Metal and Gemstone Information
I thought you might be interested in some general information about the Metals and Materials that I use in my jewelry. I’ve also included some tips on taking care of your jewelry. You can find more information under the “Jewelry Care” tab on the Home Page.
- Fine silver is 99.9% pure silver. It will tarnish very slowly but I store it in sealed plastic bags,
- Sterling silver – an alloy that contains some copper and maybe some zinc for hardness. Sterling is 92.5% pure silver and will tarnish so pieces of sterling jewelry are best stored in sealed containers or a plastic ziplock bags,
- Argentium sterling silver – an alloy in which germanium is used instead of the copper in sterling. Argentium silver tarnishes more slowly than regular sterling,
- Vermeil – 24kt gold plated on sterling silver. I use best quality vermeil elements in some of my jewelry and they will last a lifetime
- Copper – I use copper sheet in some bracelets and earrings,
- Karat gold – Karat is how many parts pure gold (pure gold being 24 parts): 14kt gold is 58% pure gold, 18kt is 75% pure gold, 22kt is 91.7% pure, and 24kt is pure gold. Pure gold is too soft to use for jewelry. I can create designs in karat gold to order, and
- Rose gold – a gold alloy the includes some copper and has a pink color. Rose gold is lovely alone and spectacular in combination with yellow gold and silver.
Metal and Wire Shapes and Sizes
Pieces of flat metal are referred to as sheet. I use round, half-round, and square wire and flat sheet in my designs. The size is referred to as the gauge. The larger the number, the finer the wire and the thinner the sheet. Wire comes in a variety of shapes.
- The fine silver used for weaving ranges between 26 and 30 gauge. The framework can be round or square wire in 18-20 gauge, depending on the piece of jewelry.
- Wrapped and sculptured designs use a variety of gauges, depending on the design. Most commonly I use 18 – 24gauge wire.
- Sheet is used to create bezel settings for stones to be used in bracelets or as pendants, for example and for earrings, etc.
My Favorite Gemstones
Gems are described by chemical composition, crystal structure, and where they are found. Gems are further classified based on properties like refractive index (how they bend light), luster, hardness, etc. Perfection in appearance is of primary importance in the finished gemstone. Many gemstones have long and complex histories. Some specific gems have a lot of lore attached to them.
A gemstone can be a mineral, a rock, or any petrified material that’s suitable for use in jewelry. Diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and amethysts are generally the most valuable. The gems listed here are some of my all time favorites that I use in my jewelry designs. Today, many stones are dyed or have their colors otherwise enhanced. I do not use artificially colored or dyed stones in my pieces. I do use some laboratory grown ruby and alexandrite stones on occasion.
Agate – a form of chalcedony that occurs in many colors with a variety of inclusions. Some people believe that wearing agate increasesperceptiveness and also brings good luck, inspiration and strength to the wearer.
- Alexandrite – a form of chrysoberyl which exhibits a dramatic color change (red to green) depending on the lighting.
- Amber – a fossilized resin that occurs in a range of colors. Amber is thought to dispel negative energies and to encourage a positive attitude. It was used for medicinal purposes at one time.
- Amethyst – a form of quartz that ranges in color from light to deep purple. The color is due to the presence of iron and aluminumimpurities According to gemstone lore, some people believe that amethyst provides protection to the wearer (amulets of amethyst were worn into battle in Medieval times), brings calmness, and might even ward off drunkenness
- Ammonite – fossilized prehistoric sea animals known as cephalopods with a spiral form similar to a modern day nautilus. The spiral form is
clearly evident in some ammonites. In others, portions of a large original fossil have been cut into cabochons and polished. Some areas of the mineral prtion of the fossil have been replaced by pyrite so the polish ammonite has a metallic gleam.
- Apatite – a transparent fluoro- or chloro- calcium phosphate stone that’s easily confused with other gems. Apatite may be colorless, pink, green, blue, violet, or yellow.
- Aquamarine – generally a delicate light blue color, aquamarine can occur in more intense shades. Chemically, aquamarine is a beryl. The blue color of aquamarine is due to traces of iron. At one time it was worn an amulet thought to promote safety when traveling over water
- Aventurine – quartz family with inclusions that affect the color (chromium produces green to blue colors while iron produces orange to brown shades. Aventurine is considered to encourage motivation, creativity, healing, hope, and to bring abundance.
- Azurite – an intensely blue gemstone that frequently occurs with malachite. The blue color is due to the presence of copper in the stone’s chemistry. Azurite has been used as a blue pigment since ancient times. The ancient Egyptians used it as an eye makeup. Azurite has long been used as a healing stone and it is reputed to clear the mind and to enhance receptivity.
- Beryl – this gem occurs in many different colors – the intense green form is known as Emerald, while the lighter blue form is Aquamarine.
- Bloodstone – bloodstone is a deep green chalcedony with red spots. It’s also called heliotrope. Bloodstone is thought to encourage healing, improve decision making.
- Chalcedony – quartz; occurs in a variety of colors. The group includes both banded “agates” and onyx depending on the structure. Chalcedony occurs naturally in several colors. The natural color is a very light lavender. I love the aqua chalcedony for its luminous qualities – it looks as if it is lit from within
- Carnelian – Carnelian is a translucent orange/red to red/brown variety of chalcedony. The red tints are caused by iron oxide impurities. Carnelian is recommended to improve mental clarity and may assist people overcoming anger and maintaining self-control. It was highly valued for ornamentation by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans It was reputedly used by the Egyptian goddess Isis to protect the dead on their journey through the afterlife. Carnelian was thought to provide increased energy. Ancient Egyptians set carnelian with turquoise and lapis lazuli for enhanced power.
- Chrysoberyl – once widely popular for jewelry, chrysoberyl is now relatively rare. Chrysoberyl has hard greenish yellow crystals. Alexandrite is one variety that exhibits color change.
- Chryoprase – an apple-green form of chalcedony
- Coral – variety of colors depending on variety; frequently dyed. Coral is thought to increase awareness and objectivity. Provides calmness, quiets emotions
- Diamond – made of pure carbon, diamond is the hardest, densest, and rarest gem. Diamond is thought to encourage hope, promote healing, and impart protection.
- Emerald – a beryl stone with traces of chromium and sometimes vanadium providing the intense green coloration, emeralds are extremely popular for jewelry. Emeralds have been known since ancient times and were mined as early as 2000 BC.
- Fluorite – this gem comes in a variety of colors from purple to pink and green and many shades in between. It has a glassy luster and it fluoresces or glows blue under UV light. Fluorite is thought to increase intuition, to foster harmony and balance in relationships, and may attract abundance and wealth.
- Garnet – there are several different forms of garnet, but they are all related (pyrope – red with a brown tint, rhodolite – purplish red/rose color, almandite – red with a violet tint, spessartite – orange to a red/brown, grossularite – green/yellow/brown, for example). The most common colors are oranges, deep reds, and greens. Garnet is thought to encourage friendship and fellowship
- Hematite – a widespread and relatively hard iron ore that is steely gray with a metallic luster when polished. Hematite focuses energy, helps to balance emotions
- Howlite – a milky white opaque stone that’s frequently streaked with dark grey or black veins. Howlite is a fairly soft stone and is often seen dyed to look like something else
- Iolite – a gorgeous blue/violet stone with a greasy luster (like jade) that’s sometimes called water sapphire.
- Jade – long considered a “sacred” stone, jade symbolizes calmness, wisdom, and serenity. There are two recognized “forms“ of jade – nephrite (creamy white to green and almost black) and jadeite. The most common colors are green or white (jadeite), but jade can occur in many colors. The various colors are the result of impurities.
- Jasper – an opaque form of chalcedony; inclusions help create the different colors and patterns found in jaspers. Jasper is thought to foster awareness and balances emotional, physical, and spiritual energy
- Labradorite – a silky appearing dark grey green stone with flashes of blue, green and occasionally red. Labradorite can appear as colorless or even red, but the dark grey color is typically seen in jewelry. Labradorite is thought to symbolize the “third eye”.
- Lapis Lazuli – inclusions of iron pyrites add gold colored flecks to a lot of lapis. Long thought to increase awareness and objectivity, lapis has been considered to have healing and curative properties. In ancient times, lapis found use as a pigment, a cosmetic, and in medicines.
- Moss “Agate” – a transparent to translucent chalcedony with green, brown, or black moss-like inclusions.
- Obsidian – deep black glossy volcanic glass
- Snowflake Obsidian – white “snowflake” markings distinguish this obsidian form.
- Onyx – a form of chalcedony. Thought to foster fidelity and resourcefulness, aid in realizing potential, and to promote decision making
- Opal – occurring in a variety of colors, opal often has a gelatinous clarity with flashes of color due to water trapped within the crystalline structure of the stone. Ancient Roman thought opals were symbols of hope and purity.
- Peridot – a brilliant intense yellow–green magnesium iron silicate that’s the birthstone for August. Peridot (also known as olivine) was mined in ancient Egypt and is believed to cure diseases of the liver, improve digestive ailments and treat problems with the kidneys, bladder, gall bladder, and the stomach
- Pearl – I use a lot of different freshwater pearls in my jewelry designs – Biwa pearls, and blister pearls to name two.
- Quartz – can be opaque or transparent and is the most common mineral. Many common gemstones are quartz with various impurities and inclusion providing the distinguishing characteristics of the particular gem. Green Quartz is one variety with color due to heating amethyst or yellow quartz.
- Rhodochrosite – a fairly soft stone ranging in color from pink through reds to browns and black. Rhodochrosite fosters renewal and expansion of consciousness
- Rhodonite – pink to grayish with a glassy luster. This stone is thought to promote peace, attention to detail
- Rose Quartz – rose red to pink; may bring love and happiness to the wearer, fosters emotional healing
- Sapphire – a corundum stone that can occur in a variety of colors. It is almost as hard as a diamond. Typically thought of as deep blue in color, sapphire occurs in a wide spectrum of colors and also in a color change variety (violet) which changes color depending on the viewing conditions.
- Sard – a silicate similar to carnelian but darker brown
- Sodalite – a relatively rare stone that ranges from deep blue to light blue and white. Fosters wisdom, logic, healing.
- Spinel – colors include a range of vibrant red tones, pinks, and even blues. Spinel’s hardness makes it a popular stone for jewelry.
- Sunstone – a feldspar with a reddish to golden sheen; displays iridescence (similar to Labradorite).
- Tanzanite – (zoisite) Tanzanite’s color depends on the orientation of the gem when cut, but it’s usually deep blue and generally heat treated. Tanzanite is pleochroic (light traveling through the crystal in one direction is absorbed differently than light traveling in another direction, so there are color differences depending on how you view the stone).
- Tiger Eye – a chatoyant stone that occurs in several colors. (Chatoyancy refers to the bright bands of light across the stone and is a reflection effect) This “eye” effect is due to asbestos fiber inclusions. Tiger eye is reputed to increase peacefulness and clarity in the wearer.
- Topaz – Known since ancient times and available in many colors, the yellow to brownish color of this stone was extremely popular for jewelry in Medieval times. Blue topaz is currently the best known topaz color. Topaz was thought to foster success, love, and health as well as strengthening the mind.
- Tourmaline – available in an impressive array of colors, tourmaline can mimic a variety of other gems and its hardness makes it an ideal stone for jewelry. Some tourmaline contains two or three colors. The tourmaline family includes several separate minerals, one of which is elabite. Elabite accounts for most gem tourmaline.
- Turquoise – a mineral of arid regions. Turquoise varies from light sky blues to light grayish greens due to the presence of copper. The polished stone has a porcelain luster. Turquoise has been considered a gem since ancient times and adorned the rulers of ancient Egypt and also the Aztecs. The Ancient Anasazi of Chaco Canyon and the surround regions traded turquoise and fashioned turquoise ornaments. Turquoise is believed to provide protection and healing for the wearer.
- Zircon – (zirconium silicate) is generally colorless or blue. Brilliance is tremendous due to a high refractive index, but zircon also tends to be brittle and can chip or scratch readily. The ancients thought this stone could protect the wearer from disease. Cubic zirconia is zirconium oxide. Cubic zironia has a cubic crystal structure and possesses exceptional brilliance.