What Is “Sterling Silver"?
Sterling silver is by far the most popular silver alloy in the world for jewelry. Sterling silver (also called .925 silver) is an alloy consisting of 92.5 percent fine silver and 7.5 percent other metals (usually copper). Jewelry manufacturers use sterling silver because of its strength and durability — fine silver alone is too soft and too easily damaged to be used as jewelry.
In the United States, an alloy must be at least 92.5 percent fine silver to be marketed as “silver”. All silver in Nikki Blake's Collection are .925 sterling silver.
How Is Sterling Silver Jewelry Finished?
Different silver jewelry items may be finished in different ways. For some items, the .925 sterling silver design is plated with a thin layer of .999 fine silver. This process is known as flashing, and it gives the item a shiny finish. Some factories will apply a plating of nickel or copper on the jewelry prior to applying the .999 silver plating. Though this flashing method gives the jewelry a brighter, longer shelf life it does require re-plating if sized or machine buffed. Other silver items are rhodium plated, which again results in a bright, shiny finish. Other jewelry items may be gold plated or left unplated depending on the design. Flashing or plating silver jewelry also helps reduce irritation or discoloration for customers with sensitive skin.
How Can I Keep My Sterling Silver Items Looking Great?
Sterling silver is susceptible to tarnish – this is a natural reaction the metal has with chemicals in the air. Thankfully, preventative maintenance can help keep your sterling silver jewelry looking great for years to come. Frequent light polishing with a polishing cloth designed for sterling silver will help minimize tarnish. You can also wash your jewelry periodically with mild dish soap and warm water — be sure to rinse well and dry completely before putting your jewelry away.
You can minimize tarnish of items that are stored in a display case by using desiccated silica gel, granules that absorb the humidity in the air. Covering the jewelry in your cases with Pacific Jeweler’s Cloth (available at most fabric stores) will also help minimize tarnish. When storing silver jewelry items, keeping them in sealed polyethylene bags will help reduce tarnish as well.Tarnish can be easily removed when first noticed. However, if left untreated, the color of the tarnish will darken and will become more difficult to remove, requiring professional cleaning.
It is also important to avoid exposing sterling silver jewelry to harsh chemicals like chlorine, cosmetics, hair spray, and perfume, and to avoid extended exposure to direct sunlight.
|What Is “14 Karat” Gold?|
Like fine silver, fine gold is alloyed with other metals to improve strength and durability. The amount of fine gold used is traditionally measured in karats. “Pure gold” is represented as 24 karat. In its pure state, however, gold is quite soft and is rarely used for jewelry.
The most common gold alloys used in the United States are 14 karat and 18 karat. 14 karat gold consists of 58.3 percent fine gold. 18 karat gold consists of 75 percent fine gold.
What Is Gold Filled Jewelry?
Gold filled jewelry is made up of gold tubing, which is then filled with brass. This gives the item the look and feel of gold jewelry, at a much more affordable price. Gold filled jewelry has about 100 times more gold than gold-plated jewelry, so the gold surface will never flake, peel, or wear off.
14/20 gold fill means that the gold tubing consists of 14 karat gold, and that the karat gold tubing makes up 5 percent (1/20) of the total metal weight. 12/20 gold filled jewelry uses 12 karat gold for the tubing.
What Metals Are Used for Nikki Blake's Plated Items?
Unless otherwise noted, our gold plated items consist of sterling silver with 14 karat gold plating. Items marked as fashion jewelry do not contain precious metal, except for plating. Gold plated fashion jewelry items consist of base metal (often brass, for example) plated with 14 karat gold.
|Why Are Alternative Metals Becoming So Popular?|
With the cost of precious metals like gold and silver rising, alternative metals allow designers to continue to craft bold statement pieces while keeping costs down. From trendy pieces for everyday wear, to wedding bands that will last a lifetime, high-quality alternative metal jewelry has carved out a permanent place in the jewelry market.
From the golden tones of brass, to the lasting strength of stainless steel, designers turn to a wide variety of alternative metals, each with its own unique benefits. Here are some of the most popular alternative metal choices:
Brass: has quickly become a popular alternative metal in jewelry fashion. An alloy of copper and zinc, the metal’s malleability, resistance to tarnish and acoustic properties have made it a choice material for musical instruments like trumpets and trombones, and the metal’s warm, yellow tone and bold shine make it the perfect alternative to gold jewelry. Although it has been associated with a vintage look, the metal’s reputation is rapidly evolving into a highly modern material in the fashion world.
Bronze: With its honeyed hue, bronze jewelry makes a beautiful addition to any collection at a great price point. Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin, and is as rich in tone as it is in history. For thousands of years, cultures around the world have produced works of high art using bronze, and the metal continues to be a growing jewelry trend with a unique, contemporary edge. Like copper, the patina that can form on bronze jewelry gives it an attractive aged look.
Copper: The use of copper in jewelry craftsmanship dates back some 10,000 years, which adds an allure of antiquity to the metal’s reddish, earthy tone. Polished copper has a bright luster and is often given a thin coating of clear lacquer to preserve this burnished look. Over time, copper oxidizes and creates a darker, antique affect.
316L stainless steel is an attractive, highly durable metal for
jewelry. It is the most common grade of stainless steel used for jewelry
in the industry and an affordable choice for those needing a durable or
robust piece of jewelry. 316L stainless steel is highly resistant to
pitting and corrosion and remains tough even in temperature extremes. It
can be refinished and does not oxidize, tarnish or turn black.
What Kind of Gemstones Are Used in Nikki Blake's Collection?
Many of our jewelry items feature one or more gemstones. According to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), to qualify as a gem, a stone must be beautiful, durable, and rare.
Some gemstones (like pearls, coral, and amber) are classified as organic, meaning that they are produced by living organisms. Others are inorganic, meaning that they are generally composed of and arise from minerals. Stones that are identified as synthetic are created in a laboratory (as opposed to natural gemstones, which are created by natural processes without human help).
Below is a glossary of some of the gemstones featured in Nikki Blake's Collection.
Amber: Amber, an ancient organic gemstone, is composed of tree resin that has hardened over time. According to the GIA, the stone must be at least 1 million years old to be classified as amber, and some amber can be up to 120 million years old. Amber can come in a number of different colors, ranging from yellow to golden orange to red. Most of the world’s amber comes from the shores of the Baltic Sea in Eastern Europe.
Amethyst: Amethyst has historically been the most prized gemstone in the quartz family. It is treasured for its purple hue, which can range in tone from light to dark. The finest amethyst will have strong color saturation and a medium to dark reddish purple or purple color. Its attractive color, along with is affordable price compared to other precious gemstones, make amethyst consistently one of the most popular gems.
Black Onyx: Black Onyx, a member of the chalcedony family, is a gemstone made up of tiny microscopic crystals. It is a very popular gemstone in both women’s and men’s jewelry because its black color acts as a great complement to white metals like sterling silver, as well as clear crystals and CZs. Most black onyx on the market today is treated to give it its dark black color. Black onyx is sometimes faceted or fashioned into beads.
Chalcedony: Chalcedony is a type of quartz. It is classified separately because, unlike other forms of quartz, it is composed of very small microscopic crystals. It can come in a wide variety of looks and colors. Several types of semi-precious stones discussed separately — including Black Onyx, and Jasper — are varieties of Chalcedony.
Citrine: Citrine is known for its stylish yellow to brownish color, and is generally considered the top selling gemstone of this color in the United States. It is a member of the quartz family, and has a large crystalline structure.
Coral: Coral is an organic gem that comes from the skeletal remains of sea creatures (which are themselves called Coral). The most common colors associated with coral jewelry are pink and red. Coral requires pristine environmental conditions to grow, meaning that producers must maintain calm waters free of pollution. According to the GIA, coral is believed to have been used in jewelry for about 30,000 years.
Emerald: Emeralds are one of the three main precious gemstones (along with rubies and sapphires) and are known for their fine green to bluish green color. They have been treasured throughout history, and some historians report that the Egyptians mined emerald as early as 3500 BC. Today, emeralds are increasingly being used in faceted rough-cut designs that provide a bold look at an affordable price.
Garnet: Garnet is most commonly a deep red to purplish red gemstone with a cubic crystal structure. Garnet is considered an affordable alternative to more expensive red gemstones like rubies or tourmaline, and goes particularly well with sterling silver.
Jade is most commonly associated with the color green, but can come in a
number of other colors as well. Jade is closely linked to Asian
culture, history, and tradition, and is sometimes referred to as the
“stone of heaven.”
Jasper: Jasper is a semi-translucent to opaque gemstone, of the chalcedony family, that comes in a variety of colors. Oftentimes, jasper will feature unique and interesting patterns within the colored stone. Picture jasper is a type of jasper known for the colors (often beiges and browns) and swirls in the stone’s pattern. These unique patterns occur in nature and make each piece of jasper a one-of-a-kind treasure.
Lapis: Lapis is an opaque gemstone often featuring a deep midnight blue to violet-blue color. It frequently contains gold colored pyrite flecks sprinkled through the gem, making each piece of lapis beautiful and unique. Lapis is a versatile gemstone that is used both in classic and contemporary jewelry styles.
Opal: Opal is a gemstone that comes in a kaleidoscopic array of colors. It is typically formed in desert areas over long periods of time from layers of silica deposits in deep underground rock. It is known for its fascinating “play of color” that occurs when light interacts with the opal’s silica layers. Much of the opal on the market today is synthetic.
Peridot: Peridot is a bright green gemstone that provides the style and look of emerald at a more affordable price. According to the GIA, some historians believe that Cleopatra’s famous emerald collection was actually peridot. Peridot is one of the softer gemstones on the market, with a hardness of 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs scale. Peridot most commonly originates in volcanic areas that are rich in iron and magnesium.
Quartz: Quartz refers to a family of crystalline gemstones of various colors and sizes. Among the well-known types of quartz are rose quartz (which has a delicate pink color), and smoky quartz (which comes in a variety of shades of translucent brown). A number of other gemstones — like Amethyst and Citrine — are also part of the quartz family. Rutilated quartz is a popular type of quartz containing needle-like inclusions.
Ruby: Rubies are known for their intense red color, and are among the most highly valued precious gemstones. Rubies have been treasured for millennia. In Sanskrit, the word for ruby is “ratnaraj”, meaning “king of precious stones.” Although rubies can command one of the the highest per-carat prices of all precious stones, they are increasingly being used in rough-cut faceted designs at much more affordable prices.
Sapphire: The most popular form of sapphire is blue sapphire, which is known for its medium to deep blue color and strong saturation. Fancy colored sapphires in various colors are also available. In the United States, blue sapphire is the most popular and most affordable of the three major precious gemstones (emerald, ruby, and sapphire). Like emeralds and rubies, sapphire is increasingly being used in rough-cut faceted designs that provide a strong, bold look at an affordable price.
Tiger’s Eye: Tiger’s Eye is a gemstone known for its unique and rich striped brown color, which, as its name suggests, can resemble the patterns on a tiger’s coat. It is a member of the quartz group of gemstones. It has a microcrystalline structure, meaning that it is made up of crystals that are smaller than those of quartzes like rose quartz and smoky quartz, but larger than the crystals of chalcedony group gemstones.
Topaz: Topaz is a bright clear gemstone which is often used to create bold, eye-catching designs. The most popular variety of topaz in the market today is blue topaz, which has a bright light blue color and is relatively inexpensive. This color is produced with irradiation and heat treatment (in nature, topaz is most often colorless). Pink topaz is another popular variety of this gemstone.
Turquoise: Turquoise is found in only a few places on earth, and the world’s largest turquoise producing region is the southwest United States. Turquoise is prized for its attractive color — most often an intense medium blue or a greenish blue — and its ancient heritage. Turquoise is used in a great variety of jewelry styles. It is perhaps most closely associated with southwest and Native American jewelry, but it is also used in many sleek, modern styles. Some turquoise contains a matrix of dark brown markings, which provides an interesting contrast to the gemstone’s bright blue color.
What are "Rough Cut" Precious Gemstones?
Rough cut stones are a wonderful way to wear gorgeous genuine gemstones at a great price point. These stones go through a chemical process to even and enhance their color and develop their natural characteristics, but with rough cut gemstones the emphasis is less on extensive cutting and polishing and more on bringing out the unique natural features of the stone. Fans of this organic look value the individuality and variety of each gem selected.
Because a rough cut style embraces the natural variations in the stones,
designers can get much larger gems at a fraction of the cost. This
style is a beautiful, affordable option for wearing large carat weight,
100% genuine stones like emeralds, rubies, and sapphires.