Handcrafted Sterling Silver Jewelry

Handcrafted sterling silver jewelry designed by artisans is especially trendy for today's pop culture who values originality in their personal jewelry. Handcrafted silver jewelry made by various artists and designers who draw inspiration from their own unique sources is a hot commodity among specialty stores. Some shops offer only one designer's interpretation for decorative items while others specialize in a broad array of customized silver items. Prices can be reasonable for the average consumer or can be quite expensive depending on the amount of work and other features included in specialty items. If a necklace includes a valuable gem stone for instance, it will obviously be more expensive than its exact equivalent without the stone.

Custom, handcrafted pieces can be found that displays influences of many different cultures such as Peruvian, Native American, and Spanish. Especially noted for their exquisite work, Native American Indians in many parts of the country continue to offer one-of-a-kind items that reflect earlier traditions of Indian life. Native American designer pieces can be found from the Southwest to the Northeast that still reflects native, cultural designs. Spanish influenced pieces are quite decorative and a wide selection of handcrafted silver jewelry can be purchased either in the states or south of the border. "Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold." (Proverbs 3:13-14)

Peruvian handcrafted sterling silver jewelry is known all over the world for its fine finish and original design. Many custom items that are designed in Peru are reminiscent of the ancient Andean culture and many lines of artistic designs can be found that reflect cultural, ceremonial art of the past. The popular gemstone that is rare and found in the high Andes is the blue opal of Peru. Set in custom rings, necklaces or bracelets, the blue opal is a gem stone of choice for unique, rare, beautiful silver work from Peruvian artisans. Another very important stone that is always in high demand from Peruvian artisans is turquoise which was said to adorn members of royal families that ruled in the mountainous areas of Peru. This stone is found in the Andes and while not as rare as a blue opal, carries huge significance for the Peruvian people.

Turquoise set in silver jewelry is commonly found throughout Peru in many stores that offer metal and stone designs. Turquoise is a common denominator among many varying cultural groups around the world that have traditionally yielded expert silversmiths. American Indians, Mexicans and the Spanish are also notable for using the turquoise stone within stunningly handcrafted sterling silver jewelry. Even though there have been many other countries that have been responsible for fashioning unique pieces from the valuable metal, the South American influence is given the most credit for its original artistry. Europeans, of course, have designed and made handcrafted silver jewelry for centuries. Europe's influence on this craft has been more in the vein of antiqued, finer appointments in design than the South American flamboyant designs.

The Europeans also first introduced coins made from the metal to American Indians who lived in the northern tribes. Tribes such as the Seneca and Iroquoia of New York began to fashion handmade decorative items from coins that Europeans brought with them in the 1700's. As silversmithing developed among the Indians, many pieces picturing tribal customs and rituals can still be seen today in museums and archives. New pieces of handcrafted silver jewelry are still designed today that is reflective of these early American designs. Americans in general began to use the precious metal more extensively as mines were discovered throughout the states in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Mines in Nevada and Utah were just some of the places that large deposits of the soft metal were found. Many aspiring artists who used newly discovered deposits were trained as silversmiths in Taxco, Mexico which offered educational resources at a place called Silverwork.

Mass production of decorative pieces began to flood the consumer market in the early and mid 1900's which gave rise to a knee jerk reaction from custom artisans. These artisans pushed handcrafted silver jewelry as a form of free expression for both the designer and the wearer. This precious metal has traditionally been the metal of choice for 'free spirited' designers and those who customize unique pieces. Its malleable properties make it easy to work with while hammering or setting with stones. The brilliance that the freshly polished metal displays adds a luster that accents any stone. Handcrafted sterling silver jewelry also may use the option of natural tarnish to add an intentional antiqued look that is currently appealing. There are many online sources that offer authentic, cultural designs or traditional items for anyone who loves the earthy luster of silver crafted jewelry.

Handmade Sterling Silver Jewelry

Handmade sterling silver jewelry, throughout history, was one of the most popular types of ornate adornment made for men and women alike. At one time all baubles were made by hand without the use of machines. In fact, the first machines were not used until 1869. Gradually various methods of machine production were developed. In the beginning, these were only used to make simple types of trinkets, such as chains. As methods refined, however, mass production was created for more delicate pieces. The method used for replicating identical pieces is called casting. During the casting process, a master model is made. The model is typically a type of metal and a rubber impression or mold is fashioned after the metal cast. Not all fine jewelry is made this way. Many of the pieces start as a flat slab of precious metal, which is turned into an original design. Handmade silver jewelry is made using this process. When a jeweler works this way, many different hand tools are used. These tools can include; files, punches, saws, mallets, and pliers. The jeweler also uses a blowtorch to solder (melt and join) the parts of an article together.

Adornments are also made by stamping. In this process, the metal is pressed between two shaped steel surfaces called dies. Dies are expensive to make, so stamping is used only to make large quantities. Stamping usually makes the article in two halves, which must then be joined. Handmade silver jewelry is the least expensive to make. Like other precious metals, silver can easily be made into beautiful and unique adornments. Handmade sterling silver jewelry, according to current United States law, may not contain less than 92.5% silver. The remaining percentage consists of copper. There is no legal limitation on the amount in a silver-plated article. Plating is done by coating a base, or foundation, metal or alloy with a layer of the pure metal. The worth of an ornate is valued simply by the cost of the material in which it is made from. This is called an intrinsic value. Great skill or craftsmanship can add value to a piece as well. The piece can also be valuable if it has an interesting history or was made for or owned by someone famous. This is commonly known as provenance.

Some pieces are worth very little and are meant to be discarded when no longer fashionable. This includes costume and junk baubles. Costume refers to a piece made with non precious metals, or can even be handmade silver jewelry with false gems of glass or plastic and is often created to mimic the real thing. Junk refers to pieces that are inexpensive and not well made. In these junk pieces, rings become bent, necklaces break, and false gems frequently become loose and fall out.

Handmade sterling silver jewelry has been used ever since the 1200's. At that time merchants in northern Germany were making coins containing a high percentage of the shiny precious metal. The coins made in England contained very little. Since both types of coins were commonly traded in England, the English began to distinguish the better quality German made coins from their own coins by calling them easterlings, because they came from the east. It is likely that the common name for the German coins gradually became the word known today as sterling. The quality of the metal also became known in commercial silver as well. The standard for English sterling was set in the 1500's by Queen Elizabeth I. It is now accepted as a standard all over the world.

The precious metal is used to make many decorative pieces of considerable value. Since it became so expensive, there were attempts to make substitute for items such as handmade sterling silver jewelry. "Shall I acquit a man with dishonest scales, with a bag of false weights" (Micah 6:11). The first substitute for solid sterling was silver-clad copper, known as Sheffield plate, because it was primarily made in Sheffield, England. Introduced in 1742, the plating is made by adding a thin sheet of the precious metal to a sheet of copper and rolling them into one sheet. This plating was used for making buttons, coffeepots, candlesticks, and similar inexpensive items including personal handmade silver jewelry. Electroplating was discovered in 1844. During this substitution process, a bar of the precious metal and an object made of cheaper metal are placed in a chemical solution. When an electric current is passed through the solution, silver gradually coats the metal object. Until the appearance of banks, people used jewelry as a way to store and protect their wealth. It could be dismantled and melted down for the value of its materials. Today, that practice is still in effect, and those that spend wealth on jewelry are making a wise investment.

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