925 Silver, more commonly called Sterling Silver, is an alloy consisting of 925 parts pure silver and 75 parts oxidised copper. The inclusion of copper is essential to the workability of the silver as without it the basic material is too elastic and delicate. 950 Silver does exist but turns black and spoils very quickly. At the other end of the spectrum, 999 Silver is only found in ingots for realloying with copper to increase its mechanical strength.
While the largest silver mines are currently found in Mexico, Guatemala and Russia, the first traces of mining silver ore and extracting silver from lead were found in Mesopotamia in 4000 BCE. Much later the Romans discovered deposits in Spain and extracted more than 200 tonnes per year, a record which was sadly broken 1000 years later with the discovery of South America and the arrival of the colonists at the Cerro de Potosi (“rich hill”) in Bolivia. Silver is a rare material – its abundance in the Earth’s crust is defined as 0.1 g per tonne (compared with 0.05 for gold).
Silver is a chemical element like gold and diamonds (carbon) and yet is no less magical, and its symbolic value far exceeds its atomic number (47). The Ancient Egyptians were convinced that the bones of the gods were made of silver and their flesh made of gold. The first alchemists considered it to be one of the seven sacred metals, along with gold, copper, lead, tin, iron and mercury. The ultimate aim of their quest to find the philosopher’s stone was to turn “base metals” (lead, mercury, etc.) into “noble metals” – gold and silver. Each sacred metal was associated with a planet, a deity and an organ of the body. Gold represented light and was associated with the sun and the heart; silver was purity, associated with the moon, the brain and intelligence.
It is most probably for this reason that the French hallmark for 925 Silver is the head of Minerva, the goddess of war, strategy and industry. Each LE GRAMME 925 sterling silver bracelet has three stamps: the Minerva’s head (the official French hallmark certifying the quality of the precious metal), the maker’s mark and the LE GRAMME stamp. Stamping or hallmarking is the final stage of manufacturing LE GRAMME variants. Before it reaches this stage, the 925 Sterling Silver will have undergone multiple transformations – the artisan drawing out the raw material, shaping each piece into an object of perfection, calibrating the pattern – slick or guilloche with a motif, surfacing the metal to give it a polished or brushed finish.
LE GRAMME has chosen not to treat the precious metal so that it retains its authenticity and develops a patina naturally over time. It is also a way of keeping it intact and allowing it to fully express its magical quality.
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