Since we polish heavily and all day long, finger protection is imperative. We use variations, depending on jeweler polishing style and preference. The base for everyone is a pair of thin nitrile gloves. The components of the polishing compounds can cause dermatitis problems, especially if you polish all day. Most of us use combinations of alligator tape and cotton finger cots and a tough knit glove that is partially coated in rubber. The nitrile gloves and tough gloves are required PPE, the other is personal preference.
To hold most pieces, we use a long hook (3" total length) made from 12g copper wire. The hook end is deep (about an inch) so pieces don’t fall off while working. The remainder is bent into a sort of handle that fits well in the palm and fingers. Since we polish so hard, sturdy hooks are needed.
We polish very fast and only use one compound (Picasso Blue). It takes about 3-5 minutes for a ring (no stones), 45 seconds for a 1/2" charm and about 1.5 minutes for a 1" pendant. I had to “relearn” how to polish when I started even though I was teaching Jewelry and Metals at a College. It’s unconventional, but so much faster and easier. It’s changed how I polish whether it’s one or dozens of items.
As far as the cleaning issues go, the haze or cloudiness we see is not so much discoloration as the finish looks cloudy. I describe the pieces as having a mottled look. At an angle, the surface appears to be intact (naked eye). But if you look with a 10X loupe or better, the tiny pits are apparent. We have had milky discoloration on pieces. This is almost always when I piece is removed from the ultrasonic, but not rinsed and steamed immediately. Usually the basket holding pieces has been removed and the pieces are sitting in the open air. I know the issue isn’t from particulate in dirty solution hitting pieces because it can also happen with fresh solution. It happens at different concentrations also.
Since we only use one compound (most of the time), there are no coarser particles slamming around in the solution. If we changed solution when you can’t see through it, we would be dumping and remixing after about an hour or two. It’s just not feasible to do that in a production environment. We do change solution every day and clean the tanks.
We also do a quick hit on the front at the end of polishing to make sure there aren’t streaks of compound. Leathers are particularly problematic because the compound gets embedded in crevices and is really hard to remove. About the only time anyone wears leather is when polishing trays of display rings (12 per tray). If streaks of compound remain on the surface, the finish will be dull in those areas after cleaning. Since there is a significant build up of compound on the finger cots, alligator tape and gloves, we try to release pieces off the hook without touching the surface too much.
I am going to test Magic Green, which I am ordering. We also have some Rio Jewelry Cleaner Concentrate and some Rio Rapid Cleaner in the chemicals cabinet. I’ll try those as well. I’ll be testing time in the solutions, since that may be a factor. The other thing I have to test is whether any of these cleaners leave a residue that will complicate plating. I do believe some of the issues I am solving are due to the composition OR manufacturing of the metal sheet our supplier uses. Some of the problems don’t appear on other pieces, so that may also factor in. However, that would be a big fix and take months to resolve. If I can find the right cleaner, we can save that effort for later.
Metal- always mysteries to unravel. Always new things to learn.
R&D Bench Jeweler, Legacytouch Inc.