Jewelry Frequently Asked Questions

What is rolled gold wire or gold fill wire?
What is gold plate?
What is Sterling Silver?
What is Vermeil?
What is my birthstone?
Do you do custom work?
How do I determine my bracelet size?
How can I visualize the different necklace lengths?
Where do you get your stones and beads?
How do I clean my jewelry?
How do I store my jewelry?
How do I care for pearls?
What is the best way to fasten an “S” hook so my jewelry stays on?
What is the best way to put on a bangle bracelet?
Do you teach classes or give lessons?

What is rolled gold wire or gold fill wire?

The easiest way to explain it is to think of a sheet of 14K gold made into a hollow tube. The inside of this tube is filled with a jewelers alloy metal core. The thickness of the outside sheet of 14K gold metal is strictly regulated and will be within the same level of tolerances no matter what supplier. The 14K gold on the outside is what touches your skin and is cared for like any of your gold jewelry. It has a very long life and can be handed down. Rolled gold is 100 times the amount of gold than average gold plate. Gold plate is either a dip or sprayed on which is why it does not last as long as rolled gold. Rolled gold allows me to make wonderful jewelry for a fraction of the cost. Women can have fun with their jewelry and not worry about having so much money invested in it that they are afraid to wear it! Another name for rolled gold is gold fill. There is a debate that there is a difference between the two but most of the time they are used interchangeably. I use high quality 14K rolled gold in my work. I do not use gold plate or craft wire.

What is gold plate?

Gold plate is sprayed onto a metal and due to this process does not wear as well as rolled gold. The plate can be applied in different levels of thickness so buyer beware. For example, some items may be covered in 15 mills of gold while others are covered in 50 mills thickness of gold. They will look the same when new but not wear the same. I do not use gold plate in my pendant settings. Sometimes I will use a gold-fired ceramic bead; gold plated Bali bead, an interesting charm or embellishment in gold plate. The omega collars I carry, I do not make and they are 50 mills thickness of gold plate.

What is Sterling Silver?

To be considered sterling silver, the metal content must be made up of at least .925/1000 parts of actual silver metal. Some items like sterling silver beads from the Hill Tribe or Turkish silver actually have an even higher content of silver, which is why they are more expensive. German silver or nickel silver look similar to silver but are not silver at all. I do not use German silver, nickel silver or craft wire in my work.

What is Vermeil?

Vermeil simply means gold plating over sterling silver. Sterling silver beads can be gold plated. It is a good way to incorporate the look of gold at a fraction of the cost especially for beads.

What is my birthstone?

There are several birthstone charts floating around. I have combined the Modern Birthstone list with what is called the Traditional List below:


January  / Garnet
February / Amethyst
March / Aquamarine, bloodstone
April / Diamond
May / Emerald
June / Pearl, Moonstone, Alexandrite
July / Ruby
August / Peridot
September / Sapphire
October / Opal, Tourmaline
November / Yellow Topaz, Citrine
December / Turquoise, Blue Topaz, Zircon, Lapis

There are also birthstones associated with the signs of the Zodiac. I found this chart interesting:

January / Capricorn, Ruby
February / Aquarius, Garnet
March / Pisces, Amethyst
April / Aries, Bloodstone
May / Taurus, Sapphire
June / Gemini, Agate
July / Cancer, Emerald
August / Leo, Onyx
September / Virgo, Carnelian
October / Libra, Peridot
November / Scorpio, Beryl (emerald and aquamarine are beryls)
December / Sagittarius, Topaz

Do you do custom work?

Yes. Sometimes clients have stones they have bought on trips they want made into interesting settings. I cannot give an exact price on setting a stone without seeing the stone. I can usually get an idea of what is involved by discussing it with you and give you a price range estimate for the work. I will also do requests for matching earrings to go with a bracelet or necklace or vice versa providing I have the materials. Contact me for more information on custom work.

How do I determine my bracelet size?

Use a soft measuring tape and measure the exact size of your wrist at the wrist bone. Please note that if your size is larger or smaller than the bracelet pictured that beads may be added or deleted to accommodate your wrist size. Most bracelets pictured fit an average wrist size (6 1/2 to 7 1/2 inches) so the variations will be minimal.

How can I visualize the different necklace lengths?

Here is a little chart to help you visualize necklace lengths. This chart shows an average neck size so make adjustments if you feel your neck is smaller or larger than average. Please note, if you have a pendant hanging from the necklace it will drop below the length shown on this chart. A 16-inch omega collar fits an average size neck.

Where do you get your stones and beads?

This is part of the fun for me. It is like a big treasure hunt. I go to shows, stores, bead shops, rock shops, etc. Anywhere there might be a great find. I learned a long time ago if I wanted to find unusual things I would have to go hunting for them!

How do I clean my jewelry

I do not recommend silver dips for removing oxidation from your silver jewelry. Many will leave microscopic pits in the silver causing it to darken faster. I do recommend preventive care by storing your jewelry in a closed box or plastic bag. Silver will tarnish when left out exposed to air. Storing in a plastic baggy will help keep it from tarnishing. I have suggested several methods below to clean your jewelry.

Soft Cloth

For both rolled gold and silver jewelry a polishing cloth available at most places that sell jewelry. A cloth called Sunshine Polishing Cloth is very popular. The cloth will turn dark but can still be used for a very long time. The cloth contains chemical cleaners that will give a lasting luster to your jewelry. You can use it when you notice that your jewelry starts to appear dull. I may start to carry this cloth on this site if there is a demand.

Cleaning Rolled Gold Settings

You can clean rolled gold settings by just washing the jewelry in warm soapy water. Use lukewarm water (not hot as it can crack some stones) and a couple drops of non-film leaving dish soap (not antibacterial). Use a soft toothbrush to get into tight places. Rinse and dry with paper towel immediately to avoid mineral residue from the water. You will be amazed how well this simple process works! If there are gemstones in the setting they will sparkle like new. You can use this process on soft stones and pearls. Mild gold cleaners can also be used and can be purchased at any jewelry store. Make sure it is safe for the stones in your setting.

Cleaning Sterling Silver with Dry Baking Soda

You can clean sterling (even when it is quite tarnished) using Arm and Hammer baking soda. Fill a small thick freezer baggy half full with baking soda. Drop in the jewelry and close the bag (so you don’t breath in the powder). Squish the bag so you are rubbing the dry baking soda into the silver. Remove from the bag and shake out. Remove residue with a soft toothbrush. Careful in using the toothbrush so you don’t remove the antique (the dark color that brings out recessed patterns) that is supposed to be there. Tap the piece on a paper towel to ensure all the baking soda is removed. Another option is to rinse off the baking soda with warm water and gently use the toothbrush. Rinse well so you don’t get powder residue on your cloths later. Dry with a paper towel immediately. After a couple of times you will get the hang of this. I was amazed how great the dry method worked cleaning bangles.

Cleaning Pearls

Pearls pick up oils from your skin so it is a good practice to clean them after wearing. Just wipe slightly damp cloth over them after wearing. If you think they are dirty then soak them a few minutes in a solution of ¼ teaspoon liquid soap to 2 cups lukewarm water. Use a gentle soap like Ivory not an antibacterial soap. Rinse well and pat dry with a paper towel. Professional tarnish removers are made for silver that are safe for pearls if you have that combination.

Cleaning Silver with  professional Tarnish Remover

You can also use a professional tarnish remover made for jewelry. Be sure it is safe for pearls or soft stones like opal or turquoise if you have that kind of jewelry. Most of these pastes can be applied then removed with a dry cloth. If the piece is antiqued you want to be careful not to remove it.

Cleaning Sterling Silver and Rolled Gold with a Jewelry Polishing Cloth

For both rolled gold and silver jewelry a polishing cloth available at most places that sell jewelry. A cloth called Sunshine Polishing Cloth is very popular. The cloth will turn dark but can still be used for a very long time. The cloth contains chemical cleaners that will give a lasting luster to your jewelry. You can use it when you notice that your jewelry starts to appear dull. I do recommend that even after polishing you wash the jewelry in warm soapy water using a soft toothbrush to clean out the dirt and residue from the cracks. Dirt and oils from the skin sitting in the recessed spaces can cause the skin to turn dark. You may think it’s the metal and find when you clean it the problem was the dirt and oils. Of course some people do have allergies to metal and their skin may darken as a reaction to metals.

Cleaning Sterling Silver with a Matte Shine

I don’t recommend this for everybody to try but the adventurous of heart. Sometimes a piece of jewelry has a combination of high polish shiny places with a matte look or slightly dull antique look. If you like that look and feel you have polished the piece too shiny you can soften the shine and make it look a little more antique with a fine steel wool (the kind used on wood between varnish coats). If you dull it too much polish with baking soda again or soft cleaning cloth. Just remember that when you use steel wool you are putting mild abrasive marks on the silver which is what gives it the matt look. So only use on the places you want to have a matt finish.

Ionic Cleaners

I have so much jewelry to take care of that I purchased an ionic cleaner. They are available at some jewelry stores. I may even carry them on this site eventually if there is a demand. Ionic cleaners use electricity in a conductive solution to clean the jewelry. It is fast and easy. I cleaned a tarnished squash blossom necklace for a client in about 10 seconds. While I have not had any problems with pearls and stones, I do not recommend this for soft stones like opal or coated stones and glass (like the Aura Borealis coating) as the color of the coating may change. You also need to be careful not to zap your jewelry for too long at one time. 10 seconds is the rule of thumb. Take it out and rinse it off. If still not clean put it in again.

How do I store my jewelry?

I do recommend preventive care by storing your jewelry in a closed box or plastic bag. Silver will tarnish when left out exposed to air. You can buy special little storage papers to stick in the bag that help prevent tarnish. Storing in a plastic baggy will help keep it from tarnishing. Even gold and rolled gold can get slightly darker in color if just sitting out exposed to air so I recommend storing it in a least a little box or closed jewelry box.

How do I care for pearls?

Pearls are alkaline in nature so fragrance, hairspray, chlorine and bleach are not especially friendly to pearls. If you use hairspray or fragrance, make sure they are on and dry before you put on your jewelry. Clean pearls on a regular basis as body oils can sometimes dull the surface. Don’t wear pearls while swimming or showering. Water does not harm pearls but chemicals will. IF there is sterling silver mixed in with the pearls you can use a professional tarnish remover that is safe for pearls. Store pearls in a box or cloth pouch. Do not store pearls in an airtight container as they need a little bit of moisture to retain their luster.

What is the best way to fasten an “S” hook so my jewelry stays on?

  1. To open an S hook correctly, bend the S up.
  2. Swing the S in the direction of closing as close as you desire. You can see steps one and two in the photo.
  3. Bend the S back down to secure

Using this method will allow you to close it flush with the metal if you wish. Handy if you are doing an activity where you are concerned about losing your jewelry.You can set the hook at what is called a “sweet spot”. This means the hook is closed enough so there is a little stick when you hook your S into the jump ring so you know it is secure. There is also a little stick when you pop it off. Using this method allows you to set the hook once and not have to fuss with it again.

Incorrect method:

This is the incorrect way to open and close and S hook. In the photo you can see that the hook was pulled straight away from itself.  This will weaken the hook and does not allow you to close it flush with the metal.

What is the best way to put on a bangle bracelet?

The correct method prevents distortion

  1. Slip the opening of the bangle onto your wrist sideways
  2. Turn the bangle around as you would wear it. Turn your wrist upside down to snap in the S hook. I rest the bangle against my stomach to help me.

The Incorrect method causes distortion

This photo shows the bangle has been opened up wide to slip it on the wide part of the wrist. This pulls the bangle apart. If this happens you can reshape it. The bangle will retain its shape and strength longer and by using the correct method.

Do you teach classes or give lessons?

Many people ask me this and I am sorry to say that I just don’t have the time to teach. Perhaps I will someday when I retire from doing Art Fairs.