Selenite is a very versatile stone, but can be challenging to care for.
In this article, we highlight the essential tips beginners need to know as they learn how to polish selenite.
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Things To Remember About Selenite Before Polishing
We say this a lot on this website, but you must, must, must know a bit about your materials before you handle them.
If you just start working on some mineral pieces before you do your research, you risk destroying the material or yourself.
Selenite is one of those materials.
Though it looks like a hard crystal, Selenite is very soft (only a 2 on the Mohs scale). You can scratch it with your fingernail. (This is a reason why you should be careful when sleeping with selenite).
Selenite is also water soluble, and dissolves more readily in cold water than in hot.
With this in mind, you need to be extra careful when you decide to clean up or polish selenite, as some of the more traditional methods (tumbling, chemicals) would likely cause more harm than good.
Luckily, selenite is fairly cheap to obtain (you can buy it easily bulk on Amazon) so you can try out various methods and learn as you go.
Basic Selenite Shapes Can Be Polished By Hand
Reading articles online may lead you to believe that selenite can only be polished by professionals.
This is not so.
Many people cause damage to the finish of their selenite and repair it on their own.
If you are starting with a piece of selenite that has long flat edges, polishing your crystal by hand may be the easiest option.
You can cut up the sandpaper into pieces to rub on the selenite, or tape the sandpaper to the table and rub the selenite on it.
Start with the coarse grits first.
Simply lightly wet the area that you want to sand and lightly rub the selenite against the coarse surface.
Watch how much effort you expend, as with a very coarse grit and a lot of elbow grease, you could create some deep grooves in the selenite.
Over time, you’ll move to finer grits until you have achieved the shape and level of smoothness you want to see.
Once you are done with using the sandpaper, you can buff the surface with a soft cloth and aluminum oxide paste, or a gem polishing compound like Zam (which is chrome oxide and aluminum in a hard wax).
Others like toothpaste, or headlight lens restorer.
Others like to rub on some oil to make the surface shinier.
If you are just looking to clean up the finish to make the smooth areas shiny, you could even use a nail buffer (like this pretty cheap four sided nail buffer) to repolish your selenite.
Note: When you are cleaning up, we recommend against washing the ground up selenite down your sink, toilet, or bathtub.
Flushing sediment of any kind down your pipes is asking to end up with a very concrete like plug for your plumber to charge you to remove.
Also, selenite is not the most toxic of minerals, but we still recommend against getting any selenite dust in your eyes, nose, or mouth for your health and safety.
Polishing More Complex Selenite Shapes Is Challenging But Possible
Polishing selenite by hand works best when all areas of the selenite can be reached.
When the selenite piece curves, has angles, or protrusions, it can be difficult to reach into the places where the crystals connect.
As an initial matter, the first thing to do would be to thoroughly clean the difficult to reach areas.
To get into those areas, because if its solubility, we don’t recommend soaking your selenite in water to loosen up the dirty areas.
Instead, we recommend that you use a narrow brush, canned air, or even a pick (like a dental pick) to gently scrape out any offending material.
If you are worried about scraping the selenite with a metal pick, try using a hardwood pick to see if you can achieve the desired results with less damage.
If the material stuck on or in the selenite is harder than the mineral itself, it shouldn’t be too hard to carefully dig it out by scraping.
If you are struggling to get the area clean and smooth once you have scraped out all the gross stuff, you can try wrapping your pointy tool with emery cloth to wedge it (or some polishing paste) into the hard to reach areas.
If that doesn’t work, you can try using a high pressure fabric cleaning sprayer tool.
The Amazon link you see here is to an example that we recommend, because it has an adjustable nozzle.
Many of the cheaper versions of this tool come without an adjustable nozzle.
What you are looking for is a version of this tool that can be adjusted down to a very, very narrow stream of water.
In this case, if the piece cannot be polished in any other way down into some cracks, you can put a limited amount of water at high pressure to loosen the crud or dissolve a small amount of the exterior of the selenite crystal to get the gunk out.
The reason we want the smallest nozzle is that we want to avoid spraying any part of the crystal that we don’t have to.
Tumbling Selenite: Not Recommended But It Can Be Done
Selenite can be polished with a pretty basic rock tumbler, though we would only tumble small pieces.
If you tumble large pieces, they can easily crack and break apart.
If you tumble selenite with harder minerals, the selenite will wear away, or come up of the tumbler chipped and dented, or even ground down significantly.
Here’s what we recommend if you want to try selenite in your rock tumbler:
- Only tumble selenite with selenite, or other minerals of similar hardness
- Don’t overfill your tumbler, max fill should be 75%
- Add cushioning to your mix, such corn cobs, small ceramic pellets, or plastic pellet tumbling media
- Start with the smaller tumbler grit, unless you have a lot of work to be done in the tumbler (like lots of jagged edges) so then you’ll want to just check the tumbler often
Rock tumbling is about gaining experience through doing.
We recommend trying out tumbling selenite with leftover or castoff pieces to learn which level of grit to start with, and how long it takes to get your pieces to the look and feel that you want.
When The Surface of The Selenite Seems Cloudy
Sometimes what people notice is that when they clean off the shiny polish (on purpose or accident), that the surface underneath is milky or cloudy.
To restore the shine can be challenging, especially if the piece of a unique shape.
The first thing we’d recommend is buffing the surface with a cloth, or even a little bit of polishing compound if the cloth along is not enough.
We’ve heard of some folks having success with purposefully dipping their selenite piece in water (knowing that the exterior would dissolve a bit) to give them another shot at cleaning up the exterior.
It’s not our favorite method, and generally don’t recommend it.
We have also heard of some folks polishing and polishing without achieving the result they are after.
Sometimes your selenite is actually a cloudy piece, and may never shine up to be completely clear/translucent.
You can also use more advanced tools to polish your selenite but for the average collector or crystal enthusiast, this is beyond the scope/price of what they are looking to invest in.
If you want to learn more about selenite, polishing rocks/minerals, or crystals, check out our blog for out latest articles.