There's nothing that compares to the beautiful glow of a silver ring on your finger. Have you ever wondered what kind of work goes into the jewelry you buy?
Pure silver is a very soft metal, nearly as soft as pure gold. For this reason, silver is almost always used in alloy form, meaning that it is mixed with a small percent of some other metal to help harden it. Sterling silver is the most common and well-known alloy of silver, consisting of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper, although other alloys do exist.
Shaping the Metal
Many people imagine all metalworkers in the same light as blacksmiths and steelworkers, surrounded by roaring fires and molten metal. This is not the case for precious metals used in jewelry making - these are generally worked at room temperature with special tools designed for shaping the delicate metals.
Silver has a very neutral color, which makes it ideal for engraving or otherwise shaping into designs, letters, or even full pictorial scenes, since the color will not distract from or obscure the work. Many silver rings feature delicate designs that draw attention to a central stone or image, or are smooth and shiny so that the central feature can take center stage
Gemstones and Soldering
Gemstones have always been a popular part of jewelry, and rings are definitely one of the most common pieces to feature gems. Some precious stones are set in a claw-like setting that raises the gem above the finger, such as the traditional image of an engagement ring. Turquoise is common in silver jewelry, because it evokes a traditional Southwestern look. Stones like turquoise
are often mounted flat, which makes this style ideal for people who work with their hands. Precious gems, such as the traditional solitaire engagement ring, are often mounted in a raised frame to accentuate their beauty.
Another popular method of decorating a piece of silver jewelry is to attach pieces of precious metals to it by soldering. This is a method using heat and a special metal alloy to seal the two pieces of metal together. Soldering is used for numerous purposes in jewelry making (including sealing a ring into the necessary circular shape). When used for decoration, a silversmith will create a shape or design, such as a heart, cross or star, from one piece of precious metal, and then use a small amount of solder to attach the design to the jewelry piece.
Plating, Polishing, and Finishing
We have all heard of items being silver- or gold-plated, or covered with a thin layer of the metal. Plating is a common practice in jewelry making for several reasons. If price is a factor in the making of an item, it can be made with cheaper metals and then plated with a precious metal to keep cost down while still maintaining the good looks of precious jewelry. Quality jewelry made entirely of precious materials may still be plated, however. A sterling silver item may be plated with pure silver to give it extra shine. It's common for gold to be plated over silver in order for the gold to have more stability.
The final step before a piece of jewelry makes its way to an adoring customer is inspecting and polishing. Each piece is checked carefully for defects and then polished to a high shine. It is now ready to wear!
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