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.
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.