Here's another entry from Dick Johnson's Encyclopedia of Coin and Medal Terminology.
A surface on medallic items which has been finished by any of several methods commonly employed in the jewelry industry. A common description is "letter tops polished." They are not as satisfactory or as permanent as finishes applied by more standard "medallic" methods. Jewelry finishes usually contain several portions (as lettering, relief or edges) of highly polished areas or brightcut areas often contrasted with satin backgrounds. A typical item might be goldplated, lightly sandblasted to acquire the satin background, then chosen areas highly buffed with jeweler's rouge to obtain the polished surface (bright finish). The process then continues: wash, dry, bake and lacquer.
For large medals, jewelry manufacturers like to polish the edge and often the rims of a medal. This makes the edge smooth (and susceptible for dropping). It is against the rules of standard medal manufacturers who purposefully design the rims and edges for aiding the human fingers to grip the piece more so. The existence of jewelry finish on a medallic item would indicate it was manufactured by a jewelry maker rather than a typical medal manufacturer. See finishing and finishing, brightcut, polished edge.
Interesting tidbit about the edge! I never thought about the gripping issue, but it makes perfect sense.
To read the complete entry on the Newman Numismatic Portal, see:
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