Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Polishing and storing Silver

Hi there-
Here are a couple tips about jewelry care that I hope you find helpful! feel free to pass it along...

Polishing Silver:

is something that anyone who was born after the 1970's isn't usually familiar with. (Before then, we all had to polish our mother's silver tableware when getting ready for holiday meals) The fact is, Silver tarnishes. It's because there is a small amount of copper in the alloy- once it is exposed to humidity and air it darkens ("oxidizes") so, unless it is kept in a special container with anti tarnish chemicals, it will tarnish.
(I've added a few tips on silver storage below)

To care for your silver all summer I recommend keeping it clean by either investing in a ($5) polishing cloth aka rouge cloth, or investing in a tube or jar of old fashioned silver polish. 
Silver can tarnish from sweat, so use a bit of silver polish when you see it darkening- you can buy it at any hardware store. There are many types of silver polish- the more gentle the better-
IMPORTANT: I usually recommend to stay away from liquid "dipping" polishes, which are very aggressive and actually strip a fine layer of metal from your piece. (this is especially disheartening when you lose darkened details of older pieces, or pieces that are meant to have black details, so be careful to avoid those stripping products)
However, if you have a piece that just needs to be brightened (and it doesn't have any dark details)
You can try the easy DIY silver brightening method I describe in another blog post Here: http://mbzmetalsmith.blogspot.com/2014/11/tarnish-be-gone.html

 Silver Storage:
*Never wrap your silver jewelry in newspapers or plastic as these will cause your jewelry to tarnish severely.
*Add rubber bands to the list of material that should not be used to pack silver jewelry.
*Wrap each jewel in anti-tarnish tissue (available at most jewelry stores) and then seal them in polyethylene bags. (This is one way in which tarnishing can be minimized.)
*Tarnish absorbing cloths are also available and can be used in the same way.
*Anti-tarnish strips work in a slightly different way. These strips absorb tarnish producing gases and are made from paper that contains activated charcoal. They do not emit fumes or vapours but absorb the gases that cause silver to tarnish.
*even putting a couple sticks of regular white chalk (from the chalkboard) in your jewelry storage will help regulate the humidity and keep your tarnish under control.
*Finally, Silica Gel granules are man made and absorb moisture from the air. High humidity is one of the causes of silver tarnish and these granules that contain numerous tiny crevices 'suck' excess moisture from the air. They are used in medicine containers too and have been around for many decades.

The important thing to note about these materials is that they have a life span during which they will prove effective. Read instructions when using them and ensure that they are changed as and when recommended. Silica Gel granules can be made to change color when they are fully 'soaked' with moisture and become inactive. 

******************************************************************************** a lot of info! But if you are still interested, here's another link about the care of silver: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservation_and_restoration_of_silver_objects

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Tarnish be gone!

Aw, what happened to your jewelry box? you turn your head for one moment
and that bright shine is looking somewhat...blah...

Is your silver jewelry and silver ware looking drab/dull and tarnished?
It Happens to the best of us!
so, if you want to do something about it,
in a fast, fun and interesting way
Here's how to brighten up your silver jewelry:
it's easy to do, using simple easy to find ingredients that you already have at home!

you will need:
  • water
  • salt
  • an aluminum plate (you can substitute aluminum foil)
  • water softener powder (you can substitute baking soda).

1. Take an aluminum plate (or a regular plate covered with a piece of foil).
2. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of water softener powder (or baking soda).
3. Then pour some hot (not boiling) water onto the plate.
4. Stir to dissolve
5. dunk your silver in the solution.

How long do you need to keep your silver in the solution?It really depends on the condition of your piece- The results may be immediate, or they may take a few minutes. On very tarnished items, this cleaning method will not make your jewelry perfectly clean and shiny.  (that's when you resort to polishing compound pastes and your polishing cloth)

Polishing cloths
You can do most maintenance polishing with a polishing cloth (found at many stores) Polishing cloths are an inexpensive part of your jewelry care- and they last forever! (well, it seems that way) They last a long long time (until the fabric wears down).*one note- NEVER wash a polishing cloth- it works well because it is impregnated with polishing compounds. Once the cloth is washed, the magic is lost.

We do not recommend this cleaning method for jewelry that has precious or semi-precious stones.
Also, Please be aware that this method is not good for antiqued (oxidized) silver, as cleaning will remove the antiqued finish on the silver along with the tarnish, which would really be a bummer.

OK- that's about it- I just wanted to give you a fun science experiment to play with- and help you get the best shine for your dime
ciao for now- M

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Metal Quality: stampings and testing info

I've had a few questions from my customers about metal stamping and how to determine metal quality. It's a common issue that we deal with as jewelers, especially as allergies and sensitivities are becoming more and more common in our culture.
I thought it might help if I wrote on this subject- to help educate and reassure my customers about the quality of their jewelry
- Maureen BZ
a few of my stamps 
some info about Metals Testing for people who have had a reaction to their jewelry:

It’s true, some of us are more reactive to certain metals than others. Whether it is a genetic thing (mom and grandma both couldn’t wear silver) or a chemistry thing...

OR, Perhaps your favorite moisturizer mixed with silver makes your piercing sad, or your new love for lap swimming has made your sterling sour (as pool chemicals can do a number on metal and stone, you should remember to take your jewelry off before taking a dip. I need to remember to do this too....I often get half way though my workout and realize I still have on all my rings...oops)...

anyways, metals can be part of a skin reaction. And when you have a reaction, it’s best to know exactly what metal you are dealing with.

Unless you are certain of your metal (there should be a quality stamp on your piece- unless it is super tiny, then you need to rely on the trusted word of the maker-) 

Quality stamps say if a piece is “sterling”(which can also be stamped “925”) 
Fine silver is sometimes stamped (it’s pretty rare to have a piece that is 100% fine silver. in the case of a piece that is part fine silver and part sterling (which is an alloy-mix- of fine silver and other metal) the piece will usually be only marked "sterling" or ".925"

this is pretty straight forward, golds are marked by Karat so, 10k, 12k, 14k, 18k, 22k, Pure gold is 24k, and is rarely used in jewelry these days. (it was however used in ancient “primitive” tribal and religious jewelry)

Some countries have different standard for gold marking.
When I was living in Italy I noticed that the goldsmiths marked their 18k “750” (which stood for 75% of the metal was fine 24kgold)
Italians don’t normally sell 14k or less in Italy- the gold of choice is 18k or nothing. almost all of the 14k gold that is produced in Italy is exported to other countries, like the US and Australia)

Platinum is usually stamped Pt

Palladium (a metal that is gaining popularity in the jewelry world lately) is stamped Pd

other than that, it is pretty straightforward-
Pewter is marked “Pewter”, Copper (when marked) is “Copper” etc... (not that you really need to mark the base metals, but sometimes I do it as a service for my customers)

Some things to be aware of:

many jewelers have their own signature stamp. It can look like almost anything. (mine is a shortened version of my name “BZap” and I stamp it on anything that is large enough to handle a stamp without ruining the finish of the piece.

**If you see the letters “HGE” it is often code for “heavy Gold electroplate” (unless your jeweler has those initials...though you should ask just to be sure)***

also, one problem with relying on quality stamps is that anybody with a hammer and a $20 stamp (that’s about how much a stamp costs in the US) can stamp a piece of metal. In the US at least you don’t need any credentials to buy a metal quality stamp.(we have no guild system like in Italy)

In my 30 years of being in this business I have yet to meet anyone sleazy enough to mis-stamp their metals...but, there are some pretty bold criminals out there, looking to make a penny any way they can.... So, if you are suspicious of a metal there is one way to be sure you are getting what you paid for...

You need to get an acid test. (and not the kind that was done by the hippies in the 1960’s)

A properly done acid test can tell you if your metal is silver, gold, platinum or something else. It can tell you if the piece is solid or plated. You can bring the piece to your local jeweler to find out just what you have....

Just so you know, you can get metal quality tested at most commercial jewelers- they do an acid test- they file a tiny bit into the metal and drop a bit of acid and watch to see what color the reaction will be.

(here's an explanation how they do it www.stebgo.com/blog-0-PreciousMetals/bid/66961/Old-School-Straight-Nitri... ) 

If you ever have questions about the quality of your metal jewelry you can see if your local jewelry shop will do a test. (they may charge a fee, I'm not sure how much but it shouldn't be very much at all- you can see it is a quick and easy test)

look, I am not writing this to make anyone nervous or upset, nor am I pointing fingers at anyone. I am certain that all of my jeweler friends (and I have a LOT of jeweler friends) are thoroughly and obsessively honest about their wares. In fact, most of us are real “material snobs” and take great pride in bringing our customers the very best. 

Yes, there are many phenomenal perfectionists in my craft. But like everything, there are bad apples too. So, after reading my notes on stamps and metal testing you know a little bit more about how to spot a snake in the grass. (believe me, us honest jewelers love to see the snakes be brought to justice)


thanks for taking the time to read this article- I love to help my customers be well informed!

feel free to pass it along- give your friends a heads up on their jewelry knowledge, they will thank you for it!
Have a good one!

ciao- Maureen BZ- Metalsmith/jeweler and owner of Cosmo’s Moon Jewelry on Etsy.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Etsy loses it's cool

 Hi there- it's me again-
fight for Handmade!!
At the risk of repeating myself, and also possibly getting banned from etsy,  I am re-posting this article, because it makes me so mad

*******If Etsy's new "not handmade" change bothers you too, please spread the word by sharing this article!! ******

Spreading THE TRUTH May HELP GALVANIZE A Movement THAT MAY JUST SAVE OUR SAFE HAVEN FOR CREATIVITY. What am I talking about? please continue reading the article - and SHARE if you are also angry about this change....................................

From the Huffington post:
"As someone who is directly involved in the maker movement, I'm somewhat embarrassed to say I didn't pay much attention when Etsy changed its policies last fall. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, CEO Chad Dickerson announced that Etsy sellers could use outside manufacturers to produce their designs. In other words, items sold on Etsy no longer had to be handmade.

It wasn't until a few months ago, when looking on Etsy for a new watch that I realized the implications of this change."
see full article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/shannon-whitehead/how-etsy-changed-the-rule_b_5708565.html

 This policy change has diluted etsy into a washed out space for sweatshop remnants and bad reproductions of artisan craft, And it has blindsided us craftspeople who have built our lines and customer base there, only to now have it be taken away by this bad decision...(which is most likely a shift that they did in order to arteficially  accellerate growth before going public),
it's a real shame

Monday, July 7, 2014

Gosh Tarnish! Metal, irritations and how to cope

 Hi, I'm Maureen, from Cosmo's Moon Jewelry- a line of earthy funky silver and mixed metals jewelry that I sell here in Tucson Arizona and online in my etsy shop "Cosmo's Moon"
I've had a couple people approach me lately about some issues they are having with their piercings and with their silver in general. 

I should say first of all that I have NO medical training- I am a jeweler- so this advice is based on my years as a nose ring wearer and my training in jewelry. 
 I thought I'd share with you all a few things I have learned over the years as a jeweler and wearer about your silver jewelry and piercings....

 The dilemma---> Are you having issues with silver earrings or nose rings lately? getting red and irritated?

First, check the metal-
If you are certain that the metal is valid and not a cheap/plated/nickle silver or some sort of imitation silver colored metal.  Sterling silver is legally defined as being 92.5% fine silver. Note: I ONLY use sterling silver with my silver Cosmo's Moon nose rings. I never use plated silver, or silver filled, ONLY sterling silver through and through- My Gold nose rings are also solid gold- not plated- and are marked in the same area as the silver hoops.  I mark each of my nose ring hoops on the inside of the little ball with a tiny stamp "925"  or "14K" though most of the time the stamp is too large for the area, and it doesn't show the entire number, I assure you that it is solid sterling silver or karat gold

If you haven't had problems with silver before you most likely are dealing with factors other than the metal as the culprit, like...(drum roll please....)

Possible Irritants: (these all depend on the individual person)

  • sweat
  • sunscreen
  • insect repellents
  • some types of first aid antiseptics
  • pool chemicals
  • tarnished or otherwise dirty metal
  • salt water  
  • sand from the beach
  • organic (and inorganic)substances from pond/lake/ocean/pool water. 

Why does the nose piercing have more issues than earring holes?
The Nostril piercing is exceptionally susceptible to irritation, due to it's position and the flow of gravity. Sweat, makeup, bug repellant and sunscreen often run down our noses when it gets hot. The ear piercings get far less assaulted by irritants simply because of their location. One hardly ever has to wipe sweat from earlobes, but noses? oh boy, do they get bombarded. 

I took a couple pics to illustrate- (no, I don't have blue sweat, I used tinted water to highlight flow on a nose with nose ring. I have had my nose pierced for about 30 years and have had a few inflammation experiences- Here are some tips to keep your nose piercing happy.....

Nose Hoops-
with a hoop, there is almost no protection from the irritants- in fact, the flow of irritants tends to pool on top of the hoop, seeping into the hole and thus beginning the start of possible irritation and tarnish.

A hoop actually will encourage the sweat to enter the hole, by "wicking" the substance through the hole through the outer curve of the hoop. 
The only real way to prevent irritation is to avoid getting those irritants near the piercing, which is pretty close to impossible...
so in order to keep your nose piercing happy you have to give it a little extra love and attention

 nose ring hoop care:
  • I recommend taking the hoop out every 2-3 days to give it a rub with a clean piece of cotton t-shirt fabric or a "scotch-brite" scrubbie (you can get the scrubbie at most Hardware stores in the USA)
  • then give the nose ring a dip in a cap full of alcohol. (to be cautious do not dip items that have gemstones, you could possibly damage the stone) rinse in water after dipping
  • clean your pierced hole regularly (at least once a week)-use a very mild soapy water or just water if your hole is "angry" (I used to use hydrogen peroxide for this but have recently been told by a professional piercer that HP is too irritating for pierced holes- it can dry out your skin.)
  • add a dab of antibiotic ointment or tea tree oil on your pierced hole after washing (whatever one you know works best for your skin type- general rule of thumb- if it doesn't seem to help -or seems to irritate- don't use it-try a different ointment) ***
  • a little bit of ointment goes a long way- it really does help keep the skin from drying out too much, and will be a barrier coating to keep irritants out.
  • re-insert your nose ring through the ointment, so it gets pulled through the hole by the wire

 if you usually wear a nose stud you won't have irritants enter the hole as easily, because the stud covers the pierced hole, essentially acting as a plug which helps keep the sweat from entering the hole. But that doesn't mean it won't trap irritants....
posts have a different issue that they can trap dirt/irritants under itself which means you need to clean it just as much as you would clean a hoop.

Another possible reason for nose ring hoop irritation could be:

the curve of the hoop is stretching the piercing hole- If you are used to only wearing a stud, your hole will be accustomed to a straight piece of metal going through it, Once you change to a hoop your nose piercing has to conform to a rounded arc of wire going through it. This will cause some stretching within the piercing- MINOR stretching, yes, but since the nose piercing involves cartilage any change can tend to be irritating. There isn't really a remedy for this, other than giving your pierced hole some time for it to adjust to the stretch. I would recommend cleaning the piercing the same way, remember to dab some antibiotic ointment on it daily while it is getting used to the change.

My point? Remember, a happy piercing is a clean piercing! keep your piercing and jewelry squeaky clean and you will be happily stylish with mellow piercings and fabulous jewelry (assuming you are buying your jewelry from Cosmo's Moon, that is) :-)

I know that this is a lot of information, I hope it isn't overwhelming! Please feel free to print this page so you have these tips available whenever you want to read them...or better yet, Bookmark this page, to easily return to this blog.          

Thank you for your interest in Cosmo's Moon Jewelry!

      New West meets Old World__
new designs added weekly!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

New Ventures...in acting?? yes, acting.

Today at 5pm I will be performing in a showcase at Live Theater Workshop on Speedway (across from SAS fabrics)
I am in two scenes, one as a terrible overblown actor (as Bottom in Midsummer Night's Dream)and the other as a Diva who really can't sing to save her life (Mme Florence in Souvenir) and I have a short singing solo.
Yes, it's a new thing for me- I took a class to scratch the itch, have always been interested in trying acting, but never had a chance (due to my intense involvement in riding)
so...if you have an hour today and want to have a laugh, come to the showcase! it's free, and bound to be entertaining!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

No More MU

In order to simplify my life and honor my personal priorities I have shut down the group I started almost 6 years ago, "Metalsmiths Unite". It was a decision that I have considered for the past 2-3 years-

The group that I started for fun become a much larger responsibility than I had expected. It began with an innocent use of the "new technology" of Facebook (in 2008)- and it grew in tandem with the popularity of social media. The small-ish group of metalsmiths that I had wanted to collect grew and grew until I no longer recognized it..

Eventually it began to take on a life of it's own; Facebook changed the way groups were formatted and with each change I had to find new ways to keep the group going strong, while trying to be faithful to my original mission. The numbers kept going up, new people and new personalities were added to the soup every day. I could really see how too many ingredients were able to spoil the balance....that with each new group the mission was being watered down and I was losing control of the focus of the group's mission.

with every new group of "members" who came in there were usually a few that really really wanted to be heard...so much so that they would flood the page with their posts until they finally would settle down...though some never settled down: posting over and over to feed their egos and puff themselves up in the group.

Funny how it works, sometimes it didn't matter what was posted, it mattered how often. Notoriety can be powerful online, and with the new found platform some of the most notorious dedicated themselves to being the voice of the group.

I should have deleted it years ago, but was convinced from many members that the group had value and that it would have been hurtful to shut it down. So, I stayed. and started hoping that someone would want to take over the lead. (which thankfully I found James Binnion, who has started the Metalsmiths Coffee House, after helping me delete MU for good. If you are looking for a new group I suggest you search "Metalsmiths Coffee House" on Facebook- it is where the majority of MU members went)

So, goodbye MU, thanks for the fun (while it lasted) and friends (who are many). I will be spending much less time with my computer on Facebook, so I'll hope to be taking bigger steps with my own metalsmithing career. In any case, It was fun while it lasted, and I am very grateful that at last my work here is done!
ciao- M


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