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Jewelry Design Help - Anatomy of a Good Design

Jewelry Design Elements That Inspire

The Anatomy of Good Design on Serendipity Charm


Sometimes inspiration for personalized fine jewelry comes easily - maybe it's a motivational quote you've loved for years or dates marking important milestones. Other times you may stumble upon a design that is just meant to be. Then there are those instances you may find yourself stumped in an endless feedback loop of jewelry designer's block (I must admit I've experienced this a time or two Wink). Here is a breakdown of a fun charm to break you out of the block and get inspired!


1 – Quality Designs Made of Quality Materials

I think we can all agree that anything worth making is worth making well. At Metal Pressions, we want our pieces to become lasting heirlooms, instantly. That’s why we only work with the finest materials – 14k solid gold, solid sterling silver and genuine diamonds.  Each character is hand stamped by me, meaning that you will own a truly one-of-a-kind piece.


2 – Creating an Emotional Connection

The jewelry people wear is a true representation of who they are. With every item we design, we aim to create an emotional connection with the wearer.  Our jewelry is more than just an addition to your wardrobe - it becomes part of you.  So much so, that many of our customers have told us they NEVER take off their charms! The key is to pick a theme that means something to you - what keeps you grounded?  What inspires you?  What/who motivates you to be better everyday?  The answers to these questions will immediately connect you emotionally to the piece you're designing.  The featured charm is about serendipity, but maybe it's happiness or joy that speaks to you.  Decide what matters most to you and go from there!

3 The Sparkle & Depth Factor

Beautiful charms that stand the test of time have depth that will continually grab and keep our attention. The 14K gold rim of the serendipity charm adds depth, in addition to the contrast of the silver and 14k gold metals. And who doesn’t love a little shimmer and shine?   Adding diamonds give life to what would otherwise be blank, negative space - grabbing and captivating attention. Empty space isn't necessarily a bad thing in some designs, but in active designs with lots of varying text a blank spot can stand out like something is missing. 

 4 – Mixing and Matching

Part of personal style is finding what works for you – blending parts into a whole. On some designs there might be an overall theme you want to be the main focus. For this design we highlighted the most important element/theme with a large stylized font and arranged it in in a fun curving pattern. The remaining complimentary words were filled in smaller simpler fonts to bring everything together.


The bottom line when you design your jewelry is to make something you absolutely love and will cherish for years to come. I hope to be making your next masterpiece soon!


White Gold and Rhodium Plating - Why We Don't Do It

When it comes to white gold at MetalPressions.com we differ substantially from what you might find at your typical fine jewelry store; we do not rhodium plate our white gold.

White Gold is Plated?

Maybe you weren't even aware that white golds are almost always plated. They are plated because today's white gold alloys are a darker color than silver, platinum, or palladium. As you may know, any Karat gold less then pure 24K gold is an alloy and contains varying amounts of other materials. Those other materials effect the color and can make it range through a whole host of colors including: bright yellow, warm yellow, green, pink, and white. White gold may contain palladium, nickle, silver, copper, and zinc. The exact combination of these materials will effect the hue of white color the gold has. We have heard claims that older white alloys may have been brighter than today's alloys. These rumors imply that today's darker alloys use less expensive material becasue of the availability of plating to make them appear brighter. Why add more expensive materials to make the white gold brighter when it's going to be plated anyway? We couldn't find definitive proof that this was true. We did find that even some of the whitest white gold alloys still look considerably darker than silver.

What is Rhodium?

Rhodium is a very expensive but brittle metal that doesn't work well for solid jewelry applications. However, it is an excellent material for plating and with a bright white hue.














Why is White Gold Rhodium Plated?

If its whiter is it more valuable?

There are several reasons why its typical for white gold to be plated. As discussed above, a brighter white color is sometimes preferred. Similar to yellow gold, where often a brighter yellow is associated with a higher karat of gold, a more brilliant white gold might viewed as more valuable.

Wow, that ring is unbelievably brilliant!

Other times designers may call for the more brilliant and reflective rhodium plating to help set off diamonds in a design. The high reflectivity can enhance the brilliance of a stone and possibly give the illusion that the stone is bigger or there are more diamonds than there really are.

Got allergies to nickel?

The majority of white gold alloys contain nickle, sometimes in the range of 15% of the total composition. It's understandable when compared to a palladium white gold composition without nickle that can be as much as 40% more expensive. There are several studies that report 10% - 20% of the population as having a nickle allergy of varying degrees. For those with a sensitivity to nickle, rhodium plating helps prevent the skin coming in contact with the nickle in the white gold. That works until the plating wears away over time.

Why Don't We Plate Our White Gold?

The truth is we just never thought to do it. As self taught jewelers with little influence from the mainstream traditional jewelry industry, we didn't have good reason to pursue plating. Where others may frown on the darker color of un-plated white gold, we embrace the deeper color as a distinction from the brighter materials. We find that when you do add diamonds to natural white gold, the darker background can make them stand out considerably more than on a bright surface. There isn't necessarily anything wrong with using plating to set off a stone, but we tend to focus on making an element look good for its size and placement. Our genre of jewelry doesn't lean toward optical effects to increase perceived value. Many of the designs we make have subdued finishes for a warm and more subtle look. For all those reason and the fact that we don't like the idea our of customers having to regularly re-plate items, we opt not to Rhodium plate our white gold.

What Type Of White Gold Are We Using?

Our white gold has a medium gray color that is noticeably different than silver. It sets itself apart from the mainstream and is equally as effective and stunning in it's own right when used in our designs. If you are looking for unique and bold, then our white gold is for you. Our white gold does contain nickle, so if allergies are an issue, customers can request the more expensive palladium white gold without nickle or (as a last resort) Rhodium plating.

Here are some white gold listings of the items pictured:

Solid Gold Bar Necklace

White Gold Wide Rimmed Pendant Necklace with Diamonds

White Gold Wedding Bands

White Gold Washer Necklaces

White Gold Mobius Twist Ring

Interested in a white gold design?

Call us!


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What Causes Silver Tarnish?

Now that we have a better understanding of what silver tarnish is, we can talk about what causes silver tarnish. The rate that silver tarnishes is a function of temperature, humidity, and chemical exposure. In general, if these factors are low, then you can reduce the amount of tarnish. Silver in cool & dry environments will tarnish slower than in high moisture.

As we mentioned before, silver sulfide is the main result of the silver tarnishing process. While moisture is required for the tarnishing reactions to take place and oxygen plays a role in the reaction that creates silver sulfide, hydrogen sulfide is the main culprit. If you come in contact with material that contains sulfide compounds and then get those on your silver items, you will see that silver tarnish. For example vegetables from the Allium genus like onions or garlic contain organic sulfur compounds that , while low in concentration, could contribute to tarnish.

From reading articles on various sites, the copper portion of sterling silver can create copper oxide or possibly copper sulfides. You can check out an interesting debate about copper tarnish on pennies at Finishing.com. From working with copper, I have seen it tarnish considerably faster that sterling silver. We have polished a piece of silver and a piece of copper, and the copper has tarnish on it sometimes in as little as under an hour. Fine silver tarnishes slower than sterling silver. Is the copper the reason sterling silver has the potential to tarnish more easily? There are definitely some more questions I have about how the two materials interact and tarnish in combination.

In addition, chemicals have an effect on the rate and amount of tarnish. Ever jump into a pool with your silver jewelry on? You may have found the silver tarnished fairly quickly and in some cases almost instantly. In this case the cause could be the chlorine content in combination with the acidity that produces a silver chloride. With personal care products for skin and hair, coupled with other fragrances we spray on, the list of potential contaminates that can effect tarnish can get pretty long.

Even our bodies can play a role. A lot of times you may hear people say that skin composition can effect the rate of tarnish, I think it really is the composition of a persons sweat. Perspiration is water containing sodium chloride, phosphate, urea, ammonia, ethereal sulfates, creatine, fats, and other waste products. Eww! Sounds gross, but it does highlight that our bodies are part of the equation. Your own perspiration composition changes with various factors such as diet, health, and hormones levels. I found another discussion on Finishing.com that talks about body chemistry and silver tarnish

The last thing we have observed is that tarnish begets tarnish. If you have a clean piece of silver that isn't tarnishing much and put it in contact with another tarnished item, the tarnishing seems to accelerate. We have seen this happen on necklaces. The tarnishing rate has increased on other cleaner charms and on the chain if it is sterling silver when the tarnished charm was added to the arrangement. I can't explain technically what's going on or the roll perspiration has, but it is something we've confirmed empirically.

Next we'll tackle the discussion of what can be done to clean and prevent tarnish.

What is Silver Tarnish?

This is the first post in a series of to educate you about silver tarnish, what it is, how it happens, how to prevent it, and how to clean it. There is a lot to cover, so we will break it up into multiple posts.

Picture of silver tarnish compared to an untarnished silver

The simplest description of silver tarnish is the darkened appearance of the metal that happens over time. In the picture, the charm on the left has some severe tarnish.

There are lots of factors that we will discuss later that cause silver to tarnish.  New clean silver has a bright white appearance. As it is exposed to the environment it starts to darken to a greyish or brownish color and can eventually turn almost pitch black.

What is that black substance we call tarnish? Tarnish is just a descriptive term that means the lack or loss of luster. If we want to clean and ultimately find ways to prevent silver tarnish, we need to understand what it is and how it is caused.

Silver tarnish is a type of chemical reaction, often incorrectly described as oxidation of the silver or called silver oxide, it is silver sulfide. But that's not a complete description of what silver tarnish is. Another part of silver tarnish that seems to be missed in other online descriptions is the reaction of other materials in sterling silver, the most common silver alloy. Sterling silver is 92.5% silver. The remaining 7.5% is primarily made up of copper, a material that tarnishes very easily. By itself copper seems to tarnish very easily, more so than pure silver. I will have to do some more research, but I believe that the copper is creating some copper oxide and other sulfide compounds that contribute to the tarnish.

If you put a piece of fine silver and a sterling silver side by side, the sterling silver tarnishes mush faster. Based on this empirical observation, that small amount of copper is playing a larger role in the tarnishing reactions. While many discussions online solely talk about silver sulfide as the main culprit, there are at least two metals that comprise sterling silver and can react and contribute to the tarnish you observe over time.


To be continued...