Archived seashell-specific information.
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I bet it would, but I wouldn't use regular polishing grits as I am afraid they would get packed down into the shells. For polymer clay polishing in a tumbler, they use strips of denim cloth (white- no dyes) or even micro polishing papers cut into strips instead of grit. That would work, I bet, but might take a long time....the polishing papers aren't cheap either. Regular sandpaper might work for the first pass-but again, I would try it with an old shell you don't care about, and after polishing I would rinse thoroughly to remove grit, and then I would break that shell open to determine if it was really coming clean afterwards... Other options might be a dremel polisher or a buffing wheel if you have access to either of those.... Let us know if you try it!
I knew someone who tried this and the tumbler was not discerning (meaning it smoothed down high parts -like the tip of the shell- too much and left low lying parts unpolished). That may have been a result of using grit, though. You might have different results with one of the other polishing materials that Lynn mentioned. As far as I know, Homer&Dude tried using a dremel on one of his shells. I don't know how that went, but I recall that it was taking a long time. I had a magpie that was thick with calcium deposits, and I soaked it in a vinegar and water solution and scrubbed it with a toothbrush. It didn't "polish" the shell, but it did get all the crud off.I always oil my shells with a soft cloth (I use DH's old undershirts - they are soooo soft). If they are going into the tank I use olive oil. This imparts a beautiful shine and brings out the natural colors of the shell. If you aren't trying to do something more dramatic, you could try oiling your shells.