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SilverJewelryClub

Precious Metals Guide

Platinum

History of Platinum Platinum, like gold, has a long and distinguished history. Its use began in antiquity and it has undergone a resurgence in popularity over the last 200 years. Platinum was held in high esteem during early Egyptian times. Native people in South and Central America worked it as early as 100 B.C.

Spanish conquistadors discovered platinum artifacts among the gold they were seeking when they came to the new world. They named the curious metal "platina," or "little silver." They also considered it worthless, and discarded it. Platinum didn't reach Europe until the 18th century. It was highly regarded as King Louis XVI called it "the metal of kings."

For centuries, the only large amounts of platinum outside of South America were found in Russian mines. Nowadays, platinum is far more valuable than gold. Platinum's initial uses were probably limited by its hardness and its very high melting point. The early forging and casting techniques made it quite a difficult metal with which to work and mold.

During the latter part of the 19th century, and the first half of the 20th, platinum was the premier metal for all-important jewelry. Platinum dominated the world of jewelry design during the Edwardian era and the Art Deco period well. This dominance prevailed into the 1930s. With World War II came the abrupt end of platinum jewelry as platinum was declared a strategic metal and all non-military uses of the metal was banned.

Beauty of Platinum

The appeal of platinum is in its appearance. Its white luster is unique. It is also the strongest precious metal used in jewelry, and is almost twice as heavy as 14-karat gold. This weight is one of platinum's strongest selling points, because it gives "heft" to fine jewelry, which people naturally equate with value.

In recent years platinum has rapidly grown in popularity. It has become the new choice for many diamond engagement rings because its luster brings out the brilliance of diamonds far better than gold.

Many fashion consultants agree that platinum (and white gold) is more compatible with fairer skin tones. The Japanese seem to be listening -- almost 85% of platinum jewelry produced every year is purchased by Japanese consumers

Origin of Platinum Go To Top

Despite its growing popularity, platinum remains one of the world's rare metals. The annual worldwide production of platinum amounts to some 160 tons, compared to about 1,500 tons of gold. It can be found in just a handful of regions of the world. The mining and refining processes are both arduous and time-consuming. For example, in order to extract a single ounce of platinum, about 10 tons of ore need to be mined. After that, the refining process takes a full five months.

Platinum in jewelry is actually an alloyed group of six heavy metals, including platinum, palladium, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium and osmium. These other metals are so similar to platinum in weight and chemistry that most were not even distinguished from each other until early in the nineteenth century.

Today, it is often alloyed with copper and titanium. It's the only precious metal used in fine jewelry that is 90% to 95% pure, largely hypoallergenic, and tarnish-resistant. Look for platinum jewelry marked 900Pt, 950 Plat, or Plat.

Platinum Care

One final word about precious metals: Like gold, platinum is durable, sturdy and dependable, making it an ideal setting for your precious diamond jewelry. However, to get a lifetime of enjoyment from your jewelry, be sure to keep it clean and safe.

Do not wear platinum jewelry during rough work or when handling harsh chemicals.

Store it in a fabric-lined box away from other pieces so it does not get scratched.

Finally, check any diamond settings periodically for possible damage to prongs or bezels. If you see a loose prong, or if the setting looks out of line, immediately bring it to a professional for repair.

Gold

Gold Quality

Gold is durable, sturdy, dependable, and makes an ideal setting for your precious diamond jewelry. Gold also comes in a variety of colors -- yellow, white, and rose (or pink).

Gold's purity is measured in karats. The term "karat" harks back to the ancient bazaars where "carob" beans were used to weigh precious metals. 24 karat is pure gold, but its purity means it is more expensive and less durable than gold that is alloyed with other metals. Different alloys are used in jewelry for greater strength, durability and color range.

The karat of the jewelry will tell you what percentage of gold it contains: 24 karat is 100 percent, 18 karat is 75 percent, and 14 karat is 58 percent gold. When comparing gold jewelry, the higher the number of karats, the greater the value.

Europeans have long embraced 18-karat gold as their metal of choice, and with good reason. Its rich yellow color, luxurious look and feel have an extraordinarily sensual appeal; many European women treat 18-karat gold like a second skin, even wearing it to the beach!

Today, women in the U.S. and around the globe are "trading up" and treating themselves to the beauty and opulence of 18-karat gold. Nothing less than 10 karats can legally be marked or sold as gold jewelry in the U.S. However, lower karatages, such as 8-karat gold and 9-karat gold, are popular in other countries.

Always look for the karat mark or "k" that appears on the back of the piece. By U.S. law, if a karat mark appears you should also see the manufacturer's trademark to assure you that the karat marking is accurate, followed by its country of origin. These designations assure you that you are buying genuine karat gold jewelry.

Gold Types

Gold Filled, also called Gold Overlay, refers to a layer of at least 10-karat gold that has been permanently bonded by heat and pressure to one or more surfaces of the support metal, then rolled or drawn to a prescribed thickness. The karat gold must be at least 1/ 10 of the total weight.

Gold Plate means that a layer of plating of 10-karat gold or better has been bonded to a base metal. The karat gold content may be less than 1/20, but it must be properly identified by weight in terms of total metal content.

Gold Leaf is just gold plating that's been pounded and applied by hand.

Gold Colors     Go To Top

Yellow gold is alloyed with silver and copper. It is the most frequently used type of gold there is. Malleable, ductile, and generally non-corrosive, it has a high melting point and is not susceptible to compression.

White gold is alloyed with a large percentage of silver, or a selection of other white metals. The percentage of gold naturally varies, according to the amount of other metal used. White gold is highly reflective and not subject to tarnish. The ancient term for it was Electrum. Its use predates that of Palladium and Platinum.

Rose gold is alloyed with copper, and perhaps silver. The proportions are about one part of copper to three parts of 24-karat gold.

Gold Pricing

Gold pricing is based on a number of factors, including karatage, gram weight, design and craftsmanship. The karatage and gram weight tell you how much gold is in a piece, but don't rely on these alone to determine price. Remember, a price based solely on gram weight does not reflect the work that has gone into the piece.

Other important factors to consider are the jewelry's construction and design. The techniques of construction can make a piece more durable and flexible for added comfort. A well-made piece in a classic design will give you years of wear and enjoyment and, if cared for properly, will last a lifetime. Unique design, intricate details, gemstones or a special clasp may add to the price.

Gold jewelry is mainly produced by machine. Any additional hand finishing or textural interest raises the cost. Similar looking pieces may have vastly different price tags. This is because different pieces may have specific characteristics that make them unique. So look carefully to notice any differences and similarities. Often, it is these small details that give you pleasure through the years that you enjoy a piece of jewelry and ensure that your children will enjoy it also.

Gold Care     Go To Top

To get a lifetime of enjoyment from your jewelry, be sure to keep it clean and safe.

Do not wear jewelry during rough work or when handling harsh chemicals. Store it in a fabric-lined box away from other pieces to preserve it from getting scratched.

Finally, check the diamond settings periodically for any damage to the gold prongs or bezels. If you see a loose prong, or if the setting looks out of line, bring it to a professional jeweler for repair at once.

Silver

Silver is the queen of metals: gleaming and elegant, cool to the eye, sensuous to the touch. Silver jewelry is a classic gift that remains close to a woman's heart.

History of Silver

Silver is one of the first metals to be used by humans. It may have been the first metal smelted from ore. The art of silver working dates back to the ancient Byzantine, Phoenician and Egyptian empires, where silver was forged into domestic utensils, jewelry, buttons, weapons, horse trappings, boxes, and other articles.

Unfortunately, silver's high utility meant that items were often melted down and re-forged into new items. Consequently, much ancient and early European silverwork has been lost forever. The silver tradition was carried over to colonial America , where it co-existed with the centuries-old hand-hammered craft traditions of the North and South American natives.

The mines in Mexico and Peru are still the highest-producing ones in the world, and the methods of silver jewelry making among native peoples remains largely unchanged today. The niche of silver making in Western society has been a bit more dynamic. Silver's value as a jewelry and utensil metal made it an early target for ambitious miners, and the discovery of the Comstock Lode in Nevada in 1859 created a silver rush that rivaled the Gold Rush.

In recent years, silver has lost much of its value as a reserve metal and a traded commodity. However, its low price often means it acts as a leading metal in jewelry fashion - allowing silver craftsmen freedom to experiment with new and innovative designs, which are later duplicated in more expensive gold and platinum, once the "style" is safely established.

Silver is popular among younger people attempting a less-formal look in their accessorizing, and among those who simply find gold and platinum too old-world and ostentatious.

Silver Finish Go To Top

Silver is also the brightest reflector of any metal (except for liquid mercury) and can be polished to a high sheen that even platinum can't achieve. In fact, the chemical symbol for silver, Ag, is derived from the Latin, argentum, meaning "white and shining."

The finish on silver can be high polished, matte or brushed (rubbed with an abrasive), satin (a smoother matte), sandblasted (rough matte), oxidized (chemically blackened), or antiqued (chemically "aged"). Silver is said to have a "patina," a worn- looking finish that is achieved through frequent use and handling, and is particular to the wearer's skin chemistry.

Silver Purity

In its pure form silver is almost as soft as gold, and therefore is usually alloyed with copper for strength. Karatage is not marked because, legally, anything called "silver" or "sterling silver" is 92.5% pure.

Sometimes silver from south of the border is designated "Mexican silver," which runs anywhere from 90% to 99% pure. Purity is really not something to worry about with silver.

Alloys

Fine Silver in its natural state, 999/1000 pure, is too soft an element for practical jewelry. To make it workable, an alloy such as copper is added. Here are the main silver alloys:

Sterling Silver: A mixture of 92.5 % pure silver (925 parts) and 7.5 % metal alloy.

Silver Plating: Also known as silver plated or silver coated. A base metal, usually nickel silver or brass, is coated with a layer of pure silver by a process called electroplating.

Vermeil: Sterling silver electroplated with at least 100 millionths of an inch of karat gold

German Silver or Nickel Silver: A silver-white alloy consisting of copper, zinc and nickel.

Coin Silver: 90% (900 parts) pure silver and 10% (100 parts) metal alloy. A process of melting down coins done in the 19th century, and mostly discarded today.

Buying Silver Jewelry Go To Top

Silver often carries with it the appeal of a tender sentiment or a lovely memory. And it possesses a sophistication that every woman understands.

However, in selecting silver jewelry for herself, a woman should not forget that men place a high value on silver themselves. For that special man the perfect gift in silver might be a handsome pair of sterling silver cuff links, a tie bar, an I.D. bracelet, or even a signet ring. For a man, silver is a gift of distinction.

Make sure there are no visible blemishes or imperfections on the piece. Check to make certain that fasteners, clasps and catches work properly and are secure. Check pin backs and earring posts for strength and durability. Lay silver chains flat to make certain their links don't kink or bend.

Silver Care

Acquiring fine silver is one thing. Keeping it bright and beautiful is another. However, there's no mystery to caring for your fine silver jewelry. Just follow these tips:

Store your silver in a cool, dry place that is preferably airtight, to avoid oxidation. Avoid direct overexposure to artificial light or sunlight for long periods. Don't store directly on wood, which often contains acids that can affect silver's surface.

Store items in a tarnish-proof cloth, or in drawers with tarnish-resistant strips. Store each item individually, either in its own soft pouch or in a separate compartment of your jewelry box. Do not store silver loose in drawers; scratches will occur if you toss your jewelry into a compartment or allow pieces to rub against each other.

If a piece of silver jewelry becomes tarnished, use a paste, liquid polish or a treated polishing cloth to restore its original luster. Never put rubber bands or plastic directly against the surface of your silver.