Jewelry By Sue

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Tumbling Information

Tumbling Questions

Whenever Sue teaches a class, we bring a tumbler along to clean and polish the completed class project. We are constantly asked why we do this and how can someone else acquire the equipment and the "know-how" to do this also. Below I have put together a brief tutorial that explains what equipment one needs and how to use it.

Tumble Polishing Finished Jewelry

Tumbling Equipment

First, I use vibratory tumblers when I make my jump rings. I utilize the tumbler to harden and polish the rings in the finishing process. Therefore I always bring a vibratory tumbler to class. They are the most expensive of the two types of tumbers. Let me make this perfectly clear - to clean your own chainmaille jewelry or even to make small quantities of jump rings, a low cost barrel or rotary tunbler will do just fine. Understand that a vibratory tumbler shakes the jewelry in the bowl while the rotary tumbler rotates the jewelry inside the barrel. Either method works well.

Rotary tumblers can be purchased at hobby stores, lapidary stores and some hardware stores. Online jewelry sites may offer them as well. More important than the brand or type of tumbler is the polishing media utilized in the tumbling process. I have found that a 2 pound jeweler's mix of stainless steel shot works well. Be sure that the shot is stainless steel. Steel shot alone will rust and ruin your jewelry. (Sue and I learned this the hard way). Other types of media are not as effective as the stainless steel.

Tumbling Process

Place 2 pounds of shot in the tumbler barrel or bowl. Add water to approximately 1/2 to 3/4 inches above the shot line. Then add 2-3 drops of a citrus based dishwashing detergent. Place the jewelry pieces to be cleaned into the tumbler and run for approximately 5 minutes. Then check the jewelry and if not shiny enough, tumble for an additional 5 minutes or so. Once the jewelry is cleaned, rinse well with clear water and dry. Beware not to overuse the amount of detergent. One can end up with a sudsy mess.


One can tumble almost any piece of metal jewelry even those with crystals, laser cut balls etc. The only problem is occurs when there are porous or soft components in the jewelry such as pearls, reconstituted turquoise etc. Again, it is okay to tumble crystals, even crystals with an AB finish. Also if you have added some patina to a piece, the shot will polish the outer surfaces bright and leave the inner areas with the darkened patina. For some this is desired, but be sure to know how you are wanting the piece to finally appear.

Good luck with your tumbling. Send me an email if you have any other questions.


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