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Hello (again) world!

Only because I have an uber geeky hubby do I even know to what “hello world” refers.  And yes, a blog is not exactly programming, but my long absence from any kind of posts on my blog felt like it deserved a bit of tongue in cheek for my first post back in years!

So where the heck have I been?  Long story short, working on living.

Now, I’ve not been completely “off the grid”.   The addictive pull of Facebook, twitter, Instagram and my favorite time vampire, Pinterest have been frequented with some regularity, I must admit.  However, sharing personal thoughts beyond 140 characters have not been very common, and what better time to renew my resolve to share my thoughts digitally than the start of a new year!  In fact, I made it one of my resolutions to blog twice a month through out the year.  And who knows, I might just do more!

Ok, so how was that for an awkward return to this blog?  And how cool is WordPress for not deleting it in my absence?

Hello again world, and Happy 2018!

Going for the Gold?

Since I began making artisan jewelry, I have been asked this question at least five-thousand times:  Which is better gold-filled or gold-plate?

The quick answer for both fellow jewelry artisans and consumers is ‘it depends’. Understanding the differences between the gold-filled and gold-plate processes is the key to determining which process is better for your application.  

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Gold is a relatively soft precious metal which, in most jewelry applications, is too soft to be used by itself.  There are two processes used to make gold more durable:  Gold- plating and gold-filled.

 

Gold Plating

Gold plating is a process where one to seven layers of gold are coated onto harder metal. The gold content is not significant, less than 1% even in the thickest of these processes so it should be marketed as gold-plated jewelry, not gold jewelry.

In hand-crafted jewelry, gold plating can be found on beads, clasps. wire and findings. Layers of gold are coated over base components made from glass, plastics, base metals (typically brass or copper), and silver which is harder less expensive precious metal.  

The greatest benefit to gold plating is the cost which is considerably less in most cases than its gold-filled counterpart.  For this reason, gold-plate is often the process used in higher end fashion jewelry (low end fashion jewelry is spray-painted with gold-tone paint).  The down side to gold-plating is wearability of the plated components and thus longevity of the jewelry piece.  The plating can flake or peel off, especially from those products with fewer layers of gold.  The layers of gold can also scratch, rub or wear off revealing the underlying base element(s), dispelling the appearance of gold.  Once revealed, base metals in particular, will discolor and may even react with the wearer’s skin (turn it green) or even causing an allergic reaction.  For this reason, gold-plate should not be considered or marketed as hypo-allergenic.

Gold-plate over sterling silver has been rising in popularity with the rise in precious metal prices due to the current economy.  The process of gold-plating is essentially the same as performed on other materials but typically more layers of gold plating are applied making the finish more durable.  And because sterling silver is a hypo-allergenic precious metal, gold-plate over silver can be sold as hypo-allergenic.  The cost of gold-plated silver is higher than that of gold-plating over non-precious materials but is a more economical option than gold-filled.

In some cases an added process called electroplating is performed resulting in a more stable bond at the molecular level and therefore a lower likelihood for peeling, flaking, or wearing off.  Electroplated gold can be damaged through scratches, but because the underlying metal is sterling silver the appearance of flaws are less noticeably flawed and will not discolor like base metals.

There are some industry/trade names for specific recipes of gold-plate over silver. Vermeil is the industry term used for electroplating up to 5 layers of 18kt gold over sterling silver (.925 or 92.5%). Duraplate is a trade name for electroplating seven layers of 24kt gold over pure silver (.999 or 99.9%). (Duraplate is a new process seen primarily in cast metal components and jewelry.)

 

Gold-Filled

 Gold-filled is a process where sheets of gold (usually 14kt) are wrapped around a stronger metal (typically brass or copper) in a mechanical bonding process. The end result is a thick coat of gold with the gold content of a minimum of 5% or 1/20 of the total weight and in some cases significantly higher. Gold-filled is considered fine jewelry quality. It is hard wearing, will not peel or flake and because the coating is thick, it would take an extremely deep scratch to reveal the base metal within the core.  Because the amount of gold is much greater, so is the cost of the jewelry or jewelry components; however, because the producing gold-filled is less labor intensive than higher-end gold-plating the cost for some jewelry components can be near equivalents.

 

Whether you choose gold-plate or gold-filled there some precautions that you should take with all gold, including 24kt (pure) gold: 

  • Gold will react with chlorine causing your gold to discolor permanently, so you should never wear gold in pools or chlorinated water (many water sources add chlorine).  
  • Avoid bathing or showering in your jewelry.  The soaps and soils removed from your body can leave a film on your gold affecting its luster.
  • Do not sleep in your gold jewelry as it can get twisted or break.
  • The alloy metals used in gold can react with the oils, salts and/or imbalance to the ph of a person’s skin (usually acidity).  
  • Store or pack your jewelry in a jewelry pouch or soft lined jewelry box so it does not come into contact with other jewelry pieces or hard surface.  Gold is a soft metal and can scratch or mar easily.
  • Clean your jewelry annually, or more often if necessary.  Inspect your jewelry connections to be sure any damage can be identified and repaired. 

Following good jewelry care practices are essential to keeping your gold jewelry beautiful for years to come. 

If you have any additional questions about this post or a related topic, please contact manda@mandapandacreations.com

World’s Easiest Chili Recipe

Those who know me know that I love food and have a very discerning tongue.  Becoming a mom forced my love of cooking from scratch into accepting the reality of needing quick recipes that not only I will love, but that will be craved favorites of the family, and fast to prepare.

In the hopes to help others, I present to you, my Easy Assemble Chili recipe:

  • 1-pound ground lean beef (sirloin is great but anything 90/10 or leaner will work)
  • 1/2 pound sirloin steak, diced into 1/4″ to 1/8″ cubes or stew meat, cubed to same dimensions
  • 1 large (30.5 oz) can or 2 regular (15 oz) cans Brooks or Bush’s brand seasoned chili beans, your preference (regular, mild or hot)
  • 1 can (15 oz) Great Northern Beans or navy beans or black beans; your preference
  • 1 can (15 oz) Cannellini Beans or red Kidney Beans
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes, seasoned if you desire
  • 1 medium Vidalia onion, diced as you like (I prefer a very small dice)
  • 2 tsp mined garlic
  • salt, pepper, cumin (ground)
  • fresh cilantro, approximately 1/2 cup rough chopped
  • 2 large or 3 medium fresh tomatoes, diced (remove seeds first, then dice into 1/4″ pieces)
  • 2 cups Beef, chicken or vegetable stock, your preference

In a 9-quart or greater dutch oven/stock pot on medium high heat, brown the cubed meat with the diced onion, 1 tsp garlic; pinch of cumin, salt & pepper to taste.  Add the ground meat and brown with the 2nd tsp garlic plus a dash of cumin, salt & pepper.  Drain any fat off the browned meat.  Return pan to the stove and add 2 cups of stock, simmer for 5 to 8 minutes.

Add seasoned chili beans directly to the meat.  Rinse and drain the remaining beans and add to the pot.  Add the can of crushed tomatoes and reduce heat to medium.  Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.  Add fresh tomatoes and cilantro and reduce heat to medium low.  Simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes.

Garnish as desired.  Our favorites include shredded monterey jack cheese, jalapenos, fresh finely chopped red onion, sour cream, more fresh tomato & cilantro, and tortilla chips.

Meat substitutes and poultry can be substituted very easily for the beef and are just as delicious.  Another favorite in our house uses ground turkey instead of the ground beef and cubed turkey breast instead of steak.  I use chicken or vegetable stock when I make this substitution.

Hope this simple and fast recipe becomes a favorite in your home too.  Enjoy!

Manda Panda Creations featured as a guest artisan on Isabella’s Beads

er8002146-010ec5For the month of February, the owner of Isabella’s Beads, fellow jewelry artisan and working mother, Mariealena Calabrese, is featuring some of Manda Panda Creations’ designs on her site. It’s an honor to be chosen as a featured jewelry designer and I’m in very good company with the other talented artisans from across the country.

Be sure to check out all the pretties available at Isabella’s:
http://isabellasbeads.com