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.
Quartz that is formed not of one single crystal, but of finely grained microcrystals, is known as chalcedony. With a waxy, dull luster, the variety of chalcedony is even greater than transparent quartz varieties because it includes patterns and a wide range of solid colors. Chalcedony is a catchall term that includes many well-known varieties of quartz gemstones. Some kinds are so widespread in occurrence that they have been given individual names, including agate, carnelian, chrysoprase, bloodstone, onyx, flint, jasper and tiger’s eye. Occurring in every imaginable color, chalcedony has a hardness of 7.0 on the Mohs Scale. It is most prominently found in Namibia, Brazil, Turkey, Uruquay, India, Madagascar and the United States.
Because of its abundance, durability and beauty, chalcedony was one of the earliest raw materials used by humankind. The earliest recorded use of chalcedony was for projectile points, knives, weapons, tools and containers such as cups and bowls. The move from using items as weapons and tools to using the same items for ceremonial and personal adornment is very easily made. It was only natural for early humans to use their finest-looking knives for special occasions or to attach a special lance point or arrowhead to their tunics. In fact, chalcedony may have simply been elevated to gems from common and functional weapons or tools.
The term chalcedony is derived from the Greek word meaning “Chalkedon,” a town in Asia Minor. Legend has ascribed to it such powers as prevention and curing of melancholy and driving away evil spirits. It is said to stimulate maternal feelings and creativity. Chalcedony is also one of the stones listed as in the foundation of the Heavenly City, in Revelations of the Bible.