Alternatives to tumbling

by Riki

Dear Stacy,

I would like to make woven wire jewelry which incorporates Swarovski crystals, Freshwater pearls, gemstones (some softer than 5 on the Mohs scale and Sterling Silver/ Argentium Silver or Gold Filled wire. I understand that tumbling would not be the right cleaning solution for these pieces. Can you suggest a good polishing method?
Thank you,

Stacy's Answer:

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to polish intricate and delicate jewelry like you're describing. A polishing cloth such as the Sunshine cloth from Rio Grande or a silver polishing cloth with a polishing/tarnish resisting chemical works best when applied by hand. You are correct in that you cannot tumble pearls and you do not want to have to worry about picking any polishing medium from delicate wirework. If you use tarnish resistant silver wire like Argentium, then the need for polishing will be greatly reduced and make the care of such items easier for the wearer.

Many artists use fine silver wire which is also tarnish resistant. I've seen many who also give their silver creations a dark grey patina which would eliminate the need for any kind of polishing. Many gemstones are softer than 5 on the Mohs scale and they tumble just fine. Check my article on tumble polishing for a list of tumbling no-no's. Never tumble porous stones such as pearls, coral or turquoise. Also, Swarovski crystals tumble just fine and so do the metal wire you've mentioned. Plated items do fare well in the tumbler as sometimes the plating can come off.

If the design allows, you could always tumble the finished metal base of your jewelry to clean and polish it before weaving on the delicate stones. Just remember not to tumble heavy items with lighter more fragile ones. Hope these suggestions help!

Thanks for your question!

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