Pure silver is fairly soft, so it’s usually alloyed with other metals to make it more practical for everyday use. For sterling silver, 92.5% of the weight is silver, with the remaining 7.5% made up by other metal, usually copper. The sterling silver I sell is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. You’ll sometimes see sterling silver hallmarked with a “.925” stamp – that refers to the 92.5% silver content.
Care and Feeding of Sterling Silver
To clean the everyday dirt off your sterling pieces, mix a little non-lotion soap in ½ cup of water and soak your chain for several minutes. Then gently but briskly rub the jewelry between your hands. Rinse the silver and let it air dry. When not wearing your jewelry, store each piece in a Ziploc bag. This reduces tarnish and helps prevent scratching. If you want the piece to develop a patina, leave your pieces out when not being worn.
To clean tarnish off your sterling pieces I recommend using a tumbler. One or two pounds of stainless steel shot, lightly soapy water, and ten minutes later your jewelry will gleam again. If your tumbler has a rubber barrel it is important that your soap not contain any citrus (no lemon-scented dishsoap) because it can break down the rubber.
If a tumbler isn’t available, silver polish (or ketchup!) on an old toothbrush will work.
Jewelry Brass is an alloy of brass that was created for its beauty. It’s made from 85% copper and 15% zinc. This is a higher copper content than yellow brass which sometimes has as little as 60% copper. The higher copper content of jewelry brass makes it unsuitable for nuts and bolts, but does make it prettier! Freshly polished jewelry brass is very close to the color of 18K gold.
Care and Feeding of Jewelry Brass
Jewelry brass tarnishes quickly with a soft patina that is appealing to many. To keep the surface sparkling, tumble with stainless shot for 10 minutes in water that contains a few squirts of distilled vinegar. Remove from the tumbler, rinse, and then air dry.
My rings are made from pure copper wire which I get custom drawn to be as hard as it’s possible for copper to be. This is not cooked-noodle-soft copper, it’s extra-double-springy copper. That said, the copper wire still isn’t quite as springy as half-hard sterling (my standard) so the copper rings come out a ti-ii-iny bit smaller than other metals. This is most noticeable in large/thin rings. Most of the time the difference won’t matter at all, but I felt the need to mention it.
Care and Feeding of Copper
Just like jewelry brass, copper will tarnish quickly and easily. Again, many people like the antique look, but if you would rather have new-penny shiny? Just tumble your pieces with vinegar in the water.
Karat gold jacket around a base metal core. (My rings are 14K gold on the outside, but 12K is also common.) This is not gold plated. The layer of gold is 1/20 the total weight – it won’t wear off the way that gold plating does. The lifetime of gold fill items is measured in decades, not in months.
Care and Feeding of Goldfill
Goldfill rings won’t tarnish. To remove everyday dirt and oils, soak in soapy water then rub briskly with fingers or palms. Rinse and air dry.
The alloy of 14K gold used for these rings has a very high copper content. Yellow from gold plus red from copper yields a gorgeous warm color. It’s especially pretty in combination with sterling silver (or green niobium!) Just lovely.
Care and Feeding of Rose Goldfill
Rose goldfill rings won’t tarnish. To remove everyday dirt and oils, soak in soapy water then rub briskly with fingers or palms. Rinse and air dry.
When I look at these rings I think “champagne.” It’s a soft color, not nearly so bright as sterling silver – quietly elegant. It’s worth noting that the “white” in my white gold fill comes from palladium, not nickel. People with nickel sensitivity won’t have a problem with these rings. Please note, also, that these ring are not plated. The visible surface of most “white gold” jewelry sold in stores is actually a plated layer of rhodium (a completely different metal). The rings that I sell aren’t plated, you see the 14K gold.
Care and Feeding of White Goldfill
White goldfill rings won’t tarnish. To remove everyday dirt and oils, soak in soapy water then rub briskly with fingers or palms. Rinse and air dry.
Niobium is a beautiful and fascinating material. It’s also more complicated than the other metals, so there’s a full page dedicated just to niobium. The short version is that the color you see is an oxide layer on the surface, a naturally occurring optical effect that involves no dyes of any kind. (I love this stuff!)
Care and Feeding of Niobium
Niobium rings won’t tarnish, but oils on the surface can shift and dull the color. A little Windex, rubbing alcohol, or warm soapy water will clean it right up. Keep your niobium jewelry away from hard or abrasive objects like sand, keys, coins, etc. If the top layer of metal gets ground off, it takes the color with it.