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.”
I1-I2-I3 (Imperfect): Inclusions visible to the unaided eye
Carat is the standard unit of measurement used to determine a diamond’s weight. One carat consists of 100 points, so a 50-point diamond equals a half carat, or 0.50ct. It is important to remember that although two diamonds may have the same carat weight, their color and clarity may be different, thus determining each individual stone’s value. Additionally, since larger diamonds are more rare than smaller diamonds, diamond value tends to rise exponentially with carat weight. A 2.00ct diamond is more valuable than two 1.00ct diamonds.
More About Diamonds
The most precious of all gems, diamonds have an incredible rarity factor. It takes a minimum of one million diamonds to be mined in order to find a 1.00ct gem-quality diamond, so each 1.00ct quality diamond is literally one in a million. Making them even more incredible, the mining of diamonds requires moving and sifting 250 tons of the Earth’s crust to find just one diamond. Mining companies literally move mountains to find diamonds.
Diamonds have the longest endurance of any substance known on Earth. Carbon dating has established that diamonds, on the average, are 3.4 billion years of age. They consist of pure carbon and there is no chemical difference between them and carbon powder (the lead pencil center). Obviously, however, the physical difference between carbon powder and a diamond is fascinating. Diamonds are created from a basketball-sized piece of pure carbon that becomes white-hot. It is squeezed to the size of a small pearl, turning from black to clear in the process and becoming the hardest material known to humans, ranking a 10.0 on the Mohs Scale . Because they are so hard, diamonds can only be ground and polished by using diamond dust that has been ground from other diamonds.
Diamonds are found in a rainbow of colors. The value of a fancy-colored stone depends largely on the rarity of its color (reds and greens are rarer than yellows and browns), the saturation of the color (from faint to vivid), and the purity of the color (whether it is bright and clear or clouded by other underlying colors). Probably the most famous colored diamond is the Hope, which features a deep-blue color and weighs an amazing 45.52ct. It can be seen at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.
With diamonds found all over the world, America has a couple small producing diamonds mines, but it only produces industrial grades with non-gem grade material. These black and brown industrial-grade diamonds are widely used as cutting and grinding tools in various industries, such as oil drilling and stone carving.
Diamonds have come to symbolize the ultimate gift of love and romance and, in the United States, are traditionally used in engagement and wedding rings. The tradition of the diamond solitaire engagement ring may have started in 1477, when the Archduke of Austria gave a large solitaire diamond to Mary of Burgundy for her hand in marriage. Amidst this tradition of romance, the diamond is also the birthstone for April and given as 10th, 30th, 60th and 75th anniversary gifts.
Diamonds have been the pride of empires throughout time. Ancient Hindu followers believed diamonds were created by thunderbolts striking the ground. Ancient Greeks believed that diamonds were teardrops of the gods and splinters of stars that had fallen to Earth. The stones were believed to possess magical qualities and have powers far beyond the understanding of common man. Even the name stems from “adamas,” the Greek word for “unconquerable” and “indestructible.”
The diamond is considered the most magical of all gems. When worn, it promotes spirituality, even ecstasy, and is often utilized in meditation. The diamond promotes self-confidence in relations with the opposite sex and is often worn to conquer infertility. The diamond is the stone of love and is worn to ensure fidelity. Owing to its sparkling and flashing nature, it has long been regarded as a stone of protection and peace. It can be worn today for courage and strength, and represents fearlessness and invincibility.
Since only diamonds can scratch other diamonds, it is important to wrap and store your diamond jewelry pieces separately so they do not touch one another. To clean jewelry at home, soak diamonds in warm, sudsy water made with any mild liquid detergent. Brush with a soft toothbrush and rinse and pat dry with a soft, lint-free cloth. Other effective cleaning methods include soaking diamonds in household ammonia, brand-name liquid jewelry cleaners, or even a glass of vodka.
Tourmaline occurs in virtually every color of the spectrum, with an unlimited range of solid and mixed colors in all imaginable shades. According to an ancient Egyptian legend, this is the result of the gemstone traveling along a rainbow from the Earth’s heart, up to the sun. On its journey, the legend says that tourmaline collected all the colors of the rainbow, which is why nowadays it is called the “Rainbow Gemstone.”
Tourmalines displaying just one color are quite rare since one crystal usually shows two or more shades or colors. In fact, the name “tourmaline” has been derived from the Singhalese expression “tura mali,” which translates to “stone of mixed colors.” Even two stones cut from the same rough mother crystal will often show different colors, a characteristic that makes tourmalines so attractive and sought-after.
Tourmaline crystals come from a mineral group that usually forms in various combinations of elements. The slightest changes in composition will result in completely different colors. Thus, it is possible that in one naturally grown crystal, there will appear completely different colors. Some will show only slightly shaded color fields, while others will display contrasting colors and defined color zoning. Tourmalines rank a hardness of 7.0-7.5 on the Mohs Scale and may be as small as a knitting needle or as thick as a thigh. They are easily available in sizes of up to 5.00ct.
Different shades of colored tourmalines have been assigned specific names. Bi-colored and multi-colored tourmalines have several names for the common combinations of colors. Crystals with red or pink cores and green borders are called watermelon-tourmalines. Stones with colorless crystals and black tips are called Maur’s Head or Moor’s Head, while colorless crystals with red tips are called Turk’s Head. If the color zones are arranged one on top of the other, the stone is considered a rainbow tourmaline.
The red variety of tourmaline changes its name based on the coloring in different types of lighting. Deep red tourmaline named rubellite shows the same fine ruby-red shade in daylight and in artificial light. Should the color change when the source of light changes, the stone is simply called a pink tourmaline. With its exquisitely intense coloring, rubellite was once the victim of misidentification for rubies in the Russian crown jewels.
A recognizable variety of the gem is simply called, green tourmaline. It comes in a variety of green shades, including leek-green, intense yellow-green, olive-green and brownish-green. Chromium-tourmaline is the trade name for the emerald-green variety. The most rare and highly coveted green hues are the blue-green stones often called African tourmalines and the bottle-green gems referred to as Brazilian tourmalines.
Perhaps the most beautiful variety is the Paraiba tourmaline. It ranges in color from electric blue to neon blue-green to sizzling turquoise. Discovered in the Brazilian state of Paraiba, its spectacular color is due to the presence of a small amount of copper. A study by the German Foundation for Gemstone Research recently also discovered a surprisingly high content of gold in the stones. While the average gold content of the Earth’s crust is 0.007 parts per million, Paraiba tourmalines contain a remarkable 8.6 parts per million. So if they were not so breathtaking, the gems might be in danger of being crushed to acquire their gold.
Paraiba tourmalines are mined near a village called Sao Jose de Batalha. In 1989, the miners discovered a new vein of gem-quality stones with extraordinarily bright shades of blue and green. Hand-excavated shafts and tunnels are up to 60 meters deep and the tourmaline is found only in pencil-thin veins. Because of the difficulty in mining, supply will always be limited and Pariaba tourmalines will always be rare and expensive. Dealers all over the world are competing for the Paraiba tourmaline, which means that it can command retail prices more than $20,000 per carat.
In the year 2000, electric yellow tourmalines were found in Malawi in East Africa. With a clear and pure color, they were deemed “canary tourmalines”. Only 10 percent of all the mined yellow stones are gem-quality and when cut, more than 95 percent of the harvest will weigh less than 1.00ct. Yellow tourmalines are considered to be the only gemstones that have a fine scent. This is because their crystals are often embedded into black material that must be removed before the stones are cut. An owner of a Malawi gemstone mine discovered the black matter was easily removed when the rough crystals were boiled in water and lemon juice. Ever since then, yellow tourmalines from Malawi not only resemble fresh lemons in color, but also in their scent before they are cut.
Other tourmalines are called “indigolith” if they are blue and “dravite” if they are golden to dark brown. Black tourmalines are known as “schorls” and are mainly used for engraving. Although they were used as mourning jewelry, ancients believed black tourmalines to be stones that protected against negativity and strengthened the heart.
Tourmalines are piezoelectric, meaning they can generate electrical charges when heated, compressed or vibrated. They then become polarized crystalline magnets and can attract light objects. The Dutch, who originally brought the stone to Europe, knew about this effect and used heated tourmalines to extract ashes from their pipes. The stones were even favorite toys of Dutch children before their gem quality was established. Because the gem’s electrical charges attract dust and small materials, some believe that wearing pink tourmalines will attract love and green ones will attract success.
Tourmaline has often been called the “muses’ stone” because it is believed that its imaginative colors contain inspirational powers that grant enlightenment, enable creativity and express an artist’s mood. Due to the stones’ energetic conductivity and vast array of elements, they are thought to have powerful healing abilities and protect against many dangers. Tourmaline is supposed to be an especially powerful influence on love and friendship, fostering compassion and cool headedness. It is considered the traditional gift to give couples celebrating their 8th wedding anniversary.
Ever since the ancient days, the gem has been attributed with magical powers. Today, specific colors of tourmaline are thought to hold individualized powers. Black is believed to strengthen the immune system and bring luck and happiness when rubbed. Green tourmaline is said to encourage communication and bring success, while blue is a balancer that stimulates other tourmalines’ effectiveness. Watermelon tourmaline is believed to increase perception and creativity, while balancing passivity and aggressiveness. Pink is thought to promote peace, increase spiritual understanding and bring forth love and friendship.