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.
Mother-of-pearl is found on the shells of mollusks, such as mussels and oysters, and the shells of pseudopods, such as snails. When the young of these creatures come into the world, they create a shell “house” in order to preserve their existence. The walls of this housing are formed with layers their of secretions, ensuring a simultaneous growth of house and creature together.
Depending on the type of animal and the environment in which it lives, secretions create various shapes and colors found on the different types of mother-of-pearl. “White” mother-of-pearl comes from pearl-bearing oysters. It features high reflective properties and is one of the most commonly used types of this material. “ Iridescent” mother-of-pearl is a type in which the colors of pink and green are predominant, while “variegated” mother-of-pearl is a multicolored type. “Stone” mother-of-pearl is white with a low reflective power, while “mat” mother-of-pearl is dull grey and also has a low reflective power.
The shiny quality of mother-of-pearl has attracted attention for thousands of years. The Louvre Museum features mother-of-pearl objects that belonged to the Sumerians and were found in Mesopotamia. In China, a dish with geometric-shaped pieces of mother-of-pearl was found that belonged to the Tang Dynasty in 618-906 A.D. Mother-of-pearl work was also common in ancient Italy, Greece and Cyprus. Today, different types of mother-of-pearl are commonly used in the art world. This type of art is certainly a challenge, for in order for them to be made into works of art, the mother-of-pearl pieces must be thick enough to withstand being worked upon and be of high enough quality to beautifully reflect colors of the rainbow.
Onyx is a variety of chalcedony quartz that features a fine texture with a smooth black color. Some onyx can display white bands or ribbons against black or brown backgrounds. Mined in Brazil, India, California and Uruguay, most onyx today is color-enhanced to increase its depth of color. It ranks a 6.5 on the Mohs Scale and is an ideal stone for carving. In fact, it is a favorite material of lapidary artists.
Onyx was very popular with the ancient Greeks and Romans. The name comes from the Greek word “onux,” which means fingernail. Legend says that one day frisky Cupid cut the divine fingernails of Venus with an arrowhead while she was sleeping. He left the clippings scattered on the sand and the fates turned them into stone so that no part of her heavenly body would ever perish. In Greek times, almost all colors of chalcedony were called onyx. Later, the Romans narrowed the term to refer to only the black and dark brown colors, while the reddish brown and white onyx became known as sardonyx. Highly valued in Rome, sardonyx was especially used for seals because it was said to never stick to the wax. Roman General Publius Cornelius Scipio was famous for wearing sardonyx.
Worn during mourning in the Victorian age, onyx is now traditionally given as a 7th wedding anniversary gift. It is thought to increase happiness, intuition and instincts. The stone is also believed to cool the yearnings of love and decrease sexual desire.