Let’s talk about Mirror Finishing Silver Clay

I get asked this a lot from my students and subscribers about how to get a mirror finish on Silver Clay.  There seems to be a lot of talk (and competition!) between makers about it and a lot of importance placed on it too.

And I get it, you want your pieces to be well finished and shiny for your customers and so you should! Customers pay good money for your Jewellery and you want to show they are buying quality. There could also be some – maybe unconscious – awareness of the comparison between Silver Clay and silversmithing – or maybe that’s just me and my inferiority complex?! Because it’s made from Silver Clay it’s somehow substandard or not up to the same level as a piece made from sheet silver and that, of course is NOT true.

Silver Clay and sheet silver are different mediums and there require a different set of skills, but one is not inferior to the other.

So, how do you get a mirror finish on Silver Clay? With a whole lot of elbow grease, that’s how! Especially if you are doing the job by hand. And it is possible to get a mirror finish when polishing by hand – please watch the video posted below and I will show you the process I go through.

Mirror finish on Silver ClayHints when setting out for a mirror finish

  • You need to start polishing when your piece is dried. And you’ll need to work through your grits and polishing papers and agate burnisher at this stage. There’s no bypassing it!
  • After firing you can polish by hand or you can get some help by using a power tool like a dremel. The principle is the same as handfinishing though – go through the different grits of polishing pads to get to the finish you want.
  • You can use a tumbler after firing, but that will not give you the mirror finish, you will still need to finish polishing with polishing papers / pads.

A lot of effort – is it worth it?

However, as you sit and polish to that very shiny surface you may wonder if it is worth it. It really depends on the type of piece you’ve made and how it is going to be worn. This is because if your piece is made from FINE silver (i.e. PMC+, PMC3, PMC Flex or ACS) then it’s a very soft metal and will show wear and tear very quickly. So charms, rings, clasps and so on which are going to have a lot of wear will get scratched and ‘dinked’ and so will pendants and earrings although to a lesser extent.

It’s the nature of fine silver because it’s purer and has no copper content.  It would happen with fine silver made from sheet too! It’s also your job to ensure that your customers’ expectations are set and that they know that the beautiful mirror finish you have achieved is temporary.

Ultimately, you are the person to determine whether the amount of time you take to polish your pieces is financially recoverable and therefore viable to you. I would suggest that there is a fine balance between the time you take and the price you charge. If you are insistent on a mirror finish as opposed to a shiny finish, then maybe an investment in a power tool might be in order!

I really hope you’ve found this blog helpful! If you have, please feel free to sign up to my newsletter – you will never miss another blog post and you’ll get a free project too

Til next time!

Love Emma

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