Buffing & Polishing Terminology


This process removes surface material, improving the surface and preparing it for buffing. This is generally a coarse operation involving sandpaper and/or coarse polishing compounds.


This process makes the surface smooth producing a high luster and mirror finish if desired. This is done with the use of buffing wheels and buffing compounds. Buffing can be divided into two steps; cut buffing and color buffing.

Buffing & Polishing Compounds & Jewelers Rouge:

These compounds can be used to smooth and/or shine metals, plastic, wood, and other materials. The names buffing compound and polishing compound are used interchangeably and refer to fine abrasive fillers combined with greases which are formed into solid bars or liquid. Jewelers rouge polishing compound or red rouge is the finest compound originally developed by the jewelry trade for buffing precious metals. Jewelers rouge will bring out the maximum luster and a mirror like finish. To apply a polishing compound or jewelers rouge to a buffing wheel spin the buffing wheel on either a bench grinder or electric drill and lightly press the compound onto the wheel. For more about polishing compounds see our jewelers rouge and polishing compound information page.

Cut Buffing:

This is the preliminary step to “coloring” using a course buffing compound. This buffing operation removes scratches and makes the surface smoother. Black emery polishing compound with a spiral sewn buffing wheel is recommended for cutting down copper, brass, aluminum, steel, stainless steel, nickel, and iron. Brown tripoli buffing compound is not as course as black emery polishing compound but will cut and color copper, brass, and aluminum in one operation. Cutting down may produce a bright, satisfactory result and coloring may not be necessary.

Color Buffing:

This buffing operation brings out the maximum shine and produces a mirror like finish. Coloring can take place after “cutting down” or right-away if surface is smooth enough. Loose cotton buffing wheels are usually the best choice for coloring but spiral sewn buffing wheels can be used as well. Brown tripoli buffing compound is a double duty buffing compound and can be used for both coloring and cutting down. White rouge polishing compound can be used to color chromium, stainless steel, brass, and aluminum. The finest buffing compound is jewelers rouge a.k.a. rouge polishing compound and can be used to produce a mirror like finish on gold, silver, sterling, platinum, and brass.