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.
Zircon often suffers for its name’s similarity to “cubic zirconia,” the simulated diamond. The stone zircon, however, is actually a beautiful natural gemstone. It is named from the Persian word “zargun,” meaning “gold-colored.” This is despite the fact that it comes in a wide range of rainbow colors. The majority of zircons are brown or yellow-brown, while pure red and green are the most valuable colors. The yellow-red to reddish-brown variety is called “hyacinth.”
For many years, the most popular type of zircon was the colorless variety. More than any other natural stone, colorless zircons produce a brilliant sparkle similar to diamonds. The most popular color today tends to be the bright pastel blue variety. Sometimes called “starlite,” blue zircon has recently become considered an alternative birthstone for December.
Zircon is one of the heaviest gemstones, meaning that it will look smaller than other varieties of the same weight. It ranks a hardness between 6.5-7.5 on the Mohs Scale and is mined in Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar and Australia.
Travelers during the 11th century wore zircon amulets for protection and to encourage welcome greetings on their journeys. In the Middle Ages, the stone was said to bring wisdom and prosperity to its owner. Hindu mythology even mentions the gem when referencing the Kalpa Tree, which was a glowing tree covered with gemstone fruit and leaves of zircon.
Prasiolite, also known as vermarine or praziolite, is a transparent green quartz. Quite rare in nature, most prasiolites on the market are heat treated amethysts, which is why they are sometimes called "green amethysts". Not all heated amethysts result in green hued prasiolites, however. Only amethysts from a few select locations, including Montezuma, Brazil and Arizona, will produce prasiolites when heat treated. Naturally occurring prasiolite has been reported in Poland.
Prasiolite is considered by some to be a true collector’s gemstone due to its rarity. Relatively inexpensive, its popularity has grown in recent years with large, clean, color saturated stones as the most valuable and desirable. The color of prasiolite can vary from light yellow-green to deep green, and can look similar to peridot and tourmaline. Ranking 7.0 on the Mohs Hardness Scale, prasiolite is ideal for everyday wear. Clean the stone with warm soapy water and a soft brush while keeping it away from household chemicals. Prolonged exposure to extreme heat or sunlight may cause damage and discoloration. Store your jewelry in a fabric lined box and away from other items and gemstones to avoid scratching.
Derived from the Greek words, “prason” meaning leek, and “lithos” meaning stone, prasiolite was named for its vegetable colored stone appearance. Some believe prasiolite bridges the gap between physical and spiritual aspects of life and attracts prosperity by strengthening the mind and emotions. It is used by some as an aid for issues with the heart, digestion and even eating disorders.