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.
Iolite gets its name from its sensational color, using the Greek words ios (violet) and lithos (stone). The stone, often referred to as water sapphire, cordierite or dichroite, was used by the Vikings as a navigational tool and came to be knows as “Vikings’ Compass.” When Viking explorers ventured far into the Atlantic Ocean, away from any coastline that could help them determine position, they were able to navigate safely by looking through iolite lenses that allowed them to find the exact position of the sun.
The property that made iolite so valuable to the Vikings was the gem’s pleochroic property, which is the display of different colors when viewed from different directions (like a modern-day polarized filter used in sunglasses). A cube cut from iolite will look violet-blue from one side, clear as water from the other and honey yellow from the top.
Pleochroism may have been helpful in navigation, but it makes a gem cutter’s job quite difficult. If iolite is not cut from exactly the right direction, its color will not show to its best advantage. When cut properly, the stone is usually a violet blue and can be obtained in sizes up to 5.00 carats relatively easily. Iolite ranks a 7.0-7.5 on the Mohs Scale and is readily available and affordable. Today, it is mined in Brazil, India, Mozambique, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe. The Vikings probably mined iolite from deposits in Norway and Greenland.
Traditionally given as a 21st anniversary gift, iolite is thought to bring harmony to relationships. It is also said to balance the masculine and feminine aspects of one’s own character, bringing harmony and enabling that person to enjoy each moment. Iolite is believed to heighten psychic abilities by aiding and encouraging people along their spiritual paths. It is said to enhance curiosity and achievement, and aid in money management. Iolite is also believed to possess the power to guide lost sailors to the brilliance of the sun, so that they may find their way home.
Named by the Romans, who thought the gems were formed from moonlight, moonstones have a floating light effect called “adularescence.” They often have translucent grounds with silvery white or blue flashes. Moonstone almost seems magical with a ghostly, shimmering glow floating in a crystalline material. With a clarity range of transparent to translucent, the gem’s body color can range from colorless to gray, brown, yellow, orange, green or pink. The best moonstone has a blue sheen, perfect clarity and a colorless body color. One variety called “rainbow moonstone” has a sheen that features a variety of rainbow hues.
Moonstones are usually cut in smooth, domed cabochon shapes to maximize the effects of sheen and adularescence. Fine moonstone is already quite rare and becoming rarer. It is mined in Sri Lanka, India, Australia, Brazil, Canada and Kenya. Rainbow moonstone is also found in Madagascar.
Ancient Romans thought moonstones changed appearances with the phases of the moon. They also believed that an image of Diana, the goddess of the moon, could be seen in each stone. During the Middle Ages, people believed one could gaze into the gem, fall into a deep sleep, and see the future. Today the stone represents serenity, happiness and friendship. It is believed to be a stone of inner strength and is said to arouse passions. In Europe, moonstone is considered the birthstone for June, although in the United States, it shares that distinction with the pearl. It is traditionally given as a 13th wedding anniversary gift.