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.”
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.
Zircon often suffers for its name’s similarity to “cubic zirconia,” the simulated diamond. The stone zircon, however, is actually a beautiful natural gemstone. It is named from the Persian word “zargun,” meaning “gold-colored.” This is despite the fact that it comes in a wide range of rainbow colors. The majority of zircons are brown or yellow-brown, while pure red and green are the most valuable colors. The yellow-red to reddish-brown variety is called “hyacinth.”
For many years, the most popular type of zircon was the colorless variety. More than any other natural stone, colorless zircons produce a brilliant sparkle similar to diamonds. The most popular color today tends to be the bright pastel blue variety. Sometimes called “starlite,” blue zircon has recently become considered an alternative birthstone for December.
Zircon is one of the heaviest gemstones, meaning that it will look smaller than other varieties of the same weight. It ranks a hardness between 6.5-7.5 on the Mohs Scale and is mined in Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar and Australia.
Travelers during the 11th century wore zircon amulets for protection and to encourage welcome greetings on their journeys. In the Middle Ages, the stone was said to bring wisdom and prosperity to its owner. Hindu mythology even mentions the gem when referencing the Kalpa Tree, which was a glowing tree covered with gemstone fruit and leaves of zircon.
Named by the Romans, who thought the gems were formed from moonlight, moonstones have a floating light effect called “adularescence.” They often have translucent grounds with silvery white or blue flashes. Moonstone almost seems magical with a ghostly, shimmering glow floating in a crystalline material. With a clarity range of transparent to translucent, the gem’s body color can range from colorless to gray, brown, yellow, orange, green or pink. The best moonstone has a blue sheen, perfect clarity and a colorless body color. One variety called “rainbow moonstone” has a sheen that features a variety of rainbow hues.
Moonstones are usually cut in smooth, domed cabochon shapes to maximize the effects of sheen and adularescence. Fine moonstone is already quite rare and becoming rarer. It is mined in Sri Lanka, India, Australia, Brazil, Canada and Kenya. Rainbow moonstone is also found in Madagascar.
Ancient Romans thought moonstones changed appearances with the phases of the moon. They also believed that an image of Diana, the goddess of the moon, could be seen in each stone. During the Middle Ages, people believed one could gaze into the gem, fall into a deep sleep, and see the future. Today the stone represents serenity, happiness and friendship. It is believed to be a stone of inner strength and is said to arouse passions. In Europe, moonstone is considered the birthstone for June, although in the United States, it shares that distinction with the pearl. It is traditionally given as a 13th wedding anniversary gift.
Labradorite is a beautiful mineral whose charm is not fully noticed and may be overlooked if not viewed from the proper position. Generally a gray to smoky black color, it displays a strong iridescence when cut correctly. In fact, labradorite’s value increases with the skill of the lapidary and strength of the iridescence. Ranking a 6.0-6.5 on Mohs Scale, its name is derived from Labrador, Canada, which is the main source of the stone. Modern folklore says that labradorite brings forth each person's strengths, originality and ability to relate to others.