Metals & Materials

GOLD

Chilton's Antiques gold jewellery

Is the most malleable ductile metal which is why it needs other metals and alloys to give it strength. Gold comes in a wide variety of carats. The term 'carat' is the gold content of the metal. The carats measure the proportion of the pure gold mixed in with other alloys.

Gold is available in a wide range of colours from different shades of yellow, white and rose. The difference in the colours is determined by the metal alloys used to mix in with the gold. For example rose gold is made by using a mixture of gold and the alloy copper to give it that lovely soft pink hue. While white gold is mixed with alloys such as silver and palladium.

There is a difference in colour between all carats of gold from the richer brighter higher carats of 22ct & 18ct down to the paler yellow tones of the 9ct. Most people prefer 9ct colour in Australia as it is a more subtle effect and is longer lasting. Gold is more stable than any currency, it is widely invested in by banks and large amounts are always held in reserves.

1 ounce of gold = 28 grams

The most important mines are South Africa, Australia, USA, Russia & Canada.

Gold is given for the 50th & 75th wedding anniversaries.

CARATS

Jewellery comes in a range of carat weight.

Different carat weights
8ct European .333%
9ct All/English/Australian .375%
10ct American/English/Russian/Australian .416%
12ct European, American .500%
14ct European/Russian/English/Asian .585%
15ct Australian/ English .625%
18ct All .750%
20ct Asian .833%
21ct Arabic .875%
22ct All/English/Oriental .916%
24ct Pure gold 100%

Tarnishing of gold

Tarnish films that form on your jewellery are generally harmless. Although they are not very attractive and can cause marking on clothing and skin they will not cause deterioration of your jewellery pieces. The best way to stop this from happening is to clean your jewellery regularly and avoid spraying perfumes & hairsprays near them. Chilton's Antiques offers cleaning services for all jewellery.

Causes of tarnish:

  • This can occur due to perspiration- every body has a different chemical make up and this can cause jewellery to blacken especially if you are taking certain medications.
  • Perfume, Hair spray, Deodorants & other beauty products such as hand creams.
  • Tarnishing during storage can occur when chemicals from the boxes can leech into the gold.
  • Preparation of certain foods regularly such as onions and spices can contain acidic sulphur compounds.
  • Household chemicals such as bleach and Napisan. Even chlorine in swimming pools can react.
  • Avoid exercising in jewellery- this not only wears it out quicker but also the sweat caused buy these activities can dull and attack the gold. It is said that perspiration can contain 18 times the nickel content of blood. This is the body's natural way of eliminating heavy metals.

Allergy to gold?

An allergy is when a chemical reaction occurs and causes the body to act in an unusual way. This can be anything from a rash to dermatitis. The allergy will not be to gold itself but to one of the alloys mixed into the gold mix such as Nickel. People with this problem can generally wear 18ct gold, Platinum or silver with generally no problems.

Some people can send the gold black and very dull looking through their perspiration. In some severe cases a rash can even develop. This also can happen though various stage and periods of time in people's lives. Medication is a big factor in this, certain chemicals and drugs in your system can react with the metals in the gold.

Platinum

Piece of platinum, high strength

Platinum was first discovered in the 1500's. It has strength, purity, rarity - a white metal like no other. Unlike gold which is quite soft, platinum is used in its almost pure form in jewellery making.

Platinum's strength and durability make it the best choice for wedding bands or setting diamonds and precious stones. Because of this strength and durability Platinum is extremely long wearing and is very white, so unlike white gold it will never need to be rhodium plated. Other qualities with platinum are that it is a very dense, heavy metal. It is heavier than gold; it is also rarer to find than gold in nature. These significant qualities also come with a price tag. Platinum is approximately twice the price of 18ct white gold. Platinum is naturally white while gold has to be artificially coloured by adding other metals and has to be rhodium plated. Rhodium plating can wear off and has to be often reapplied.

Platinum with diamonds

Platinum because of its hardness requires less maintenance than 18ct white gold which is far softer. Many rings from the 1920's Art Deco era were made in Platinum and are still going strong today. For this reason Platinum represents excellent value for money. The initial price is high but long term you will reap the benefits by not having to have costly jewellery repairs continuously carried out. Platinum requires a jeweller to have a higher level of craftsmanship as it requires a great skill to work with. Platinum's melting point is almost double that of gold.

The Second World War saw the prohibition of platinum for jewellery. During this time it was exclusively used in the armaments industry for the detonation devices in bombs.

It is said that this metal is so rare that all the Platinum ever mined would fit into typical sized living room. It takes 8 weeks to refine pure platinum from the ore extracted from the Earth.

Platinum has the markings PLAT usually stamped into the band.

Platinum is given for the 20th wedding anniversary.

Palladium

Palladium with diamonds

Palladium is from the same group of metals as Platinum and Rhodium. This was often used in vintage 1930's rings as it was a very hardy metal like platinum. It is not often seen today. The bands of these rings will often be stamped with the letters PALL.

 

 

 

Rhodium

Rhodium plated jewellery
Rhodium plated jewellery

Is a metal that is often used to plate jewellery. Rhodium is a metal similar to platinum and comes from the same group. Rhodium plating is often used to make white gold look whiter and brighter. Rhodium plating is very hardy but it will eventually wear away. It should have to be reapplied every 12-18 months. It will last this long if you follow the guide lines of avoiding bleach, chorine (swimming pools),perfumes and other beauty products that will strip the plating away.

 

Titanium

Titanium wedding bands

Titanium is a natural light weight metal which is a silver greyish white colour. It resembles mercury in colour. Titanium is the hardest natural metal in the world. It is three times the strength of steel and much stronger than silver, platinum and gold. It is also 100% hypo allergenic which means it is very safe for super sensitive skin. The only downside to this metal is that when made into a ring, it can never be resized or be soldered onto. Using titanium in jewellery is a relative recent practice and titanium antique pieces will not be found.

 

Stainless steel

Stainless steel wedding band

Stainless steel is generally used in the making of dress jewellery and not in the making of fine jewellery. It is hard durable metal very popular in men's jewellery i.e. bracelets, rings & pendants.

 

 

Silver

Antique silver jewellery box

Silver is a metal that has been fashionable for centuries. Silver is a really versatile naturally occurring element with some extraordinary properties. Silver has been around since ancient times (from the 3rd millennium BC). It is extremely malleable so therefore craftsman have been able use it to create a variety of uses from jewellery through to dinnerware and display items. Any shape or form imaginable can be created from silver. Some interesting facts on silver are: that when polished it can reflect light better than any other material; it also is the finest conductor of heat and electricity and is also self sterilizing; bacteria cannot survive on its surface. Silver is really one of the most overlooked materials in jewellery. Silver antique jewellery has today become as popular as it was when it was made over 100 years ago. Today, silver jewellery has made a huge comeback as a wonderful accessory to an outfit because it stands out with darker tones.

Silver like gold exists as a pure element and needs to be mixed with other metals for strength. It is a white grey coloured metal. Silver is not recommended to be worn everyday for extended periods of time due to its softness. That's why wedding rings and precious gems and diamonds usually aren't set in it. Silver is prone to oxidisation causing it to turn black and mark clothing. This can be prevented by regular cleaning.

Sterling Silver .925% fine Silver. This type of metal was at the height of popularity during the 1870's and 1880's. The styles that were most popular included large oval lockets with thick chains, large cuff bangles, shields and seals. Also during this time the Orient was just beginning to influence Western style so many of the pieces were designed with an oriental theme, as well as the more traditional themes such as "the language of flowers". The language of the flowers was: bluebells meant constancy; forget-me-knots true love; ivy friendship, fidelity and marriage; honeysuckle bonds of love; lilies of the valley the return of happiness and rosemary remembrance. These themes were often engraved upon many silver jewellery pieces.

Antique silver vintage piece

Silver in tradition has always been the 25th wedding anniversary gift. This is a tradition that dates back throughout history. Silver is a varied mix of styles, hues and tones. Some of the more unusual pieces that stand out are the wide collars and lockets, or Albertina bracelets with tassels and ball charms. These pieces having brighter and duller sections creating contrasts.

 

 

Antique silver locket

Many other goods were made of silver, as it was also traditionally given as a Christening gift. Some of these included small mugs, dressing table sets with brushes combs and mirrors, and also beautifully crafted scent bottles and boxes. Some of the small boxes have either a crystal base or are entirely crafted out of silver. These still today are ever so popular as a keepsake.

One fact people often don't realize is that silver was used in the 18th century as a main setting for diamonds. This was done as the white colour of the metal complimented the colourless brilliance of diamonds.

In the Victorian period a major deposit of silver was located in Nevada in the USA. This suddenly increased the world's supply of silver availability causing prices to decrease. This then made silver accessible to all classes except the very poor. Birmingham in England became the centre of mass silver production in the 19th Century

Silver, just as we have seen with fashion, is constantly revived all the time throughout history.

In the early 20th Century the art of the silversmith came alive again through artists such as Georg Jensen the famous Danish designer and Rhoda Wager the English- Australian early female artisan, whose designs were interesting and so contemporary and made the arts and crafts period what it is today. The arts and craft period is highly sought after in today's market by collectors.

Hallmarking with silver is an age old tradition and most silver pieces are hallmarked. This was introduced to show the purchaser of the goods that they were of a certain standard. In the event of fraud, the makers could be traced and punished.

Antique hallmarking standard

With the English hallmarking system the marks can usually date a piece to an exact year and place of manufacture. The system consists of the first mark determining the town of origin. The examples of this are: Birmingham: the anchor; Edinburgh: the castle and Sheffield: the crown. In early pieces of silver the monarchs head i.e. a young or old Victoria or William could also appear. The final mark is that of a letter denoting a year. The letter is either in lower case or a capital and they all have a varying font from an old script style to a modern blocked print. From these symbols we can ascertain a correct year.

In Europe each country employed its own system of hallmarking, while in America some pieces just carried the word "sterling".

Antique pieces are mostly one offs- no two pieces are ever quite the same. In our world of mass production there isn't anything more out standing than a piece that is an original.

Silver also with time develops a lovely rich patina giving it a soft warm feel to it. So why not add a piece for something different to your collection. At Chilton's Antiques we have a great collection of unusual silver pieces- everything from boxes to compact lockets, bracelets and chains. We have put together one of our best collections to date. So if you are in need of that unusual piece, antique silver may be the way to go.

GRADES OF SILVER

.800 Continental silver Italy, Germany & Switzerland 80.0%
.813 Finland 81.3%
.830 Denmark, Italy, Norway & Sweden 83.0%
.833 Italy & Portugal 83.3%
.835 Germany, Italy Netherlands & Czechoslovakia 83.5%
.850 Italy 85.0%
.900 USA, Turkey, Iran & Germany 90.0%
.925 Sterling Silver English & American 92.5%
.935 Germany Austria & Hungary 93.50%
.980 Mexico, Taxco region 980%

Continental silver Is silver that is produced in Europe ranging from 800 to 860 in fineness.

Coin silver Silver that is made from melted down coins and is 90% pure.

Britannia silver Silver that is 95% pure.

Alpacca silver Is an alloy metal consisting of approx 60% copper, 20% nickel & 5% tin and sometimes zinc & Iron is also present. Alpaca silver has no actual silver content in the blend of metals, unlike the name which is rather misleading. Alpaca silver supposedly does not rust and tarnish as much as real silver. It has properties similar to stainless steel.

Gunmetal Is an alloy composed of 90% copper and 10% tin and is a dark grey colour.

Base metals

Many base metals were used in the manufacture of antique jewellery. Base metals include bronze, aluminium, steel, iron, gunmetal, pinchbeck. Bronze is one metal that has been used for centuries. The Etruscans favoured it greatly 400BC. Iron was used by the Romans in their jewellery, and the English had Pinchbeck a mix of copper and zinc invented by watch maker and alchemist Christopher Pinchbeck in 1670-1732. Christopher Pinchbeck was an English clockmaker who invented the alloy for making imitation gold watches. He did this as there was a need for a cheap and durable alloy some time in the 1700's. This remained still very popular until the mid 18th Century when the legislation of nine carat gold was introduced.

Cut steel jewellery was used to imitate the diamond look. Aluminium was used in the mid Victorian period and at one stage aluminium was considered a precious metal and as valuable as gold as it had been only discovered in 1827. This was very short lived and as soon as technology improved, the production costs fell and it became the cheap metal it is today.

Base metals were frequently plated with silver or gold to give the appearance of precious metals. Base metals were also called "pot metal" as a mixture of metals were melted down in a pot and used to cast designs. This type of metal is easy to recognize due to its dull life less looking metal.

Silver plating marks

EPNS - Stands for Electro Plated Nickel Silver the best longest lasting form of silver plating. These marks can often be made to look like pseudo- silver hallmarks.

Electro plating is the process in which one metal is coated with another metal, using electricity. This is done usually onto inexpensive metals .Examples of gold in gold plating or the silver in silver plating are well known. The thickness in coating varies.

EPBM - Is low cost silver plating on to a base metal. This is lower quality than EPNS silver plate, which is much harder wearing. The initials stand for Electro Plate Britannia Metal. This was plating to an alloy of tin or zinc. Britannia metal is an alloy of 90% tin, 10 % antimony which is a white silvery appearance, invented in the mid eighteenth century. A cheaper alloy containing 94% tin and 5% antimony and has a small addition of copper.

Antique silverplate and sterling hallmarks

Sheffield Plate - A process invented in late 18th Century England, whereby sheets of silver were fused to copper. This gives the object a warm colour and can be detected by looking around the edges of an object where the silver has worn off showing a warm copper colour. This was mostly used in hollowware such as candle sticks.

 

Metals with a gold appearance

Rolled Gold - was made by rolling sheets together in a press: one sheet was gold; the other sheet was a base metal. These were soldered together to become one sheet. Then items were manufactured from them. This was often used in watch cases.

Gold Gilt - is a base metal with a gold coating

Fraction jewellery 1/12th , 1/10th - is a mark that can be seen on 1930's lockets and bracelets etc. This is where 1/10th of the piece is gold and the remainder is a base metal.

Pinchbeck - Is an alloy of zinc and copper, resembling gold. An ASSAY TEST can be conducted on metals to ensure purity. The true pinchbeck dates from 1670 till 1732 and was invented by Christopher Beck. There are other latter gold alloys that are termed Pinchbeck but the true and correct use of the term should only apply to jewellery dated from this period.

Silver lined - Had a base of silver similar to rolled gold that has a gold sheet over the top. This is also called gold cased.

Metals with gold appearance

Vermeil - (Is pronounced 'vair-MAY',) Vermeil is a form of gold plating and it is also known as silver gilt. This process was done by mercury gilding by the French in the mid 1700's. This was applied over silver to give it a gold matt finish. There are two ways to do this, by either fire gilding or electrolysis. The process of the fire gilding was banned in the 19th century when they discovered that over a period of time the artisans developed blindness due to the mercury, which was the key element in the process. The gold that is used is at least 10ct and has to be 1.5 micrometers thick.

Today this is still done but the safer method is used. This is often seen today in silver jewel boxes and on very silver jewellery.