Tuesday, April 3, 2007

A Lesson on Gemstones

Gemstones (unless manufactured) are found in nature. They can be a mineral, rock or petrified material. When a gemstone is cut or faceted (cut to create a face of the stone) and polished it becomes a collectible or, it is used to make jewelry.

Gemstones are sought after for their beauty and/or their perfection, so appearance is of great importance. A variety of characteristics influence a gems beauty. A gems beauty is determined based upon color, unusual optical phenomena (its responses to interactions with various forms of light), its rarity and even such things as an unusual item embeded within, such as a fossil.

Gemstones have traditionally been categorized as precious stones and semi-precious stones. Historically, the categorization of precious stones has resulted from their use in religious ceremonies and their rarity. Traditionally, only five gemstones were known as cardinal gems and were classified as precious; diamond, ruby, sapphire, emerald, and amethyst. Today, all gemstones are considered precious however, diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds are generally considered to be the most valuable.

When considering gemstones you should understand how they are measured. Their measurement can be expressed in weight or physical dimensions.

Weight will be expressed in karats or carats. A karat is 200 milligrams, or one-fifth of a gram. Karats are further divided into 100 units known as points. Doing the math, a 20 point stone, or .20 karats, would weigh 40 milligrams.

Physical dimensions are simply expressed in millimeters.

Gemstones can also be treated to enhance their appearance and/or durability. Some treatments are commonly used and accepted, others may give only a temporary improvement in appearance.

Buyer beware. There is much more to know that will be covered in future posts so check back.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Silver Train is a Comin’

What are you getting when you purchase silver jewelry?

Silver in its purist form is 99.99% pure and is known as Fine Silver. Like gold however, it is too soft an element to be useful in jewelry. Often what you will be purchasing is Sterling Silver. Sterling is an alloy that contains at least 92.5% silver and the remaining 7.5% is other metals that contribute to its strength. That other metal is typically copper.

Sterling Silver is also known as “925″ which is nothing more than identifying this fine alloy as having at least 925 parts of silver per 1000. This designation as sterling silver dates back in time to the 1200’s.

If you didn’t purchase sterling silver, perhaps you have purchased Coin Silver. This silver is approximately 90% silver and received its name from people melting down coins which are typically 90% silver and 10% copper.

You may have purchased Mexican Silver. If so, you can expect your jewelry to contain 95% silver and 5% copper. Ironically, most of the decorative silver produced in Mexico is made with sterling silver. Also, their silver coins are not made with Mexican Silver but a lesser quality.

If you purchased Britannia Silver, your fortunate to have a product that contains 95.84% silver. This standard dates back to the late 1600’s. It was introduced to discourage the melting of British coins to produce other silver products. Like Sterling Silver’s “925″ mark, Britannia Silver carries the “958″ mark.

German Silver is just a little more confusing. Standards in Germany varied but, the most common is “800″ silver (80% silver) and “900″ silver (90% silver). While 800 silver is the most common German Silver, German silver objects will typically carry either the 800 or 900 mark to identify its purity.

As any of us that have silver products knows, silver tarnishes. The truth is that the silver does not tarnish, it is the other metals in the silver alloy that will tarnish. As a result, the lower the percentage of silver in an object, the more the item will tarnish.

Silver is a beautiful and precious metal. It should definately be included in your treasure trove of “Bling”

The Gold Rush

There is so much to be said about this most precious very precious metal. The mention of gold conjures up images and thoughts that range from “old-timers” panning the streams of the wild west, all the way to an elegant gold pendant strung along a beautiful gold chain.

Well, it is the latter upon which this article will focus. What should you know before purchasing gold jewelry? Just what are you buying? Perhaps one choice offers 14K Gold and the other, equally attractive choice says 18K gold. What’s it all about?

If an item were all gold, it would be identified as 24 karat or 24K gold. However, as we know from watching the old ”Westerns“ where the cowboys bite down on the gold coin to test its authenticity, gold is a very soft metal. As such, 24 karat gold is not well suited for many pieces of jewelry.

The solution is to blend gold with metals that will enhance its strength and its durability. When this is done, the gold karat quality is adjusted accordingly. For example, an item that is identified as 18 karat (or 18K) gold, is 18 parts of gold and 6 parts copper, silver or another base metal. The higher the karats, the more the gold content.

So, have you come to the conclusion that more karats mean more value? Not so fast, check back and look for an article about white-gold. You’ll be surprised.

Friday, March 30, 2007

A Blog About a Variety of Jewelry Facts

This blog will provide some little known (outside of the world of jewelers) facts about jewelry.
Hopefully, what you learn will make you a smarter and better shopper.
Thanks for stopping by.