I need to harden sterling to give it a proper long lasting finish
and if so how do I go about that (I have only a torch, mill,
hammers)? Would anyone care to share how they matte finish their
jewelry? I am interested in the more silky matte to rougher (sand
blasted) types of finishes on sterling rather than the mirror or
high polished finish.

Thanks to all,
Chris
St. Louis, MO


#2

Hi Chris: I haven’t had that problem - but then I’m hardly qualified
to call myself a bench jeweler - more of a hobbyist gone wild. But I
love a matte finish and achieve it by simply dipping my fingers in
dish soap (usually Dawn or whatever I have for hand washing dishes)
and then dipping them in pumice. Then I rub the surface until I
achieve the level of matte that I want. It seems to hold up great.
Should it ever get marks on it (and to date I’ve not had that happen

  • should I knock on wood?) I simply “rewash” it with pumice and dish
    soap. Not sure what you are doing, but maybe this would work for you
    too. I’ve even scrubbed it with an old toothbrush dipped in
    dishwashing liquid and then in pumice. Whatever is the easiest for
    you to do.

Now when I’ve bead blasted a surface I’ve had that get marks on it,
as well as when I’ve used texturing buffs on a surface. But with
pumice finish, it has always remained matte.

K


#3

Chris -

Sterling silver is much closer to being pure silver than 14k or 18k
is to being pure gold. With so little ‘other’ metal in the alloy,
it’s much softer than gold alloys. You’ll find any part of the
jewelry exposed to wear is going to get its matte finish burnished
away.

Your best solution may be to just design the finish so that it
avoids this problem. Keep the matte finish in places that will
experience no contact…top of rings, the bezel, in inner surface (to
give nice contrast to the high polish on the outer surface);
pendants, earrings and necklaces.

Or, design rings that have raised surfaces (wires? beads?) that will
prevent contact with other rings, furniture, etc, and give the
recessed surfaces the matte finish.

A rougher finish such as a florentine will endure much better, but
since you want a matte surface that’s not really a solution.

best regards,
Kelley Dragon


#4

Silver’s a soft metal, just about anything that touches it in normal
everyday use can act as a burnisher. You could consider having
recessed areas in your ring to hold the matte finish, that way the
remaining raised areas would help protect the more delicate surfaces
from dents and abrasions. The raised areas could then be finished
with something a little more likely to absorb a stray scratch or two,
like a steel brushed finish or sandpaper.

Willis


#5

Aside from clever techniques that the masters out there might be
able to share, I’m afraid that you may have to accept that finishes
don’t last long once they are in the hands of the customer. You might
spend two hours getting a mirror finish, only to have the customer
ruin it in the shop. Matte finishes are a little better than that,
particularly if you use a heavy frosting brush.

The only things that will really make a difference are techniques
that leave a texture with contours - scraping, matting (with a
textured punch) or micro-planishing will all leave troughs and peaks
which baffle the eye, and make it harder to see when the finish is
damaged.

Ancient metalworkers weren’t stupid - approaching a modern polished
finish was difficult or impossible for them, so encrusting the
surface with decoration and then burnishing the highlights gave a
lot of glitter and also durability.

Jamie Hall
http://primitive.ganoksin.com


#6

Hi

I would highly recommend aluminum oxide 3M satin buff from Rio
http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/rio330543

It works great and last a long time on both SS and gold. Everything
matte will eventually polish out, along with a nice patina with good
wear. Just let your customers know that with time this will happen
and offer to update the finish. This will bring them back to the
store or your studio to hopefully find another piece too!

Reba


#7

One thing I like to do is to finish with a glass brush and running
water. It gives a matte finish with a soft glow, not dull at all. The
brush is available at enamel suppliers, like Thompson.

Susan


#8

I agree with the buff from Rio… there are different degrees of
matte, and I like the very. If I am doing it by hand like to get
into tight spots, I might use one of the following steel wool, 3-M
type scratchy pad for washing dishes, or very fine sand paper. As
mentioned before, pumice also works.

Melissa


#9

The 3M radial disks give a wonderful matt finish is a short time
using the yellow/lime disk.

M


#10

I guess I’ll throw in my two cents worth…

I use mostly non-shiny surfaces of one sort or another. My very
favorite one is to sand with a succession of grits using the soft 3M
microfinishing papers, all the way up to the finest, which I call
white but they call… Mint? I think it is 3000 grit. If properly
preceded, it gives a soft sheen that is positively luscious.

Noel


#11
My very favorite one is to sand with a succession of grits using
the soft 3M microfinishing papers, all the way up to the
finest,...... I think it is 3000 grit. 

Yes, they are a favorite of mine, too. It is 8,000 grit. The color
is so light the trick (at least for me) is to figure out which side
the abrasive is on. Sometimes I have to try both sides to see which
side turns grey. I wish the 8,000 grit had writing on the back.

Neil A.


#12

Neil - I love the 3M finishing papers also, but would occasionally
mix up the order, so I wrote the grit on the back of each sheet w/ a
Sharpie. Now if I get interupted, or the papers get out of order, or
I can’t tell which side is up, I just check the corner.

Blessings,
Sam Kaffine
Sterling Bliss, LLC


#13
Yes, they are a favorite of mine, too. It is 8,000 grit. The color
is so light the trick (at least for me) is to figure out which
side the abrasive is on. Sometimes I have to try both sides to see
which side turns grey. I wish the 8,000 grit had writing on the
back. 

Mark size on the back with a sharpie when purchased and when cutting
into smaller sections.

Pam Chott
songofthephoenix.com