Daily Wire Tip: Adding Shine to Stones

By on December 8, 2010
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip

Question:

I bought some rough cut slabs to wire at a bead show and now I don’t know how to make them shine. The colors and shapes are made for wiring, but how do I make them smooth and shiny?

-Marcy in Bonners Ferry, Idaho

Answer:

Marcy, as I see it you have two different options. The easy way would be to use an acrylic spray to make your slabs shiny. You will need to be careful when wrapping them, because the coating will scratch easily.

Your second option would be to either get a lapidary from a local rock club to tumble polish them for you, or to get into tumble polishing yourself! We had a discussion a while back with the same challenges, so you can read how to tumble the slabs yourself here: Rock Tumbling 101.

Maybe some of our readers have other suggestions?

Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong

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38 Comments

  1. avatar

    Helen

    December 9, 2010 at 8:07 am

    tumbling rough stones can be very rewarding. it is not a quick process as it can take up to 4 weeks, if you are not in a hurry and want the best possible results, try it.
    an acrylic spray won’t give nearly the same results.

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      December 9, 2010 at 10:37 am

      Very true Helen, but using a spray for some folks is instant gratification. Also, a lot of people use acrylic spray to ‘finish’ hand-painted designs on rocks too.

    • avatar

      t'Kish Kape

      April 16, 2015 at 1:29 pm

      I’ll do one better for you. I have tumbled stones… over 50 pounds right now. They are mostly agate and jaspers, some blocky, some longer than wide and others nearly square or spherical. I’ll trade with you, pound for pound. What do you think? Are you game?

  2. avatar

    Joni Stinson

    December 9, 2010 at 9:20 am

    I had no idea that one could use an acrylic spray on stones! Are there any specific brands or formulation characteristics that are best to use for this purpose?

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      December 9, 2010 at 10:36 am

      Joni, about any acrylic spray will work. Check the variety available at your local hardware, hobby or mega mart store. (Also see what Harry has to share, below.)

  3. avatar

    Harry W Wood

    December 9, 2010 at 9:22 am

    I use Judikins Diamond Glaze for this. It makes a hard glossy surface after drying and can be applied in different thicknesses for a three dimensional effect.

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      December 9, 2010 at 10:33 am

      Sounds like a product I need to try – thanks for commenting Harry.

  4. avatar

    Nina Christen

    December 9, 2010 at 10:04 am

    I purchased a quantity of fluorite random size pieces. The finish is frosty looking. My sister and I experimented and came up with using mineral oil as a rubbing medium. Rub with mineral oil until there is non left to touch. The result for our experiment was just what we were looking for, nice color. The pieces were wire wrapped and worn and the color stays permanently, no reverting to the frosty look.

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      December 9, 2010 at 10:32 am

      Thanks for sharing Nina!

    • avatar

      Andrea

      August 7, 2016 at 8:45 pm

      MINERAL OIL with some 3000 grit sandpaper(foam back type) worked really well. Kept it oiled and after about 5-10 minutes of circular rubbing,… My cab Labradorite ring is restored and shiny again.
      Thanks for the tip.

  5. avatar

    Marsha

    December 9, 2010 at 11:04 am

    I have used acrylic spray on other items, its the smell I cannot stand. I like the oil rub idea! Thanks

  6. avatar

    Emma Guy

    December 9, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    Flat lapping and polishing will also work. I had great success with this….flat lapped and polished two slabs and they turned out so optically flat that when put together they had to be slid apart….they would not lift off of each other!

  7. avatar

    Julie

    December 9, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    My brother-in-law actually polishes his stones by hand, using varying sandpaper grits and his blue jeans, of all things, for the final polishing shine. It is time consuming, but he just hasn’t been able to find a tumbler under $300 that will last more than a few weeks for him. Does anyone have suggestions for a brand of rotary tumbler that won’t give out so soon? Is there a certain price we need to expect to pay to get something that doesn’t break after a few uses?

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      December 9, 2010 at 6:19 pm

      Julie, although folks will tell you to get a tumbler at a discount store, they usually do not last long (replace belts, etc). We have always had good luck with Lortone. You can see photos of a Single Barrel and a Double Barrel on this site, but due to the Thanksgiving sale they are out-of-stock. Do an Internet search for ‘Lortone Tumbler’ for the company site where you will find out all types of information with regards to tumbling rocks. (The benefit to having a double barrel when tumbling rocks is to be able to keep one barrel ‘just for polish’!)

      • avatar

        nan ziegler

        March 15, 2012 at 7:53 am

        I’ve had a Lortone 33B (2-3lb barrels) for over 4 years. In that time, I’ve gone thru 2 motors (replaced for free by Lortone), and replaced the band every 6 months. I think this is excellent, considering since I got this machine it’s been off a total of 34 days, minus it’s days at Lortone. It can take anywhere from 25 days to 10 weeks depending on the kind of stones.

      • avatar

        Neil

        June 13, 2013 at 7:03 pm

        Try Bob,s Rock Shop on the web as he has a diagram on how to build your own Rock Tumbler. This tumbler will last you for years, and only cost you about $50.00 plus the cost of the number of barrels you want to use.

    • avatar

      Linda Rawlins Jones

      January 24, 2017 at 9:02 am

      We have used a heavy duty grinder from HARBOUR FREIGHT and have used it for weeks at a time and it works really good.

  8. avatar

    mickey mattson

    December 9, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    I purchased an unpolished malachite stone and used wire to form netting around it as a support system. I didn’t polish it first and it came out very well. I guess this choice (to leave it in its natural finish) would depend on the stone in question, but in this case, it turned out to be an asset.

  9. avatar

    Christen Jo Stone

    December 9, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    If you are really patient you could polish the surface with increasingly fine sandpaper down to 1200- 2000 grit or more but that’s a lot of work! Better to drop in to a lapidary club and learn how to do it on their machinery…it’s good fun and does not take long to learn…and they are usually looking for new memebers!

  10. avatar

    Patricia Wilcox

    December 9, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    Harry: Where do you get Judikins diamond Glaze?.

  11. avatar

    Leonard Peddy

    December 9, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    1. Acrylic is fine, but not a spray! Use the acrylic floor polish available in your supermarket.
    2. After wheel-grinding a cabochon with up to a 600 grit, (more than that is rarely necessary),wire-wrap the stone.
    3. Polish the wrapped piece with red rouge, using a Dremel and a 3/4″ cotton buff.
    4. Use soap on an old soft toothbrush, and warm water to get rid of the rouge.
    5.Whe it dries, dip the tip of your finger into the acrylic, and apply it to the top, and bottom of the piece, and let it dry overnight.
    6.Finally, use any hard wax to the top, and bottom, and buff with a soft cloth. The end result will please you very much.

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      December 10, 2010 at 12:31 am

      Wow Leonard – thanks so very much for your detailed suggestion! (Using an acrylic spray is more for instant gratification for those who do not wish to get into procedures that would require lapidary equipment.)

  12. avatar

    Drifter74

    December 10, 2010 at 3:03 am

    I use “polyurathane spray varnish”, available at walmart.
    Also, Water based poly at Lowes, drie in two hours.

  13. avatar

    Mildred S.Schiff

    December 11, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    Just a word to the wise-NEVER POLISH STONES DRY!!!! Many stones are very toxic as powders- only a little bit inhaled can kill you. This is especially true of Malachite and any other stone with copper in it.If you can not polish wet-don’t.
    If you do glass work and have a wet polisher, it can be used, very carefully on some stones. The different diamond discs, are fairly expensive, though and you need several different grits.

  14. avatar

    Carol Smith

    March 15, 2012 at 5:59 am

    Thanks to Dale for starting this post, and many thanks to all who commented. This is all great information, and all news to me. I learned a lot! Is there any way I can print this thread?

    • avatar

      Rose

      March 15, 2012 at 3:13 pm

      Hi Carol, the best way to print it would be to select the comments you wish to print by clicking and dragging the mouse, then copying and pasting it into a program such as Microsoft Word, Openoffice Writer, or the Mac’s Pages. Then you can continue copying and pasting more tips if you like, change the formatting such as font and text size, save it, and print it. Then you’ll have it forever :)

    • avatar

      Cheryl Me

      October 25, 2012 at 8:11 am

      I can’t tell you how to find and load the programs, as my husband is my IT guy, BUT I use a bookmarks tool and a cute printer. The bookmarks tool allows you to save the website address so you can go back to it later. It even allows you to create folders to keep it all organized aqnd help find it later. The cute printer makes a pdf out of the screen your’re on, then instead of printing it out, it allows you to save it wherever you want. Again, you can make folders for making it easy to find later. There is a third option I use when I want to be sure I can access a photo for detail later. It is called Gadwin Printscreen. It allows you to box the area of the screen you want and save it to Word. There you can make it larger if you want. I also use it to copy small areas of specific information from a screen if I don’t want the entire screen’s worth of info.

    • avatar

      Betty Jean

      January 24, 2013 at 4:52 pm

      Hi Carol, All I do is highlight what I want to print, go to print and click on selection, then print. I just have a HP Notebook with Vista and a HP Photosmart printer. To highight what you want use the righ side of your mouse held down until all you want is highlited. Aloha

  15. avatar

    Sandy

    March 15, 2012 at 7:27 am

    Hello out there! I use any brand of cyanoacrylate (super glue) before I wrap the stones. You can even get it in a bottle with a brush like nail polish. It’s hard and dries quickly, just don’t touch it while tacky or you will have fingerprints to “erase” with another coat. I only get prints when I get impatient or drop the piece (again impatience). It makes my Lake Superior stones look wet. Be careful with the tips of tools on the surface, but I rarely have scratches.

  16. avatar

    Mildred S.Schiff

    March 15, 2012 at 11:06 am

    Lortone is a good tumbler.Harbor Freight carries a rotary tumbler, both single and double that takes Lortone parts. If you get a cheaper tumbler from Harbor Freight or someone like them be sure to get at least 12 extra belts for the motor. Parts are available from Therockshed.com I have been using these for years to polish my jewelry and metal and have used one of them once for lapidary.

  17. avatar

    Rhea

    March 15, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    I pour or brush resin over the rocks.

  18. avatar

    Roger

    March 15, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    A two part epoxy, available in virtually any good art or craft shop, such as Aristocrat high gloss coating clear liquid glass. I have used that with success on Andamooka matrix opal (looks like concrete otherwise).
    For any non porous stones there are small diamond in rubber resin wheels for use in a Dremel. Grits vary from very coarse to very fine and are regularly used on split boulder opal where the opal layer is thin but needs to be trimed into a shape and polished.
    Quite apart from the wet and dry papers (always use wet) my final suggestion is leather on range of paddle pop sticks. The range should include using tin oxide, cerium oxide and diamond dust. NEVER mix any of the various powders and always use with very little water, barely damp is best. If it appears to drag then that is good, its cutting. For silver use tripoli or rouge.

  19. avatar

    Iris

    March 15, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    Hi Rose, unfortunately it doesn’t work this way here. I tried it many times. Why it doesn’t ?

    • avatar

      Rose

      March 15, 2012 at 4:50 pm

      Hi Iris, could you tell me what browser and system you’re using? (IE, Firefox, or Safari; and Mac or Windows?) All of the computers I’ve tried it on have worked. What doesn’t seem to work?

  20. avatar

    kathy

    March 16, 2012 at 5:10 am

    Thanks for all the great info! I do have a question or concern. When using chemicals on stones how do we know the saftey of thier contact against our skin. I have used clear nail polish before with the thought that if it is safe enough to use on our nails it should be safe enough to be in contact with our skin. Any and all feedback welcome :)

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      March 16, 2012 at 6:11 am

      Thanks to the Internet, Kathy, you can research about any chemical manufacturer. Usually the information you are looking for with regard to skin reactions is on their website, or you can contact them directly.

  21. avatar

    Website

    December 31, 2013 at 1:29 am

    I think everything published was actually very logical.
    However, what about this? suppose you added a little information?
    I ain’t saying your information is not good., but suppose you added a post title that makes
    people desire more? I mean Adding Shine to Stones | Jewelry Making Blog
    | Information | Education | Videos is a little boring.
    You might glance at Yahoo’s home page and see how they write article
    titles to grab viewers to click. You might add a video or a related picture or two to grab people interested
    about everything’ve written. In my opinion, it might make
    your blog a little bit more interesting.

  22. avatar

    Korrie

    April 23, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    Hi Dale, I have one more lapidary option for your readers. You can hand polish stones using a Dremel and a polishing rouge. Dremel has many different polishing attachments that are perfect and you can find the polishing rouge at many different types of stores, I go to my local rock shop. The first time I tried it I used the stage 4 polish that came with my tumbling set, the results were awesome, it’s perfect for slabs or stones with only a single side cut and gives the one side the same luster as running it through the tumbler. I use this method now for stones that I do not want to risk cracking or breaking in the tumbling process.

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