Newbie confused about finishing sterling silver

I’m a bit confused about what constitutes good practice with regard
to finishing sterling silver. I’ve done pieces that were
flat/smooth/fairly regular by sanding up to 600 grit and then going
to a buffing wheel and going through a sequence progressively finer
compounds. Very nice results.

Very shiny.

But now I am working on a piece that is highly irregular: rivets,
soldered-on-embelishments, nooks, corners, crannies. Also multiple
textures, which were applied to the parts when they were still in
sheet form.

It is no longer very amenable to sanding - a least not with sanding

What should I do between taking it out of the pickle and going to
the wheel? Is it just a matter of sanding as best I can? What if
there are no scratches - do I still need to do something to the
surface before buffing?

take out of the pickle.

neutralise it properly
dry it properly.

place in a warm fresh dilute solution of flowers of sulphur to

dry again.

take a soft bristle hand brush with a little dry metal polish on it
and brush away.

to raise the highlights.

Obviously, before you do any of this you need to finish any sharp
edges so the wearer doesnt injure themselves.


Emory grit polishing compound from a hardware store and a hand piece
bristle brush made my life much easier. You must be very careful not
to dig trenches and keep that brush separate from the others as that
compound is very aggressive. A light sweeping touch is required.

Marie-I HATE sanding. This is why I am so careful while constructing
my pieces.

I do a lot of fabricating. When I’m working on something that I know
I won’t be able to finish after construction I do my best to pre
polish all of the components before assembly. Once I have my parts
pre polished, usually just to tripoli, I then often cover them with
clear packing tape or masking tape while riveting etc. I will often
do this to a fresh piece of sheet stock that is nicely polished.
Cover it first and then do your sawing and filing etc. If I am
soldering on it I can’t use the tape trick so I do my best to not
scratch it by using copper tweezers and working on a clean surface.
When finished then I do the final rouge buff usually with blue rouge.
If I am chasing it and can’t use a protective covering I make sure my
hammers are perfectly polished and my hands are clean.

If you still have scratches I like to use the 3M bristle brushes.
They come in many different grits and sizes both for the buff and the
flex shaft and they can get into places you can’t with emery paper.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer

Try the 3M radial bristle brushes. Rio has them

If you have a flexible shaft tool, there are all kinds of abrasive
wheels and ways to carry abrasives and polish using a flexible shaft
tool that you should experiment with. You can also apply various
grades of grit, tripoli, rouge and other polishes to any number of
things to include toothpicks, popsicle sticks, string and whatever
works. Before you do any of this on a finished piece, experiment
with scrap to see if you can achieve the finish that you want. Don’t
forget patination as it will help show off some areas that you might
want to high light. You can also look into tumbling or mass
finishing processes. You should get many replies to this question
and I am looking forward to hearing what others have to say. Rob

Rob Meixner