How to Polish Rocks & Gems Without a Rock Tumbler

By Stephi Peppers; Updated June 02, 2017
Polishing stones by hand can be a rewarding hobby.

The excitement of turning a jagged piece of stone into a gleaming gem or rock motivates rock hounds to polish stone after stone. Polishing rocks is a satisfying hobby, but the use of a rock tumbler to achieve the polished result is surprisingly unnecessary. With a few simple materials and some elbow grease, even the most novice rock hound can create beautiful polished stones and gems from a jagged collection.

Cleaning the Stones

Fill a bucket with hot, soapy water and clean away all the dirt and residue from the rocks. Use an old toothbrush to get into any crevices and to remove stubborn bits of dirt or grime.

Grinding the Stones

Use a handheld rotary tool, often called a dremel tool, to begin grinding the stones and gems into shape. Make sure you are wearing protective eye wear and gloves for this. Grind down sharp edges and crevices to help make sanding the stones and gems a little easier.

Sanding the Stones

Sand the stones and gems for shaping. Begin with a coarse grain of sandpaper, and moisten the paper with water. Begin sanding until most of the rough edges begin to become smooth and rounded or until you see the desired shape of the rock. Be discriminating with your grain of sandpaper, as some stones and gems are softer than others. You may find that softer gems or stones do not require the coarsest grain of sandpaper.

Sand the stones and gems again to prepare them for polishing. Begin with a medium grain sandpaper, and sand the rock down to both its desired shape and smoothness. As you see your desired results, use lighter grain sandpaper, finishing with ultra-fine grain.

Polishing the Stones

Apply the finishing polish to the stones and gems. Using a heavy fabric such as denim, polish the rocks until they begin to shine or show luster. At this point, you may choose to either continue polishing with the cloth, or you may coat the stones and gems with mineral oil or commercial rock polish. Allow them to dry.

Warning

Use protective eye wear and gloves when working with the rocks.