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Would you like to know how to polish stones by hand? Are tools for cutting and polishing gemstones worth the investment? In this article, we’ve put together several methods and tools for cutting and polishing gemstones without a machine. We’ve got some suggestions for how to polish gemstones by hand, regardless of whether you’re brand new to lapidary, you’re looking to introduce it to your business, or you work with gemstones every day.



Gemstone Polishing – What is it?

It is a term used in the gemstone sector to describe several techniques that are used to finish gemstones so that they are smooth and shiny. It is critical for the enduring beauty of your rings or other fine jewelry to maintain their sparkle, as gemstones are likely to be the most eye-catching element in the piece.

The gemstone is usually polished to a mirror-like finish once it is sawed and ground into its desired shape, sanded to remove the rough mark left by coarser grits, and then shaped into the desired shape (or refracted through a transparent gemstone, if the stone is transparent). It is possible to polish a wide range of materials with diamonds (50,000 to 100,000 mesh), but many other polishing agents also work well. Metal oxides are commonly used as polishing agents, such as aluminum oxide (alumina), ferric oxide (jeweler’s rouge), cerium oxide, tin oxide, chromium oxide, or silicon dioxide (tripoli).

Gem cutters tend to be very inventive in trying new combinations of polishing agents and polishing surfaces, particularly for faceted stones, the latter of which are often tin, tin-lead, lead, leather, felt, Pellon, wood, or lucite laps. A cabochon’s round edges are often polished on felt, leather, cork, cloth, and wood. This technique, especially when faceting smaller stones, can be used to shape the stone ultrafine by removing small amounts of stone.

If a precious stone’s surface is polished well, the shine created by polishing makes it more valuable. There are special tools and polishing bits available for polishing gemstones. However, if the piece of artwork is too big to use a machine or if you don’t want to use chemicals found in cleaning solutions, how do you do it? Hand polishing can help in such a situation.



Exactly why polish stone?

People choose polished stone finishes because they like the look of polished surface. A shiny appearance conveys an impression of cleanliness and newness, which has a calming effect. The appearance and feel of polished stone surfaces are just a reason to choose this finish.

Polishing also makes the stone more durable, which is another common reason to select it. Polishing a stone’s surface makes it more durable in what way? One of the main ways polished stones are protected is by being less porous than other finishes.

When a stone is polished, it loses its ability to absorb liquids in some way. There are several methods for polishing stone surfaces. However, each of them achieves the same goal: they reduce stone absorption. This can make a huge difference in stain prevention, depending on the type of stone and the liquid. As stone surfaces can be polished in many ways, let’s examine some of the ways we can do so.

Is it possible to polish a raw stone by yourself?

The answer is yes.

Even the roughest stone can be polished if you have patience and time. There’s only one thing it takes – time… as well as a little elbow grease. For those of you who want to try this out, here are a few guidelines to follow so your finished product looks great! A cloth, water, and fine-grit paper are all you need. The process works just as well without oil or polish if you choose to use them.

Grab yourself some fine or medium-grit sandpaper (120 grit should do the trick). Water should be applied at just the right pressure to keep the cloth wet, but not flowing freely. Using small circles, polish the rock until a smooth surface appears across all sides. It might take some time, but patience is key here. You’ll see results in the end.

Using sandpaper and water to polish your stone, you remove all its bumps and imperfections. You can gradually achieve smooth surfaces where once there were ridges or cracks in uneven lines by applying some pressure as you go (but not too much). Occasionally, there are even natural glints where nature itself made the original stone shine!

If any abrasive materials remain on the polished surface, rinse them again under cool running water to remove them. Finally, let the polished raw stone dry completely before enjoying it!


What stones can be polished by yourself?

Several stones can be polished by you. However, some stones cannot be polished by yourself. Here are a few examples:

●     Citrine and rose quartz, etc. All quartz roughs

Quartz is the second hardest mineral used in gemstones. It has a hardness 7 on the Mohs scale so you can polish it with diamond powder or tin oxide with water as the lubricant to avoid scratching the stone. The surface of these stones will have a glassy luster when polished.


●     Heated topaz

Topaz is the hardest mineral used in gemstones, so you can polish it with any abrasive without worrying about scratching the stone. The only problem here is some people might do some additional work on heated stones since they are very hard and some of them use waxes or oil as lubricants to avoid scratching.

Topaz has hardness 8, so use anything abrasive without worrying about scratching. But this type of abrasive might leave stains during polishing due to its high concentration on the surface.

●     Obsidian


Obsidian is the second densest material next to naturally occurring diamond, so using tin oxide or cerium oxide with water as a lubricant will produce a fine polish. Some people also consider obsidian as super abrasive but some experts disagree since only diamond and cubic boron nitride (CBN) is considered to be true super abrasives. Obsidian has a hardness of 5.5, so use tin oxide or cerium oxide with water to finish.


These stones can’t be polished by yourself: Opal, emerald, tourmaline, ruby/sapphire of any type, diamond.


Hand-polishing a stone: how to do it?

Depending on how hard the rock is, this may take some time, but it will allow you greater control over the final result. Observe the changes as they occur right before your very eyes. Anyone interested in seeing how stones are transformed through the steady application of sandpaper will find this project interesting.

Step 1 – Patience is the key. You should not take up this hobby as a weekend hobby since it is very slow! Additionally, wet and dry sandpaper in two different grades is required. The rock should be wet before being shaped and rounded with 80-grit sandpaper.


Step 2 – Smooth out any scratches on your rock with 180-grit sandpaper. Be sure to keep it wet during this step. You should keep a bucket of water nearby so you can keep moisturizing the rock as needed. Repeat this process until you are satisfied with the shape of the rock.


Step 3 –If there are any lighter scratches on the rock’s surface, wipe them off with the 600-grit sandpaper while the rock is still wet. Adding small stones to the water will aid in polishing when the stone has been shaped.


Step 4 – Wet a denim cloth and put some powdered polish on it. Using the cloth, polish the rock until it shimmers. The damp cloth may need to be added to the polish periodically depending on the rock. After putting on a coat of lacquer or clear coat, you can then apply polish either immediately after the lacquer has dried, or after it has dried and then applied.

Final Conclusion

If you want an amazing look for your gemstone, then polishing will do the trick. However, you have to take some precautions when hand-polishing stones. You should use warm water instead of very hot water to immerse precious stones. Fine grains of sandpaper should not be used to polish precious stones. Avoid using harsh chemicals since they can damage them over time. If you follow these tips, you will be able to polish stones easily and carefully.


More articles about gemstones you may like:

All About Gemstone Treatment or Enhancement

Synthetic vs. Real Gemstone: What’s the Difference?

How To Store Crystals?