Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Expensive Tastes - the woes of a nickel allergy.

You want it.
You need it.
You just have to have it.
But when you wear it, your skin starts to itch and burn and then blister!

Sound familiar? Unfortunately for you (and one is seven people from across the globe) you have a nickel allergy. Nickel is the root cause of the most common jewellery allergy and it can often mean that funky fashion jewellery is off limits.

When I was a teenager, I loved wearing the most outrageous (and in some circles obnoxious) vintage earrings - all cheap and all costume. From large pastel coloured disks to 70's inspired gold toned chandelier earrings - the bigger the better.

Then, almost overnight it seemed, while wearing my favorite pair of mint 80's art deco/Miami Beach inspired studs - my ears began to get hot, red, and frankly vengeful. From that moment on, try as I may, no earrings seemed to sit right in my now very exclusive ear lobes.

It was only after I came to 18Karat did I realize the toll some base metals can take on our bodies - and costume jewellery is all base metals. It is not that our bodies are allergic to the metals themselves, but they are allergic to the salts created through a chemical reaction between your skins natural oils and perspiration and the metal. As our body actively corrodes the metals away, we are left feeling sore and entirely unfashionable.

A nickel allergy is not something we are necessarily born with, and can often develop as we get older - as your body's chemistry evolves throughout the years and can especially effect women during and after pregnancy.

Not only is nickel found in stainless steel, it is also a key metal used in the alloy for white gold - nickel is actually the bleaching agent that turns yellow gold white. Low-karated gold, 10k and below, are especially problematic as they contain a more substantial percentage of nickle, making it more irritable to sensitive skin.

A nickel allergy can be especially upsetting if you begin to notice discomfort when wearing your white gold wedding set - especially if you have had the rings for year beforehand.

Luckily there are solutions. If you believe you are beginning to develop an allergy to one of your precious gems, bring it into your local jeweller. You should first ask for them to thoroughly clean the item. Overtime, chemicals can accumulate in the nooks and crevices of your gems - especially if you wear them everyday. These chemicals, such as soaps and lotions, can start to wreak havoc on your skin.

If this does not work, you can get these gems rhodium plated - providing a barrier between your skin and the nickel within the item. Rhodium is a member of the platinum family of metals and is rarely a source of allergic reaction.

If you have questions about metal allergies and what you can do to start wearing your jewellery again, contact a knowledgeable jeweller.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mokume-Gane - from sheath to shank.

Mokume-Gane is a metal forging technique originating in Japan that has seen a popular resurgence in the last decade.

Beginning in the late 1600's, the samurai sword began to evolve from being a tool used in battle to a symbol of an elite warrior class. The more elaborate the embellishments of the sword's handle and sheath, the greater the social standing of the owner.

Mokume-Gane was one form of embellishment - meaning wood grain metal - mokume is formed by the forging of various metals including gold, silver, copper, and an alloy of all three known as shakudo at various thicknesses.

Mokume-Gane Pendant by Pepe Fernandez

Patterning occurs when layers from within the billet are exposed, either by filling or chiseling away at the surface layers.
Mokume Gane Pendant by Pepe Fernandez

Until the late 1970's, Mokume-Gane was relatively unknown outside of Asia, and with Japan's movement away from traditional manufacturing techniques and a dwindling population of highly skilled artisans - this metal art form was almost lost.

Today however, artist from many disciplines use modern Mokume-Gane techniques to create a unique and distinctive aesthetic - no two Mokume-Gane pieces are ever exactly the same.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

September Sapphires

If you were born in September - consider yourself lucky!

Who doesn't love the deep and intense blues of a well formed sapphire? But did you also know that sapphires come in a variety of luscious colours including pink, orange, and yellow?Emerald cut sapphire with mother of pearl inlay set in 18k yellow gold.

Sapphires, like rubies, are members of the corundum family, an aluminum oxide. Trace amounts of iron, chromium, or titanium lend sapphires their distinguished colour.

One of the most ancient gemstones, sapphires were being used in jewellery making prior to Roman Empire and are often referred to in the Bible.

However, because of their hardness and durability, sapphires are now found in many industrial processes such as infrared optical components, high-durability windows such as watch crystals, and as insulating substrates for some solid-state electronics.
Sapphire and diamond bracelet set in 18k white gold.

Sapphires have often been thought to cure and prevent a range of health issues from rheumatism to a sore throat. It is also believed by some to have metaphysical properties that can aid in telepathy and clairvoyance.

Golden sapphire and diamonds set in 18k yellow and white gold.

Sapphires can also have colour change properties, depending on the light source it is being viewed under. Some stones will appear blue in daylight, and violet under incandescent light.

Sapphires with tiny rutile inclusion can also display an optical quality referred to as asterism - creating a star-sapphire. Star sapphires display either a six or twelve ray star that travels along the stone as it moves - catching light at different angles.

Round cut sapphire set in 18k yellow gold.

Sapphires have been revered for their beauty for thousands of years. For more sapphire gem ideas, visit 18Karat.