Monday, April 23, 2012

Back from my Beijing Break

The Hubby, Son and I spent 6 days in Beijing this past week. We had a grand time climbing The Great Wall, visiting the Ming Tombs, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven and the Forbidden City. The only thing missing was the presence of the Daughter (she had school). We plan to go back during the winter months to experience something different. Maybe even visit inner Mongolia! I selected a few photos of our visit to share with you.

Our visit to the MING TOMBS. Beautiful cherry blossoms and crab apple blossoms.

I really loved the flowers!

We went on a full day tour to THE GREAT WALL with two other couples(one from Italy and another from Germany)and had a grand time. Since it's spring, the crowds were not too bad. I hear that in the summer it can get really crowded.

It was really chilly with strong winds blowing (hence the bad hair do!). I think it must have been about 10 deg C. The Son almost became an ice sculpture!

I decided to walk the slightly more challenging route up to the first watchtower while the Hubby and Son attempted the walk to the third watchtower. They apparently didn't make it because it was COLD and quite steep.

Behind us was the less challenging walk so there were more people. As you can see, it was a misty day.

This was the route we walked. Not too many people!

THE FORBIDDEN CITY. It is HUGE!! We only walked the outer courts (where they film the movies) and it took us a long time. When we go back for another visit, we plan to explore the 9,999.5 rooms (at least the ones that are open for visitors)!!

Hair pins worn by the Empress. Beautiful handmade jade pieces.

The Emperor's Throne.

The longest unbroken stone carving that exists in China today. Beautiful workmanship!

The view outside our hotel. Very misty all 6 days of our visit. Visibility was about 1km or less.

THE SUMMER PALACE. It was just after lunch and the crowd was forming.

At the Summer Palace, the Empress Dowager Ci Xi would walk along this corrider after dinner. It's supposed to be the longest in the world, almost 1km.

I absolutely loved the painted designs and intricate artwork on almost everything.

Each section of the corridor had a different painting. It was beautiful!

The marble boat. Yes, completely carved from marble! Exquisite!

THE TEMPLE OF HEAVEN. As we walked towards the temple, there were hundreds of people gambling (everyone on right side of the photo were gambling!), many singing and others dancing. Reminds me of an account in the New Testament of the Bible.

I was really excited to be on site at the Temple of Heaven. So much history and architecture.

This was the hall in which the Emperor would make blood sacrifices to the God in Heaven.

What visit would be complete without a trip to the pearl factory?! This is a cultured freshwater mollusc which can yield more than 40 pearls at a time! Note the different colours in one oyster!

A closeup of the oyster. Beautiful pearls! Pearls can be expensive because time is spent sorting them out according to colour, grades and sizes. In order to make a necklace of all the same pearls, it takes quite a while to match them up.

I wanted to show you a large bird's nest in the tree. There were many and the only reason I could see them was because the trees were not filled with leaves yet.

I had heard horror stories of flight delays because of traffic buildup at Capital International Airport. Everything was true! We had to wait for half an hour before take off and there were more than 12 planes behind us (I could only count 12 because visibility was not good!).

So there you have it, a few photos from my trip. Now I'm back to work. And Mothers' Day is coming! If you need special jewelry made for your Mum, do email me. Alternatively, make an appointment to visit my gallery. Lots of ready made one-of-a-kind pieces available!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Short Vacation

This week the hubby and I will be going on a short vacation and business trip to Beijing. Besides enjoying the sights and personal shopping, I am hoping to find some good quality gemstones and pearls to make my next collection of jewelry.

So until I blog again next week, enjoy life and take time to smell the roses!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How to Take Care of Your Jewelry - Pearls

Almost everyone I know has at least one pearl piece in their jewelry cupboard be it a ring, bracelet, necklace or ear-rings. So for this "taking care of your jewelry" series, I thought I'd start with pearls.

Pearls are organic materials made up of calcium carbonate which means they need special treatment if they are to continue to look beautiful as part of our jewelry collection. When pearls come into contact with chemicals like perfume, makeup, hair products and even household cleaners, they tend to deteriorate and discolor.

Their surface is soft and easily damage as well. Rings and bracelets made from pearls are especially prone to scratching so it's not advisable to wear them on a daily basis. My advice is to keep them for special occasions.

As a rule, pearls are the LAST thing you put on and the FIRST thing you take off.

Strands of pearls should be stored separately since they can scratch each other. Use a silk bag, velvet box or a pearl folder. Never ever store pearls in a plastic bag! Some plastic emit chemicals and will cause the pearls to discolor and deteriorate. Don't store pearls in a safe deposit box. The dry air (which protects papers) will cause the pearls to dry out, causing tiny fractures. Store pearls flat so that the threads will not stretch.

Stringing and Knotting
Stringing is recommended for pearls 5mm and above. Strands need to be restrung every 2-3 years (every year if you wear your pearls often). Knots are made between each pearl to prevent them from scratching each other. Knotting also prevents dust and dirt from entering the drill holes of the pearls as well as offers security so that if your strand breaks, you will only lose one pearl. Usually silk or nylon threads are used. Good knotting hangs well.

Use a mild soap diluted in warm water (I like to use Woolite) and use a soft natural bristle brush to gently brush the pearls. Rinse in cold water for at least 3-5 minutes. Allow the pearls to air dry at least 24 hours before storing.

Since pearls are organic, they will naturally darken slightly with age and wear. Sometimes they get creamy stains which cannot be removed. So if you want your pearls to last, do take a few minutes to take care of them and they will serve you for a long time to come!

Here at Rebecca Yam Jewelry, I offer restringing and knotting services. I will clean your pearls for you when I do the restringing. Do contact me if you need my help with your pearl jewelry.

Next week, we will learn about the different kinds of pearls available and how to select them.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Metals Part 2 - Silver

Silver is a white-grey metal that is less expensive than gold, platinum, titanium and rhodium. It is prone to oxidisation when exposed to air which causes the silver to turn black. However, it is easily polished back to look new.

There are basically two types of silver:
Fine silver (99.9% silver) - this is really too soft for jewelry. Industry standard has 0.1% copper added for strength. Also known as .999 fine silver or 999 silver. Usually with 999 fine silver, rhodium is added to give it shine and strength. This of course will bring the cost up.

Sterling silver (92.5% silver and 7.5% copper). It is also known as .925 silver or 925 silver. Most of the ear-rings and jewelry sold in stores are made with 925 silver.

Some silver is plated with gold. This means the silver is used as the base metal and fine layers of gold are plated on top of the silver. Problem is after a while, the gold layers tend to flake off.

Rhodium is white and in the platinum family. It is very strong and hard, and often used to plate sterling silver jewelry to prevent tarnish.

Some of my customers complain that they are allergic to the costume jewelry bought from stores so they resort to buying expensive gold jewelry. Even so, they still experience some kind of skin reaction, especially in ear-rings and conclude they are allergic to gold. Well, yes and no... because sometimes nickel is added to these jewelry (yes, even expensive jewelry!) and their reaction is to the nickel. Some places sell hypoallergenic ear-rings but are made from stainless steel which also has minute amounts of nickel!

Here at Rebecca Yam Jewelry, I use rhodium plated findings (hooks, clasps, wires, ear wires, headpins etc) with silver as the base metal. I have always made sure I stayed away from anything with nickel. So far, there have been no reports of allergies. I am very careful when I buy my supplies, making sure I only get them from reliable suppliers. This also means I do not buy findings from street vendors in Singapore or when I travel no matter how cheap they are! Surgical steel and niobium ear wires are available on request but will cost a bit more.

I hope this simple write ups on gold and silver helped. Next week I'll begin another short series on how to take care of your jewelry. Check back again!