Jewelry Polishing: the Mass Finishing in Jewelry production

1.   Introduction of Jewelry Polishing with Mass Finishing

Mass finishing technology has been in use in various industries for a long time. Primarily, finishing equipment is used for carrying out several finishing operations including smoothing edges, deburring, descaling, grinding, as well as polishing of work-pieces using surface abrasive media or polishing agent.

In the market today where design dictates buyer’s choices, jewelry must be prepared with the finest finish and glitter to attract the attention of shoppers regardless of price.

This article recommends various ways manufacturers can attain that glitter and ensure that the sparkle of the surface finish of their products catches the buying public’s eye as well as the wallet.

jewelry parts polishing info-graphics
jewelry parts polishing info-graphics

We will be focusing on Mass Finishing, what it can do for you including various methods and equipment that are available to save you time and money.

2.   The advantage of Jewelry Polishing with Mass Finishing

Before now, these machines have been generally found in metalworking industries and had found application only to a limited extent in the jewelry industry. However, a search for a more efficient means of surface treatment using machines has led jewelry manufactories all over the world to turn to this very efficient method.

Jewellery parts polishing before and after
Jewellery parts polishing before and after

Mass Finishing has become one of the most useful tools in jewelry manufacturing. While this is true, it may also double as the least understood. In many cases, mass finishing appears to be covered by a shroud of mystery. Jewelry manufacturers, who have taken the time to learn the fundamentals of Mass Finishing and put it to work in their daily operations, have achieved the following results:

  • Significant reduction in labor costs
  • Reduced precious alloy loss of fine gold
  • Increased productivity with the existing workforce
  • Dramatically increase in the consistent quality

Compare jewelry finishing by hand

  • Labor intensive and
  • Time-consuming
  • Too expensive to use in a mass production

The many advantages accruing to this method of jewelry mass finishing and polishing as opposed to manual processes have birthed a new era of revitalization in the jewelry industry.

As precision is often an integral requirement in the jewelry industry, machine polishing is increasingly taking the place of manual polishing processes. The increased competitive pressure and market globalization demand in the business call for modern finishing technology. One that can reduce operation time, increase value, increase waste reduction, leading to the achievement of high quality and well-finished surfaces.

3. The 3 most important elements that contribute to a successful mass finishing process

Surface finishing in jewelry manufactory undoubtedly contributes to one of the biggest and rather uncalculated costs. As the demand for jewelry increases, jewelry manufacturing companies tend to look for means of reducing the cost of production in order to balance demand with supply as well as stay competitive.

Various requirement and materials are needed to set up a mass jewelry finishing system.

Generally, three 3 items are required in setting up a mass jewelry finishing system:

  • Barrel Tumbler, Vibratory Tumbling Machine, Centrifugal disk finishing machine and drag finishing machine
  • Media
  • Polishing Compound

3.1  Equipment Needed for Jewelry Mass Finishing Polishing

Equipment that has traditionally been used for these processes include single barrel tumblers, hexagonal drums, vibrators, and disk-finishing machines. As a result of the abrasive friction between the work-pieces and the media, the surfaces and edges of the work-pieces become processed.

3.1.1 Comparing different mass finishing machines for jewelry parts

The most common types of machines capable of handling a variety of jewelry finishing needs are the barrel tumbling systems, vibratory barrel systems, and centrifugal disk finishing machines.

  • Barrel Tumbling System:

In a Barrel Tumbling System, the jewelry pieces and media are rotated inside a hexagonal barrel, causing the items to tumble over and over again. Combined with the proper media, this tumbling action will polish jewelry pieces into a striking, sparkly and burnished piece of beauty.

  • Vibratory Tumbling Equipment:

The Vibratory Tumbling equipment is widely used because it is very effective and cost-efficient.

In this machine, the work-pieces and tools to be finished are generally placed in the tub and rather than spin much like the barrel tumbler, the tub vibrates rapidly. A vibration which causes the media to come in contact with the surface to be finished, affecting the necessary action.

These systems can produce high-quality finishes, polishing virtually any item and are suitable for mass finishing. In Jewelry process, usually, people use small size tumbler.

  • Centrifugal Disc Finishing Machines

Centrifugal disc finishing process proves to be more efficient when compared with vibratory finishing and barrel tumbling process. They allow jewelry parts to achieve a brilliant finish in a short period of time. Typically, this process is for Jewelry size bellow 30mm length.

  • Drag Finishing Machines

Drag Finishing machines are designed for bigger size parts that cannot hit and scratches. Each part is held separately during the process. This equipment is used for high value-added parts.

3.1.2 Variety of Jewelry parts and their finishing technique

Jewelry Type Mass Finishing Method
Bracelets and watches case Drag finishing machine
Items of jewelry, less than 10g (Hollow chains, earrings, and pendants) Barrel Tumbling Machine
Disc furnishing machine
Vibratory finishing machine
Working parts of mechanical watches Disc furnishing machine
Gemstones Barrel Tumbling Machine
Vibratory Finishing Machine
Amber Disc finishing machine
Vibratory Finishing Machine
Clasps Disc finishing machine
Vibratory Finishing Machine

3.2 Media for Jewelry surface finishing

The word media in finishing systems refer to materials that do the actual work on the surface of the workpiece being finished. Media compounds used during finishing operations may be wet or dry depending on the desired result. Their function varies from rough cutting which entails removal of surface imperfections to polishing, deburring and cleaning.

Types of Media:

A variety of media exist for different applications, and here is a list of a few of them.

  • Cutting media

This consists of abrasive grains and its bonding agents or carrier. Examples include Silicone carbide, Aluminum oxide, and Silica. The first being most aggressive and the others decreasing in that order.

Its bonding materials include ceramic, plastic and natural compounds. Ceramic is hard, plastic is soft while natural ranges from soft to hard.

  • Polishing Media

This is much like the cutting media. The only difference is the size of grain which is bound in the media. This media is also used to perform cutting operations, however with a much gentler touch.

  • Burnishing media

This media does not have any abrasive feature. It is simply intended to add shine to the finished materials.

  • Nature Polishing media

Made mostly out of natural base materials such as wood, shell or corn cob, polishing media works much like hand used polishing bars.

4. Conclusion:

There are so many different options to choose from when deciding on what Mass Finishing process to use. Manufacturers must understand what they expect from each equipment and process. They must also consider cost and decide which suppliers have the technology and equipment to meet their needs. Part of the selection equation must include supplier expertise, backup service and proven methods developed by knowledgeable people well versed in Mass Finishing.

Properly applying Mass Finishing processes to jewelry would not only save manufacturers great amounts of time and money. It will also provide a consistently high-quality surface finish for that will appeal to the eyes of buyers the world over.