Guide to Sterling Silver Metalwork

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What are the characteristics of sterling silver?

Perhaps the most exquisite and valuable of all home décor accessories are those made of sterling. Sterling silver is a pure, natural material that is finely crafted in a time-honored tradition. It’s highly collectible, holds its value, lasts a lifetime, and gets more beautiful with frequent use as it develops its patina.

What is sterling silver made of?

Sterling silver is a precious metal typically made from 925 parts silver to 75 parts another metal—usually copper or nickel. The sterling silver from Lifetime Sterling is actually even better: it’s 927 parts silver to 73 parts nickel alloy, which is added for strength and durability. (Because pure silver is too soft to be functional, the alloy is added to harden the metal so it’s strong and durable).What is a pattern?The decorative motifs embellishing each piece of sterling silver is known as the pattern. Each pattern is an original, unique design that’s carefully hand-tooled by master silversmiths, who create casts from which the sterling silver pieces are stamped.

In the process of creating each piece, once the sterling silver has been cut out, it goes through several striking dies in a hammer press, where the pattern’s details are firmly imprinted into the piece. Each piece is then hand-trimmed, machine-polished, and hand-inspected to ensure the highest quality workmanship. The end result is an exquisite piece of premium quality sterling silver tableware.

What is etching?

Acid etching is a method of customizing a product with an emblem, a logo, or a seal that is etched into an item by transferring a tissue lifting of a logo from a steel engraving plate. A wax resin then surrounds the remaining impression. Acid is applied to the impression area that eats away at the non–resin-exposed areas. The resin is then moved and cleaned, and a permanent etching is left.

What is embossing?

This is a decorating process that involves working on the back of a piece in relief.

What is engraving?

Engraving is creating designs achieved by cutting a metal surface with sharp tools, called “gravers,” which remove small amounts of metal. Monograms and inscriptions are often engraved onto sterling silver to personalize the pieces.

What is soldering?

The attaching of bases, handles, fittings, bowl bodies, and other extraneous appenditures is achieved by fusing metallic surfaces together with a soldering iron.

What is sand polishing?

This is a finishing process in which a felt or a leather spinning wheel removes all marks, creases and major porous openings from metal. A sand polisher uses pumice as an abrasive between the spinning wheel and the metal item.

What is the final finish?

This is a very precise hand-polishing step that affords a smooth satin finish or a bright mirror finish to the metal. All final polishing is stroked in the direction of the metal’s grain.

What is a hammered finish?

A hammered finish is an uneven finish achieved by hammering the metal.

What is tripoli?

Tripoli is a way to hand-finish metal. This style of polishing gives a smoother finish by removing the coarse marks left behind by sand polishing.

What is repoussé?

This is the process of embossing metal from the back by hammering, then further defining the relief by chasing up from the front. Samuel Kirk introduced the repoussé style in 1828.

What is vermeil?

Vermeil is a combination of gold applied to sterling silver and other precious metals.
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