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.”
Finishes on Sterling Silver
Rhodium Plating: Rhodium plating is a complex and laborious process that enhances the luster and beauty and extends the life of silver. A member of the platinum metal group, rhodium is often used as a finishing touch on silver jewelry. It's a shiny silvery metal with a very white and reflective appearance, much like mercury. It's also very hard, so it withstands much wear and tear, resists natural tarnishing and wonderfully mimics the brilliant finish of freshly polished silver.
Finishing, or plating, is a common treatment with sterling silver. Popular types of plating are rhodium plating, gold plating and anti-tarnish plating. Plating is used to extend the life and sheen of the jewelry. After sizing or buffing a piece of jewelry with a machine, it must be re-plated to restore the finish.
Caring for Sterling Silver
Avoid exposing sterling silver to direct sunlight and harsh chemicals, including chlorine, ammonia, hair products, perfumes, cosmetics, perspiration and strong jewelry cleaning solutions.
Periodically wash sterling silver with mild dish soap and warm water. Rinse well and dry completely with a soft cloth before storing because moisture can cause tarnish.
Lightly polish sterling silver frequently with a soft silver-polishing cloth, avoiding abrasive cloths completely.
Tarnish is easy to remove when it first forms as a yellowish tint, but becomes more difficult to remove when it becomes brown and black. Remove tarnish with a silver polish cream, avoiding immersing pieces with gemstones in tarnish-removal solutions.
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.
Sterling silver becomes tarnished as the result of a natural chemical process that occurs when sterling silver is exposed to chemicals in the air, rubber, wool and latex. Humidity also plays a role in accelerating tarnishing. It's easy to keep your sterling silver sparkling, though, by taking a few steps to prevent tarnish and other wear and tear.
Kunzite is a rare and expensive semi-precious gemstone that is most famous for its delicately pale, lilac pink color. It is known for its strong pleochroism, meaning it shows lighter and more intense coloring when viewed at different angles. For this reason, the pastel gem is always cut to show the deepest pink color through the top of the gem; the deeper the pink, the more valuable the stone. Because kunzite shows its best color in larger sizes, small sizes tend to be very pale. It needs a certain amount of mass to bring out its color, so stones should weigh at least 10.00ct to be really in the pink. The largest faceted kunzite is an 880.00ct stone that is on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.
Kunzite is often called the “evening stone” because it should be protected from strong sunlight. Direct sunlight and heat can fade the gem’s color over time. It is an especially fragile stone due to its crystalline structure. In fact, kunzite’s perfect cleavage and splintery fracture make it one of the most difficult gems to cut. It is a relatively hard gemstone, however, with a hardness rating on the Mohs Scale of 6.0-7.0.
First significantly found in Pala, California in 1902, kunzite is named as a tribute to George F. Kunz. He was the legendary gemologist and chief gem buyer for Tiffany & Co at the turn of the century, and was a pioneer of the science now known as gemology. Kunz wrote The Curious Lore of Precious Stones and searched the world for old stories and legends about gems while seeking new varieties and new deposits. Today, most kunzite is mined in Brazil, Afghanistan and Madagascar, and generally found in larger sizes of 10.00ct or more.
Modern folklore says that kunzite promotes emotional support and balance by helping to keep the mind and emotions in sync. It is believed that the gem aids in giving confidence and connection to a higher self. Many believe it reduces depression, mood swings and stress, while easing tension of tight muscles in the neck and shoulders. It is also suggested that kunzite increases the ability to open the heart to love and trust. In fact, the gem is considered a major gemstone of love, good for improving self-love, unconditional love of others and communication in loving relationships. Also known as a communication stone, kunzite is believed to help people better understand and interact with others.