Client Support: Frequently Asked Questions and Answers: Jewelry History and Care

WHAT IS WIRE-WRAPPED JEWELRY?

Wire-wrapped jewelry is made with strands of wire; gold-filled, sterling silver, copper, brass, plastic coated wire, just about any type of wire can be used.   Gemstones, beads, glass, cameos, pearls, and any other type of objects can be wire-wrapped.  I have made pendants from items as unusual as an elk’s tooth and gall stones.  Nothing is required but the object to be wrapped, small hand tools such as pliers, cutters, a mandrel for bails and anything else that might be helpful and your imagination.  When I begin a piece, I never have a particular design in mind, I just design as I go and never know what it will look like until I finish.  The object of my designs is to showcase the piece I am wrapping rather than emphasize the wire as to me, the wire is only the vehicle to secure the piece.  The exception to this is if I am making strictly a wire piece.

WHAT IS GOLD-FILLED WIRE ?

Gold-filled wire is made by permanently bonding karat gold to a base metal core(generally brass) using heat and pressure.   14 karat gold normally is used and is designated 1/10 or 1/20 which refers to the actual weight of gold in the item.  The thickness of gold can vary and most gold-filled items are anywhere from 50 to 100,000 times thicker than regular gold plating and up to  25,000 times thicker than heavy gold electroplated items.  While the gold in filled material is bonded with heat and pressure and is permanent,  the gold on plated items is added to the surface of a finished product using chemical or electric processes.  Gold-filled items are much more durable and the gold will not wear off like it does on plated items.

WHAT IS ARGENTIUM SILVER ?

Traditional Sterling Silver contains 92.5% pure silver and the remainder can be any number of  metals.  Germanium, a semi-metallic element, is added to pure silver to form Argentium Sterling Silver.  Tarnish is caused by oxygen and sulphur in the air forming silver sulphide on the surface of Sterling Silver.   The addition of germanium to sterling causes a transparent oxide layer on the silver which slows the formation of the silver sulphide and gives much better tarnish resistance to the Sterling.  Argentium Sterling Silver  requires very little care as it remains bright and shiny.  An occasional wiping with a soft cloth to remove fingerprints will keep it looking brand new for a long time.

WHAT IS DICHROIC GLASS ?

Dichroic means “two colors” but there are many different colors in dichroic caused by reflecting and transmitting different wavelengths of  light and although many think that dichroic glass came from the NASA program,  some forms of dichroic glass has actually been found dating from the 4th century.   Today it is made by placing glass in a vacuum chamber where electron beams cause vapors to form from the various metals, metal oxides and silica which condense on the surface of the glass in multiple layers as crystal structures thus causing the various colors.  There can be as many as 50 layers which are millionths of an inch thick.

I personally fused each piece of glass that I use in designing my jewelry using clear & black dichroic, layering different colors together and covering most with clear glass before fusing them.  In fusing glass you have to heat and cool the glass slowly to prevent any pressure build up inside the glass pieces.  It usually took about 12 hours from beginning to finish of the fusing process.  At times I was surprised to see the final result of a piece as the colors of dichroic are entirely different prior to heating and afterward.

THE HANDMADE DIFFERENCE

The greatest difference between handmade jewelry and manufactured jewelry, besides the personal factor,  is the quality and uniqueness.  While machines can stamp out identical pieces of jewelry all day long, it is almost impossible to make identical pieces by hand, especially with wire-wrapped jewelry, and especially with earrings.  The earrings must be made like a mirror image, but without using a template (there are some on the market) it is difficult to match the pieces exactly; there will be slight variations because you are turning and twisting the wires in opposite directions.  When ordering from a photograph, since most pieces are made at the time of order, the finished piece may not look exactly like the photograph, either because of the difference in stones or beads (especially with pearls or free form cut stones) or the turning and twisting of the wire; that is what makes handmade pieces so special-you know that no one else will have one exactly like yours.

You may see variations in prices; these can be due to the quality of workmanship, the complexity of the piece, the quality of materials used, and the experience of the designer.  Wire-wrapped jewelry pieces are so individualistic and every wire artist has their own style.  I have developed my style over the last 25 years and like to combine the traditional with the sculptured styles according to the object I am wrapping and the effect I am looking for ( I know, don’t end a sentence with a preposition ).

I can assure you that if you purchase and wear a piece of my wire-wrapped jewelry, you will get comments and compliments every time you wear it.  I have customers who purchased pieces from me 10 to 20 years ago who contact me and tell me they still get compliments when they wear their piece.  You won’t be disappointed.

ARGENTIUM EXPLAINED

Traditional Sterling Silver contains 92.5% pure silver and the remainder can be any number of  metals.  Germanium, a semi-metallic element, is added to pure silver to form Argentium Sterling Silver.  Tarnish is caused by oxygen and sulphur in the air forming silver sulphide on the surface of Sterling Silver.   The addition of germanium to sterling causes a transparent oxide layer on the silver which slows the formation of the silver sulphide and gives much better tarnish resistance to the Sterling.  Argentium Sterling Silver  requires very little care as it remains bright and shiny.  An occasional wiping with a soft cloth to remove fingerprints will keep it looking brand new for a long time.

JEWELRY LEVELS

Bridge – Bridge to Fashion – Fashion

In categorizing my jewelry in relation to the standard designations in the industry of Bridge and Fashion, I found that I needed a third category; what I call Bridge to Fashion.

Bridge jewelry is generally a combination of Argentium or Sterling Silver or Gold-filled metals and semi-precious stones or beads.  I only use 14Kt. Gold-filled wire and beads, although some use 12Kt. gold-filled material.

Fashion jewelry is generally a combination of base metals; plated, plastic coated, brass, copper, etc. and glass, ceramic, plastic or base metal pieces or beads.

As an artisan, I design my jewelry based on the materials that are available and that fulfill the purpose of my design regarding size shape and color; as a consequence, some of my pieces combine silver or gold-filled metals with glass, plastic or crystals.  In some pieces I have combined genuine stones or beads with plastic coated wires to create a more colorful piece.  I have named this category “Bridge to Fashion”, as it is a combination of the other two categories.

My Fashion category is made with silver plated, plastic coated, non-tarnish brass or gold or silver tone base metals.  I usually use glass, plastic, ceramic or crystal beads or stones in my Fashion jewelry. There are many interesting sizes, shapes and colors in this category of materials not available in genuine stones.   In designing with these materials, I am able to bring down the price for my customers.  I use the same care and skill in creating my Fashion pieces that I do in making the Bridge or Bridge to Fashion pieces so that the quality is the same.

CLEANING YOUR JEWELRY

You will read about many different ways to clean your jewelry.  I will tell you how I clean mine and you can determine how you want to clean yours.  I use a mild dishwashing detergent like Dawn and a soft bristle toothbrush and just clean it and rinse it well under warm running water and dry.    This can be done on any of the jewelry you buy from me, including the Argentium silver pieces.  Simple & cheap.  To clean chains, wrap them around a long round object, like a pencil, and use the brush and detergent, this works great.     I have used the aluminum, baking soda, & hot  water method for my own regular Sterling Silver pieces; there are many articles on the internet you can find for instructions.  I have never had any problems with this method, but you be the judge with your own jewelry.