If you have worked with, or own, metal jewelry for any length of time, you will eventually need to restore the shine it had when it was new. I will be providing just a few methods for helping to restore that wonderful shine.
3M (tm) Polishing Paper – Polishing Paper comes in various grits and is designed to polish metal including silver, bronze, copper, and gold. The polishing paper comes in grit sizes ranging from 400 grit to 8000 grit. The lower the number the more coarse the grit. To polish your item, you start with the coarsest grit and proceed through each progressively finer grit size (without skipping a size) until your piece reaches the shine you desire. It is best to use a circular or figure-eight motion to help get an even polish and to avoid making scratches.
Tumbler – Tumbling not only polishes your jewelry, but it will also harden the metal surface helping to reduce damage to your item over the years. Burnishing is the term used for the polishing effect when you tumble your jewelry item. According to Wikipedia, “Burnishing is the plastic deformation of a surface due to sliding contact with another object. Visually, burnishing smears the texture of a rough surface and makes it shinier.” Or as the Merriam-Webster dictionary puts it, “to make shiny or lustrous especially by rubbing.“ This method is not abrasive, and even the most delicate items with come out highly polished and un-mangled, unless it becomes tangled with another item.
Baking soda and water – Items can be cleaned and polished by using a mixture of baking soda and water with an old toothbrush. If an item is severely tarnished, it can be soaked in this mixture overnight. It is best not to use this method with soft gems and they can become damaged.
Polishing compound – Different types of polishing compound can be purchased, such as silver polish or brass polish. These items usually contain a mild acid to help breakdown the tarnish, and abrasives to help shine the surface as you rub.
Rotary Tool Polishing – Rotary tool polishing requires a polishing pad spinning from 5000 to 30000 rpm with a polishing compound. This method of polishing is best for larger pieces as it is more difficult to get into the smaller crevices with the polishing pads. It is also more suited to silver or a base metal, as some softer metals, such as gold filled wire, can be burned if polished too hard or for too long.
Polishing Cloth or Jewelers cloth – Polishing cloths work by having one side infused with a polishing compound, typically jewelers rouge, with the other side of the cloth being used for buffing. This method can require a lot of manual effort as you must first rub your entire piece with the polishing compound, and then rub the entire piece again with the buffing side.
I hope this post has helped to provide you with some ways to polish your metal jewelry. If you have any doubts or concerns that any of these methods will damage your item, please consult a professional jeweler before proceeding.