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.
Analog-Digital Display (ana-digi): Watch that shows the time by means of hour and minute hands (analog display) as well as by numbers (digital display).
Arabic Numerals: Popular counterpart to Roman numerals consisting of 1,2,3, etc; Became popular during the 18th century and typically allow for more space on the dial for complications.
ATM: Commonly used measurement in water resistance; Stands for "atmospheres" or the amount of pressure a watch can withstand before leaking; One atmosphere is equal to 10 meters of water pressure.
Automatic Movement: Type of movement where the mainspring is wound via the movement of one’s own arm; Movement of the arm causes the rotor to rotate, which in turn winds the mainspring; Similar to mechanical movements, except winding is not manual.
Bezel: Retaining ring surrounding the case and securing the crystal; Sometimes incorporates unidirectional or ratcheting movements, as well as additional benefits such as chapter markers.
Case: Timepiece’s container; Protects the movement from dust, dampness and injury; Common case shapes are round, tonneau, rectangular and square.
Chronograph: Timepiece capable of both timekeeping and stopwatch functions; Chronographs are a unique and valued complication due to their ability to measure increments of time.
Chronometer: High-precision timepiece that has been tested and is certified to meet precision standards; Chronometer watches often come with certificates indicating their certified status.
Complication: Any feature added to the timepiece that does not indicate hours, minutes or seconds. Popular complications include chronographs, tachymeters, date windows and exhibition backs.
Crown: Small, cap-like device located on the side of a case that allows the user to set time or manually wind watch.
Crystal: Transparent cover on a watch face that gives view of the dial; Sapphire and mineral are the most common crystals used today.
Date Window: Reveals the numeric day of a given month.
Deployant: Type of clasp that keeps the closing mechanism hidden, creating an uninterrupted look for your bracelet or strap.
Dial: Plate beneath the crystal showcasing the timepiece’s features; Sometimes referred to as the face of a timepiece, the dial indicates hours, minutes and seconds, as well as complications such as date windows and sub-dials.
Dual Deployant: Similar to a deployant clasp, except it uses two hinges to fasten or open, as opposed to one.
Dual Time Zone: Timepiece that simultaneously gives time in two time zones.
Exhibition case: Unique complication wherein a crystal is implemented into the case back, allowing view of the timepiece's movement.
Greenwich Mean Time: Refers to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England where mean time is kept; Located at the prime meridian of the world, GMT is thought of as "the world's time".
Jewels: International term referring to the rubies, sapphires or other gemstones used as bearings in a watch movement; These bearings are set to reduce friction in a movement and help the delicate parts of the movement work smoothly and with great precision.
Mechanical Movement: Type of movement where the winding crown is used to power the movement; Needs to be manually wound after an elapsed period of time; Sometimes accompanied by a exhibition back to display its old-fashioned sensibilities.
Mineral Crystal: Technical term for glass; Standard crystal used in timepieces today.
Minute Repeater: Timepiece that sounds hours, quarters and minutes as requested.
Moon Phase: Complication on a timepiece that displays the various stages of the moon; Stages include new moon, first quarter, full moon and last quarter.
Mother-of-Pearl: Dial material that has been cultivated from the inside of certain shells; Provides an iridescent surface and gives timepieces a rich aesthetic.
Movement: Assembly making up the principal elements and mechanisms of a watch or clock; Includes the winding and setting mechanism, the mainspring, the train, the escapement and the regulating elements.
Perpetual Calendar: Complication that exhibits the days in a Gregorian calendar, the most common calendar used today; Automatically adjusts to months with different amounts of days in them.
Power Reserve: Time a watch will continue running based on the movement's residual winding of its mainspring; In quartz and digital watches, this can also refer to the amount of energy left in the battery.
Push Button Dual Deployant: Similar to deployant clasps, with the addition of two small hidden push buttons that spring your clasp open.
Quartz Movement: Most common type of movement used in modern timepieces; Vibrating at a high frequency and placed under an electric current, quartz movements provide accurate time without the need to wind.
Repeater: Complex watch mechanism that sounds hours, quarters or minutes, or repeats them on request; Originally designed to help the wearer to tell the time in the dark.
Retrograde: Hour, minute, second or calendar hand that moves across a scale and resets to zero at the end of its cycle.
Sapphire Crystal: High-end crystal that adds greater value to a timepiece; The only natural substance able to harm a sapphire crystal is a diamond.
Skeletonization: Cutting away unnecessary metal from the movement to allow the wearer to actually see through the movement; Any part that is not needed is carved out, leaving only the movement's skeleton.
Subdial: Smaller dials located on the main dial of a timepiece; Used to measure seconds, minutes or days.
Tachymeter: Popular complication that measures distance based on speed; Typically located along the outer rim of a dial.
Water resistant: Watches described as simply "water resistant" can handle light moisture, such as a rainstorm or splashes from a sink, but they should not be completely submerged in water for any length of time; A commonly used measurement in water resistance is ATM, which stands for "atmospheres" or the amount of pressure a watch can withstand before leaking.
Often referred to as a gift from the sea, pearl’s origin has been an object of folklore throughout history. Early Chinese myths told of pearls falling from the sky when dragons fought. Ancient Persian legend said that pearls were tears of the gods. In classical times, it was believed that pearls were formed when moonbeams lit upon shellfish, while Indian mythology suggested pearls were formed when dewdrops fell from the heavens into the sea.
In truth, pearls are lustrous gems with an organic origin. They are formed inside mollusks such as oysters, clams and mussels when an irritant such as a tiny stone, grain of sand or small parasite enters the mollusk's shell. To protect its soft inner body, the mollusk secretes a smooth, lustrous substance called nacre around the foreign object. Layer upon layer of nacre coats the irritant and hardens, ultimately forming a pearl.
This process of building a solid pearl can take up to seven or eight years. Generally, the thicker the nacre becomes, the richer the “glow” of the pearl and greater its value. While pearls that have formed on the inside of the shell (called blister pearls) are usually irregular in shape and have little commercial value, those that are formed within the tissue of the mollusk are either spherical or pear-shaped and are highly sought-after for jewelry. Most pearls on the market measure 7.0-7.5mm in diameter, but can be found as small as 1mm or as large as 20mm.
Although some pearls are found naturally in mollusks (considered the most valuable), the vast majority of pearls are grown, or cultured, on pearl farms. To instigate this culturing process, a small shell bead, or nucleus, is surgically inserted into the mantle of an oyster. Despite the fact that pearls are harvested in great quantities on pearl farms, producing a quality pearl is an extremely rare event. It is estimated that half of all nucleated oysters do not survive and, from those that do, only 20 percent create marketable pearls.
Cultured and natural pearls can be distinguished from imitation pearls by rubbing them gently against the edge of a tooth. Cultured and natural pearls will feel slightly rough, like fine sandpaper, because of the texture of natural nacre. Imitations will feel quite smooth because their surfaces are merely molded or painted on smooth beads. Since nacre is organic, pearls are quite “soft” and rank only a 2.5-4.5 on the Mohs Scale. The gems are very sensitive and special care should be taken when wearing and storing them.
The value of a pearl is judged by several factors, and high-quality pearl strands should feature pearls well-matched in these factors: “orient,” the lustrous iridescence that’s produced when light is reflected from the nacre, should glow with a soft brilliance; the nacre’s texture should be clean and smooth, absent of spots, bumps or cracks; the shape of a pearl should be symmetrical and generally the rounder a pearl is, the higher its value; and although pearls come in many different colors (depending on the environment and species of mollusk), the most favored are those that have a rose-tinted hue.
Pearls are cultured in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors. Akoya pearls are the classic round pearls found in most pearl jewelry. They are mainly grown in the waters off Japan and are found in a range of hues, including white, cream, pink and peach. Mabe pearls are grown in Japan, Indonesia, French Polynesia and Australia. They are usually flat-backed and often called blister pearls because they form against the inside shells of oysters rather than within oysters’ bodies. Tahitian pearls are grown in French Polynesia and come in a range of colors, including gray and black with green, purple or rose overtones. Because of their large size and unique dark colors, they command very high prices. Also prized for their large size, white South Sea pearls are grown in Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines and other areas of the South Pacific.
Freshwater pearls come in various colors and are grown in bays, lakes and rivers primarily in Japan, China, Europe and the United States (Mississippi River). They are often irregularly shaped and less lustrous than saltwater cultured pearls, making them substantially less expensive.
Pearls have been treasured throughout ancient folklore and history. Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, considered pearls to be sacred. The Greeks prized the gems for their beauty and believed that wearing pearls would promote marital bliss and prevent newlywed women from crying. In ancient Rome, pearls were considered the ultimate symbol of wealth and status. The ancient Egyptians were buried with them and the Egyptian queen Cleopatra favored pearls immensely. It is said that while dining with Mark Anthony, she purposely dropped a pearl into her drink to demonstrate the wealth of her rule.
As early as 2000 B.C., pearls have been used as medicine in China, where it was believed to represent wealth, power and longevity. Even today, low-grade pearls are ground for use as medicine in the Orient. Arabs and Persians also believed it was a cure for various kinds of diseases, as well as insanity.
Long ago, when pearls were not cultured and thousands of oysters had to be searched for only one pearl, the gems were important financial assets, comparable in price to real estate. Some European countries even banned all but nobility from the right to wear them. Medieval knights wore them in battle as a talisman against injury, while warriors in India encrusted pearls into their sword handles to symbolize the tears that swords can bring.
Today, the pearl is a universal symbol of innocence and purity. It is the birthstone for June and is considered the traditional gift for couples celebrating their 3rd and 30th wedding anniversaries. Many believe the gem gives wisdom through experience, quickens the laws of karma and cements engagements and love relationships. It is also considered to offer the powers of wealth, protection and luck.
The largest pearl in the world is approximately 3” long and 2” wide, weighing one-third of a pound. Called the Pearl of Asia, it was a gift from India’s Shah Jahan to his favorite wife, for whom he also built the Taj Mahal. Another famous pearl is called “La Peregrina,” or “the Wanderer,” and is considered by experts to be the most beautiful pearl in the world. Pear-shaped and measuring 1-1/2” in length, it is said that 400 years ago the pearl was found by a slave in Panama, who gave it up in return for his freedom. In 1570, the conquistadors sent the pearl to King Philip II of Spain. The pearl was passed to Mary I of England, who gave it to Prince Louis Napoleon of France, who sold it to the British Marquis of Abercon. After disappearing for a century, the pearl turned up once again in 1969 at a New York auction house. It was purchased by actor Richard Burton for his wife, Elizabeth Taylor.
Necklace & Bracelet Clasp Types
A clasp is more than a practical device used to fasten your jewelry. It is part of the overall design and can be a very important focal point. Be sure to consider if it will suit your needs of durability, fashion, comfort and peace of mind.
Lobster Claw Clasp: As a traditional clasp style found in bracelets and necklaces, the lobster claw is generally reserved for heavier styles that may need added strength. The closure's shape is more oblong, similar to a teardrop shape, and is controlled by a tip that opens and closes the spring in the clasp. This type is also considered a more expensive finding that can add to the overall value of the jewelry piece.
Magnetic Clasp: The popularity of the magnetic clasp has greatly increased in recent years. It is a quick and easy way to secure jewelry while not having to fuss with a tiny clasp, which can be difficult if you have long fingernails, arthritic hands or other mobility challenges. A magnetic clasp relies on a strong internal magnet that works to pull both ends of the clasp together. In most cases, a magnetic clasp is used for light to medium weight jewelry pieces that do not put excessive stress on the magnet.
Slide Insert Clasp: This type of clasp is exactly as it sounds. With a box-like shape that is hollow on the inside, the wearer will slide the nearly-flat tab into the box until it clicks, indicating a secure closure. On some jewelry, a slide insert clasp will be accompanied by a side safety catch, which adds strength and security to the clasp. Although this type of clasp is found on both bracelets and necklaces, it is particularly popular on bracelet styles. These types of clasps are often reserved for more expensive jewelry.
Spring Ring Clasp: One of the most common closure types, the spring ring clasp is typically used for light to medium weight bracelets or necklaces. It is round in its design and features a small tip which controls the opening and closing of the spring. The circle then closes around another smaller loop or link at the other end of the strand.
Toggle Clasp: A toggle clasp is a narrow piece of metal, usually designed in the shape of a bar, which is then pushed through a circular ring to act as a fastener. Unlike the lobster claw or spring ring clasps, a toggle clasp is not controlled by a spring. The pretty design is less secure than other closure types, but is usually meant to be a big part of the design and is meant to "show". The clasp is an attractive way to secure a chunkier link bracelet or necklace.