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Tumbler for polishing jade beads

What type/kind tumbler do I use to polish up some dull, dull, dull jade beads.
Rotation or vibration,please. Thank you!

I have only ever polished jade (nephrite) on a wheel. It can be tricky, even from one piece to another. Jade varies in hardness over the surface of a piece and undercuts forming orange peel as you polish. I have found a well worn 600 grit belt run dry works sometimes for final polish. As for tumbling, I don’t know as the method matters as much as the media that you use and how you use it. There are lots of online sites dedicated to Jade and Nephrite. You might also look for a local rock and gem club to see if you can find someone who specializes in jade or nephrite. They will likely be about 80 years old and really interesting to talk to. Good luck…Rob


Thank you!

Hi Rob,
If I’m remembering right, one fix for orange peel is using a sharp belt…either silicon carbide (I am Old School) or diamond with little pressure at the 600 grit stage. We used to go to polish directly from 600 SC, but these days, you could insert an intermediate step of light pressure (again) with 3000 grit before polish. The issue, I think, is using pressure will pull particles out of the fibrous structure of jade. Usually the polish was AlOx on leather, but you could also use diamond, prolly 14K, altho’ you could try going higher in a second step to see if the polish was enhanced.
You are certainly correct that the old timers would have lots of info on polishing jade…also some of those anthologies of articles from the old Lapidary Journal or old pamphlets on cab cutting. I don’t have time to see if any of that info has made it onto the internet. I have found some good info on some of the lapidary forums, but it sometimes takes some searching and reading thru stuff…HTH somebody, royjohn

Royjohn…I use a well worn dry 600 grit SC belt and then polish with Linde A. I am by no means an expert in polishing Jade or Nephrite. I inherited a lot of it from our Dad and use it enough to have developed a way to cut and polish what I have. There are a lot of different Jades and Nephrites, so you need to explore what works for what you have…Rob

In our local club years ago, the jade cutters would polish on a series of turned hardwood cylinders with progressively finer diamond grit impregnated into the cylinders. I have a set, but can’t imagine using them. You can buy these now from various suppliers, but the cylinders are made from a synthetic material. Lapidaries are special people many of whom had to make do with what they had. Think cutting a large bolder with a saw comprised of a wire running through a puddle of cutting slurry driven by a lawn mower engine. They diserve a lot of respect. Old Lapidary Journals are a lot of fun to read. My two cents…Rob

Hi Rob,
You and I have read a lot of the same stuff! Yes, I remember reading about the big piano wire saws with cobbled together wooden cams and slurry fed by drip and confined by clay dams! I have a set of those wooden wheels, too. I have used them, but they do require you to keep twisting and turning your cab like you used to twist the lolly pop in your mouth when you were a kid…twist, twist, twist. It’s easier to use an expanding rubber drum where all you have to do is press in a little and move it around a little.

The standard remedy for undercutting is using a sharp cutting belt and not much pressure, but the jade orange peel effect may be somewhat different and it seems I do remember some things going best with a dry belt, altho’ I can’t imagine why. I trust you when you say it works. The funny thing is that the old lapidaries often had two or three different methods worked out by different people and who knows which ones really worked and which ones were superstitions…-royjohn

While I don’t cut a lot, I have some nice jade that often needs to be a different shape. I’ve learned from Michael Boyd and Ryan Gardener that the easiest way to get a great polish on jade with no orange peel is to shape the jade as desired using traditional lapidary technique. Then to get the high polish, use a series of 14,000, 25000, then 50,000 diamond suspended in bag balm or vaseline on a wooden spool turning on a tabletop lathe at a medium speed. I use the lathe to turn various chunks of wood to the general profile I need. You do have to keep the wood shapes separate by grit used on them.
Judy H

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Mayci…We really haven’t answered your original question and I can’t. I had hoped that another ganoksin person might be able to. I guess that you will have to do the research yourself. There is a lot on the internet. You might also look at lapidary specific product dealers. Kingsley North is a start. Follow their offerings to the people who manufacture their products and look at thier sites too for information. Below is a directory of Rock and Mineral Clubs in the US. Good luck…Rob

More information about tumbling than you probably need. There are several jade specific references…Rob

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Specifically - to polish loose jade beads - I’d use Diamond pacific’s Vibra-dry 50,000 in a dry vibratory tumbler. Jade polishes best with pressure, but you can also just run them for several days. Or the medium vibrasonic tumbler from Diamond pacific would require much less media. Both are safe.
Judy H

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