by Nourhan Youssef
(Melb, victoria )
Hi there. I am wondering if it is okay to polish fine silver filigree in a tumbler? I have used a burnisher but i can't get through all the tight edges and be able to polish them. I've made a pair of earrings and the exterior is 2mm sterling silver wire and on the inside are many twisted fine silver wire soldered together. Will it be okay to polish in the tumbler or will it ruin it? or is there any other way to polish? Thanks heaps!
Thanks for your question Youssef!
I've successfully tumbled very fine wire and delicate/intricate items. As long as there is nothing for the wire to catch on or be damaged by - like a big bangle or something heavy, it should be fine tumbling by itself. 2mm wire is 12 gauge - very sturdy - which you have caging the filigree work. This provides some stability for the fine stuff. The fine wire will benefit from tumbling not only because it gets polished, but it will also slightly work-harden, making it stronger.
What you want to avoid is putting a rotary tool such as a buffing machine or flex-shaft fitted with a polishing wheel to wire. In order to work well, you have to apply some pressure to the metal with the tool which could distort or even break the wire. Wires also have a way of getting caught which as you can imagine, puts the piece and yourself at risk of damage. Fine filigree work will not hold up to scrubbing (necessary for removing buffing compound residue). I think tumbling with small stainless steel shot, water and dish soap is best for that type of work. Rotary tumbling as described above is pretty gentle.
I am certainly not an expert at filigree work. If someone reading this knows of a better way of polishing and finishing filigree, please share!
Whenever I am uncertain of something damaging a piece of jewelry I've spent hours to create, I do some testing. Perhaps you have a piece of ruined filigree that you can tumble? Secure it to some heavier wire and see what happens. If it survives, which I'm pretty sure it will, you are good to go!
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