Thanks to its versatility and beautiful shine, silver is one of the most popular metals for both fine and casual jewelry. Silver, in the form of utensils and serving ware, also finds a place on many dining tables.
To keep our favorite silver pieces looking their best, we must take regular care of them—which means preventing and staying on top of silver’s worst enemy: tarnish. When we keep tarnish to a minimum, we’re less likely to resort to abrasive cleaning measures and damage silver in the polishing process. If you want to keep your silver looking its best, follow the following silver care tips!
A Few Notes on Silver
The grade of silver you own may determine the level of care it requires. .950 sterling silver is more malleable (bendable) and will tarnish more easily than .925 sterling silver (which is slightly less pure than .950 sterling silver). Therefore, .950 may require more frequent and mindful care.
It All Stacks Up in Silver and Diamonds Ring Set, featuring oxidized silver
Some portions of your silver piece may be intentionally oxidized (blackened) to enhance details of the design. If an area of your silver piece is oxidized, avoid going over this area with silver polish to keep the oxidation intact.
Tarnish occurs when silver comes into contact with sulfur compounds (most often hydrogen sulfide in the air). Oxygen and sulfur chemically bond to the surface of the silver, making it look dirty or discolored.
The best way to keep your silver pieces looking their best is to prevent them from becoming overly tarnished in the first place. There are also several measures you can take to prevent other forms of damage, including corrosion and scratches.
If you’re using silver food items (like cups or utensils), wash them immediately in hot soapy water after you’re done using them; dry thoroughly. Air drying silver may leave water spots on the surface of the piece. Never wash a silver item in the dishwasher. Doing so may leave a white film on the silver.
Avoid exposing your silver jewelry to household cleaners, rubber, chlorinated water, or any sulfur-containing substances (like eggs, mustard, latex, onions, and wool). Also, keep your silver away from cosmetics, including lotion, hairspray, and perfume. (Jewelry is best saved for last when you’re getting ready.)
Proper Storage for Silver Items
Silver jewelry may be stored in airtight plastic bags with an anti-tarnish strip. Because silver can be easily scratched, don’t store more than one item per bag. Larger pieces can be stored in acid-free tissue or flannel, which helps keep sulfur away from silver, or in airtight bags with a packet of silica gel or activated charcoal packets. Avoid wrapping silver in newspaper or cardboard, and avoid storing silver in temperature and humidity extremes (e.g., the floor of your garage is probably not the best place for your grandmother’s silver punch bowl).
Polishing and Removing Tarnish
Silver should be polished over a towel. If you’re polishing your piece over a porous surface, like a wood table, lay a piece of plastic beneath the towel.
To polish lightly tarnished silver, first wet the piece. Apply a small dab of silver polish, and using a foam sponge, lint-free makeup pad, or scrap of flannel, massage the silver in a back-and-forth motion going with the grain of the metal (in cases where a grain is distinguishable). Q-tips may also be used to get into more difficult areas. Avoid polishing silver with paper towels and toothbrushes; these are too abrasive and may mar the finish.
As the spot on your rag gets blackened, move to a clean spot. Do not clean silver in a haste (this is especially true of delicate and antique pieces); doing so may cause you to break or damage the silver. When you’re finished polishing your piece, carefully rinse away any polish residue, and dry the piece.
Deeply tarnished pieces are best left to a reputable jeweler or silver shop. Do not immerse silver in a “mircale dip.” These dips do remove tarnish, but they may also mar the finish of the metal.
To preserve the life of your silver polish, store the polish with the lid tightly sealed. Top off the polish with a bit of distilled water (not tap water) to keep the polish creamy.
Are you a fan of silver? What’s your favorite silver piece?
You may also be interested in: How to Store and Take Care of Antique Jewelry
Photos: Barbara Michelle Jacobs Jewelry
Modern evil eye bangle
Belief in the “evil eye” is an astounding example of how one idea can be transmitted across the world, holding relevance for ancient and modern peoples alike. Simply put, the evil eye is believed to be a curse caused by a malevolent glare that causes misfortune for the recipient of the look. Many sources point to classical antiquity as the origin place of the evil eye belief. In fact, the evil eye is covered by a wide variety of classic writers, including Plato, Hesiod, Pliny the Elder, and Plutarch.
Although the evil eye was feared with varying intensity in classical Rome and Greece, the idea was powerful enough to spread across West Asia and was likely propagated by Alexander the Great’s conquest. From there, the idea traveled to the Americas with the onset of European colonialism and later, by West Asian immigrants. Eventually, lore about the evil eye could be found in Armenia, Albania, Turkey, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Morocco, Greece, the Levant, Afghanistan, Syria, southern Spain, and Mexico.
The evil eye wasn’t a mere fringe belief, either. It was taken seriously by major religions, and mention of it can be found in the Old Testament and the Quran. As such, measures to protect oneself from the widely feared evil eye were in order. Evil eye talismans, designed to protect the bearer from the evil eye’s curse, took a variety of shapes, three of which are still easily recognized today. The following three evil eye talismans often appear as jewelry and wall or door hangings. Whether you believe they offer real protection from curses—or simply make beautiful souvenirs—one thing is for sure: these evil eye talismans have a rich and special history!
In the Aegean region, light-colored eyes were fairly rare. Green eyes, and especially blue eyes, were believed to possess powers of the evil eye. Accordingly, blue-eyed, eye-shaped talismans were created to protect bearers from the curse of the evil eye. Believed to have originated in Turkey, these Nazar charms are a stunning shade of royal blue.
This palm-shaped amulet may also be familiar to you. With origins in the Middle East and North Africa, the Hamsa makes an appearance in Jewish, Muslim, and Indian traditions (and is sometimes referred to as the “Hand of Fatima” after the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad).
Modern Hamsa necklace
Finally, the Boncuk bead is a variation of the Nazar, with roots in the Mediterranean. These blue glass beads are believed to date back as early as the development of glassmaking itself, illustrating that the evil eye belief links not only varying cultures but also different forms of artistic creation!
Modern evil eye necklace
Giving birth is easily one of the most significant moments of a mother’s life, which is why many families are choosing to celebrate this milestone with a push gift. Increasingly trendy in the U.S., a push gift is a present given to the mother by her partner around the time of delivery.
These gifts can be given before or after delivery, in the delivery room, and/or even during the start of labor (it’s probably best to hold off on gifting during the actual pushing—she’ll be a wee bit distracted). Also, keep in mind that “push” doesn’t have to be taken literally—C-section and adoptive moms deserve a reward, too!
If you’re looking to mark the birth or adoption of your child—or possibly drop hints to your partner if you’re an expecting mom, check out these lovely ideas for a push gift.
Jewelry is the most traditional choice for push gifts, but the endless options available mean that you can find something just right for her. The following are a few ideas to inspire you.
Charm bracelet. Gift a new chain-link bracelet with a single charm (extra points if it’s baby-themed). You can gift her with additional charms to mark future milestones in the years to come. (Did you know that charm bracelets go way back? Here’s a look at their history.)
Locket. A locket also makes a wonderful push gift. Later, you can add a teeny-tiny photo of your newborn baby.
Necklace. A graceful necklace like the one below is a gift she can wear with almost anything! The nature-inspired pendant recalls new life and the circle of creation.
Pampering for Mom
Because you know she deserves it!
Espresso machine. If your baby-mama gave up caffeine for her pregnancy, consider giving her the gift that keeps on giving—an espresso machine or simple Moka stove-top pot. She’ll be able to enjoy a café-quality treat from the comfort of home. (See this mess-free machine.)
Skincare. Even if she’s glowing from head-to-toe, new mothers are no stranger to skincare concerns (thanks, hormones!). A simple, anti-oxidant rich body lotion will come in handy. If the beauty world intimidates you, don’t be afraid to ask for assistance at the cosmetics counter.
Spa time. A gift card to your local spa will give mom a chance unwind. A basic massage or a mani-pedi will help her feel pretty and pampered.
A ballerina wrap sweater. A lightweight ballerina-style wrap sweater is a beautiful and practical gift. They’re adjustable—perfect for mom’s recovering body—and nursing-friendly. Check out this one.
Perfume. There’s nothing like scent to bring back special memories. A new fine fragrance will help mom remember the experience of bringing life into the world.
Something for the Whole Family
Who says a push gift can't be enjoyed by everyone?
Book a trip. Plan a relaxing getaway for your family at a kid-friendly resort. Aim for a least a few months after baby has arrived, so the family will have had some time to adjust to caring for your latest addition.
A rocker for your nursery. Mom, partner, and baby will all benefit from a cozy rocker (if you don’t already have one!). Late-night feedings will be all the more soothing. Here is a truly beautiful piece.
Do you have any additional push gift ideas?
See also: How to Sweetly Hint for Gifts
Photos: Unsplash, Barbara Michelle Jacobs Jewelry, Net-a-Porter, Pottery Barn
A druzy (also called drusy, drusie, or druse) occurs when a set of crystals form on or within the surface of a plate-like stone. (A druzy looks like a stone covered in sugar crystals or glittering snow.) There are several types of druzies because various minerals can grow in a crystalline structure.
Quartz (agate or chalcedony) is the most common types of druzy. In addition to quartz druzies, there are garnet, calcite, dolomite, and malachite druzies, among many others. Druzies are sometimes treated with gold, platinum, sterling silver, or titanium to enhance their colors. A druzy treated with titanium, for example, may have a cobalt or purple hue.
Druzies also vary in size because crystals grow in a variety of sizes. Druzies with a layer of tiny crystals are probably the most popular druzy featured in jewelry. Each druzy will vary in luster, but they’re generally quite sparkly. Compared to faceted gemstones, druzies are rather affordable, making them a great choice for customers interested in something pretty and sparkly at an decent price point.
Druzies in Crystal Healing
In the tradition of crystal healing, druzies are used in a similar fashion as crystal clusters. They’re featured in group meditation and spiritual workshops and are valued for their reported ability to harmonize a group of people and direct them toward a common spiritual aim. Druzies are also used to “charge,” “program,” or “enhance” the energy of other crystals. To enhance the energy of a crystal using a druzy, the crystal user places a crystal on top of the druzy a leaves it there overnight.
Druzies are also associated with creativity and relaxation as well as the relief of emotional strife. Finally, it’s believed that druzies assist the immune and reproductive systems.
Caring for Your Druzy
Handle your druzy carefully to avoid dropping it or knocking it against a hard surface. Although the toughness of any druzy depends on its mineral content, druzies can be fragile and prone to cracks and breakage. Clean your druzy with a damp, lint-free cloth. Avoid immersing it in cleaning chemicals or using an ultrasonic cleaner. Also, avoid exposing your druzy (or any other jewelry piece) to body-care products, including soaps, hair spray, hair dye, self-tanner, and perfume. Store your druzy piece in cloth pouch or lined jewelry box.
Photos: Mickey Lynn Jewelry, Sheilasattic via Etsy, Landon Lacey via Etsy, Cheep and Chic Land via Etsybar
Barbara Michelle Jacobs Jewelry is committed to using fine recycled materials when possible and when it is requested. Per this commitment, Barbara Michelle Jacobs is happy to work with preowned and vintage stones, including recycled diamonds.
Unlike, say, a recycled plastic bottle, a recycled diamond doesn’t take the form of something completely different after the recycling process. In fact, a recycled diamond is usually indistinguishable from a new, polished diamond. The only thing that may give away a recycled diamond is if the recycled diamond has a dated cut that’s no longer fashionable. If this is the case, there is a chance the diamond can be recut to suit modern tastes. (However, cutting a diamond may alter its value.)
How are diamonds recycled?
A recycled diamond simply refers to a diamond that has been sold back to the gemstone trade and has re-entered the diamond supply. When a loved one passes away, leaving behind jewelry (that no family member desires), or someone simply wishes to sell a piece of diamond jewelry, the diamond items are sold to jewelry buyer.
If a piece is intact and has maintained good quality over the years, the piece may be sold as an antique or preowned piece. If the piece would not be valuable as a whole, its parts will be assessed for potential value.
The precious metal can be melted down (and also recycled), and the stones can be sold separately. Diamonds may be removed from surrounding metal using aqua regia, an acid removal process that harmlessly removes the stones.
Small recycled diamonds (one-fifth of a carat or smaller) are traded in parcels of melee diamonds and may be purchased by jewelers or other gemstone traders. Larger diamonds are appraised by a diamond laboratory (like the Gemological Institute of America—GIA) and sold individually.
Recycled diamonds in the diamond industry
Around the turn of the century, the recycled diamond industry experienced notable growth, and the industry is predicted to continue growing. Given that many current mines are reaching the end of their productive lives and relative few new mines are being created, it may be assumed that the diamond jewelry industry may come to rely more on the recycled diamond industry. As of 2014, the recycled diamond industry provided 10% of the global supply of diamonds and was valued at $1.2 billion (USD).
Are there any diamonds that cannot be recycled?
Diamonds that cannot be recycled include those that are used to grind or polish other diamonds; these wear down over time and eventually become dust.
Photos: Barbara Michelle Jacobs Jewelry
These beautiful Jewish wedding rings featuring a “house” motif are steeped in centuries-old tradition, and although that tradition is poignantly shadowed by mass tragedy, these unique pieces ultimately symbolize love, union, and community.
The “houses” adorning these rings are actually miniature palaces or castles (and sometimes even temples symbolizing Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem) that represent a couple’s home. Often, the rings are inscribed with Hebrew, and on some, the house may open via a clasp to reveal the phrase “Mazal Tov,” which means “good luck” in Hebrew.
Sometime in the 10th century, these wedding rings were first documented as a part of the traditional wedding ceremony. Their existence may date back earlier, however. In the traditional Jewish wedding ceremony, the groom symbolically acquires the bride, and the ring serves as a representation of money. The exchange wasn’t necessarily akin to the groom buying property, however. Rather, the bride’s acceptance of the ring symbolized her acceptance of the groom. The significance of the ritual explains why the rings were so ornate.
The ring’s ownership was likely determined by the relative wealth of the family. In some communities, a single ring may have been used during the wedding ceremony of every bride and groom and returned afterward. (A simple wedding band may have served as the everyday symbol of the couple’s union.) Wealthier families may have actually owned one of these rings, passing it down through the generations, thereby keeping the ring in the family.
The first traditional Jewish wedding rings to be discovered date back to the 14th century. Beginning in the 1340s, the Black Death swept through Europe, killing up to 200 million people. Sadly, local communities sometimes blamed their Jewish residents for poisoning the wells and cursing Christians. Thousands of Jewish people were massacred while many others fled to avoid persecution. Those who fled often buried their valuables, hoping to return to them at a later date. Many families did not return to their former homes, however, and some of the most ornate wedding rings were discovered among the valuables unearthed centuries later.
Fortunately, the sad events surrounding the Black Death didn’t permanently halt the production of these beautiful pieces. During a period between the 16th and 19th centuries, more advanced craftsmanship ushered in incredibly ornately designed rings, many of which included filigree and enamel. Gemstones were absent, however—likely due to religious reasons.
After a period during which these style of rings were mostly absent from wedding rituals, an interest in their history (and owning contemporary versions!) has emerged. Jeweler Chloe Lee Carson has created a line of Jewish wedding rings suited to a contemporary aesthetic. But just like the wedding rings of yore, these are intended to serve as a “universal symbol of love, harmony, and holiness.” Check them out here!
Chloe Lee Carson 18 kt Gold Hoyz Sanctuary Ring
More gem-quality sapphires are produced in Montana than any state in the United States. Montana sapphires (or corundums) come in a variety of colors (although rubies are rare).
The first sapphire found in the U.S. was found along the Missouri River by Ed “Sapphire” Collins in 1865. Other areas along the Missouri River in Montana, including Butte, Philipsburg, and Bozeman, have also produced sapphires. Some of the first sapphire finds were deemed low-quality, however, giving Montana sapphires a bad reputation. Because of their poor color quality and lack of clarity, many Montana sapphires are treated with heat to enhance their color and clarity (a general trend that does not apply to Yogo sapphires, discussed below).
Raw Montana Sapphire
Due to environmental concerns, high cost of recovery, and low-profit margins of general-variety, non-blue Montana sapphire, not many are mined today.
Yogo sapphires are found only in the Yogo Gulch, part of the Little Belt Mountains in Judith Basin County, Montana. The land was once inhabited by the Piegan Blackfeet Native Americans, and it’s speculated that “yogo” means “romance” or “blue sky” in the Blackfeet language, but no one is quite sure.
Purple Yogo Sapphire
Yogo sapphires are celebrated for their uniform clarity and brilliance. Trace amounts of iron and titanium render most yogo sapphires a beautiful cornflower blue (though about 2% of yogo sapphires are purple.
The first gold discovery at Yogo Creek occurred in 1866, at which point miners found “blue pebbles,” but these stones weren’t recognized as sapphires until 1894. In 1895, rancher Jake Hoover sent a cigar box full of these rocks to an assay office that sent it to Tiffany’s in New York City where these gems were declared “the finest precious gemstones found in the United Stated.” The discovery of Yogo sapphires was arguably more valuable than several gold strikes.
The allure of Yogo sapphires endured through the twentieth century. In the 1980s, gem company Intergem (which controlled most of the Yogo sapphires at the time), declared that Yogo sapphires were the world’s only guaranteed “untreated” sapphire, drawing attention to the fact that by that point, 95% of the world’s sapphires were treated to enhance color and clarity (the context of that figure is rather complicated, however, and sapphires can be treated in more than one way).
The life-size Tiffany Iris Brooch, contains 120 Yogo sapphires set in platinum (circa 1900).
Although Yogo sapphires continue to be valuable, the difficulty of mining them makes them expensive to produce and therefore less profitable than equally valuable gems that are easier to mine. These days, Yogo sapphire mining is mostly practiced by hobbyists, and most of the larger mines are inactive.
Photos: Wikimedia Commons