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I've always used dry rice to polish chain maille jewelry or jump rings. It's easily available and relatively inexpensive. But lately I have switched to ground or crushed walnut shells. It's available from pet stores for reptile and bird cages.

The main reason is the sieving step. Most chain maille artisans would just tumble completed jewelry but I have to pre-tumble rings for workshops as students do not have tumblers at home. Besides who wants to work with dirty rings? I have not found a good sieve I was happy with for rice. It's hard to find a sieve which works for the long shape of the rice. Perhaps a reader could suggest one?

However with the smaller ground walnut shapes, I've been able to find improvised sieves. If you look at the picture below, the frozen microwave meal section of my local supermarket from one brand yielded a pair of plastic bowls, one of which was holed.

I just pour the contents of the tumbler barrel - rings and walnut shells bits into the makeshift sieve. The small walnut pieces goes through the holes with some side to side shakes. The walnut bits collect in the lower plastic bowl and are returned to the tumbler barrel.

The nice thing about the plastic bowls is their flexibility which makes pouring easier. Just squeeze!

If you have ever wet tumbled bright aluminum rings incorrectly (who, me?) and gotten a horrible grey matte finish, CherryFire's restoring over-tumbled bright aluminum tutorial is worth a look. Walnut shells are used as well.

Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
Jewelry Making Tips - Jewelry Business Tips 


  1. What type of tumbler do you recommend? I am wondering if it has to be an expensive one or can you use the type that local crafts stores sell for children. Does this work on copper? Even when I store my copper jewelry in plastic bags, they tarnish a lot.

  2. There are 2 types of tumblers - rotary and vibrational, each with their pros and cons. I would recommend the rotary ones because they are less expensive and need less supervision. Vibrational tumblers tend to "walk".

    Yes, I do recommend the inexpensive children's craft tumbler. See this post :

    It's fine for the occasional chain maille work and for dry tumbling. Yes, it does work on copper and that's how I shine them up again.

    I also use a proper rotary tumbler with stainless steel shot for wet tumbling and hardening sterling silver jewelry etc.

  3. Great article. I enjoy reading your blog very much

    Check out this beading Ebook I bought. It has amazing beading patterns and ideas for any bead lover.

  4. Great post Pearl...I've never used rice or walnut shell to tumble anything!

    Do you use this in place of stainless shot, or is there a specific reason? Is it because you use this as a dry tumble?


  5. No, it's not to replace steel shot. Using steel shot will also harden the wire. Dry tumbling material like rice or walnut shells do a great job of polishing up rings without the hassle of dealing with water and having to dry the rings after.

  6. This is great info Pearl! I like the idea of a dry mix for polishing and the walnut shells sound perfect. Thanks for the sifting tip too. That will save the hassle of picking though the shells!

  7. Although I don't work in chainmaille or have a need to polish rings, it's clear through your descriptive explanation that this is a very easy-peasy way to do it!

  8. Wow Pearl a present for me? It is my lucky day to read about this! I never thought about hardenening this way and the polishing is a bonus. I have 2 100' walnut trees and surely would send you some shells (in the fall) in return (if you want them). Still haven't made anymore renaissance hair jewellery to show off, but it is the first thing I get to make when the farming is under control and I'll send you pics. Thanks, peace

  9. Well, Ruralrose, your walnut shells will be free! Yeah, do send some my way if you are inundated with them. Please note the shells do not harden but just polish.

  10. Hey Pearl - my walnuts rotted in the constant rain and cold - so sorry not this year - thanks for setting me straight on the hardening thing, I am just learning to work the wire - peace

  11. That's too bad, Ruralrose. Better luck next year. Have fun working with wire. Pearl

  12. We thread our rings on copper wire right off the mandrel. This keeps them together while they're in the tumbler.
    I use rice on finished Jewellery with soft stones or anything that could be damaged by steel shot. I'll have to get some walnut shells to try.

  13. I highly recommend walnut shells because they are gentle. The South Sea pearl industry uses walnut shells to polish the pearls.


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