A tumbled-polished gemstone is one that has been smoothed and “shined” to a high gloss by slowly tumbling, bumping and grinding the stones against each other in a barrel-like tumbler. Depending on the stone type, and the skill of the person managing the process, it may take anything from a few days to several weeks to achieve the desired result.
A brief history of gemstone tumbling …
Gemstone tumbling was started commercially in the United States in 1953. At that time, the tumblers used were literally no more than household paint cans, but as demand for the fabulous gemstone-products increased, the tumbler sizes increased until they reached the “6000-pound” tumblers which proved to be an ideal mix of size and efficacy. This size of commercial tumbler is still used today. The vibrating tumbler then entered the market as it speeded up the process of tumbling certain gemstone types and sizes.
Although the tumbling process remains a fairly “mechanical” process, there is a great deal of skill involved in obtaining the desired “polish” to any stone type – and a variety of materials (other stones, gravels, sand, sawdust, iron-filings, etc) might be added to the tumbler at various times to buff the stone.
Topstones is the largest tumble-polishing factory in the world and processes some 150 varieties of stone from all around the world. Prime sources of gemstone-material include Southern Africa, Brazil, Madagascar, Mozambique, Siberia and Alaska.