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.
Often referred to as the “Queen of Garnets,” rhodolite is the violet-red variety of the garnet family. Its most prized color is a beautiful raspberry, but the gem can also be found in shades of pink, red and wine. The name is derived from the Greek words “rhodon” and “lithos,” meaning rose-stone, which connects the gemstone today with the raspberry-pink flower known as the rhododendron.
Rhodolite is a combination of almandine and pyrope garnets. Although it is occasionally found in volcanic rock, the stone is most often found in alluvial deposits in the form of water-worn pebbles. For this reason, large solitaires weighing 5.00ct or more are seldom seen at retail. Most rhodolite is mined in Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. It ranks a 7.5 on the Mohs Scale and is ideal for jewelry.
The ancients wore rhodolites as amulets for protection from injury or death in battles. Modern folklore says rhodolite can help one understand dreams, as well as bring about love and devotion when given as a gift.
Pronounced SAV-OH-RITE, the tsavorite gemstone features an intense green color that ranges from a vivid light hue to a deep, velvety forest shade. It is a member of the garnet family and is often referred to as a green grossularite. Like other garnets, tsavorite is naturally pristine with no treatments and features a strikingly high brilliance.
In 1967, British geologist Campbell R. Brides discovered tsavorite in Tanzania. He found strange, potato-shaped rocks that had breathtakingly beautiful green grains and crystals inside them. In 1971, he discovered the same gemstone vein extended into Kenya, where he could officially start exploiting the occurrence.
Henry Platt, the former president of Tiffany & Co in New York, named the stone after its occurrence near the famous game frontier, Tsavo-National Park. In 1974, Tiffany’s started a special promotion campaign to make tsavorite well known throughout the United States. Campaigns in other countries followed, and tsavorite soon became sought-after everywhere.
Tsavorite is quite rare and can cost several thousand dollars per carat depending on size and quality. Larger stones are exceedingly scarce. Only occasionally is a rough crystal more than 5.00ct found, making tsavorites weighing 2.00ct or more quite valuable. Fortunately, the brilliance and luminosity of these gems are displayed even in smaller sizes. They rank a hardness of 7.5 on the Mohs Scale and enjoy an especially high light-refraction index.
Too new to have folklore of its own, tsavorite is believed to hold the mystical powers of garnet, including protection and healing. Garnets also symbolize loyalty and can be exchanged between friends to ensure they meet again.
Spessartite garnet can be red or blackish brown, but is most commonly available in rich golds, fiery oranges and warmer browns. Originally named after its occurrence in the German Spessart Mountains, there was a surprising discovery of the bright orange-red stone in Nigeria and Namibia. Until then, spessartites had existed as mere collector’s items or rarities and were hardly ever used for jewelry because they were so rare. But the new location discovery changed the world of jewelry gemstones and spessartites made their way into jewelry fashion.
The most popular type of spessartite is the mandarin garnet, a gem that features a bright orange hue that ranges from that of ripe peaches to the deepest of red-orange sunsets. Signifying energy and joy of life, this stone represents the spirit of individuality and the vibrancy of life. The mandarin garnet has a remarkably high refraction of light, creating an exceptional brilliance that vividly sparkles even in unfavorable light. To bring out the best of the gem’s unique color and brilliance, most are faceted cut to allow for this tremendous sparkle of fire.
The fascinating orange color featured in mandarin garnets plays an important role in Asian arts. Yellow and red, the two colors constituting orange, are not considered opposites in Asia, but rather complements to each other. The color symbolizes the continual change of life throughout the ages. Asian gods and Buddhist monks are often dressed in orange robes and the sky in Asian art is often painted orange.
Mandarin garnets were first found along the Kunene River in Namibia in 1991, embedded in the mica slate where they had been formed millions of years ago. Gemologists discovered the orange-colored stones were in fact variations of the rare spessartite gems and members of the garnet family. At that time, spessartites were fairly rare stones, even for collectors, and had hardly been used for jewelry. Some gemologists called the brilliant orange gemstones "kunene spessartine” according to their occurrence. But quite soon the term “mandarin garnet” spread throughout the international market and the stone made its successful appearance around the world. Popularity increased dramatically and the mine on the Kunene River was soon exploited. Fortunately, in April of 1994, mandarin garnets were discovered in Nigeria. The stones are now available once again in reliable amounts, though top-quality stones are rare and it is difficult to predict how long quantity will remain reliable.