I recently found a bunch of old, black glass beads of my
grandmother’s that she had stored loose in a plastic box. They are
now all scratched up and dirty and I wondered if they could be
polished back to their original luster. I don’t think they are actual
jet because of the weight, and chips reveal a glass-like surface. I’m
guessing them to be about 40-50 years old.
Any suggestions? I have two rotary tumblers and use plastic media
and stainless steel shot for my metal polishing so I wondered if they
could be used for glass. I didn’t want to attempt putting them in the
kiln because of possible explosion or melting. Seemed a bit risky
since I’m not 100% sure of the material.
Red Bee Designs
I do polish contemporary jewellery I have made using my own
lampworked glass beads using a vibratory shot polisher and stainless
steel shot with no ill effects. I’m not sure that this will
necessarily remove the scratches but in my experience it doesn’t
damage the glass at all either.
Just before reading your post, I put down a book entitled “How To
Tumble Polish Rocks into Gems” the Author is Edward Smith. He is
listed as the inventor of Vibra-Dry Compounds, as well as viking
Vibra Sonic and Mini-Sonic tumblers.
I met this gent several year ago demonstrating at Diamond Pacific’s
Tent in Tucson or Quartzsite. I recently saw Bill Depue of Diamond
Pacific with a Vibratory Tumbler going with the Vibra-Dry as the
medium polishing up copper pennys.
That reminded me I had bought some when I met Ed Smith.
I have just tumbled some slabs and stones with silicon grit and am
preparing to pre polish and polish them. Decided to read this book
and found that the Vibra-Dry is just what i will do. I will also
tumble in this manner finished and dulled pieces of personal
Makes me think this would be perfect for your grandmother’s beads. I
may even try with my mother’s cherry Amber facet beads. Just bring a
bit of life into them.
Diamond Pacific carries the book and the Vibra-Dry. They have an 800
phone number, unfortunately I do not have it right on hand.
I don’t believe tumbling will polish those beads. Yes indeed they
can be polished. A good method is by using a basic lapidary machine
with a leather pad and optical grade cerium oxide. Optical grade
cerium oxide is intended for glass however regular cerium oxide will
do the job too, just not as high luster. Wouldn’t recommend fire
polishing (kiln) unless you know the exact COE’s of the material, you
could little glass explosions in you kiln…
Makes me think this would be perfect for your grandmother's
beads. I may even try with my mother's cherry Amber facet beads.
Just bring a bit of life into them.
Please post to Orchid when you try the Vibra-Dry with the Cherry
Amber beads. I have some Cherry Amber beads that need cleaning, but
I’ve been hesitant to do anything for fear of harming the amber…
Weller’s Jewelry and Beads
Hi, Terrie and Tammy,
Maybe you folks know what you’re doing, putting beads in a tunbler,
but let me sound a note of caution as I wish someone had done for me!
Put one or two beads in a trial run, before you commit a batch to the
tumbler. A few years ago, I bought a strand of Chinese turquoise that
just needed a little better finish. In my optimistic enthusiasm, I
put them all in the tumbler with polishing medium (I thought)-- and
they came out with no shine at all. I’ve been re-polishing them by
hand with zam, a few at a time, as I want to use them.
Better safe than sorry.
–sadder but wiser Noel
If you wish to polish the glass beads the hand polishing with cerium
oxide is the way to do it - very time consuming and may not be worth
the effort. Whilst tumbling with steel shot will not damage ordinary
glass beads (many lampworkers do it) it will not polish the glass.
It’s possible the addition of various media might work but you would
also loose any definition if the beads were at all faceted (and
though I read your original post a day or so ago I can’t remember if
they were or not).