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Beading Resources > Ask the Experts

Topics: Wire, Work-harden

Q.
We make silverware jewelry. We like to use gemstones in the center of our bracelets. After wearing for awhile, the wire breaks. I have tried different wire, etc. but have not solved the problem. We use the half hard 24 gauge sterling. Another jeweler suggested we try using virgin silver wire and then tumbling our pieces to work-harden. How do you tumble the finished product without damaging the stones? I cannot figure out a way to tumble the piece without the stone set. Is there a product to cover and protect the stones, etc while polishing?

Also, I have tried a few different methods trying to get a gloss on polished gemstones when they are not premium grade. Is there a product that we can use on a Ruby to add luster which will harden and not damage the stone? The last one I tried I thought was the answer, however, after a few weeks the surface seem to soften. Thanks,
- Mary
A.
Although tumbling is an excellent way to work-harden metal, it is not recommended to tumble jewelry or components with soft stones (like turquoise) as they can become scratched, dislodged or break. Also, the wire work you are doing is most likely work hardening the wire more than enough for durability. In fact, one thing to be careful of is not to overwork your wire. When over working the wire, you run the risk of causing it to break or setting it up to fail sooner than later. If needed, annealing the wire as you work, to keep it supple and prevent breaking is one option to help with the issue you are having. Note: The wire you are using is fine, so use care when annealing, as it will melt very quickly. Another option would be to work with a heavier gauge wire, like 22- or 20-gauge. It will not have the same delicate look but either of these will be more durable.

Applying a top-coat to gemstones to add luster is not recommended. Buffing your gemstones before incorporating them into a design, using the Jooltool™ Sharpening and Polishing System with polishing compound/rouge and buffer wheel will remove scratches from the surface of the stone and enhance the luster. Note: When using your Jooltool, remember to tie your hair back, use safety glasses and when you're not using the vacuum, use a respirator.

- Michelle Wood, Jewelry-Making Expert

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