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.
Because tourmaline is found in a wide range of colors, the gemstone trade generally does not use separate names for the gem’s individual varieties. Rather, the color is added to the beginning of the name, such as green tourmaline or pink tourmaline. However, there is a very special exception to this rule when it comes to the select tourmaline called rubellite.
Famous for its exquisite reddish-pinkish-purple color, rubellite is a tourmaline that is well-known for representing the joy of life and the passion of seduction. With a name derived from the Latin term “rubellus,” which means “reddish,” this exceptionally beautiful gemstone features a unique characteristic. Its color remains consistent in daylight and artificial light. While many gemstones change their color depending on the source of light, rubellite never changes. In contrast, the color of most other pink and red tourmalines shows a noticeable brownish hue in artificial light. But rubellite’s perfect reddish-pink color stays brilliant, making it a gorgeous anomaly in the gemstone world.
The majority of the stones are found in Brazil, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nigeria and Pakistan, but some beautiful pink rubellites have recently been discovered in the United States.
Spessartite garnet can be red or blackish brown, but is most commonly available in rich golds, fiery oranges and warmer browns. Originally named after its occurrence in the German Spessart Mountains, there was a surprising discovery of the bright orange-red stone in Nigeria and Namibia. Until then, spessartites had existed as mere collector’s items or rarities and were hardly ever used for jewelry because they were so rare. But the new location discovery changed the world of jewelry gemstones and spessartites made their way into jewelry fashion.
The most popular type of spessartite is the mandarin garnet, a gem that features a bright orange hue that ranges from that of ripe peaches to the deepest of red-orange sunsets. Signifying energy and joy of life, this stone represents the spirit of individuality and the vibrancy of life. The mandarin garnet has a remarkably high refraction of light, creating an exceptional brilliance that vividly sparkles even in unfavorable light. To bring out the best of the gem’s unique color and brilliance, most are faceted cut to allow for this tremendous sparkle of fire.
The fascinating orange color featured in mandarin garnets plays an important role in Asian arts. Yellow and red, the two colors constituting orange, are not considered opposites in Asia, but rather complements to each other. The color symbolizes the continual change of life throughout the ages. Asian gods and Buddhist monks are often dressed in orange robes and the sky in Asian art is often painted orange.
Mandarin garnets were first found along the Kunene River in Namibia in 1991, embedded in the mica slate where they had been formed millions of years ago. Gemologists discovered the orange-colored stones were in fact variations of the rare spessartite gems and members of the garnet family. At that time, spessartites were fairly rare stones, even for collectors, and had hardly been used for jewelry. Some gemologists called the brilliant orange gemstones "kunene spessartine” according to their occurrence. But quite soon the term “mandarin garnet” spread throughout the international market and the stone made its successful appearance around the world. Popularity increased dramatically and the mine on the Kunene River was soon exploited. Fortunately, in April of 1994, mandarin garnets were discovered in Nigeria. The stones are now available once again in reliable amounts, though top-quality stones are rare and it is difficult to predict how long quantity will remain reliable.