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
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
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.
History of Coin Jewelry
Wearing coins as jewelry is practically as ancient as the first coins themselves! For centuries, people have been wearing coin jewelry as a way to display their wealth or showcase their passion for the coins they've collected. Ancient Egyptians adorned their soldiers with coin jewelry featuring imperial portraits, while the Roman Empire valued pendants that were emblazoned with coins mounted for easy removal.
Coin jewelry is divided into two different categories: whole coins versus cut coins. Whole coin jewelry features complete, unaltered coins set into a particular ornament; Cut coin jewelry – which first appeared in the 1600s – features coins that have been altered through carving or engraving. To cut a coin, a craftsman would pierce it with small holes until the main figure was released. In the period from the late 1800s to World War II, coins began to be etched and decorated by hand (in lieu of being cut). Because they were personalized with floral motifs and initials, they became known as "sweetheart jewelry".
Today, the increasing popularity of coin jewelry is the result of a trend that began centuries ago. So instead of tucking coins away in drawers or boxes, why not proudly display and enjoy them? By mounting coins in jewelry, belt buckles, key chains, or money clips, they will be showcased and honored in a way that conveys a respect for history, an affirmation of heritage, and a reflection of values.