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.
An ancient Persian legend states the Earth rests on a gigantic sapphire that gives its blue reflection to the sky. The most popular colors for sapphires range from light blue to a blue that appears black. Hence, the name was derived from the Latin form of the Greek word for blue, “sapphirus.” Bright daylight makes most sapphires shine more vividly than the somewhat muted artificial light. So the most highly cherished color for blue sapphires is not the darkest blue, but a deep and satiated blue, which even in dim, artificial light remains to appear blue.
While sapphires are best known for being velvety blue, it was decided long ago to consider all gemstones of the mineral family corundum to be sapphires. Non-blue sapphires are termed “fancy” and can be nearly any color, including yellow, green, white/colorless, pink, orange, brown, purple, golden and even black. Red corundum is the exception, however, and was given the special name of “ruby.” Since pink is really just a light red, the International Colored Gemstone Association has resolved to consider light shades of the red hue to be included in the category ruby, as it is too difficult to legislate where red ends and pink begins. In practice, however, pink shades of corundum are known as either pink ruby or pink sapphire. All sapphires rank a 9.0 on the Mohs Scale, second only to diamonds in hardness.
There are a great number of varieties of sapphire, many of which are quite rare and highly sought-after in the gemstone market. A rare orange-pink variety, known as padparadscha, can be even more valuable than blue sapphire. Pronounced PAD-PA-RAD-SHAH, the name comes from the Sinhalese word for lotus blossom. Endowed with both pink and orange color components, its hues range from pastels to fiery shades. Padparadscha sapphires are usually heat treated to improve and intensify their color, while the color of untreated stones will fade over time. An untreated padparadscha sapphire that has faded will return to its original pinkish-orange color, however, if exposed to sunlight for about an hour.
Another rare variety of sapphire is known as the color-changing sapphire. This stone exhibits different colors in different light. In natural light, color-changing sapphire is blue, but in artificial light, it is violet.
For experts and connoisseurs, the Kashmir-color is considered the most beautiful and valuable shade. It features a pure and intensive blue, which is enhanced by a fine, silky gloss. Its color does not change in artificial light, but remains intense with a deep, velvety sheen. Setting the standard for the color of top-quality sapphires, Kashmir sapphires were found in 1880 after an avalanche. They were intensely mined for only eight years until the source was depleted. The Burma-color is also considered especially valuable, ranging from rich royal blue to deep cornflower blue. Ceylon sapphires are prized as well for the luminosity and brilliance of their light to medium blue color.
There is a translucent variety of sapphire, called star sapphire, which displays a six-point star when cut into a smooth domed cabochon. The mineral rutile is embedded in an asterisk-shape within the stone, causing light to reflect in a phenomenon called “asterism.” Six- or twelve-ray stars appear to magically glide across the surface of the stones as they are moved. Star sapphires and rubies are expensive rarities and should always display the stars exactly in the center of the gem. Value is influenced by the intensity of the body color and the strength and sharpness of the star. The star stone is said to be the home of each person’s angel, who lives there in contentment with the sapphire’s spirit.
The stone is mined in many parts of the world. The oldest sapphire mines are situated in Ceylon, today called Sri Lanka, where gemstones were mined in ancient times. Most blue sapphires today come from Thailand or Australia, but sapphires from Kashmir and Myanmar (formerly Burma) are considered the most rare and highly prized. Sapphires are readily available in sizes of up to 2.00ct, but gems weighing 5.00-10.00ct are not unusual. The cushion-cut Logan Sapphire from Sri Lanka weighs an astounding 423.00ct and can be seen at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. There is also a 258.00ct stone set in the Russian crown, which is kept in the Diamond Fund in Moscow.
Because the gem has long symbolized sincere love and enduring faithfulness, blue sapphires are often given in engagement rings to express commitment and loyalty. Many women throughout the world decide on the blue stone for their engagement rings, as the gem also represents truth, friendship, harmony and consistency. Sapphire blue has become a color related to anything permanent and reliable, making it an ideal stone to symbolize the promise of marriage.
Often referred to as “Gem of the Heavens,” sapphire also symbolizes a noble soul. It is September’s birthstone and is traditionally given as 5th and 45th wedding anniversary gifts. Star sapphires are given for the 65th anniversary. The color sapphire-blue is known for representing clarity and competence. In fact, the first computer to ever declare victory over a chess grandmaster and world champion was named “Deep Blue.”
Sapphires have been associated with magical powers throughout the ages. The Greeks identified white sapphires with Apollo and the oracles at Delphi used them to tap into the subconscious and super conscious. During the Middle Ages, sapphires symbolized the tranquility of the heavens and wearing them was thought to bring peace, happiness and purity of the soul. The color blue became the symbol of the union between a priest and the heavens, so sapphires came to be adorned on the rings of bishops. Soldiers wore them to prevent capture by enemies and kings wore the gemstone to defend against harm and put themselves in divine favor. This supposed “divine favor” is why sapphires were often the gemstone of choice for high priests and royalty throughout history. In fact, the British Crown Jewels contain a number of notable sapphires.
Today, sapphires are still believed to hold special powers. The stone is said to provide healing properties for mental illness and depression. It can be considered an aid to psycho kinesis, telepathy and clairvoyance, while providing spiritual enlightenment and inner peace. White sapphires, like diamonds, are considered the guardians of love, enhancing it and ensuring fidelity in marriage. The most powerful type of the gem is said to be the star sapphire. They are believed to protect against negative energy and have a calming effect that allows the mind to experience tranquility, joy and clear thinking.