Thursday, November 6, 2008

Handmade Sterling Silver Jewelry

Sterling Silver Jewelry

Handmade sterling silver jewelry, throughout history, was one of the most popular types of ornate adornment made for men and women alike. At one time all baubles were made by hand without the use of machines. In fact, the first machines were not used until 1869. Gradually various methods of machine production were developed. In the beginning, these were only used to make simple types of trinkets, such as chains. As methods refined, however, mass production was created for more delicate pieces. The method used for replicating identical pieces is called casting.
Sterling Silver Jewelry
During the casting process, a master model is made. The model is typically a type of metal and a rubber impression or mold is fashioned after the metal cast. Not all fine jewelry is made this way. Many of the pieces start as a flat slab of precious metal, which is turned into an original design. Handmade silver jewelry is made using this process. When a jeweler works this way, many different hand tools are used. These tools can include; files, punches, saws, mallets, and pliers. The jeweler also uses a blowtorch to solder (melt and join) the parts of an article together.

Adornments are also made by stamping. In this process, the metal is pressed between two shaped steel surfaces called dies. Dies are expensive to make, so stamping is used only to make large quantities. Stamping usually makes the article in two halves, which must then be joined. Handmade silver jewelry is the least expensive to make. Like other precious metals, silver can easily be made into beautiful and unique adornments. Handmade sterling silver jewelry, according to current United States law, may not contain less than 92.5% silver. The remaining percentage consists of copper. There is no legal limitation on the amount in a silver-plated article. Plating is done by coating a base, or foundation, metal or alloy with a layer of the pure metal. The worth of an ornate is valued simply by the cost of the material in which it is made from. This is called an intrinsic value. Great skill or craftsmanship can add value to a piece as well. The piece can also be valuable if it has an interesting history or was made for or owned by someone famous. This is commonly known as provenance.

Some pieces are worth very little and are meant to be discarded when no longer fashionable. This includes costume and junk baubles. Costume refers to a piece made with non precious metals, or can even be handmade silver jewelry with false gems of glass or plastic and is often created to mimic the real thing. Junk refers to pieces that are inexpensive and not well made. In these junk pieces, rings become bent, necklaces break, and false gems frequently become loose and fall out.

Handmade sterling silver jewelry has been used ever since the 1200's. At that time merchants in northern Germany were making coins containing a high percentage of the shiny precious metal. The coins made in England contained very little. Since both types of coins were commonly traded in England, the English began to distinguish the better quality German made coins from their own coins by calling them easterlings, because they came from the east. It is likely that the common name for the German coins gradually became the word known today as sterling. The quality of the metal also became known in commercial silver as well. The standard for English sterling was set in the 1500's by Queen Elizabeth I. It is now accepted as a standard all over the world.

The precious metal is used to make many decorative pieces of considerable value. Since it became so expensive, there were attempts to make substitute for items such as handmade sterling silver jewelry. "Shall I acquit a man with dishonest scales, with a bag of false weights" (Micah 6:11). The first substitute for solid sterling was silver-clad copper, known as Sheffield plate, because it was primarily made in Sheffield, England. Introduced in 1742, the plating is made by adding a thin sheet of the precious metal to a sheet of copper and rolling them into one sheet. This plating was used for making buttons, coffeepots, candlesticks, and similar inexpensive items including personal handmade silver jewelry. Electroplating was discovered in 1844. During this substitution process, a bar of the precious metal and an object made of cheaper metal are placed in a chemical solution. When an electric current is passed through the solution, silver gradually coats the metal object. Until the appearance of banks, people used jewelry as a way to store and protect their wealth. It could be dismantled and melted down for the value of its materials. Today, that practice is still in effect, and those that spend wealth on jewelry are making a wise investment.

Sterling Silver Jewelry