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.
Cubic zirconia is the most readily available, inexpensive and brilliant simulated diamond on the market today. Cubic zirconia does occur naturally in small quantities, but all of the cubic zirconia on the market is produced in a laboratory.
On the Mohs Scale, which measures the hardness of minerals, cubic zirconia is an 8.0 to 8.5. It is important to understand that hardness is not necessarily related to durability. Even though diamond is the hardest mineral (10.0 on the Mohs Scale), it can still be chipped or broken.
The only ways to tell the difference between cubic zirconia and diamond are by use of a thermal probe, by weighing the loose stone or by microscopic examination of surface features and inclusions. Cubic zirconia weighs approximately 65% more than diamond. Therefore, while a 6.25 mm round diamond weighs about 1.00 carat, the same size cubic zirconia weighs about 1.65 carats. If you know the weight of a cubic zirconia, you can figure out the diamond weight equivalent by multiplying the cubic zirconia weight by 0.6, or 60%.
Few natural diamonds on the market today are perfectly cut, and those that are cost much more than the usual diamond. Unleashing the fire, beauty and brilliance of a stone depends on its precise cut. Simulated diamonds are an excellent balance between quality, beauty and price.
Brilliance: The white light leaving a jewel, traveling upward, which is visible to the eye. Brilliance is sometimes referred to as “sparkle.”
Dispersion: Flashes of rainbow colors. Also called “fire.”
Hardness: Resistance to scratching. The higher the number, the more resistant.
Luster: The shininess of a jewel.
Toughness: Resistance to breakage.
Created or simulated gemstones:
How are created or simulated gemstones different from natural gemstones? Natural gems are created by the forces of nature and must be discovered, usually by digging in the ground or sifting through a riverbed. When these stones are created in a laboratory, they are called created, simulated or synthetic gemstones.
The purpose of creating gemstones in a laboratory isn’t necessarily to reduce the cost, but also to produce larger, more perfectly consistent stones. Created or simulated gems can be made of any material. Synthetic gems, however, share virtually all chemical, optical and physical characteristics of their natural mineral counterparts.
Austrian crystals: These are known for their excellent reflective quality and prismatic brilliance. This man-made crystal is created using natural minerals and quartz sand, which are then heated and slowly cooled using a process similar to that of creating hand-blown glass. This process creates an end product that can be fashioned into a beautiful crystal.
A special machine is used to create a highly faceted crystal. The crystals are cut in various directions, which allows for excellent light refraction, exceptional brilliance and unsurpassed color quality at an affordable price.
Today Swarovski® is one of the largest suppliers of high-end crystals. In the late 1800s, Daniel Swarovski invented a machine to cut crystal with extreme precision. He patented his technique and to this day, only select Swarovski family members and employees have unrestricted access to the production facility that creates these crystals. They are used to decorate everything from stilettos and sculptures, to chandeliers, jewelry and clothing.