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.
Quartz that is formed not of one single crystal, but of finely grained microcrystals, is known as chalcedony. With a waxy, dull luster, the variety of chalcedony is even greater than transparent quartz varieties because it includes patterns and a wide range of solid colors. Chalcedony is a catchall term that includes many well-known varieties of quartz gemstones. Some kinds are so widespread in occurrence that they have been given individual names, including agate, carnelian, chrysoprase, bloodstone, onyx, flint, jasper and tiger’s eye. Occurring in every imaginable color, chalcedony has a hardness of 7.0 on the Mohs Scale. It is most prominently found in Namibia, Brazil, Turkey, Uruquay, India, Madagascar and the United States.
Because of its abundance, durability and beauty, chalcedony was one of the earliest raw materials used by humankind. The earliest recorded use of chalcedony was for projectile points, knives, weapons, tools and containers such as cups and bowls. The move from using items as weapons and tools to using the same items for ceremonial and personal adornment is very easily made. It was only natural for early humans to use their finest-looking knives for special occasions or to attach a special lance point or arrowhead to their tunics. In fact, chalcedony may have simply been elevated to gems from common and functional weapons or tools.
The term chalcedony is derived from the Greek word meaning “Chalkedon,” a town in Asia Minor. Legend has ascribed to it such powers as prevention and curing of melancholy and driving away evil spirits. It is said to stimulate maternal feelings and creativity. Chalcedony is also one of the stones listed as in the foundation of the Heavenly City, in Revelations of the Bible.
Jasper is an opaque variety of chalcedony that contains organic materials and mineral oxides. These give it interesting patterns and colorful bands of red, brown, pink, yellow, green, gray, white and blue. Because these color designs resemble landscapes with mountains and valleys, jasper is often named according to its pattern, including the words “picture,” “landscape” or “ribbon” within the name. Picture jasper, for instance, is a petrified or silicated mud that dripped into gas pockets in molten lava. It became super-heated and then solidified to form the unusual banded patterns that are typical of this stone. Today, jasper is found worldwide, with a wide variety located in the western areas of the Unites States. The beautiful stone even adorns the Saint Wenceslas Chapel in Prague.
Jasper was a favorite gem in the ancient world and is referenced in Greek, Hebrew, Assyrian and Latin literature. It was believed to bring on rain and protect in dangerous situations by driving away evil spirits. Nowadays, jasper is thought to balance yin yang energies by stabilizing and healing. Poppy jasper is said to help bring joy into life and opalite jasper is said to help one sleep.