When discussing silver gold and metals in tribal jewellery, or any jewellery piece, perhaps the first point to make is that rarely is there just one pure metal. The metal is usually an alloy, which is a combination of several metals. For example, if the metal is silver this usually means it is made from a combination of silver with smaller amounts of copper and nickle. Generally, tribal jewellery is made with “white metal” which has a silver content that can vary massively. Rare collectible pieces can be valuable even when made from white metal with no silver content. However, generally the better quality pieces are made with a high silver content. This is often as high 80% silver, sometimes stamped as “800,” or as high or higher than 92.5% silver which is Sterling grade, (the Britsh standard), silver and is usually stamped “925”
The most widely used, of the non precious gems in tribal and ethnic jewellery are coral, turquoise, amber, agate, carnelian, lapis lazuli, malachite, amazonite, onyx and other black stones. While not natural gemstones, glass, ceramics and man made trade beads are also widely used. All these gemstones have been traded and and set into tribal jewellery for thousands of years.
From diamonds to clay, virtually all gemstones used in jewellery have been ‘treated’ or ‘enhanced’ in some way. The most obvious and most accepted form of enhancement is the cutting or shaping and polishing of a gem.
Now days there are many different treatments available, some quite simple such as dyeing, others more complex such as laser treatment. In some cases a treatment has become so routine that dealers take it for granted and it is only when the gem has not been treated that it is disclosed. A classic example of this is the heat treatment of sapphires. This improves the colour and clarity of the sapphire and is standard treatment in perhaps > 95% of all sapphires. Continue reading Gems in Tribal and Ethnic Jewellery