Using a Tumbler for Polishing Jewelry with Beads
I would like to ask you about using a tumbler for polishing jewelry with beads as ceramic, lampwork, pearls, gems, corals. What kind of beads are safe using this process?
Thank you very much for this topic. Marina
Never tumble porous materials such as pearls, turquoise, coral or soft/brittle gemstones like fluorite or those that have been dyed. The tumbling will usually leach the dye right out of them and, believe me, you won’t recognize them when you remove them from the tumbler! Coated items should also not be tumbled with stainless steel shot. This would be such things as AB coated Swarovski crystals, glass ‘pearls’ and coated ceramic beads. I’ve never personally had the Swarovski beads or pearls damaged, but I’ve heard the horror stories of others that have. I have had some fired ceramic beads enter the tumbler one color and come out a completely different color, ruining the bracelet that I had used them on. Another thing to be careful with is satin finished glass lampwork beads as the stainless steel shot will transfer itself to the bead’s slightly rough surface, giving them a silvery sheen.
When tumbling your jewelry, tumble like items together such as three or four bangle bracelets or a handful of earrings. Do not tumble heavy items with lightweight items as the lighter items could be damaged.
And this is really really important!!!
When tumbling loose beads such as hollow Bali silver beads, etc., be aware that whatever sized tumbling shot can fit inside the hole opening of your bead, WILL!!! I can’t tell you how many of those little nails in the shot will enter into a bead and cram themselves in the hollow space inside the bead. It’s like a contest to see how many can fit themselves in there. And let me tell you....you cannot get them out again. Your 6 gram bead now weighs 20 grams and fine beading wire cannot be forced through the bead. Your bead is ruined! So, to avoid learning this expensive lesson yourself, do what I now do and that is thread your beads using inexpensive copper wire or fat butcher string so no unwanted shot pieces can bully their way inside.