Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fall/Winter 2010

Metal Mania!

There are so many metal options in jewelry today. Below are some loose definitions and explanation for metals I prefer to work with:

Sterling Silver
Sterling silver is a mixture of pure silver with some other metal (usually copper). The “some other metal” gives strength to the very soft and pliable pure silver – without it, the jewelry would be almost unwearable. The .925 stamp you see on sterling means the metal is 92.5% pure silver, this is the standard. This is the silver metal I use most often. I love “oxidized” silver, especially oxidized patterned silver chain. “Oxidizing” silver gives it a grey/black look (some call it tarnish, but when it’s done on purpose, we call it a patina!) – it’s great to add depth for textured designs. Silver will naturally oxidize over time; jewelers can force the process to kind of “paint” the metal. You don’t want to “clean” this purposeful tarnish off!

Fine Silver
Same thing as sterling expect the pure silver content is 99.9%. It’s pretty soft, but used correctly it’s wearable. Most imported handmade Bali and Hill Tribe findings are made with fine silver.

Argentium Silver
Argentium silver is sterling silver (92.5% pure silver) but it replaces some of the typical copper alloy with metalloid germanium. Since it retains the 92.5% silver content it is still referred to as sterling silver. Replacing the copper makes it tarnish resistant… it is much more costly than regular sterling.

Gold-filled (also called Rolled-gold)
I have no idea why they choose to call it “filled” because it’s not filled at all! This is my favorite gold metal visually to work with when soldering is not needed; I love the “milky” gold color of 14K gold-filled. Gold-filled is made of a base metal (like brass or copper) and then covered by sheets of gold in a permanent bonding process. This produces a very thick layer of gold. The gold content is usually 5% or 1/20 of the total weight; this is required to meet the "gold-filled" government standards (metal will be stamped "GF"). Most common gold-filled metal uses 14k gold (stamped 14K GF). I have many gold-filled pieces myself and they do not flake like plated gold. Gold-filled metal's durability was described to me as that you would have to “drag it down your driveway repeatedly for hours and possibly days” in order to wear the gold away from a gold-filled piece. It does require reasonable care which I’ll touch on at the end of this post.

Vermeil is pronounced “vur-may” and is gold plated over sterling silver. Most of vermeil is plated with 24K gold – the higher the karat of the gold the more “orangey” the appearance. You can visibly tell the difference between a 14K gold-filled piece and a 24K vermeil piece. Vermeil can be costly because of both the higher karat gold and the base metal being sterling silver. A note about karats: karat is a “measure” of how much gold is present. 24K is pure gold. 18K is 75% pure gold (you take 18 and divide by 24), 14K is 58% pure gold (14/24=.58), and 10K gold is 42% pure gold.

Raw Brass
Love it! It’s naked metal (no plating) like sterling or gold. It is an alloy of copper and zinc. An alloy is a homogeneous mixture or solid solution of two or more metals ( Brass takes on a cool patina over time. There are yellow brasses and red brasses (red brass can be mistaken for copper when new). I prefer to use brass when I want a gold color metal and I know I will need to solder something as it can take the torch since it is not plated. Brass is an affordable “gold!”

Blech. Never use them. Personally, I don’t see the sense in putting a genuine gemstone, a natural pearl, or a brilliant Swarovski with a metal that won’t hold its beauty. I have made the exception with vintage components because the sustainability factor outweighs the blech factor for me. I figure if the vintage plated metal has held its look for 40-50 years; it will go a decade or so more! I do try to pair reasonable gemstones or pearls with vintage plated metals.

Caring for metal in jewelry
Light and air change metal. If you keep your pieces in zip lock bags (free of moisture) and in a drawer or jewelry box – they will look the same as the day you bought them. From time to time it is a good idea to clean body oils, beauty products, and general "funk" from jewelry and this can be done with a jeweler’s cloth (for hairspray use warm water first, dry, and then rub with jeweler's cloth). My opinion is rubbing/polishing is much kinder to metal than harsh jewelry cleaners which can pit the metal. When I clean metal in the studio, I use a tumbler filled with stainless steel shot, soap, and water. They make chemicals you can add to the tumbler, but a generous squirt of simple Dawn dish soap (the old blue kind) and water is the best!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Little Rock Fashion Week

Novel Approach is very excited to be a part of Little Rock Fashion Week. Events begin on July 10th with the Little Rock Fashion Week Kick Off Party at Star Bar Lounge on West 3rd. On July 14th, Lulav and LRFW will host "Art of an Artist" - here you can view work by Christopher Youngstar, Novel Approach, and other artists while enjoying wine and hors d'oeuvres. The LRFW "Young and Fabulous" show is July 16th and "Posh Expressions" is July 17th - both will be held at Robinson Exhibition Hall. During the July 17th show Dillard's will receive the 2010 LRFW Icon of the Year award. Tickets to all shows are available now at