How much do you know about your jewellery?

I’m constantly learning about this fascinating subject and I get asked lots of different questions so I thought I’d create a page of FAQs. I hope you find the information useful and that it answers any questions you may have pondered in the past. I’ve touched upon gemstones but for more detail about each one in the boutique, just head to the relevant birthstone page. If you would like to ask about something not covered below then please do get in touch as I’d love to hear from you.

I’m a silver girl

Silver jewellery is almost never 100% pure silver because pure silver is too soft to work with. It would also bend and go out of shape very easily. Sterling silver is the international standard of purity for real silver jewellery; it is also much stronger and can last a lifetime.

As pure silver is too soft on its own to make jewellery, it is strengthened by adding a small quantity of other metals. The industry standard for sterling silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals which is why you’ll see sterling silver hall-marked with 925.

It is a legal requirement in the UK for jewellery to be hallmarked if it is sold as sterling silver. The only exception to this is if the jewellery weighs less than 7.78g.

Watch out for silver plated jewellery where the jewellery is made from a cheap base metal and a thin layer of silver plate is applied as this can be scratched or rubbed off.

The most common metals to make up the 7.5% non-silver element of sterling silver are copper or zinc. When you purchase sterling silver it’s always worth making sure it doesn’t include nickel as this can cause an allergic reaction. Most silver nowadays is guaranteed as hypoallergenic and does not contain nickel.

My jewellery is mostly gold

Gold vermeil (pronounced ver-mey) is similar to gold plate but it’s a much thicker layer of gold. Gold plated jewellery requires the gold to be at least 0.5 microns but gold vermeil must be at least 2.5 microns. This makes gold vermeil jewellery much less easy to scratch or rub down. Gold vermeil must coat sterling silver and the gold purity needs to be at least 10 carats. Gold plated jewellery usually has a cheaper base metal such as brass.

The purity of gold is measured in carats (same word used to denote the weight of a diamond and other gemstones) and the higher the number, the purer the gold. The purest gold is known as 24 carats but, similar to pure silver, it is too soft to make jewellery with. Lower carats include: 22ct (91.67% gold), 18ct (75% gold), 14ct (58.3% gold) and 9ct (37.5% gold). The rest is made up of other metals such as silver, zinc and copper. The higher the caratage, the softer the metal and therefore more susceptible to wear and tear. By adding metal alloys, jewellery will become more hardwearing and robust.

18ct is a popular choice and much of the gold jewellery we source is 18ct gold vermeil but this is detailed on the relevant product pages.

Gold jewellery can be yellow gold, rose gold or white gold and these three very different appearances are dependent on the type and amount of each non-gold metal used. For example, rose gold jewellery is created by combining pure gold and copper to achieve that gorgeous pink tone. As an aside, rose gold is also the most durable due to the copper content. White gold is made when gold is mixed with white metals such as zinc, silver or palladium.

Caring for your jewellery

It’s usually the 7.5% of other metals present in sterling silver that tarnish rather than the silver itself. One of the best ways to keep it tarnish free is to wear and enjoy it as your skin’s natural oils will protect it. There are a few culprits to cause tarnishing including:

  • Prolonged exposure to sunlight
  • Reaction to chemicals in shower gels, bubble bath, other toiletries and cosmetics
  • Reaction to chemicals in household products such as bleach or chlorine
  • Excessive moisture and humidity

Here are a few tips to keep your silver jewellery looking as good as new:

  • When you’re not wearing it, store it in a cool, dark place preferably in a sealed bag
  • Try to avoid showering or bathing in it
  • Don’t swim in it
  • Don’t leave it in the bathroom where moisture and humidity levels are higher
  • Put jewellery on last, when you’ve applied cosmetics and perfume

Some people swear by vinegar, water and baking soda but I find that mild dishwashing liquid and warm (not hot) water or a good polishing cloth is the best way to clean jewellery and get rid of any tarnish. If the tarnish is stubborn, gently rub a small amount of silver polish into the tarnish and polish off with a soft cloth.

I’ve also been told by some that they use toothpaste as the abrasive particles remove the tarnish. However, toothpaste has a hardness of around three to four on the Mohs Scale of Hardness and these same particles can scratch the silver so I wouldn’t recommend this as a cleaning method.

Also be careful about soaking your jewellery in water if it includes gemstones as the water could loosen any adhesive used to secure them in place.

Discover more about pearls

Yes, cultured pearls from farmed oysters or mussels are real pearls. The only difference between cultured pearls and naturally formed pearls is that the start of the cultured pearl process is given a helping hand; the irritant or irritants are manually introduced to the host rather than the process happening naturally. Today, most available pearls are cultured, the most common type of pearl for jewellery making, and natural pearls are counted among the rarest of gems.

Pearls are the only gemstone to be produced by a living organism and can be formed in fresh water or salt water, naturally or cultured. Essentially the process is the same and begins when an irritant, for example a grain of sand, works its way or is introduced into a mollusk (such as an oyster or mussel). The host secretes a liquid called nacre around the irritant as a defence mechanism. This builds up into thousands of layers until a lustrous pearl is formed which can take anywhere between one and four years.

Baroque pearls are non-symmetrical, irregular shapes mostly found in freshwater pearls. They are totally trending at the moment and are often used to create stylish contemporary jewellery. No two baroque pearls are the same which adds character and charm and you can be sure your baroque pearl or pearls are totally unique.

Find out more about gemstones

Yes, all the gemstones used in our jewellery are natural. The only exception to this is a number of turquoise pieces which have been created using reconstituted turquoise. Whether a turquoise stone is natural or reconstituted is detailed on each product page.

Reconstituted turquoise is a mix of turquoise fragments ground up with resin and sometimes dye. Some people prefer this as its composition makes it look perfect and free from natural imperfections that can characterise natural turquoise. I source both natural turquoise and reconstituted turquoise and each relevant product page details which it is.

Rainbow moonstone and moonstone are both types of feldspar mineral. They are similar in appearance and chemical composition but they are not the same stone. Rainbow moonstone is the same as white labradorite, mined from plagioclase feldspar minerals whereas moonstone is made up of orthoclase feldspar. Both rainbow moonstone and moonstone can reflect back lovely bluey green hues but rainbow moonstone has a more multicoloured iridescence hence the name. Both stones share some metaphysical properties, from helping to balance emotions and relieve stress to strengthening energy.

Black sapphire is a variety of sapphire and a nearly opaque gemstone whose colour is so dark, it appears to absorb all light that enters it.

Like other sapphires, it is made from corundum and is one of the hardest natural substances after diamonds, measuring 9 on the MOHS scale of hardness.

In the 1800s, gemstones were divided into precious and semi-precious stones, classed according to rarity, value and quality. To this day there are only four precious gemstones: diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires. It is an interesting way to classify gemstones, for example, emerald and aquamarine are both varieties of beryl but emeralds are classed as precious and aquamarine semi-precious. Some semi-precious gemstones can be worth more than a precious stone for example natural South China Sea pearls and some semi-precious stones are incredibly rare such as the tsavorite garnet. At the end of the day, both precious and semi-precious stones are beautiful, captivating and steeped in both history and legend with an abundance of possible benefits attached to them – a fascinating subject!

Bridal jewellery tips

When accessorising your wedding outfit with bridal jewellery, you should absolutely love it, feel comfortable in it and remember that, unlike your dress, you will be able to wear your jewellery long after the big day. There are plenty of things to consider and we’ve outlined a number of them here

Essentially, think about your dress, its design and neckline, colour and intricacy of detail. It’s all about creating one stunning cohesive look. Also, what do you feel comfortable in? This is why it can be a good idea to wear jewellery that can work with other favourite outfits so you can enjoy your jewellery over and over again. Your bridal hairstyle is also important as is your wedding theme if you have one. We would love to hear from you if you’d like to chat about any of our bridal jewellery pieces.

Have you heard about rhodium?

Rhodium is a precious metal and it belongs to the same family of metals as platinum (known as the platinum group). It is actually the most expensive of all the precious metals because it is very rare; it is mined in very small quantities from platinum ores. This is one reason why jewellery is not made solely of rhodium. Another reason is that it can be brittle and not very malleable. However, it does make fantastic plating material at the right thickness. Any thinner than .75 – 1 micron and the base metal would show through but any thicker and the coating would crack. As it’s harder than gold and silver, it makes a great protective coat that doesn’t scratch as easily. It also doesn’t tarnish. Another advantage to rhodium is that it does not contain nickel so it’s hypoallergenic and a safe option for sensitive skin.

It’s worth noting that thicker layers of rhodium do have a darker finish than sterling silver, more like platinum. It is often used with diamonds and cubic zirconias as it sets them off beautifully.