Well we’ve past the winter solstice, so it can only get warmer from here ! Not sure if it’s cold in your part of the world but it has been raining and is a little chilly in the evenings here on the southern Gold Coast. Good weather for jewellery design !
This week lets take a brief look at sterling silver, which I often use in combination with gemstones to great effect.
Handcrafted sterling silver ring and black onyx gemstone earrings
Silver itself is, of course, a metal and not a combination of metals (alloy). It is soft and ductile and can easily be shaped and formed and can be highly polished. Before around the second millennium BC, silver was actually typically more valuable than gold because it was harder to extract from the mined ore. But the Egyptians changed that when they figured out better ways to extract the silver from the ore.
Silver is referred to as fine silver when it is of 99.9% or more purity. Although fine silver is beautiful and does not tarnish, its uses are limited because of its softness.
So for jewellery, it is most often alloyed with copper to produce sterling silver. Sterling silver is 92.5% pure silver and 7.5 % copper. The properties of copper compliment silver for jewellery making, adding needed hardness and durability without diminishing the striking colour.
A slight drawback is that the included copper does produce tarnishing if kept for long enough - but this tarnishing can be removed with cleaning. With care, it is entirely possible to keep sterling silver in great condition.
Wearing your pieces often can actually reduce tarnishing through the chemical effects of the oils in your skin !
Of course if you store your sterling silver jewellery in air tight containers that would mean less oxidation because less exposure to air.
Tarnishing means the jewellery surface is less bright or darker but sterling jewellery can be intentionally oxidised in places on the piece for effect and contrast. Then cleaning might change this effect by removing the layer of oxidation - most often in grooves or etched areas of jewellery.
As mentioned, silver can be polished to a very shiny finish but one needs to take care here - its is also soft so can be scratched easily. If dirt or tarnish remain, try soap and water.
Or a small amount baking soda and water paste if that does not work.
For stubborn tarnish soak your sterling silver piece in white vinegar and baking soda. Half a cup of white vinegar and two tablespoons baking soda and soak for a few hours should do the trick.
Commercial cleaners do work well but they often are strong enough to compromise the glue that might have been used to secure any gemstones set on your piece. So take care with these !
Handmade red garnet gemstones and round sterling silver bead drop earrings
This week’s news from Julie’s craft bench:
I have made three gorgeous new sterling silver sleeper hoop sets this week. They have three interchangeable gemstone drops. Great value for money. I have my sets that I wear all the time even in the ocean.
I also finished a stunning set of a necklace, bracelet and earrings in Frosted Madagascar Agate. I will be taking pictures of them this week and adding to website, so I’m excited about that.
If you have any questions about Empaness or our products you can message me on FB, Instagram or email email@example.com
Message from me for the week is “ Treat all sentient beings with love & respect ”
Bye for now - wishing you all a wonderful, happy and safe weekend.