beauty

Recycled Fine Silver – Is Your Jewelry Green?

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The green movement is good. People are finally making an effort to live their lives in a cleaner, better way. From the smallest things like changing over to compact fluorescent bulbs to chucking the gas guzzler in favor of a hybrid, people are doing their part. And businesses are starting to jump on the wagon. Our world will be a better place for everyone because of this movement.

Of course, jewelry has always done its part to add a little beauty to our everyday lives. But it isn't often that a jewelry making material can actually make a difference in our world. There is an exciting new way to make fine silver jewelry. Pure – as good as it gets. And it is environmentally friendly.

Photographic film is manufactured with silver compounds. During photo processing, a substantial amount is recovered for recycling. Some of it is made into a new material called metal clay. There are two brands available – Art Clay and Precious Metal Clay or PMC, made by Mitsubishi Materials Corporation. A 22K gold clay is also available.

Finely powdered pure silver particles recovered from the photo developing process are mixed into a binder, forming a clay like material. This "clay" is quite heavy, and feels cool in the hand, similar to metal. It can be worked like any clay; it can be sculpted or used to build hollow forms; After it dries, it can be filed, cut or drilled before firing. It is truly an art jewelry designers dream material.

Once a piece is made from the clay and air dried, it is fired in a kiln – a furnace that reaches well over 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. The binder holding the metal particles burns, and the particles pull together in a process called sintering. The particles fuse, and when the object cools it is solid metal.

After it is cooled, jewelry made with PMC can be set with gemstones, it can be joined with other parts by soldering, it can be enameled – anything that can be done to any other precious metal object can be done with metal clay jewelry.

Jewelry artisans have embraced PMC as a wonderful new medium that allows individual expression. PMC pieces have been winning awards and competitions. The designs are as varied as the artists that create them. One day, you'll see a piece and say "That is gorgeous …" and find it was made from PMC. Its a great way to use all that recycled silver – it makes our world a cleaner and more beautiful place to live.

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clothing

How to Care for Your Fine Jewelry

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Training Your Fine Jewelry:

The first thing you should do is to give your fine jewelry its own little space for when it is not being worn and train it to stay there. Jewelry items do not live or party well together. Much of the damage, other than wear, that is done to jewelry happens in jewelry boxes. Stones scratch each other and the metals around them. Chains get caught in tangles that almost always cause some sort of damage.

Cleaning Your Fine Jewelry:

The best way to clean your fine jewelry is with a soft (used) toothbrush and a mild dish detergent. If the pieces are very dirty, you can soak them in detergent and water. Do not use harsh cleaners such as chlorine bleach or ammonia. It is not advisable to use toothpaste either. Many contain a mild abrasive, which will remove some metal and cause a dull finish. Any competent jeweler can polish items on occasion, but this process also removes small amounts of metal and so should be used sparingly.

Checking Prongs & Stones:

If the stone moves in the setting, put it in some kind of small bag or container and take it to your nearest qualified jeweler. The small bag prevents loss of the stone should it fall out. Loose stones are also more easily chipped or broken. Another good indicator of a loose prong is if the piece gets caught in clothing or hair by a prong.

Checking for Wear and Tear:

Over time, gold and silver will wear down. This can happen over months or years. This can be a problem for people who do certain kinds of work. The solution to this type of problem is the use of heavier metal in the prongs, the use of platinum for the setting or the use of a bezel setting to secure the stone. Prongs should be checked occasionally and if thin they should be replaced. The bands on rings can also become quite thin and eventually need replacing. The thinner the band to begin with the faster this will happen.

If you give your jewelry a little care and check it periodically for wear and overall condition, it will give you many years to a lifetime of joy. A competent jeweler can recondition most pieces so long as the damage has not been allowed to go too far.

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