Sterling Silver- a precious metal alloy of fine silver (92.5%) and other metals, usually copper (7.5%). Sterling Silver is hallmarked as 925. Fine silver does not oxidize but it is extremely soft. That is why it is alloyed with a metal like copper- to give it more strength and durability. The compromise is that sterling silver can oxidize over time with exposure to the elements.
Fabrication- in this context, the act of creating jewelry elements by hand from metal sheet and wire.
Forged, Forging, and Forming- the processes of forging and forming use hammers and mallets to move and shape metal over steel stakes and blocks.
Filigree- the ornamental process of forming wire into patterns of delicate lines, latticework, scrolls, and lacework.
Piercing, Pierced- in this context, the act or description of cutting or removing metal from an element using a jeweler's hand saw.
Chasing and Repoussé- a combination of ancient techniques. Chasing is the process of creating indentations on the metal surface using steel punches (think pencil-type implements) and a particular hammer. Generally, the jeweler will chase the design or pattern onto the front of the metal sheet. Then after the metal sheet is annealed, steel punches are used on the back of the metal sheet to create 3-D relief or depth to the design while the sheet is secure in a pitch pot. The metal sheet is then annealed again and the jeweler will use a variety of punches to refine the 3-D form from the front as well as apply texture and other design details. This process of moving and shaping from front to back of the metal sheet can be repeated several times.
Anneal- the act of heating metal with a torch to a specific temperature and color in order to soften and relax it. Metal can become work-hardened (meaning it has become too stiff or brittle to continue forming or shaping) and periodically requires annealing.
Pitch Pot- a steel vessel filled with a pine-based resin that, when warmed, becomes soft enough to place metal sheet or objects onto its surface. Once the pitch cools, the item is held securely in place to allow the jeweler to shape and form the sheet or object with just the right amount of resistance.
Lost Wax Casting- perhaps one of the oldest metalsmithing processes, a wax model is created from a master object. The wax is then placed in a mold. The wax is melted away and molten metal is poured into the void left behind by the wax within the mold. Once the metal cools, it is removed from the mold and further fabrication processes are applied to create a finished piece.
Oxidized, Patina, Patination, and Patinated- oxidizing is a process that leaves a dark gray or almost blackened finish on the surface of sterling silver. This thin coating is only on the surface of the metal and can wear off slowly over time. A variety of colors or surface effects can be produced depending on the intensity of the oxidation process. You may also hear the terms finish or patina used to describe this same effect. Patination or patinated are terms to describe the application of this particular surface finish. It is best to avoid harsh chemicals or rough surfaces, as this can cause wear or damage to the finish more quickly.
Hallmarks and Makers Mark- jewelry is often marked with symbols using steel stamps or punches. Hallmarks generally refer to the materials and their standard of purity used within a piece. A Makers Mark is generally a specific symbol indicating the designer and/or manufacturer of the piece.