Precious Metals & Care
 

Metals have absorbed and intrigued me since I first encountered them in NCAD. 

Precious metals begin their journey deep in the earth, in many parts of the world, including Ireland. Once mined these rocks are brought through a refining process to extract the metal content. Later such material is formed into gold, silver or platinum sheet and wire, and becomes the raw material for the goldsmith and silversmith.

All precious metals are suitable to be made into jewellery. They vary in colour, hardness, durability, and price, with platinum the most expensive and silver the least.Your own taste, budget and lifestyle will decide what choice you make.  

 

Platinum: Platinum whose name comes from the Spanish Platina meaning little silver is the most expensive of all the precious metals. It is a rare metal, and a scarce commodity in the earth.

Colour: silver-white

Platinum has an attractive silver- white colour and is extremely hard wearing, taking a high polish.

The material is known to have been first used to make artefacts by pre-Columbian (pre 1492), South American natives.  In terms of Europe Platinum is referenced in writings from the 16th century.  

Today Platinum is a very popular choice for engagement and wedding rings.  


Gold: Gold is naturally a beautiful yellow.

Colour:  yellow, rose, and white gold

18ct gold- 75% pure gold: - This is the most precious gold used in Jewellery today and is favoured for wedding rings.

The addition of an alloy gives rose gold its attractive red colour.

White gold gets its colour too by addition of an alloy. A white gold piece may be plated with the metal Rhodium to achieve a higher quality white colour; however this wears off over time and requires periodic re plating. The natural grey/white colour of the gold is gaining popularity, and dispenses with the need for re plating.


9ct gold 37% gold: - 9ct gold has a lower gold content than 18ct gold and is therefore less expensive. Due to this it is also paler than 18ct and harder.

However with 9ct white and rose gold the opposite is the case-as the increased amount of alloy determines that the rose and white colours are deeper.

High carat gold has been used to make artefacts worldwide for millennia. In Ireland these include:  Lunalae, The Broighter collar, and Gold Ribbon Torc etc.  


 

Silver :Sterling silver is softer and less expensive than gold with a lovely soft white colour. These qualities make it a wonderful choice for jewellery.

Colour: white

It is an alloy comprising 92.5% silver and 7.5% of other metals primarily copper. 

Fine Brittania silver is 99% pure silver but is too soft for functional objects. 

Silver has been in use for millennia in Ireland with Iron Age rings in the material known from 200AD.  The Ardagh Chalice, copious Viking artefacts such as the iconic Thistle penannular brooch, bangles and vessels are all made in silver.

18th century Irish silverware is renowned worldwide for the quality of its craftsmanship and design.   .

Today a considerable amount of jewellery is made in sterling silver. Cost is a factor, but so is the suitability of the material and its colour.  

While silverware (flatware) has largely passed out of favour many well known awards are made in the material, such as the Sam Maguire and McCarthy cups amongst others in Ireland

 


How can you be sure your precious metals are of the quality described?  

 

In Ireland the answer is Hallmarking. This is the oldest form of consumer protection in the world.  Irish law requires all objects of jewellery or hollow ware made in Ireland to be tested in the Assay Office in Dublin Castle. The material content of each piece is assessed, and acknowledged with a stamp.  
 

Plated Metal

The description plated metal can confuse. For instance gold plated silver, or silver gilt, is silver with an addition of a gold layer, but it is hallmarked as silver. The durability of such plating is determined by how much a piece is handled.  On the other hand silver or gold plate is when silver or gold plating is applied onto a base metal.  The majority of costume jewellery fits into this category. 


Care

Your jewellery looks lovely when new and it is easy to keep it like this by following a few guidelines:

  • Wait until you have applied perfume, and all beauty products before you put your jewellery on, as a residue may be left that can affect the surface.
  • Be careful with soap products too as gemstone settings can be clogged up.
  • It is important to remove jewellery near bleach, detergents or chlorine.
  • Do remember to remove rings when doing heavy work, and avoid needless damage.
  • Jewellery is also affected over time too by the atmosphere and natural skin oils.  

 

Cleaning

Regular cleaning will help keep jewellery in good condition.

  • Wash individual pieces of gold or silver in a plastic bowl of warm water with washing up liquid or liquid soap using a small soft toothbrush or cloth.
  • Rinse well, and dry using a soft lint free cloth and a special jewellery polishing cloth for highly polished pieces.

When Silver is not worn it can be affected by the atmosphere and tarnishing results.This discolouration is easily removed with a commercial cleaner such as Silver Dip. The jewellery is dipped into the liquid and removed.  Wash well and dry using a soft lint free cloth or a polishing cloth for highly polished pieces. 

   

Storing Your Jewellery

Jewellery is protected if stored carefully in its original box, or a jewellery case. Keep each piece separately and wrap in tissue paper to avoid damage and tangling.Be careful putting jewellery in a handbag. Use either a leather pouch or an inside pocket.