Beware of Cheap Polished Beach Pebbles

Lately, polished beach pebbles have become almost a standard item in many stone and landscape suppliers’ online stores. We advise our customers to be very careful when buying the so-called polished stone from unknown vendors, especially if the price seems readily affordable. Customers should exercise even more caution when purchasing polished black pebbles due to reasons explained below.

Most “Polished” Pebbles Are Not Truly Polished But Sealed Instead

The vast majority of online vendors do not sell truly polished pebbles, but instead offer pebbles sprayed with an undisclosed sealer. This is because truly polished (tumble-polished) beach pebbles are extremely expensive as the tumbling process takes several weeks for each batch of stones, requires highly specialized equipment and supplies, and deep knowledge of various stone types and their mineral properties.

Be particularly suspicious of any pebbles labeled as exotic (imported) polished pebbles. This euphemism typically means that these are cheaply sealed rocks imported from China. They lose their fake shine very quickly, especially if placed outdoors (within 1-2 weeks in the case of the so-called polished stones currently sold at the nation’s largest home and landscaping store). Even more troubling, the Chinese manufacturers do not disclose what type of chemical is applied to the stone. Whether it is toxic or otherwise harmful is anybody’s guess.

Picture: Sealer starting to come off the “polished” pebbles, resulting in patchy discoloration

The Problem with Polishing Black Beach Pebbles

Anyone who has ever tried amateur stone polishing with a tumbler knows that not all stones can be polished. This is because of the mineral composition of various types of rock. If the stone is too soft, it will turn to sand; if the stone is too hard or has a particular coloring, it might become dull instead of shiny.

The black Mexican beach pebbles are notoriously difficult to polish because of their specific mineral composition. While they look spectacular when wet and show off all of the unique color specks, bluish tones, and deep black shades, they just do not perform well in a rock tumbler. As a result, even tumble-polished black beach pebbles are usually finished with a sealer to enhance the shine. The problem is that no sealer lasts forever, resulting in inevitable fading and flaking.

How Can I Tell If My Beach Pebbles Are Truly Polished?

There are two tell-tale signs that you are about to purchase truly polished beach pebbles. First, they will be very, very expensive. Without discussing exact pricing, suffice it to say that 99.99% of customers cannot afford this type of stone for outdoor projects and ground covering.

Second, it will take time. Truly tumble-polished Mexican beach pebbles usually are a special-order item (unless you are buying a very small quantity). The vendor will likely explain to you the unique process, the time it takes, and other special considerations. An honest vendor will also disclose whether or not any finishing sealer has been applied to the stone, and how long the polished beach pebbles will last (approximately).

Do I Need Polished Mexican Beach Pebbles?

Dry Mexican beach pebblesWet Mexican beach pebbles

In many cases, the answer is no. If your pebbles will be used in a water feature, you don’t need polished pebbles because regular stones will look shiny when wet. In addition, they will show off all of the individual color variations within each pebble (this is not the case with polished pebbles, which tend to look “static”). If you will use your stones as ground covering for large areas, the non-polished smooth pebbles will be perfect. If you want to create a pebble mosaic, regular stones typically work better. If you are placing pebbles around or nearby plants, non-polished beach pebbles are always a good idea. If in doubt, you can always ask us for ideas and to hear about our customers’ experience. To contact us, please click here.

*Picture on the left shows dry beach pebbles; the picture on the right shows the same beach pebbles when wet

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