Surface Finishes on Metal - Will that be polished or satin?
A finish is a treatment on the exterior of jewelry which gives the piece a subtle flavor. It's the icing on the cake, that final detail that enhances the design. It is usually one of the final steps in completing a piece and has no bearing on the overall construction of the piece.
There are different types of finishes such as brushed, patination, etching, enamel, electroplating and hammering. The two most common finishes in fine jewelry are polished (shiny) and satin (matte). These mechanical finishes are applied by physical abrasion of the metal surface using a secondary media. The media may be cloth, stone, metal or plastics used with a waxy finishing compound and is washed off after each step. Methods of application include wheel, hand abrasion, blasting, tumbling barrels and vibratory finishers.
Twig rings pictured in satin finish on left and polished finish on right
The majority of jewelry sold today has a shiny mirror like polished surface. The overall look is hard and tight which highlights the reflective high points. Small design details may carry less visual weight than the overall appearance of the piece because of the way light plays off the higher surfaces. Imagine seeing a sleek Ferrari from a distance and the beautiful smooth form your eye registers. Like the Ferrari, certain jewelry designs are exceptionally well suited for a polished finish.
A satin finish offers the same smoothness as a polished finish but the shine is dulled to achieve a soft, sensuous and natural feel. Because the shine has been diminished, surface details like engraving or textures appear more pronounced and we can see the subtle shadows created from natural high and low points.
So, which finish should you choose? Most of the time there isn't a right or wrong answer. Like picking a shade of white paint, it's a personal preference that many don't have a very strong feeling about or even realize they are looking at on its own. Finish is a supporting design detail. Nature inspired jewelry happens to look good either way and most jewelry works with either of these two common finishes. In our experience, unless someone has a strong preference for a stain finish, they usually opt for a polished finish.
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