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Polishing flat silver surfaces

Sure am glad I have you guys to ask stuff. I’m having an annoying
problem with polishing flat silver surfaces (back of pendants). I’m
using Zam and a soft buff. I get these little bumps of polish build
up then they streak and cleaning in ammonia doesn’t get it
completely off for some reason. It leaves gray streaks in the silver.
Doesn’t make any difference if the buff is new or one thats got alot
of polish on it. Would one of the rouges work better than this stuff.
I have white rouge and red rouge and never have tried either one.
Also have some Fabulustre but think its for gold. Also when doing the
final polish how much compound do you use on the buff, a tiny amount
or alot? Dave

I find that if there are little bumps of polish collecting, I will
wipe the surface with a soft cloth to remove the build up. The
polishing compound will not polish if there are the bumps. It is best
to wipe clean often when polishing… you don’t want those gray
streaks. I try not to overload the polishing pads, however.

Just my thought.
Rose Marie Christison

I use bobbing compound on one wheel and pumpkin platinum polish on
another. I use this for white gold (followed with green rouge),
platinum, yellow gold (followed with red rouge), and silver.


For flat silver surfaces I prefer to use sandpaper on sanding
sticks, 320 --> 400 --> 600 --> 800 --> 1000 and then red rouge only.
This gives a crisp flat finish and you only have to throw the piece
in the ultrasonic once.



The reason for the spots of polish left on the piece is because you
are using too much compound. It will happen with all compounds if
you use too much. Get a buffing rake or dressing stone to clean off
the buff then just recharge it with a little compound. I would also
use a stitched buff for polishing and an unstitched buff for final.
Try the red rouge.

The Jewelry CAD

Dave- I like to use grey star or tripoli then Zam, then Blue rouge.
Yup Blue Rouge. Like for platinum. It really puts a lovely lustre on
silver. When I have drag out problems I use an oil based fluid like
lighter fluid or kerosene or a soap based like cream silver polish.
It’s messy, but works.

As for the amounts it depends on what you are using for a buff.
Bristle brush/ muslin/ cotton. etc. You’ll have to experiment to find
what works best for you.

Also always use the largest buff you have. Larger polishes more

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer

Try your different compounds first, and see if they all produce the
same result. Try varying the direction of the piece as you are
polishing it - are you getting “comet-tails” on the surface of the
silver? Make sure that you have got the piece as well polished as
possible before using the polishing wheel - you should only be on
there for a minute tops, all the hard work should be done before you
ever reach the polishing wheel. The other possibility is firestain,
from oxidising the silver - this is hard to pickle out, and can
sometimes be left behind unless you polish the piece really

A master polisher once told me that the top London silversmiths avoid
truly flat surfaces whenever possible, as you get a much better
polishing result on convex or concave surfaces.

Jamie Hall -

Firstly the flatter the surface the more difficult it is to polish.
As the surface presented to the mop is large as opposed to, say, a
3mm round wire ring shank.

Secondly you are using far too soft polishes and mops. Try buying
some bristle mops for the first polish with a tripoli polish followed
by a hard yellow mop with tripoli then an inter- mediate cotton mop
to remove any polish before using soft mops and rouge etc. At all of
polishing stages attack the surface from different angles and press
fairly hard.

The grey is firestain, copper oxide, prevention can be aided using
fluxes and longer immersion in the acid.

Polishing is the worst part of jewellery making but very important
from the customers point of view.

Happy polishing.
David. Australia

Dave, I can’t address your specific issue with Zam, since I don’t
use it, and it never occurred to me to clean a piece with ammonia
either. But I’ll bet you’ll get as many responses as there are Orchid
members. Seems everyone has her own way of polishing. I do. We were
taught at the GIA to first use Tripoli, then Red Rouge, carefully
cleaning the piece in between. Would be happy to go through that with
you off-post. EM me at [garynstrickland at yahoo dot com]

Gary Strickland, GJG

Hi Dave, I’d suggest adding in a split lap polishing machine to your
polishing process. I think it’s one of the most important tools in
the shop. It’s a little tricky to use at first. You use it as the
first step to make any flat surface perfectly flat and ready to high
polish. After you become accustomed to using it you can also use it
on curved surfaces, it’s ideal for achieving crisp high polished
bevels on shanks for example. In anycase, typically you want to
polish flat surfaces with a hard flat wheel.


A number of years ago I was given a recipe for some home brew that
really does the job in cleaning the residue left from polishing
compounds. It works for me. I part ammonia, 1 part simple green, 1
part liquid dish washing detergent, 1 part water. Scrub item with a
soft toothbrush.


Hello Dave. We used Zam in our lapidary class to polish some of our
cabachons.We used Fabulustre to polish our Sterling Silver.

Joanne Zabik

I only use two buffing compounds - Graystar for prepolishing and
Fabuluster for final polishing. Fabuluster can polish most metals,
plastics and soft stones. The trick is to rake your buffing wheel
till no more lint come out and pretty much all old compound removed.
Only add a little compound when you are charging the wheel. I’m a
hard buffer - I push my metals hard against the wheel but then I’m
being efficient. Get a good pre-polish, clean off old compound with
Simple Green cleaner or a degreaser, and then final polish with
Fabuluster or Zam or rouge. I’ve banned red rouge from my studio -
not worth it as a final polish. Too greasy, and gets everythere.
Buffs should not feel gritty to touch, if so, too much compound so
you gotta rake wheel. My Fabuluster buff wheel is soft to touch
since it was raked thoroughly.


Hope I am not being very dense but Alma Rands posted:

a recipe for some home brew that really does the job in cleaning
the residue left from polishing compounds. It works for me. I part
ammonia, 1 part simple green, 1 part liquid dish washing detergent,
1 part water. 

What is simple green? I have had great trouble removing polish
residue and this is of great interest to me. Thanks very much!

Fergus Grant - Stevenson


Colleagues have told me how to get the best polish on flat surfaces
of silver and yellow gold. Use a soft white bristle brush on the
polishing machine with whatever polishing compound you prefer. Use
considerable pressure. I thought that the bristle brush was for hard
to reach places. Wrong. This will actually give a flat, shiny


“Simple Green” is the product name of a household degreaser. It is
found in the cleaning sections of most grocery stores. It is similar
to “409,” and I use them interchangeably. Both work well in the
mixture I recommended When I am out of “Simple Green,” I just
substitute the “409.”


What is simple green? 

It’s a cleaning product sold at Whole Foods (I think), that kind of
store. It’s actually green.



and then final polish with Fabuluster or Zam or rouge. I've banned
red rouge from my studio - not worth it as a final polish. Too
greasy, and gets everythere. 

Sorry to hear about your rouge problem. My rouge only gets on my
fingers and the piece I’m polishing. As for Zam and Fabulustre, I
can spot anything that has them as a final polish when compared to
rouge any day of the week, and after a night of drinking too.

Ray Brown