Tuesday, November 3, 2009

About Chain and Precious Metals

Hello again - I've had several clients ask me to explain some facts about chain and precious metals.
Since I very rarely use anything other than sterling silver, I will speak to this precious metal.

Metal type - if you see jewelry mentioning "silver", realize that it is not sterling silver. Anytime it is sterling silver, it will be called as such. "Silver" means silverplated, which is a lot less expensive and not a precious metal. It can rub/wear off over time down to the base metal of nickel or pewter, etc.

Link Size - the larger the link of chain, the more expensive it is. This is especially true for sterling silver or gold/gold-filled. More metal = greater cost. That is unless the chain is silverplated, pewter or other low cost metal. If a pendant with a large linked chain is higher than the same necklace with a very small linked chain, that is the reason. Also handformed chain tends to cost more, since each link is handwrapped wire that is possibly textured, assembled with other links, soldered, pickled, and polished.

Length - it might be stating the obvious, but if the necklace is extra-long or multi-stranded, you will pay more than a single strand or shorter length piece - more chain used.

Texture - if links are textured in any way (hammered, dotted, lined, grooved, punched, etc.) this will also increase price, because of extra time spent in production. Hand texturing means more than machine texturing because of the amount of time and effort put into each and every link.

Finish - Often oxidized or antiqued sterling silver will be more expensive than shiny sterling silver. Not only is this finish increasing in popularity and doesn't tarnish as easily as shiny sterling, but there is more time involved in the process, since after the metal darkens, it needs to be repolished to bring up its lustre. Oxidizing can be done with liver of sulfur or by other eco-friendly methods using ingredients like eggs yolks. (I really love this finish and use it a lot)

Q.     What is Gold-Filled? (I always use gold-filled chain in my designs by the way)
A.     14K/20 gold filled is a durable metal that lasts longer than gold-plated and is less expensive than solid gold jewelry (currently over $1000/oz.) A layer of gold is mechanically bonded with heat and pressure to one or more surfaces of the supporting base metal (often brass), then rolled or drawn to a given thickness. The quanitity of gold must be at least 1/20th by weight of the total product. Gold-filled items will remain gold for a lifetime is cared for properly. The occasional silver spot is from solder holding joints together. Unelss you are using harsh chemicals or abrasives, the gold layer will stay gold for years to come.

Q.     What's the difference between gold-filled and gold-plated?
A.     The difference is in the amount of gold. Gold-plated products have a very thin layer (seven-millionths of an inch) of gold, while 14K/20 gold-filled products must have at least one-twentieth of their entire weight in 14K gold. Eventually the thin gold layer will rub or wear off. Gold-filled items, however, will remain gold for a liftetime if cared for properly.

Ok, so there are some thoughts to lull you to sleep (LOL) or increase your awareness about the components used in jewelry. Remember, you tend to get what you pay for. If you buy cheap, it can be a short term thrill  because it often doesn't last and the quality is apparent as things break and metals tarnish. Spending a little more to get the real thing makes it more fun for you to wear longterm and for others to admire.
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