Sterling silver, also called fine silver, is a beautifully lustrous cool-toned precious metal favored in fine jewelry among other products. The most reflective of all metals (excluding mercury), sterling silver looks stunning by itself and brings out the best hues in an array of colorful gemstones.
Sterling silver can be polished to a higher sheen than platinum. In fact, Ag, the chemical symbol for silver, comes from a word that means “white and shining.” The surface of silver can boast that shiny, polished appearance, or can be brushed, satin, matte, sandblasted, antiqued or oxidized (chemically blackened).
In order to be called sterling silver, a metal must be made up of a minimum of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% alloy (meaning other metals), including but not limited to copper and nickel. The alloy is added to pure silver to make the metal more durable, tougher and harder. Sterling silver is designated a fineness of “925.” Pieces with sterling silver may be marked “sterling.”
Finishes on Sterling Silver
Rhodium Plating: Rhodium plating is a complex and laborious process that enhances the luster and beauty and extends the life of silver. A member of the platinum metal group, rhodium is often used as a finishing touch on silver jewelry. It's a shiny silvery metal with a very white and reflective appearance, much like mercury. It's also very hard, so it withstands much wear and tear, resists natural tarnishing and wonderfully mimics the brilliant finish of freshly polished silver.
Finishing, or plating, is a common treatment with sterling silver. Popular types of plating are rhodium plating, gold plating and anti-tarnish plating. Plating is used to extend the life and sheen of the jewelry. After sizing or buffing a piece of jewelry with a machine, it must be re-plated to restore the finish.
Caring for Sterling Silver
Avoid exposing sterling silver to direct sunlight and harsh chemicals, including chlorine, ammonia, hair products, perfumes, cosmetics, perspiration and strong jewelry cleaning solutions.
Periodically wash sterling silver with mild dish soap and warm water. Rinse well and dry completely with a soft cloth before storing because moisture can cause tarnish.
Lightly polish sterling silver frequently with a soft silver-polishing cloth, avoiding abrasive cloths completely.
Tarnish is easy to remove when it first forms as a yellowish tint, but becomes more difficult to remove when it becomes brown and black. Remove tarnish with a silver polish cream, avoiding immersing pieces with gemstones in tarnish-removal solutions.
Minimize scratches on sterling silver by storing it in its own compartment in your jewelry box or in a cloth pouch. Sterling silver may also be stored in sealed polyethylene bags.
Sterling silver becomes tarnished as the result of a natural chemical process that occurs when sterling silver is exposed to chemicals in the air, rubber, wool and latex. Humidity also plays a role in accelerating tarnishing. It's easy to keep your sterling silver sparkling, though, by taking a few steps to prevent tarnish and other wear and tear.
Morganite is the soft pink, sometimes peach or lavender colored, variety of beryl. Often referred to as “pink beryl,” morganite has been called "pink emerald" and "pink aquamarine" to emphasize the kinship to its popular cousins. The pastel gem is colored by trace amounts of manganese in the crystal structure. It has excellent fire and is dichroic, meaning it shows pink hues when viewed from one angle and near colorless properties from another. Almost all morganite is heat-treated to produce or enhance the pink color. Lower quality morganite occurs in colors ranging from a peach-orange to a pinkish-yellow, but once it’s heat-treated, the color changes to a beautiful soft pink.
First discovered in Madagascar in 1911, morganite was named after the American banker and gem enthusiast, John Pierpont Morgan. Legend says that he went down with the Titanic, but Morgan actually missed the doomed maiden voyage and died the following year in Rome, just shy of his 76th birthday. While morganite can be found in Mozambique, Namibia, Afghanistan, Russia and the United States, the finest morganites come from Madagascar and Brazil. In fact, the largest faceted morganite came from Madagascar. It is a 598.70ct cushion-shaped stone residing in the British Museum.
Morganite’s hardness ranks 7.5-8.0 on the Mohs Scale . With its dazzling luster, exquisite color and sufficient hardness, the stone is especially suitable for jewelry. Unfortunately, morganite is relatively rare. This fact alone prevents it from achieving greater popularity as a jewelry gem.