Polishing Jewelry or Small Parts with Jewelry Mix
Abbott Ball Company
January 19th, 2018
Want to know how to get scratches and burrs out of used, worn, and new jewelry? Try using stainless steel jewelry mix. Stainless steel jewelry mix is, in short, a burnishing media, but its primary purpose is to polish and work harden jewelry. Manufactured in the USA, this jewelry mix is widely used throughout the jewelry and silverware polishing markets. Additionally, this media works exceptionally well with small stamped pieces, and screw machine parts.
What is Jewelry Mix?
Stainless steel jewelry mix is a burnishing media that is a combination of several different stainless steel shapes that offer high corrosion resistance, fast action, and durability. This jewelry mix is a standard tool used by many jewelers to eradicate scuffs, scratches, burrs, and plier marks out of most soft metal jewelry (i.e., gold, copper, and silver, etc.). Most importantly, jewelry mix works perfectly when it is employed in a tumbling barrel or vibe machine. (See Fig 1.)
Fig 1. The composition of jewelry mix is a combination of 40% 5/32 Eclipse, 40% 1/8” Diagonal, and 20% 1/16” x ½” Steel Pin. When used in conjunction with each other these shapes are designed to accommodate to any jewelry part.
To understand how the jewelry polishing process works it is essential to understand the different media shapes involved in the process. Each media shape for the stainless steel jewelry mix is specifically designed to complement any part of a piece of jewelry product. By performing a separate yet essential task in the polishing process. With each piece combined in a rotary or vibratory machine, the act of polishing a product becomes an utterly effortless process. (See fig. 2.)
Fig Fig. 2. Pictured above from left to right, Eclipse, Diagonal and Pin Shaped stainless steel jewelry media. Each shape is specifically designed to complement a separate piece of jewelry, and when used together in a tumbler, the result is a complete polish of a jewelry product.
Eclipse. The 5/32” Eclipse shape, is a ball with two flat ends on either side of its poles. The round form of the eclipse assists in creating a smooth polish and is widely used amongst most burnishing applications. Despite its irregular shape, this burnishing tool works equally as well as a round sphere shape yet, the costs to produce the item is significantly reduced. The price reduction is due to the decrease in required processes necessary for the media’s production. These flat ends are safe for any product.
Diagonal. The diagonal shape is an ideal shape for reaching the corners of objects, while its cylindrical form is designed to span a wide area.
Pins. Due to its tapered ends and elongated body shape. Pin-shaped media is ideal for reaching into hard to reach grooves, holes, and recesses. As a result, pins are suitable for intricate pieces of jewelry.
How it Works
When used in conjunction with small rotary and vibratory tumblers, stainless steel jewelry mix works by repeatedly contacting the jewelry to give it a shiny and polished look while smoothing out any annoying burrs in the metal. The unique mixture of shapes allows for complex designs and even chains to be cleaned and polished. This effect is called burnishing.
Fig 3. Here is an example of a delicate piece of jewelry run through a burnishing cycle of mixed media.
Benefits of Stainless Steel Jewelry Mix
Polishing. There are several benefits of using jewelry mix. Most importantly jewelry mix is a safe and effective burnishing media for jewelry. To understand how jewelry mix polishes jewelry, it is essential to understand the process of burnishing. Burnishing is the action of rubbing or sliding two objects against one another to cause a deformation in the material which transforms a rough exterior surface into a shiny one. (*Note: This process does not remove material from the object). As a result, the mix works efficiently at polishing jewelry. (Engineers Handbook, 2006; Hodgepodgerie, 2015).
Fig 4. Pictured above is an example of the before and after results of running a ring through a jewelry mix tumbler. As you can see, there is no deformation of the object and there is no material loss in the rings.
Work hardening. As an added benefit to the effect of burnishing, jewelry mix can also harden soft metals making the material more durable. This effect is described as work hardening. As stated by Hodgepodgerie, work hardening, also known as strain hardening, occurs when there are “dislocation movements and generation within the crystal structure of the material” (para 3). Therefore, when the material is work hardened, it becomes saturated with increased dislocations which prevent nucleation or resistance to further dislocation and plastic deformation. As a result, there is an increased and observable strengthening of the material. Thus the content is more durable and better able to retain its shape. As a result, jewelry products processed with steel media will have a sustained cycle life and higher immunity to wear as a consequence of this compressive stress effect. (Abbott Ball Company, 2017; Bell, 2014; Hodgepodgerie, 2015, para 3). (See fig. 5).
Long lasting. Stainless steel (300 series) is an extremely durable and long-lasting material that has a high amount of corrosion and wear resistance. As a result, the product can be used multiple times without fear of corrosion or need for replacement. Another benefit to this type of material is that storage and maintenance is effortless because the materials are naturally resistant to corrosion. As a result of its high corrosion resistance, stainless steel jewelry mix can be useful and efficient for a long time. (Free, M. L., & Scientific American, 2001). Lastly, As an added benefit to the products expanded lifetime, the product can be estimated as a capital depreciation expense. Therefore the cost of the product can be dispersed across several periods.
Home use. What you will need for polishing jewelry from home is a clean tumbler, stainless steel jewelry mix, and some mild soap. (See fig. 6). When attempting to polish jewelry with stainless steel media, it is vital to include mild dish soap and clean water. Dish soap is necessary because it will collect any of the grime removed from the object during the tumbling process. The amount of solvent to use for this application is dependent on how large the tumbler is. Only about half a teaspoon of soap will be necessary for a small tumbler (3lb.) and a full teaspoon is required for larger tumblers. Depending on the size of the tumbler the tumbling time should be about 2 hours or longer. (Hodgepodgerie, 2015).
Fig 6. Pictured above is a standard tumbler used in home applications along with mild soap, and stainless steel media.
Industrial use. For industrial use, the process is mostly the same. There is a wide array of different polishing compounds that can be used for this process, so it is up to the user to determine which one will work best. When used in conjunction with a tumbler the desired results can be achieved. Industrial applications of steel media generally involve large quantities and larger machines than the at home usage. As a result, customers may feel uncomfortable with dropping money on a product that they haven't yet tested. Because of this, the Abbott Ball Company offers free testing to help its customers find the right mix for any product.
Let us test your part
“Send us your unfinished parts with a sample part having the desired finish. We'll evaluate your parts in our laboratory and recommend the appropriate mix of media shapes, density, compounds, type of machinery and process for optimal results with Abbott steel media.”
Offer only valid for large volumes and industrial applications.
Abbott Ball Company. (2017). Why Steel Media? - Finishing Media - Steel Burnishing Media - Tumbling Media - Abbott Ball Company. Retrieved from http://www.abbottball.com/steel-finishing-media/why-steel-media.html
Bell, T. (2014, September 30). How Does Cold Working Strengthen Steel? Retrieved from https://www.thebalance.com/what-is-cold-working-2340011
Engineers Handbook. (2006). Burnishing Finish Machining Processes - Engineer's Handbook. Retrieved from http://engineershandbook.com/MfgMethods/burnishing.htm
Free, M. L., & Scientific American. (2001, March 12). Why doesn't stainless steel rust? Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-doesnt-stainless-stee/
Hodgepodgerie. (2015). Tumble Polishing. Retrieved from http://www.hodgepodgerie.com/tumble-polishing.html