Are Cultured Pearls Real?

What a Great Question

This is a question that crops up from time to time that most people have a tough time to understand, after all, isn’t a pearl simply a pearl? If pearl is the birthstone for June is it really a stone? In order to answer the above question, we need to understand what a pearl really is and how it is made.

First, a pearl, unlike a stone, is not created from within the earth by heat and pressure like most gemstones but it is the result of an event that occurs within an oyster, mussel  or conch that causes a pearl to be produced inside the animal.

If you take a look at the inside of a shell, as an example oyster, you will notice that the shell is coated with a thin layer of shiny material called nacre. Some nacres will be dull and have little color and for some others, called Paua otherwise known as Abalone, the opposite may be true. Nacre is a hard, protective surface covering produced by the animal to smooth out the inner surface of the shell. If a foreign object such as a tiny particle of sand or shell is detected, the animal covers the object with layer upon layer of nacre. The end result is a pearl.

Sometimes the foreign object might cling to the shell and become embedded in the side of the shell. More often the object will be free to move about the animal’s body and may take shape as a round pearl or free-form pearl. In most instances the round pearl is the higher priced one but other shapes can attain a very high value such as pear-shaped pearls. This is the way that real pearls are created.

Natural Pearls

Natural pearls are formed by nature, more or less by chance. On the other hand, cultured pearls are human creations formed by inserting a tissue graft from a donor oyster, upon which a pearl sac forms and the inner side precipitates calcium carbonate in the form of nacre or “mother-of-pearl”. The most popular and effective method for creating cultured pearls is from the shells of freshwater river mussels harvested in the midwestern states of the US, from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

This is what a freshwater mussel looks like without the innards. The upper shell is the outside.

Now the question arises, “are they real?” Well, they are and they aren’t. The difference between a natural  pearl and a cultured pearl is in the process of how the two are created. The natural pearl gets its start when a foreign object or a parasite finds its way into the animal in the shell. A reaction takes place within the animal and a chemical called nacre (calcium carbonate) is secreted and covers the foreign object. Over time, the nacre is built up layer upon layer and the result is a natural pearl.

Cultured Pearls

William Saville-Kent was born in England in 1845, was educated and lived for many years in Australia and New Zealand. In 1889, he became Commissioner of Fisheries for Queensland and in 1892, Commissioner of Fisheries for Western Australia, a position he held until 1895. During this time he experimented with culturing pearls on Thursday Island; his experiments were successful, and modern-day spherical cultured pearls are primarily the result of discoveries he made. These discoveries were later patented by Dr. Tokichi Nishikawa of Japan, who had heard of Saville-Kent’s techniques. It was he who provided the answer to the question, are cultured pearls real?

Getting The Job Done

The process for making a cultured pearl is carried out by first of all creating a perfectly round portion of shell and scientifically prying open a mature oyster and inserting the round inside the reproductive gland along with a small piece of the mantle. Tissue is harvested from one oyster and cut into small pieces. After obtaining the mantle tissue from the first oyster it is time to operate on the second animal. The oyster is placed in warm water to relax the animal. Then it is gently pried open and mounted in a stand to be operated on. A small incision is made and the nucleus is inserted along with a small piece of mantle gland. The oyster is then placed back in the water and allowed over several years to coat the nucleus with nacre. The nucleus is coated in many layers of this nacre, so that when pearls are cut in half, visible layers can be seen.

Other Uses For Shells

Now that you know how pearls are cultured, the shells of these animals provide us with a variety of products. The obvious use is for the making of jewelry. Paua shell, or Abalone, as it may be called, is a beautiful shell with a wide variety of blues, greens and blacks and is used in a wide variety of necklaces, bracelets and earrings.

For many years the shell has been used in the decoration of musical instruments as well as furniture decoration inlays.

Probably the greatest use of shells has been for the making of buttons. When we consider how many pieces of clothing are fastened with buttons it can be mind-boggling.

So, the next time you take a walk along the beach, keep an eye out for shells and remember that you may be walking on pearls. I hope I have answered the question, “Are Cultured Pearls Real?”


Seniors Kayaking Golden Rules

The Sport is Exploding

Over the last five years, Irma and I have witnessed a tremendous growth taking place in kayaking and paddleboarding on the lakes where we enjoy the sport. People of all ages seem to be taking to the waters in record numbers, especially seniors. Why? Because it is good, healthy fun and easy to do.

Irma and I have been discussing seniors kayaking golden rules that should be considered before taking up the sport.

Rule Number One:

Watch and observe. We don’t advise anyone to head to the kayak store and buy one because there are so many different makes and models from which to choose and you will probably end up with the wrong choice for your dream of a day on the water. We suggest you head out to the nearest lake or river, find some people kayaking and see what they are doing. Look for mature kayakers, not young people because they are blessed with great agility and have no fear. Once we pass retirement age we tend to not want to end up swimming to shore.

Look for people paddling both hard shell and inflatable kayaks. Watch how they get out of their kayaks. You may notice that most kayaks are easy to get into. Generally that is the easy part. With the kayak in a few inches of water, simply step in with one foot, lower yourself down to the seat while bringing the other foot inside. While doing this, you are steadying the kayak with both hands. Irma and I have an inflatable kayak and when we are ready, we launch our kayak parallel to the shore. Irma gets in first and settles down and with her paddle she holds the kayak steady while I get into my seat. When we are inside and comfortable, we paddle away.

Before we ever bought a kayak, we tried one at my nephew’s cottage. He had a couple of hard shell kayaks and I hopped into one and took off. I loved it and couldn’t get over how easy it was to move through the water. It hardly drew any water and could skim over rocks and logs three or four inches under the water. My first thought was that we must get a couple of these for ourselves! This was before I came back to the cottage and attempted to get out of it! This was not a canoe that was wide open.


This is the type that I tried to get out of without ending up in the water.

This kayak has an oval hole where you sit. I tried one leg but I’m six feet tall and couldn’t get my leg free. I tried the other leg and that wouldn’t work either. Finally, I managed to get one leg out but as I squirmed around, the kayak kept moving away from me. I couldn’t stand up and couldn’t get back in. I could feel myself losing whatever balance I had remaining and as the kayak moved away, I ended up sitting in the water with my legs sticking straight up in the air and feeling like a fool! Of course the kids who were watching were laughing uncontrollably as they had sensed this was going to happen and were waiting for the show.

That was the first and last time I would ever sit in a similar kayak because I had learned my lesson. Even today, a good many years later, I don’t even want to watch someone trying to get out of one of the hard shells.

Young people are so agile they have no problems with these things but when this happened I was 70 years old and should have known better.

Rule Number Two:


Buy an inflatable kayak! This golden rule for seniors kayaking should always start with steering clear of what anyone tells you. If you are a senior and a beginner, the inflatable kayak is simple to operate. Getting into and out of them is a dream! Yes, you can still get wet as I did a couple of times, but chances are you will be smarter than me and not get into trouble.

Preparing for a trip on the lake. The seats are on the hood of the car.

We bought a two-person Sea Eagle inflatable kayak. It is 12 feet long and you can get into and out of it easily. It has three air chambers, one for the floor and one for each side. It takes only 10 minutes to inflate. I use a small 12-volt electric pump that I plug into the receptacle in the car. I fill the chambers and then top off the air with the foot pump that comes with it. While I’m doing the filling, Irma is inflating the seats, putting together the paddles, and taking the lifejackets out of the trunk and getting the stuff to the spot where we will put it into the water.

Did I mention that we keep our kayak in the trunk of our Honda Civic? There is plenty of room for everything. We don’t need to buy a roof rack, worry about it blowing off the roof, or knocking it off the roof by hitting the overhead door to our condo. It sits quietly in the trunk just waiting for us to get to the lake.

This was taken at Ladner (Dees Island) British columbia. Irma and I are being passed by our Daughter and her son.

Rule Number 3:

Forget about speed and fast water! As we age, we should slow down and smell the roses because everything moves too fast. Everyone is always in a hurry. I suppose we all were in a hurry to get over into the fast lane but the end will come quickly enough, don’t you think? So why should speed enter into kayaking? One of the greatest pleasures a person can experience is to sit out in the kayak on a lake of mirror-like water on a perfect day, close our eyes and soak up the sun.

To get to one of our beautiful lakes we cross a river over a bridge. That river has some great whitewater and is home to many kayak races. We leave that river for the young folks who have a great time challenging themselves to go faster and faster around the many rocky challenges that make up the river.

Playing it Safe

Since our kayak is inflatable there is always a chance we could experience a leak; therefore, we tend to cruise along the shore most of the time. Of course this is where the birds and animals hang out. Animals appear to lose their fear of man when approached from the water in a kayak. Irma and I have seen deer feeding along the shore of a lake and have drifted right in to where they are feeding and they simply go on feeding. This little family of Mergansers (mother and 13 babies) were enjoying basking in the sun on a lake. We passed their rocky perch within a few feet as we were pulling in to enjoy a cup of tea on the beach. Our bow was actually touching the rock not 3 feet from them. It wasn’t until I took some photos of them that they decided to move a few feet to the left and set down again.

Give it a Try

So that‘s about it for our Ultimate Guide on seniors kayaking golden rules. By all means, don’t let the world go by and wonder what it must be like to be out there on a nice stretch of water. If we 82-year-olds can get out there and enjoy it, why can’t you?   

Hearing Impaired Products And Solutions For The Deaf

Rampant Hearing Loss Problem

There are 48 million Americans suffering from hearing loss and over half of the people 75 years of age are hearing impaired. Nearly 1 in 4 Canadians report hearing problems as well. What happens when your hearing problem goes beyond the most powerful aid on the market?

My wonderful wife, Irma, was born with otosclerosis. This is a hereditary disease that causes the cartilage to continue to grow. Of course there is a more technical description here.

It didn’t really affect her hearing until shortly after she turned 25, when she did start having hearing issues. She decided to have her hearing checked and found out that she was in need of one of the hearing impaired products. This was in the summer of 1960 and the test was a very simple one. She found the aid to be a help and wore it for a few years. Gradually that culprit, the cartilage, just kept on growing. A few years later she had to have some retesting and the result was that she needed a new hearing aid. The audiologist found that her left ear had better hearing than the right ear. We changed over the aid from the left ear and set it up for the right and she was able to hear better with both aids activated.

This System Worked for a few Years.

In 2007 we again bought the best hearing aid on the market for her good left ear. Later that year we were on a visit to Bullhead City in Arizona for a month. One day we decided to go over to Las Vegas for a few days. The city was packed as there was an all-star basketball game taking place and people were everywhere. When we arrived at our hotel for the night we were really tired and hit the sack early.

Irma Completely Lost Her Hearing!

Morning came and when Irma awoke, she couldn’t hear — she was stone deaf! Suddenly, we could not communicate. She could talk but she had a tough time controlling her volume as she couldn’t hear herself. We drove back to Bullhead City in silence. The problem persisted and I had to use a writing pad for the rest of our visit. We flew back home and immediately contacted our audiologist. He set up an appointment with an ENT who told us we could have an MRI done to try to determine what was happening and would take a month. We decided to go over the US border to Buffalo and get it done the next day. By this time she was regaining some of her hearing. The doctor suspected an inner ear virus after he had the results of the MRI. Again, we sat with our audiologist and discussed the various hearing impaired products and solutions for the deaf that we could consider. She set up an appointment with another doctor who suggested she was a good candidate for a Cochlear implant.

Cochlear Implant Candidate

He arranged for us to meet a lady who had cochlear implants done to both ears. She had her first one done free of charge and had paid for the second one herself at a cost of $30,000. She explained what it was like to hear again digitally, and told us how she learned to hear by using the talking books from the library. We were then given a date for the operation and it wasn’t long before we were ready to go.

On the morning of the appointed time for the operation, the doctor informed us of another one of the hearing impaired products that we might consider. There are many options for treatment of deafness to consider. In this procedure he could go in through her ear and drill a small hole in one of the three tiny bones that make up part of the hearing system. Then, he would insert a prosthesis in the hole. It was made up of two parts. A small plastic tube would be set into the bone and a tiny piece of titanium would be the vibrator. He advised us that if that didn’t work he could then install the cochlear implant.

We opted for the prosthesis as it sounded to be the lesser of the two evils.

After the operation, the doctor told us it was successful and to come back in a week to have the sutures removed. Once that was done, he told us that Irma now had 80% voice recognition.

Hindsight is Always 20/20

In hindsight, Irma should have had the cochlear plant because as it turned out, her hearing was pretty good for a year or so but it soon began to go downhill once again.

We moved to the Vancouver area eight years ago and soon we were meeting up with doctors once again to see what could be done. Unfortunately, because Irma is profoundly deaf in her right ear, the doctor was very afraid that if anything went wrong during another operation she could be totally deaf permanently. So, we have accepted that and life goes on.

I don’t know when I heard about the Loop. Possibly it was when I was researching hearing impaired products and solutions on the internet. Then, I read about a gent who had a blog online and he talked about it there. I sent him a note and he kindly called me. This gent was well educated and holds two PhDs. He is profoundly deaf but spent as much time with me as he could so that I understood just how the loop works.

How The Loop Works

People with poor hearing use hearing aids to increase the volume of sound entering the ear. Unfortunately, once the hearing loss becomes severe, the ability of the aid to produce good hearing is impaired. It is simply pumping volume but, in Irma’s case, the quality of the volume was just not good enough.

We Needed to Change to Digital Sound.

Digital audio is a technology that can be used for sound recording and reproduction using audio signals that have been encoded in digital form. To make this short, we hear in analog sound. With the loop system, analog sound is sent through a microphone to a converter which converts the sound to digital and sends this sound through a thin wire. If a person using a hearing aid equipped with a T-coil is anywhere inside the loop, or within about four feet or so of the outside of the loop, they will be able to hear clearly. The loop of wire is connected to the converter and then placed around a room and connected to the converter to form a loop. The converter can be connected to a TV or sound system. A microphone can be connected to the converter as well. The converter can be plugged in to a wall receptacle and it is ready to go.

How Irma and I Use This System.

Irma and I enjoy watching television and also like to talk while doing so. I will sit where I normally sit, and I place the microphone on my shirt pocket flap. We turn the TV on as well as the converter and Irma pushes a small button on her hearing aid to activate the T-coil installed in her hearing aid. When I say something she will hear it perfectly and she also hears the TV perfectly. There is a little problem in this as both the TV and I will be transmitted at the same time. We get around that by stopping the TV while I talk for a moment. Our TV system allows us to pause the program to do this.

The beauty of the system is that as long as Irma is within the area of the loop she will hear clearly. She can hear the sound of the TV from anywhere in the room and we can communicate clearly anywhere in the loop at a quiet, normal tone.

Another advantage of the loop system is that the volume of the TV can be turned down to the lowest setting while Irma can listen to the program and I can be using the computer or doing a crossword puzzle. is a dealer with a vast array of hearing impaired products and they supply the world.

Wireless Headphones

A couple of years ago we purchased a wireless headset and this worked very well. That too operates on the digital system. This system works well but Irma would be wearing the headset and every so often the signal would wander off and she would need to try different settings to clear the signal. It worked but was a pain you know where.

Pocket Amplifier

Another of the hearing impaired products is a pocket amplifier. This has an attached microphone and a headset. This would be used by two people sitting next to each other on a sofa or in the car and is battery operated. Irma tried it but the headphone caused feedback.

Portable Loop

This is a good system for small groups to use. For instance, a couple want to meet up with a realtor or auto dealer in an office. Place this machine on the desk and it transmits the voices to the T-coil in the hearing aid. There is no need for the hearing impaired person to be missing out on the conversation.

HP AC151 Bedside Fire Alarm & Clock

Because of Irma’s level of deafness I have always had in mind the question, “What if I am not home and a fire occurs?” She cannot hear anything without her hearing aids on. If I were home, I would have no problem as my hearing is perfect. There will come a day when this may happen.

This bedside alarm is for people who remove their hearing aids at night and live alone or in case everyone is sleeping without their aids on.

The clock is Activated by the Fire Alarm.

It is like a sentry waiting for the alarm signal. When an alarm goes off, it is transmitted to the clock and the clock lights up very brightly and produces a very loud alarm with a baritone voice saying, “FIRE, GET OUT!” A bed shaker goes off vibrating under the pillow.

The clock is plugged in to the wall receptacle and it also has a backup battery good for seven days if the power goes off.

These hearing impaired products and solutions for the deaf are available from I should mention that I am not an affiliate of this company but give this information to you as I feel it is important to know.

Here is a related article on Hearing Loss.

Why is the Hope Diamond Blue?

The Hope Diamond, possibly the most mysterious diamond in the world, resides in the Smithsonian Museum. It was donated by Harry Winston after he bought it from the estate of Evalyn Walsh McLean after her death. It is famous not only for its deep, blue color and its size, but for the curse that follows the owners.

If you asked why it is blue, the answer is that trace amounts of boron, hydrogen and nitrogen give the diamond its blue-grey color. A few years ago, the diamond was removed from the setting and a hole was drilled into it one nanometre deep (four-billionths of an inch) thus revealing these three elements.

Where Did it Come From?

It is generally accepted that the stone first appeared in India and was purchased by Jean-Baptiste Tavernier who made a career out of tracking down and buying large diamonds. He sold the diamond to King Louis X1V in 1668.  It was stolen 123 years later and when it appeared, it had been recut in 1839. The new owner was a London banker by the name of Hope. It passed from one owner to another and finally became the property of Mrs. Evalyn Walsh McLean who was an heir to the Westinghouse fortune. She had the Hope Diamond remounted with 19 round diamonds and a diamond set neck chain and loved to wear it on many occasions.

Like many famous stones, the Hope Diamond has many stories of curses connected with it. The diamond has been surrounded by a history of a reputed curse to the end that it brings misfortune and tragedy to those who own it or wear it. There are strong signs that such stories were fabricated to increase the stone’s mystery and appeal, since increased publicity usually raised the gem’s value and mystique.

Many Stories Were Told

For many years this story has found its way to the newspapers of the day.
These accounts are almost impossible to prove but here are a few of the many supposedly true facts.

  • Stone guardian Kulub Bey was chased down and hanged in Turkey.
  • Jeweler William Fals, who was tasked to recut the stone, “died a ruined man.”
  • William Fals’ son, Hendrik, had stolen the jewel from his father and later committed suicide.
  • Louis X1V and Marie Antoinette were both beheaded.
  • Prince Ivan Kanevski bought it but was killed by Russian revolutionists.

These fables about the Hope Diamond have followed many others about pirate’s treasures, hidden boxes of gold, bags of precious jewels and suitcases filled with cold, hard cash — they are all great stories.

More About Harry Winston

Harry Winston’s father, Jacob, started a small jewelry business in New York after he and his mother immigrated to the United States from the Ukraine. While growing up, he worked in his father’s shop. When he was only  twelve years old, he was looking in the window of a pawn shop one day and he realized that a two-carat emerald in the shop was an expensive emerald and bought it for 25 cents, and then sold it two days later for $800! Winston started a business of his own and opened his first store in New York City in 1932.

Harry Was Very Smart

Winston’s jewelry empire began in 1926 with his acquisition of Arabella Huntington’s vast jewelry collection for the price of $1.2 million. The wife of railroad magnate Henry E. Huntington, Arabella amassed one of the world’s most prestigious collections of jewelry, largely from Parisian jewelers such as Cartier.

When Winston bought the collection after her death, he came to the conclusion the designs of the jewelry in the collection were quite old- fashioned. Winston set about redesigning the jewelry into more contemporary styles and showcased his unique skill at jewelry crafting that was to make him his fortune. According to the Huntington museum, “He frequently boasted that Arabella’s famous necklace of pearls now adorned the necks of at least two dozen women around the world.”

When he came to own the Hope Diamond his fame grew as well.

Over the years this skill became his forte. After he died he left his business to his two sons who fought over his fortune for 10 years! In 2000 his son, Ronald and his partner bought out his brother Bruce for $54 million.

One of Winston’s favorite diamonds was the Jonker Diamond. It was found by a farmer at the Elandsfontein mine in South Africa by Johannes Jacobus Jonker on January 17, 1934. The diamond was 726 carats and at the time, was the fourth largest uncut gem ever found. The diamond was found 5 km away from the largest diamond ever found, the Cullinan Diamond. There is speculation that the Jonker may have originally been part of the Cullinan crystal, as both crystals had cleaved faces which seemed to match up perfectly.

Winston purchased it for 150,000 pounds and after studying it for a year, had it cut into 13 stones. He had it recut from time to time and it was sold in pieces around the world. One diamond was was sold to King Farouk of Egypt for $100,000 who, after he was deposed, had to give it up to settle debts. The last known location of the Jonker 1 was in the hands of an owner in Hong Kong who bought it for $2,298,000.

The Hope Diamond has had some amazing company over the years and Harry Winston has been in the mix many times over that time.

The Quality of the Cut Diamond

Quality is Most Important

The quality of the cut diamond is widely considered the most important aspect in determining the beauty of a diamond. It is commonly admitted that a well-cut diamond may appear to be of greater carat weight, and have clarity and color of a greater grade than they actually have. The skill with which a diamond is cut by the diamond cutter determines its ability to reflect and refract light thus exhibiting superior value.

The Cut is Tough to Judge

Besides carrying the most importance to a diamond’s quality as a gemstone, the cut of the diamond is also the most difficult to judge. Many  factors — including proportion, polish, beauty and balance as well as the relative angles of various facets — are determined by the quality of the cut and can affect the performance of a diamond. A diamond with the 57 facets cut only a few degrees out of alignment can result in a poorly performing stone such as looking dull or off-color.

Mistaken Identity

A round cut diamond with too much fire may appear as a cubic zirconium which gives off much more fire than a true diamond. An inferior cut diamond will appear dark in the center and in some cases there may be shadows when viewed from the table. The quality of the cut diamond brings forth different theories on the “ideal” proportions of a diamond and continue to be advocated by various owners of patents on machines to view how well a diamond is cut.

The science and skill required to shape a rough diamond into a beautiful polished gemstone is an art in itself. The choice of cut is often decided by the original shape of the rough stone, location of the inclusions and flaws to be eliminated, the preservation of the weight, popularity of certain shapes amongst consumers and many other considerations. The round brilliant cut is preferred when the crystal is an octahedron, as often two stones may be cut from one such crystal. Odd-shaped crystals more than likely will be cut as fancy diamonds.

The quality of the cut diamond generally results in over 50% of the original weight being lost during the cutting and polishing process. Since such a premium price is awarded to the 1.00-carat stone the consumer would be well advised to consider buying a 1.10-carat or a 0.99-carat perfectly cut diamond rather than what could turn out to be an inferior cut 1.00-carat diamond.

Many Factors to Consider

The term light performance is used in the gem trade to describe the amount of light that will return to the viewer from within the diamond. There are three light properties which are taken into consideration in relation to light performance: brilliance, fire, and scintillation. Brilliance refers to the white light reflected from within the stone. Fire refers to the spectral colors as the diamond disperses the white light and scintillation refers to the small flashes of light from within the stone as the diamond is turned. All of course affect the quality of the cut diamond.


Gold-Filled: Five Things You May Not Know

Gold Facts

Most people do not have any idea what gold-filled jewelry is yet we all spend our hard-earned dollars on gifts for our loved ones not knowing whether the gift item we purchased is gold-plated, solid gold or plastic-covered with gold plating. With so many different scams on the go, perhaps it would be wise to take a refresher course in gold-filled jewelry: five things you may not know.

When gold is taken from the earth and separated from impurities by smelting in the furnace, it is very soft, pure gold called 24 karat. Miners of placer gold found in rivers and creeks are able to tell how far from the source the nuggets have traveled from the mother lode by the absence of sharp edges. As the nuggets bump along the creek bed the sharp edges are rounded off.

  1. Solid gold 24k is never used to make jewelry. The gold must be blended with other minerals such as copper, nickel, silver or platinum to create durability. Without these hardeners, the items would wear down very quickly.
  2. Another gold standard referred to as solid gold may be 18k or 14k. This means that the 18k gold consists of 18 parts gold and 6 parts other metals; likewise for 14k. 10k gold products are simply called 10 karat gold, consisting of 10 parts gold and 14 parts other metals.
  3. Gold-filled products are created from a plate of 10k, 14k or 18k gold being fused to another plate of precious metal such as copper, brass, silver or platinum. It may be in the shape of a tube with the inside consisting of the other metals and the outside, gold. The other metals help to harden the gold and should last for 20 to 30 years or more before it shows signs of wearing through.
  4. Gold-plated products of different qualities may be manufactured by way of electroplating. This is done by attaching the pieces to be plated to one side of a battery and attaching the other side of the battery to a piece of gold and immersing both into an acid bath. This allows the gold from the anode to transfer to the goods to be plated. In the United States, the quality of gold-filled jewelry is defined by the Federal Trade Commission. If the gold layer is 10k, the minimum weight of the gold-plated layer on an item stamped GF must equal at least 1/10th of the total weight of the item. If the item is stamped GF with 12k or more, it must contain at least 1/20th of the total weight of the item.
  5. So what then do we call an article that is stamped 10k or 14k? It is not gold-filled nor is it gold-plated. This is where things get confusing, 10k gold is made up of 10 parts gold and 14 parts other metal. The item is 10k gold all the way through. To make matters more confusing, 14k gold is sometimes referred to as solid gold.

Next time you visit your jeweler, try to remember some of these points so that you may make the right choice of that gold gift.

How is Gold Found?

found it golden nuggets gold pan in the water

Prospectors search for gold by traveling along streams and panning for gold at every little bend where sand and gravel pile up. They partially fill the pan with material and water and wash the gravel by swishing the pan back and forth and slowly allowing the large stones to fall away. As these stones are removed the pieces of gold, which are much heavier than the sand, will gather at the bottom of the pan. If there is no gold to be seen the prospector will move along. If he spots a few tiny flakes of gold, called colors, he may decide to work the area for more.

The Rocker

A rocker, also called a “cradle” or a “dolly”, is used when water is in short supply or when the depth of the stream or creek is too shallow to use a sluice box. The principle of the rocker is simple: As the cradle is rocked, water washes the finer material through the bottom of the hopper and gold collects on ridges or riffles. Rockers were used extensively for placer mining. With one man to load soil and water and a second to rock it, the rocker could process about 200 buckets per day.

The Sluice Box


The sluice box is a long, open wooden trough and when it was introduced it became very popular. The sluice is narrow and low at one end. Dirt and gravel is placed at the top and washed down the length of the sluice by a constant stream of water, usually from a flume. Gold would be caught either by “riffles” (ridges on the bottom of the sluice box) or by a false bottom with holes in it. Mud and the larger chunks of rock would wash out the lower end leaving the gold behind.

This was the method used back in the 1850s.

These old-timers would leave civilization and head for the hills, spending many months on the streams usually with very little to eat. If their search proved successful, they would need to travel to the nearest gold commissioner’s office where they would file a claim for the rights to dig for gold. They would be given tags to be put on the markers to be placed in the corners of their claims. Once the task was completed, they would get to work.


Over millions of years the gold erodes from the rock and quartz bit by bit. As it is heavy it washes out of the gravel and settles down to bedrock. Since bedrock is solid, the gold cannot go down any further so that is where it remains to be found sometime in the future. As the streams and rivers are continually moving back and forth across the valley floors, new flakes and nuggets are moved with the action of the water and glaciers along with the sand and gravel. Prospectors know this and will search for high banks where once upon a time the water flowed. Some of the gold will generally remain in the deposits of these banks.

The prospectors will be searching for what were old stream beds that have gone dry. Although panning for gold appears to be a long forgotten system it is still the best tool for prospecting for gold in the right hands.

Once a claim is set up, the hard work begins.

Way back when, the miner would begin to dig and either sluice or rocker the gravel he excavated. Today the owner will probably get some backers with the money and set up large sluice machines that are capable of sluicing many tons of gravel per day. The sluice will be fed by a large backhoe or loader that may be assisted by use of a bulldozer. The water supply will be pumped to the sluice and a series of riffles and metal mats will capture the gold as the water washes away the sand and gravel.

This method is employed to carry out placer mining. This method will be used to dig down until the bedrock is uncovered.

Generally the cleanup will be done every 20 or 30 hours of sluicing. The sluice machine will be shut down and the mats and riffles will be shoveled by hand into buckets or tubs. Every little speck must be captured. The gold will be taken to the refinery where it will be melted down and poured into a mold.

Hardrock Mining

Some mining companies employ prospectors to tour the country on the lookout for promising mining sites. When something promising is located, a drill team will be sent in to do some diamond drilling. Cross-section cores will be examined by company geologists to determine the gold content of the site. When the gold content looks promising, plans may be drawn up to make the decision to set up a mine or not.






Argentium Silver Jewelry

Sterling Silver And Without  Tarnish

Not too long ago, argentium silver jewelry was not available to the public possibly because no one was producing it. Most people didn’t know the difference between fine sterling and argentium sterling. Chemists created argentium silver 935 by removing some of the copper from sterling silver and replacing it with a small amount of a metalloid called germanium.

There is not a clear definition of a metalloid nor is there a complete agreement on the elements appropriately classified as either a metal or a nonmetal. Germanium is a metalloid and is the additive to sterling silver.

Thanks to These Two

In 1990, two chemists at Middlesex University began to work with germanium and sterling silver. They discovered that when they replaced some of the copper with germanium, there was high resistance to tarnish and firescale was eliminated. One other benefit was that the product was much harder. Firescale is a layer of oxides that forms on the metal when heated while soldering and can be eliminated only by polishing or electroplating.

Easy to Work

Price-wise, argentium is not much more expensive than sterling silver. Argentium has high ductility — a solid material’s ability to be worked. Tensile stress is quite often denoted by the argentium material’s ability to be stretched into wire. Malleability, a similar property, is a material’s ability to be deformed under stress — often characterized by the material’s ability to be formed into a thin sheet by hammering or rolling. Both of these mechanical properties are aspects of plasticity, allowing for stretching into many shapes and thicknesses.

Plasticity, malleability, firescale and ductility properties significantly affect the traditional methods of working silver. For instance, the absence of firescale eliminates tedious, time-consuming steps required by the metal worker using traditional sterling silver. It also eliminates the need for electroplating the final product which is often done on manufactured items because of the problems introduced by firescale. Tarnish resistance is of significant importance to both silver workers and the wearer of silver jewelry.

A Craftsman/Woman Emerges

A few years ago one of our daughters Purchased a few beads while visiting a bead store and a very quick time began a nice little jewelry business selling bracelets, earrings and pendants to her friends and neighbors. She put in many long hours learning to create beautiful pieces with intricate wire works.

Goodby Tarnish

In time she found Argentium Silver that totally eliminated the tarnish problem. It was a great relief to not have her creations turn black while the jewelry pieces are sitting in a person’s jewelry case. Some of their creations may be seen here.