10.17.2006

Sterling Silver

What is Sterling Silver?
Sterling silver is one of the three precious metals, the other two being gold and platinum. Sterling silver is an alloy (mix) of 92.5% silver and 7.5% of another metal, usually copper. This sterling silver standard of 925 was set by the British by 1300 ad. when the term "sterling silver" was established. This is why you see 925, 925/1000, or "sterling" stamped into your sterling silver. This ensures that your silver jewelry or other silver items are sterling.

Copper us usually used and has been proven through trial and error to be the best metal to alloy with silver. It provides strength, durability, and it enhances silvers bright natural sheen. However, other metals may be used. Some of the more common replacements for copper are zinc, platinum, geranium and a variety of other additives including silicon and boron. These metals are used in place of copper to improve various properties of the sterling alloy such as reducing casting porosity, eliminating fire scale and increasing resistance to tarnish. At this time there is no industry standard formula for tarnish resistant sterling silver, therefore the competition is high between the manufacturers offering tarnish resistant sterling silver.

What is Pure Silver?
Silver itself is an element and can be found on the periodic table. Fine silver, which is 99.9% silver, is usually too soft for producing any functional objects or jewelry. Although you can find jewelry or elements of jewelry using fine silver. This is why copper or other metals are alloyed with silver. These alloys give silver strength and durability while preserving the precious metal content.

Where did the name sterling silver come from?
There are a few theories of the origin of the term "sterling silver."

Theory 1
The term emerged in England by the 13th century. The 1971 Oxford English Dictionary states that the early middle English name sterling was presumably descriptive of small stars that were visible on early Norman pennies. (Referring to the old English term "steorling.")

Theory II
Sterling silver was first known as "Easterling silver", which was used in reference to the grade of silver originally used as the local currency in an area of Germany, known as the "Easterling."

King Henry II set to adopt the alloy as the standard for English currency. He imported metal refiners from the Easterling and put them to work making silver coins for England. The silver these refiners produced came into use as the currency by 1158 in the form of what are known as Tealby Pennies. These Tealby Pennies were eventually adopted as a standard alloy throughout England and the original term "Easterling Silver" was abbreviated to "Sterling Silver."

Most silver coins today are 90% silver and 10% copper. This standard was established in the 1820's.

Why does Sterling Silver tarnish?
Sterling silver tarnish build up is the dulling that naturally occurs when sterling silver reacts with sulfer or hydrogen sulfide in the air. Chemically, silver itself does not react with oxygen or water at ordinary temperatures, so it does not easily form a silver oxide. However, other metals in the alloy, usually copper, may react with oxygen in the air.

How can tarnish be prevented?
Sterling silver tarnish can be prevented by storing your sterling silver jewelry in air tight and tarnish-free containers. Air tight plastic bags work well for keeping your sterling silver jewelry tarnish free. You can also use tarnish free jewelry storage bags or jewelry boxes. Wearing your sterling silver jewelry is another preventative way to keep your jewelry tarnish free. If your sterling silver jewelry is already tarnished, you can use a polish formulated specifically to remove tarnish. Rinse with clear water and pat dry. Only use a soft cloth when removing tarnish from your sterling silver, other materials may scratch the soft metal. Do not use toothpaste or other abbrasives to clean your sterling silver. Do not wear your sterling silver jewelry in chlorinated water or expose it to household chemicals such as bleach or ammonia.

box. This will prevent To protect your jewelry from scratches and other damage, store your jewelry away from other pieces in your jewelryjewelry from rubbing against your sterling silver, pearls or other vulnerable elements.

Sterling Silver vs. Silver Plated
Silver plated is usually a sterling silver overlay or plate over a base, non-precious metal. Since the sterling silver is layered over a base metal, it cannot bear the 925 mark of sterling silver. Silver plate has no intrinsic silver value.

Sterling silver will last forever if you want to use it and care for it properly. Silver plate will last about 20 years or less depending on the use and the proper care.

What is Vermeil?
Vermeil is a 22kt gold plate or overlay over sterling silver. This is an increased trend making gold more affordable while keeping the precious metal value. It bridges the gap between gold fill, which is a base metal rolled in gold, and solid gold, which is expensive and increasing regularly. All three choices, gold fill, vermeil, and gold hold more value than gold plate. Read more about gold fill.

What metals does Kincaidesigns use in their handmade jewelry?
Kincaidesigns uses precious metals of sterling silver and gold fill. Gold-filled, or gold overlay, is made by heat and pressure-bonding a thin layer of gold to a brass core. The gold covers the brass surface, making it tarnish resistant. The value of gold-fill is greater than gold-plated because gold-fill has an actual layer of gold, not just a microscopic film. All the 14kt gold-filled materials used by Kincaidesigns handmade jewelry meets federal standards for quality and content.

To shop for your own unique sterling silver or gold fill handmade jewelry, go to the Glass Art and Handmade Jewelry Shop at www.kincaidesigns.com.

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10.16.2006

The History of Lampworking and Glassblowing

When did Glassworking begin?
While the age of lampworking is unknown, it was developed well before the invention of any torch, burner, or furnace. Glassworking was rumored to have been discovered by someone accidentally dropping glass into a campfire. From there they used a "small fire" for any form of glasswork and developed small beehive shaped furnaces in the ground. These small furnaces have been recorded in many ancient civilizations and they seem to have dominated glassmaking before the birth of Christ. These glasswork techniques spread throughout the ancient world from Japan to North Africa.

The Romans were known to have used these beehive furnaces or kilns, and are responsible for making some significant changes to their design. They were the first to add more exhaust vents and more options for side access to these kilns. More tools were experimented with and refined.

Just before the birth of Christ, someone thought of using a hollow pipe to extract glass instead of glass rods. It caused a bubble of gathered glass. While glass beads were still used the old way with rods, glass blowing dominated the glass forming technique for the next thousand years. Italians achieved the highest technical achievement around the world. In 1921, the Italians were sent to Murano (An island off the mainland of Venice, Italy), due to the fire hazards of Glasswork.

As Europe entered the Renaissance, a new use for glass was developed. Angelo Barovier, working in Murano, invented Crystallo, a clear soda glass in 1450 AD. There was a new need for clear durable vessels as chemical science was developing. This was the best glass for the job. The pipe glassblowing technique wasn't suitable for making these small objects. It was discovered that forcing a small narrow stream of air into a flame from an oil lamp created sufficient heat to work with the small pieces of glass. By the beginning of the fifteenth century this technique was spread throughout Europe and Lampworking was born.

Although the tools continued to become more sophisticated, the basic material, glass, has remained essentially the same as when Crystallo invented it. This glass is commonly referred to today at Moretti Glass, or Effetre.

In 1921, a scientist from the glass factory in Corning, New York, invented a new glass more resilient when heated and cooled, called Pyrex. It was 15 percent lighter and much stronger than soda glass. However, it required a much higher and more powerful heat source to work with the glass.

It was found that adding oxygen and natural gas produced the heat and power needed for pyrex and the traditional oil lamps were replaced with new oxygen and natural gas burners which clamped to the lampworkers workbench.

Today, equipment and tools have continued to become more sophisticated and new tools are experimented, however, many of the original tools from Murano are widely used and are still the most effective.

All the glass beads at Kincaidesigns are handcrafted by the artist, Holly Kincaid, using the lampwork techniques described in this article. She then uses her handcrafted glass beads in her unique handmade jewelry designs. To shop for your own handmade glass beaded jewelry, go to the Glass Art and Handmade Jewelry Shop.

Visit www.kincaidesigns.com to shop for Unique Handmade Jewelry.

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