Insights into Jewelry
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This page is dedicated (as its name implies) to providing you with a variety of helpful hints, tips and general information about jewelry, its content, and maintenance.  We hope you find it useful.


About Gold Fill...

It's a common question... "Just what is Gold Fill anyhow?"

Well, the answer is a bit lengthy, but not all that complicated.

As you probably know, Gold can be purchased in various degrees of purity.  Let's start at the top:

24K Gold or pure Gold is, as you would expect, VERY expensive (over US $1,200.00 per ounce).  But that's not it's only drawback.  It's also not very good for jewelry.  Why?  Because in addition to being very costly, it's very heavy, and worst of all, very soft.  A bracelet clasp, for example, made from pure 24K Gold would bend so easily it simply wouldn't hold even under light wear.

18K, 14K, 12K, and 10K Gold are actually mixtures of pure Gold and other metals (Brass is perhaps the most common).  As the Karat weight decreases so does the amount of Gold it contains and, of course the price decreases as well.  Unfortunately, the cost is still relatively high - so much so that a bracelet containing a decent amount of gold will still be too costly for the average buyer.

Enter Gold Fill... a truly affordable alternative to the above.

Gold Fill is actually a thick layer of Gold (typically 14K) that is bonded to a base metal (Brass) using high heat and pressure.  The layer is usually about 100 microns thick and, as such, will not flake off or wear off even with daily use.

So what is Gold Plate then?  Here's where the confusion arises...

Gold Plating is achieved by electroplating a thin layer (typically only 1 micron) to that same base metal.  The difference is durability.

While a Gold Fill finish will last a lifetime, Gold Plate will wear off in a rather short period of time (sometimes even days if your perspiration, perfume, or skin oil is slightly acidic).  Once this happens, the metal beneath will oxidize (rust) and, voila!! - that nasty green mark on your finger, wrist, or neck.

Hopefully this insight will help you choose an affordable, yet quality jewelry design that will look great for years and years to come.

Tidbits About Turquoise...

Turquoise is an interesting stone - it even has a color named for it - but, did you know...

--- Is Turquoise always blue?

No, actually the blue color comes from the presence of Copper in the area which causes that blue tint.  When Iron is present, the stone turns a beautiful spring green.

--- Is there such a thing then as *white* Turquoise?

Although some purists say no, and there are many fakes, the answer is yes.  A white version of Turquoise (mined mostly in China) is called *Chalk Turquoise* and is usually dyed with Prussian Blue to look more like it's Copper-infused cousin.  Beware, however, when the stone is actually called White Turquoise, it's probably Howlite or Magnesite - both of which resemble white marble, neither of which is Turquoise.

--- What does *stabilized* mean?

Turquoise, in most cases, is a rather fragile stone, and porous to boot.  That means it's easily chipped or broken, and will readily absorb body oil, makeup, perfume, etc. which will turn it funny colors over time.  (The color will even bleach out if left in the sun too long.)

Again, though some purists disagree with the technique, most Turquoise (especially that mined in the US) is *stabilized*.  The proprietary process, which takes months, actually embeds a stabilizing agent (typically a form of epoxy) into the stone which makes it much harder and water/oil-resistant.  It's almost impossible to tell, from appearance, that the stone has been stabilized, but the result is a much more durable product.

Other, less effective, techniques of stabilization include the use of oil and/or wax to attempt to seal it - although this does little to make it less fracture-resistant.

--- Is Yellow Turquoise actually Turquoise?

No, not really.  It's actually a form of Jasper or Serpentine with black Hematite (pure Iron) webbing throughout.  It got it's *Yellow Turquoise* name based on the fact that it's usually found right next to a deposit of Turquoise and was originally thought to be a color variation of the stone.

--- What is *reconstituted* Turquoise?

By definition, reconstituted means re-made or re-formed and that's exactly what it is.

Small pieces of real Turquoise (usually left over from making larger beads) are ground into a fine powder, infused with a bonding agent, and re-formed (typically using a mold) into a finished product.  Although it's real Turquoise, this process tends to be poo-poo'd by purists and, as such, the final product is usually far less valuable (and less costly) than a larger piece of naturally-occurring Turquoise.

Some beautiful designs, however, have been made using reconstituted stone - especially some forms of inlaid beads or cabochons where the intricate nature of the inlay almost demands a more *flexible* material.

Cleaning Sterling Silver...

As everyone knows, Sterling Silver tarnishes.  Well, Argentium claims not to, but eventually, even that will develop a bit of a coating.


That coating is actually an oxide (AKA "rust") which forms when the metal comes in contact with oxygen in the air.  We're not talking "patina" which is deliberately created to produce "character" in the design - we're talking good old-fashioned tarnish - the kind you'd prefer not to have on your jewelry.

There are as many theories, devices, and products for tarnish removal as there are human beings on the planet - or so it would seem.  Let's take a look at some of the commercial products available (the home remedies are just too numerous to discuss).

Perhaps the simplest and cheapest technique is to prevent tarnish in the first place.  This involves placing your Sterling in some sort of air-tight packaging (a re-sealable plastic bag, for example).  You may also include a small "tarnish prevention" strip of chalk-coated paper (designed to soak up what oxygen manages to get inside).

This works rather well, but you soon end up with an armoire filled with little plastic bags - looking more like a food storage cooler than a display of your beautiful jewelry.

Next in line are the simple polishing cloths.  These are merely soft materials (cotton, for example) designed to wipe the tarnish from the item.  They also work quite well, but trying to wipe tarnish from an intricate design can be difficult, if not impossible.

Likewise, with the cleaning and polishing cloths which usually contain a cleaning solvent and, in some cases, a wax to help prevent future tarnish.  Aside from their higher cost, there is an additional disadvantage to this method - that wax coating tends to limit your ability to clean the piece with the next available method - the liquid cleaner.

Liquid cleaners have one major advantage… speed!  A two or three second dip in the liquid magically removes the tarnish (followed by a thorough rinse in plain water, and a pat dry).  There is a problem, however, many jewelry components do not react well to being dipped in a caustic solution.  Pearls, opals, Mother of Pearl or shell beads, as well as many natural stones like Turquoise can be totally ruined, even with the briefest dunk.

Progressing toward the more costly products, the tumbler is perhaps next in line.  This method uses a small drum filled with a variety of tiny pieces of "shot" (similar to BB's).  You place your item(s) in the drum, turn it on, and allow it to rotate (typically) for several hours.  The shot polishes, and removes the tarnish from your jewelry as it tumbles.

This solution also works quite well, however the "down side" is (depending on the type of shot you use) it may damage more fragile stones, and it also "hardens" your Sterling (makes it more brittle, and more likely to break - not unlike bending a piece of wire back and forth 'till it eventually snaps).

Steam cleaners are also somewhat popular - basically using steam (from water and a cleaning solution) to melt away dirt and grime (and, hopefully tarnish with it).  The drawback?  Again, many stones react as badly to steam as they do caustic cleaners and you could easily ruin a design.

Next in line are the "sonic" cleaners which use minute sound waves (vibration) in a liquid to clean the item.  Like the steam cleaners, they are best at removing dirt and grime but your softer, more vulnerable stones are equally at risk.

Lastly, the "ionic" cleaners essentially "transfer" the tarnish (through a liquid) from your jewelry to the wire cage or screening on which they rest.  Though not as harsh on some stones as the products mentioned above, they do have one major drawback... the item must actually "touch" the metal screen or cage in order for it to work.

This may seem inconsequential in the overall scheme of things, but consider that most designs "contain" Sterling, as opposed to being "made" of it.  (Sterling components nestled or strung within a bracelet or necklace, for example.)  It is virtually impossible to make each of those components "touch" the metallic base of the unit.

So what is the best solution?  That depends entirely on what items (and how many) you want to clean.  For the simplest designs (a plain wedding ring, for example) virtually any technique will work.  For the more intricate designs (or those containing "vulnerable" components), you may need something else.

In our particular case, we must clean (literally) hundreds of pieces prior to a season of craft shows.  To do this, we opt for the liquid cleaners - they are simply the shortest road to success.  In those instances where components are likely to react badly, we use a small paint brush to apply the cleaner only to the Sterling Silver rather than dunking the entire design.

Hopefully, this (brief?) description of tarnish-removing products has been helpful.
Happy cleaning!

What is Paua, anyway?

We've all seen various jewelry designs containing Paua. It's very colorful, downright beautiful in fact! But what, exactly, is it? And how is it different from other, similar-looking materials?

Let's start at the beginning... the word "Paua" comes from the Eastern Polynesian language of the Maori people, indigenous to New Zealand. (That's the island country just southeast of Australia in the western Pacific.)

It's the name they give to several (three, to be exact) species of marine gastropod mollusks (large edible sea snails). In layman's terms, they're basically just big sea shells. In the UK, they're known as "Ormer" shells, and elsewhere in the world they go by the name "Abalone".

That's right, Paua and Abalone are the same thing, it just depends on which language you're speaking. In fact, Mother of Pearl is very similar, just from a different variety of sea shell.

Unlike some of its relatives, the outer layers of these mollusks are relatively mundane and un-impressive. But the innermost layer of the shell (called the "nacre") is quite a different story; it's a rainbow swirl of iridescent greens, blues, pinks, and purples.

It's this nacre that's cut into various shapes and used as (or embedded in) jewelry. And, since it's relatively porous in nature, it readily accepts dyes, stabilizers, and clear finishes to further enhance its beauty and durability.

So the next time you hear someone refer to an Abalone jewelry design as Paua, you will know... they are simply "speaking Maori".


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Wise Choice Collection
2381 SW Independence Road
Port St. Lucie, FL  34953

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