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Jewelry Education

Jewelry manufactured as ornamentation to complement a fashionable costume or garment as opposed to “real” (fine) jewelry, which may be regarded primarily as collectibles, keepsakes, or investments. Originally, costume or fashion jewelry was made of inexpensive simulated gemstones, such as rhinestones or Lucite, set in pewter, silver, nickel, or brass. Modern costume jewelry incorporates a wide range of materials. High-end crystals, cubic zirconia simulated diamonds, and some semi-precious stones are used in place of precious stones. Metals include gold- or silver-plated brass, and sometimes vermeil or sterling silver. Lower-priced jewelry may still use gold plating over pewter, nickel or other metals; items made in countries outside the United States may contain lead. Some pieces incorporate plastic, acrylic, leather, or wood.

Pure silver, also called fine silver, is relatively soft, very malleable, and easily damaged so it is commonly combined with other metals to produce a more durable product. The most popular of these alloys is sterling silver, which consists of 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent copper. Although any metal can make up the 7.5 percent non-silver portion of sterling, centuries of experimentation have shown copper to be its best companion, improving the metal’s hardness and durability without affecting its beautiful color. The small amount of copper added to sterling has very little effect on the metal’s value. Instead, the price of the silver item is affected by the labor involved in making the item, the skill of the craftsperson, and the intricacy of the design.

Jewelry made of sterling silver is stamped with a .925 or 925 STG quality stamp.

This is the closest metal to the pure element of silver. The .999 in its name means it’s 99.9% pure. The remaining 0.1% is made up of trace elements of insignificant quality. Fine silver has a more luster than the bright polish of sterling.

Since this silver is soft, it will scratch, dent and change shape easily. For this reason, it’s not suitable for most jewelry because it’s lifespan as a designed piece of jewelry isn’t very long. The soft metal does make it an option for earrings and necklaces, but not rings and bracelets that are bumped and scratched easily.

The quality stamp for fine silver is .999 FS or just .999.

Stainless steel could easily be considered the original contemporary jewelry material, long pre-dating other popular contemporary materials like titanium and tungsten carbide. The scope of stainless-steel benefits is impressive: stainless steel is durable, easy to maintain and offers some of the best pricing on the market for men’s rings and jewelry. Stainless steel is available in several grades, although the highest quality grade for jewelry is 316L.

Zinc alloy is a very common and popular material for jewelry components due to its versatility and low cost. It is often referred to as ‘Tibetan Silver’, however – while it is now a widely accepted trade name for zinc alloys – the name is a misnomer (traditional Tibetan silver is now quite rare, and has genuine silver content, while zinc alloy will generally have none).

Like most metals, zinc alloy can tarnish and discolor. Depending on a variety of factors (metal content, finish, exposure to certain conditions), this can happen very quickly, or take several months. To help prevent tarnish, it’s best to avoid moist or wet conditions, and when not in use, store in an airtight container (a silica gel sachet can help by absorbing any moisture in the container).

When purchasing jewelry, a more economical than solid gold but still beautiful option is a gold-filled piece. Jewelers create gold filled jewelry by pressure bonding an actual layer of gold to another metal. Although a gold-filled piece of jewelry is not solid gold, it has the same desirable properties and looks of solid gold.

It won’t tarnish and will not rub off or turn colors. Wearers who are sensitive to certain metals can wear gold filled without worries of an allergic reaction. Although the layer of gold in gold-filled pieces varies depending on the manufacturer it is in all cases significantly thicker than regular gold plating (the next category of gold jewelry). Gold filled accessories can be worn even daily without fear of fading or rubbing off for many cases up to 30 years.

Gold Plated jewelry is the best option for wearers who are jewelry obsessed but need to stay in a budget (pretty much everyone out there). It gives the impression of luxury while not causing you to break the bank every time you see a cute, trendy necklace or bracelet. Gold plated jewelry is made by using electricity or chemicals to deposit and bond a very thin layer of gold over another metal. This process creates a layer as thin as 1/1000 to 3/1000 of an inch of gold over a more affordable metal, usually silver or copper.

The downside of gold plating is that the gold layer fades and tarnishes over time. The reason being that molecules of the base metals slowly transfer into the thin layer of gold causing it to break down.

Stones created in a lab are chemically, physically and optically identical to those mined underground, yet they have fewer flaws and cost less, too.

The more expensive and hard-to-find natural gems, such as sapphires, emeralds, and rubies are favorite lab-created stones. An imitation gemstone, while artificially made, does not follow nature’s recipe, making it completely different physically, chemically and optically from the natural gem it copies.

The mineral composition of lab-created stones is created through a process similar to what nature does beneath the earth over millions of years, but in a lab at a fraction of the time, and for a fraction of the cost.

The main distinction is natural gems typically have inclusions from the crystallization process – gases and other minerals mixing during the molten stage of stone creation. Because lab-created stones rely on a steady, controlled process of applying minerals, heat, and pressure, they have few, if any, inclusions.

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