All you need to know about silver

All you need to know about silver

Did you know?

Although silver plays second fiddle to gold, silver has many uses. It is the best reflector of light so is used to make mirrors; it is the best thermal conductor so is used in your rear windscreen to defrost ice; it is the best electric conductor of the elements so is used for electrical contacts; it is also used in dentistry, solder and brazing alloys, batteries and even in the fingers of gloves so you can use them with your touch phone! It can be drawn into wire or beaten into sheets making it perfect for jewellery making!

Where does silver come from?

It is believed that silver was one of the first 5 metals to be discovered around 5000BC!  It can exist in its native state. In other words, nuggets or crystals of pure silver exist in nature but it also occurs as a natural alloy with gold (called electrum) and commonly occurs in copper, lead, and zinc ores so it is usually extracted as a bi product when mining for these metals. The biggest producers today are Mexico and Peru followed by N. America, Russia and Australia.

 

What is sterling silver?

Fine silver is 99.9% pure silver. While beautiful in this form it’s generally too soft and malleable for uses such as cutlery, jewellery and giftware so it is mixed with 7.5% copper. This has the advantage of making the silver harder, and more durable without compromising on colour but the downside of this is that the added copper will cause it to tarnish, with the metal turning dark brown or black over time, especially in humid conditions. However it is easy to clean and beneath the tarnish your sterling silver will be in great condition and won’t rust.

What are the different silver finishes?

There are several different finishes for silver, dependant on the use or just the preference of the designer.  Some of the most popular finishes are:

  • Polished – Just as it sounds the silver is polished until you can see your reflection in it.  It is beautiful but the downside is that is shows scratches very easily
  • Satin – This has a smooth finish to the touch but it is not reflective – it’s like a mirror that has got misted up!
  • Brushed – A tool is used to polish the metal that leaves small lines, creating a textured finish, dull instead of shiny, deflecting light rather than reflecting it.
  • Hammered – Literally ‘hammered’ to produce ‘dimples’ and a satin finish, popular with many designers of jewellery and decorative pieces for the home.
  • Oxidised – A chemical process is applied to the silver to darken the metal

Which is better, silver or gold?

While gold is a beautiful metal without doubt, it is also up to an incredible 75 times more expensive than silver  which often puts it out of our reach. Like gold however silver will maintain and even possibly increase in value and even those with sensitive skins are unlikely to have an adverse reaction to it. Its use in coinage, luxury homewares, prestigious trophies, gifts for milestones etc ensures it remains a symbol of high status.

Have you considered vermeil?

If you feel more comfortable wearing gold (and for some people’s skin tone it can work better) then try vermeil. This is a process by which sterling silver is heavily plated in gold which produces excellent quality pieces that will stand the test of time at a much lower price than gold alone. Some jewellery designers actually plate their sterling silver designs in white gold to prevent tarnishing.

An excellent choice

With so many benefits you really can’t go wrong and with so many wonderful designers working with sterling silver you can be sure of adding a touch of class to your jewellery collection.

 

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All you need to know about gold

All you need to know about gold

Gold is a metal of antiquity. There is evidence of its use as far as back as 3000BC so gold diggers go back a long way! It has always been one of the most popular and most expensive precious metals in the world and can be found in its pure state naturally so what makes it so popular and so much more expensive than other metals?

Is gold rare?

Historically,  gold has always been rarer than silver and in keeping with the law of supply and demand this has led to gold being anywhere from 50 – 75 times more expensive than silver however in recent years this has changed and silver is now rarer but despite this gold still remains many times more expensive. So ……

Why is gold so expensive?

Well it’s a truly beautiful metal of course, uniquely warm, luminous and rich in its purest form that can be alloyed with other metals to achieve a broad spectrum of colours; it doesn’t tarnish, corrode, rust or disintegrate; it can be worn down with daily wear but by and large it lasts a lifetime; it’s about twice as dense as silver so a little gold goes a long way; jewellers love working with it because it’s soft and can be easily formed into different shapes and it’s easy to engrave. But can this explain it?

Not entirely perhaps. Our perception of value is often not based on facts but on what we’re willing to spend on something. We’ve been ‘programmed’ that gold is money, gold is wealth. Gold rings symbolise one’s commitment to marriage. We’ve decided as a society — as a whole world! — that gold is more valuable.

Know your carats

If you’re spending a lot of money on a piece of gold jewellery there are some things you need to know
A carat, in relation to gold, is a measurement of purity, the purest being 24 carats but this is generally too soft to use so it is usually mixed with other metals, (such as zinc, copper, silver & nickel) which makes it harder, easier to work with and better wearing.
18 ct gold, the most commonly used and regarded as the European standard is therefore an alloy of 18 parts gold and 6 parts another metal and is a very good compromise between purity and price.
14 ct gold is commonly used in the US and still maintains a good colour.10 ct is the lowest carat used in the US while 9 carat gold, 9 parts gold and 15 parts other metal, is the lowest carat in the UK and most other countries. It is the most durable but not as golden a colour.

Designers who are wishing to keep the cost down but still achieve the warm colour of pure gold will often use heavy gold plating of at least 18ct gold on sterling silver, known as vermeil.

Different gold ‘colours’

The variations in colour are all down to the colour of the other metals that the pure gold is alloyed to. The addition of large amounts of copper leads to Rose Gold (sometimes referred to as red gold or pink gold)
White gold contains a substantial amount of nickel, manganese or palladium. Often, particularly for jewellery, it is also plated with rhodium, giving it a bright white colour.

Gold jewellery is truly exquisite and ideally everybody should have some of it in their collection. Fortunately Vermeil brings it into the reach of those unable to pay the premium still demanded by those that mine it!

 

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