Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Does your silver tarnish?

In the past 6 years I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked this question…

It is clear to me many people are not aware sterling, argentium and fine silver will tarnish over time!  How fast sterling silver tarnishes depends on a number of things.  One contributing factor is how pure silver is.  Sterling silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% another metal, usually copper; copper is one of the contribute factors to sterling silver tarnishing faster than fine silver.  This is due to the interactions between the silver, copper and sulfide in the air.  The sulfides are found in smoke from burnt raw fuel such as coal or oil, strong smelling foods such as eggs and onions, some fish or shell fish and of course air pollution.  I have actually blackened sterling silver a number of times with a hard-boiled egg by putting the egg yolk and the silver item in a baggy and letting sit until the silver “tarnished”, usually about 24 hours.    Some medications, particularly antibiotics can cause silver to tarnish, this I’d not heard of before.  During the tarnishing process it starts out as a yellowing effect, eventually going dark.  Humidity will result in silver tarnishing faster than usual.   Some people have more acid in there system and may see a discoloration on their skin while wearing silver!

Silver wire that is badly tarnished…it was bagged but not sealed and in the bottom of my silver container under many other bags, for some time...

 I've used sterling silver a great deal over the years and my experience has been some silvers tarnish much faster than others...which makes me believe the makeup of some silver has more copper or different additives as something is definitely different in order for it to tarnish at a faster rate?   The silver items are stored in the same place in the same manner.   I've made a point to purchase my sterling silver from one supplier for this reason and have consistently better results with regards to the issue of tarnishing.
Fine Silver is 99.9% pure silver, it tarnishes at a slower rate than sterling silver…the tarnish will generally be a discoloration rather than a dark tarnish as in the sterling silver, unless it is in an area where there are high pollution and sulpher levels, then it is more likely to be darker. Even so it is usually easier to clean and keep clean fine silver than sterling silver.

To prevent tarnish:
  •  One way to help prevent tarnish is to avoid contact with oils, salts and acids on your body…wiping your jewelry     after wearing will help prevent tarnish as our skin is a natural transfer for oils, acids and salts.   This particular statement is surprising to me, as my experience is the more I wear my silver jewelry pieces the less they tarnish…
  • Place jewelry in a baggy with an anti tarnish tab, this works…
  • I have always said the more you wear your jewelry the less it will tarnish…this has worked consistently for me, even though it isn’t supposed to?
  • Silica gel desiccant packets, the ones you get in shoe boxes, work well in a baggy to prevent tarnish! 
  • Apply a coat of Renaissance Wax; this is a microcrystalline food safe wax from England.  I’ve used this on occasion, but it is a wax, I don’t like the application process and it leaves a matt finish, which I don’t care for..it isn’t my favorite thing to use.
  • Apply a coat of Protectaclear…something I’m going to try.  Non toxic when dry, coating to last 10 years…
  • Apply nail polish but this will have to be done often as it wears/chips off very easily. Apply Vintaj Glaze…this is a metal sealer made specifically for metal jewelry.  I’m working with this glaze right now.   This product "Conforms to ASTM D-4236", which is a USA regulatory requirement for art materials, school supplies and toys such as crayons, paint sets, or modeling clay that parents, teachers and child care givers look for.
  • One other thing you can do is look for jewelry that is rhodium plated…this will not tarnish.  I purchase chain and findings that are rhodium plated when I can find.   Or you can buy jewelry that has already been oxidized; this jewelry will continue to oxidize but it won’t be noticeable the way it would be on bright silver.   I for one love the look of shiny, bright silver, but if someone requested a piece oxidized I’m happy to do that!

The difference after the top wire was cleaned with a cloth for a few seconds!

How to clean your jewelry
  • Simply wash your jewelry with a mild detergent that does not contain phosphate based chemicals when it is only slightly yellowing it will clean it up right away. Dry thoroughly...
  • Invest in a good cleaning cloth…rub your jewelry after you take it off to remove any beginning tarnish.  I generally do this before I wear a piece.
  • There are many silver polishes and dips available… I can’t recommend one as I don’t use them.  Research them carefully if you choose this method of cleaning.  Always remember to follow the directions if you decide to use commercial cleanser as failure to do so could result in damage to your jewelry!
  • Place baking soda in the bottom of a dish, lay your piece on top, they pour boiling water over top…the baking soda will bubble up and help to clean your silver…I’ve done this and it works very well on some pieces and not so good on others…it is definitely worth a try.  NOTE: wash your jewelry with mild detergent, rinse well with water and dry after doing this as the baking soda can etch the silver finish if not completely removed!
  •  NOTE:  do not use toothpaste as this is too abrasive for sterling silver or fine silver jewelry, pearls and some gems!

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post…I’m often asked if the pieces I make  will tarnish…as you’ve just read, the answer is simply, YES, all silver will eventually tarnish, even silver plated jewelry, copper and brass…but… it really doesn’t take a great deal of work to keep it sparkling clean.  All it takes is to keep a cleaning cloth with your jewelry and give it a quick rub before you put it on, then again when you take it off, at the very least do one or the other!  Place you silver jewelry in a baggy and you should be fine…

Send an email or leave a comment on my blog if you have any questions or comments…

Information Source:

Monday, August 20, 2012


This week I decided to do a gemstone post…after checking the Etsy shop of Maryanne Fender to see what colorful stones she had in stock I chose Tourmaline.  Part of the reason for this choice is, I don’t think many people are familiar with this gem…

I’ve not used this semi-precious stone much in the last 6 years as the faceted tourmaline is rather expensive, but I’ve always liked faceted tourmaline, as it has a gorgeous sparkle and shine to it.  Opaque tourmaline is lacking the vibrancy of the faceted gem…at least that is how I feel about the gem.

This is one of the few gemstones which come in a multitude of colors…an Egyptian legend states during its long journey from the center of the earth the tourmaline passed a rainbow, taking on all the rainbows colors, which is why the tourmaline is called the “gemstone of the rainbow”.     

Black Tourmaline Schorl Crystal, Minas Gerais, Brazil

The word Tourmaline comes from “tura mali”, which roughly translates to “stone with mixed colors”.   You certainly can find tourmaline in a mixture of colors; ranging from reds to greens, from blue to yellow, black, pink, often a gem will be two or more colors…some gems will even change color with the light. 

Schorl Black Tourmaline,
 Bold Radiating Starburst Pattern in Schist, 
Vadito Schist, Picuris Mining District, 
Taos County, New Mexico

This gem has many names to correspond with all the different colors…
  • Intense red tourmaline is known as “rubellite” but only if the color doesn’t change with the light…if it changes it is then a pink tourmaline
  • Blue tourmaline are called “indigolites”
  • Yellowish-brown to dark brown tourmalines “dravites”
  • Black tourmaline is called “schorl”
  • Green tourmaline is called “verdelite”, except when the green is due to chromium particles, then it is called “chrome tourmaline”
  • Stones with two colors are called “bi-colored” ones with more than two colors are called “multicolored” tourmaline.
  • I’m sure you’ve heard of or see the “watermelon” tourmaline stone…the center is red/pink with white, then green surrounding it.  This coloring is a rare natural occurrence.   
Watermelon Tourmaline Crystal Gem Rough Slice

Tourmaline has been found in Brazil, Sri Lanka, south & south west Africa, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Madagascar, Pakistan, Afghanistan, USA, mainly in California and Maine.  There are many gemstone deposits with finds of tourmaline but not always great color or quality…which is why there is such a large price difference in these gems.  

Pink Green Tourmaline 
"bubble gum pink"
 Crystal with a 
top-hat of albite,
Paprok, Nuristan,
 Kunar, Afghanistan

   Dark green tourmaline,
Cruzeiro Mine,
 Minas Gerais, Brazil
Facts of interest:
  • Is dichroic…changes color
  • Largest known crystal is 192 carats, with a value of over $25 million
  • The pattern for tourmaline is hexagonal and grows in long prisms, often with several prisms growing together, which adds to the beauty and price of the gem.
  • Blue and green tourmaline can be heated to enhance the color of the gem, which then makes the cost higher.
  • Used to promote artistic and creativity…maybe I should wear something made from this gem?
  • Like most gems, it is believed by those working in alternative medicine this stone has healing powers for both physical and mental issues.
  • Black tourmaline is the most abundant color found. 
  • This gem is a 7 to 7.5 on the hardness scale and breaks easily so wear rings with care, as hitting the stone against anything hard could crack or break the gem.
  • Do not clean in an ultrasonic cleaner…when heated this gem attracts dust so try to keep from heat.
  • Something I found unusual for a gemstone is the tourmaline can be electrically charged by heating and cooling or simply by applying pressure by rubbing the stone…apparently scientists are interested in this unique quality as well.  
  • This gemstone is used in pressure gauges…
  • One of two October birthstones.
For anyone not familiar with this colorful gem it truly is a beautiful stone…especially when it is strung together with a rainbow effect.  Hopefully I’ve created a little interest in this striking gem…I may even see what I can find…if I do I’ll post a photo.
Don’t forget questions and comments are welcome…
 Use of photos courtesy of:
Special thanks to Maryanne Fender of Fender Minerals for allowing the use of their gorgeous gemstones…

Information Source:

Monday, August 13, 2012

Copper is new again!

When I first began working with metal, about 4 years ago, I introduced copper to my customers but at the time there wasn’t much interest in the metal as a component of jewelry.    So I forgot about it for a while, and then tried again but still no interest until the beginning of this season.
Scraps accumulated since May 2012
Surprisingly, I’ve had many customers ask for copper pieces.    I’m happy about this as it allows me another affordable metal from which I can make pendants, earrings and cuffs.  I’ve used copper sheet a great deal this season, and will eventually get to copper wire.  

The name copper is from the Latin word cuprum, which means "from the island of Cyprus", and is man’s oldest metal, dating back some 10,000 years.
Large deposits of copper ore are located in the United States, Chile, Zambia, Zaire, Peru and Canada.  It is a soft metal to which either brass or bronze is added.   
Made last week...note the color

Copper wire is used in large amounts in electrical wire as it is highly conductive …with only silver more so.    With the high cost of silver it makes more sense to use copper for electrical purposes as it is considerably less expensive. 

 For many years, from 1942 to 1996, the Canadian penny was made from 98% copper, with varying amounts of tin and zinc additives.    From 2000 to 2012 the penny has been made from 94% steel, 1.5% nickel and 4.5% copper plating.  

 As I’m sure you are aware many other items are either made from or have components made from copper, pots, pans, kettles, bowls, telephone wiring, fridges, dryer, microwaves, automobiles have approximately 50 pounds of copper, while your average sized home has approximately 400 pounds of copper for such things as electrical wiring, water pipes and appliances.
I found all kinds of very detailed information regarding copper and how it is processed and used  but for my purposed that is going a bit to in depth…suffice it to say copper is one of man’s best friends, we have a multitude of uses for this metal.

Check out this website http://www.copper.org/education/homepage.html for more detailed, interesting information about copper.

Copper has been known for centuries to have an antimicrobial effect regarding infections.  It is said to be the most effective product for “touch surfaces” in hospitals…specific surfaces are being converted to copper allowing for an 87% reduction in infections in certain hospitals in the USA.  This conversion is in the beginning stages and is touted as a contributing factor in preventing infections in hospitals.    The antimicrobial effects was surprising to me, it is still being researched… I’d like to see what this eventually leads to. 
Made last week...note the color

 I’m one of those people who’s skin will tarnish if I wear copper…this is because of a reaction to either the acids on my skin or from lotion or soap on my copper piece.  Copper isn’t the only metal that can do this even sterling silver or gold can depending on your skin, etc, so simply avoiding inexpensive jewelry isn’t all ways going to prevent issues.   It is possible to be irritated by any metal that causes a green or dark ring around your finger.    If you are prone to green or dark rings, or irritation issues it is a good idea to remove your copper jewelry when washing or swimming, as well as keep lotions, soaps and chemicals away from your jewelry.   Some people find applying a barrier such as a polymer coating or nail polish helpful to prevent these issues…nail polish will have to be reapplied every once in a while as it will wear off.     Another thought to decrease the possibility of a reaction is to decrease your intake of acidic food and drink, although I think for most people this would be a bit of a nuisance just to wear a piece of jewelry.  Keeping your jewelry clean and tarnish free is a great way to start.
I’m sure you may have known much of this information, but do not think about it in your day to day life.   Why would you unless you work with copper.   I never think about all the great ways to utilize this metal …I use copper to make jewelry, having said that I’m sure now I will think about all the other possibilities while I’m cutting, filing, hammering, stamping and finishing my copper jewelry!

As we all know, the one drawback to copper jewelry is the fact it tarnishes very easily…the lovely copper shine turns to a green/black dull finish…what is happening is it forms corrosion due to the oxygen in the air…the good thing is once it has covered the surface with tarnish it is finished and acts as a protection to the copper piece.   There are a number of ways to slow down/prevent the tarnish…
This cuff was made over two years ago and you can see the tarnish on it...sold like this though.
  • ·         When not wearing a piece seal in a baggy making sure to eliminate the air, if you have any silica gel desiccant packets from previous purchases , the ones you get in shoe boxes, these work well in the baggy to prevent tarnish!  I have “anti tarnish tabs” that also work nicely.
  • ·         Apply a coat of Renaissance Wax; this is a microcrystalline food safe wax from England.  This I’ve used on occasion, but it is a wax and won’t last forever.
  • ·         Apply a coat of Proctectaclear…something I’m going to try.  Non toxic when dry, coating to last 10 years…sounds very good to me.
  • ·         Apply nail polish but this will have to be done often as it wears of very easily.
  • ·         If your pieces do happen to tarnish use one of the soft jewelry cleaning cloths that can be purchased at any jewelry counter…I also sell these cloths.  You will have to rub hard but they will clean your copper…at least I know my cloths will.

Copper & silver fold forming cuffs made almost 2 years ago...silver one sold right away the copper sold 3 weeks ago!
I enjoy working with copper equally as well as silver products and this coming week I’m going to try a new patina product to color the metal…watch for photos in the coming weeks…or better yet stop by at the Market and take a look!

Don’t forget questions and comments are welcome…

NOTE:  I would like to thank all the wonderful people who ventured out to the Corn Festival at the North Bay Farmers’ Market this past Saturday, August 11th…it was supposed to be a very wet day with 90% chance of thunderstorms from mid morning on.   My daughter and I didn’t expect many people at the Market for this reason… it turned out to be one of the busier Market days I’ve seen this season!    
Thanks for visiting…

Information Sources:

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Birthstone of the Month ~ August ~ Peridot (Olivine)

This striking green stone is also called Chrysolite and in the mineralogy world it is known as a variety of stone from the mineral family Olivine. It is thought the name Peridot comes from the Arabic word faridat which means "gem".   This beauty only comes in various shades of green, pale yellowish green, olive green, bottle green or a vibrant apple green, which is the most sought after, any shades of brown decrease the value of the stone.  In Pakistan, near the Afghan border you will find large Kashmir peridot stones which are the best for cutting, possessing intense striking color, which of course makes them expensive.  Most of the worlds Peridot, 80 to 95%, come from the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona, being mined by the Native Americans…finer quality gems come from Myanmar (formaerly Burma) and Egypt.  Other locations where peridot can be found are Australia, Brazil, China, South Africa, Hawaii, New Mexico and Zaire. 

Peridot Crystals in a Volcanic Bomb from Kilbourne Hole, Dona Ana Country, New Mexico
80mm x 60mm 200 grams

I'm including the definitions of igneous and metamorphic rocks as I think it helps to understand what these words mean...
Metamorphic Rocks
"The American Heritage Science Dictionary: 1. relating to metamorphosis. 2. Geology: Relating to rocks that have undergone metamorphism. Metamorphic rocks are formed when igneous, sedimentary, or other metamorphic rocks undergo a physical change due to extreme heat and pressure. These changes often produce folded layers or banding in the rocks, and they can also cause pockets of precious minerals to form. The folds and banding can be produced by incomplete segregation of minerals during re-crystallization, or they can be inherited from pre-existing beds in sedimentary rocks or pre-existing layers in igneous rocks. The precious minerals can form as the result of re-crystallization when the rocks undergoing metamorphism are subjected to changes in pressure and temperature.

  Natural Peridot Crystal from Sapat, Pakistan
17 mm x 12 mm, .65 inches x .5 inches

“Igneous: "
1. Geology...produced under conditions involving intense heat, as rocks of volcanic origin, or rocks crystallized from molten magma. 2. of, pertaining to, or characteristics of fire.
Intrusive Igneous Rock: forms beneath the surface of the volcano

Extrusive Igneous Rock: forms on the surface volcano"
Peridot, formed in the earth’s mantle, 20 to 55 miles inside a volcano…they are found in extrusive igneous rock forms, as a result of magma reaching the surface of the volcano, either from eruption, or cracks, fissures or as lava or ash.  It can also form in metamorphic rocks.   In other words it is found in the rocks formed by volcanoes.  The striking green color of the peridot comes from chemical composition of the stone (iron) itself and not from some other sources such as impurities.   Peridot is transparent but often includes some form of inclusion, they appear as spots or lines, and are naturally occurring deposits of such things as silica glass, biotite mica, and small crystals of pyrope garnet and spinal.   While lovely, the peridot is not a brilliant stone, it may have the appearance of glass or even look greasy…the stone may have a cat's eye or star effect but this is extremely rare.  Treatments, such as oiling or polymer filler may be used to improve the look of the stone, by decreasing the visibility of flaws. Care must be taken with the peridot as it is tends to burst under pressure, it is sensitive to heat and is not resistant to acids...so keep away from household cleaners, steam, hair spray, etc.
Faceted Peridot Gemstone, 6 mm x 4 mm 1.5 carats 
Stones of Interest:
  • A 319ct peridot found on the island of Zabargad is now in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.
  • Cut stones from a meteorite that fell in 1749 in eastern Siberia are now in Russia.
  • 192.75 carat peridot stone belonging to the Czar is in the Diamond Registry in Moscow
Information of Interest:

  • Historians wonder if the gems worn by Cleopatra were actually peridot and not emeralds…
  • Some wear this stone as they believe it brings success, peace and good luck
  • It is the gift for the 16th wedding anniversary.
  • It is one of the few stones that comes in one color only
  • In ancient Egypt on an island called Zeberget mining for peridot was done at night as it was said the gemstone couldn’t be seen well during the day. 
  • I’ve seen the phonetic spelling as per-i-doe and per-i-dot…so not sure which is correct, I do think both are accepted.
  • Associated with light
  • Generally a transparent gem
  • Ancient records document peridot being mined back as far as 1500 B.C.
  • While it can be…this stone is generally not treated or enhanced
  • Relatively inexpensive in price
  • All be it rare, peridot have also been found in meteors  
  • Avoid ultrasonic cleaners, mild soap and water will clean this stone
  • Cracks easily so be gentle with it…
 Don’t forget…send any questions or comments to the following email address…


Information courtesy of:
Special thanks to Maryanne Fender of Fender Minerals for allowing the use of their gorgeous gemstones…the Volcanic Bomb was found in Kilbourne Hole, New Mexico.
·         Gemstones of the World,Walter Schumann, Third Edition, Sterling Publishing Co.
·         The Jeweler's Directory of Gemstones, Judith Crowe, Firefly Books, 2006
·         "igneous." dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 21 Aug. 2008. dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/igneous
·         "Metamorphic" The American Heritage® Science Dictionary. Houghton Mifflin Company.  21 Aug. 2008. dictionary.com   http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/metamorphic