Authentic vintage, handcrafted by artisans in Mexico in the 1980’s, stored safely away and never worn. Excellent condition. Drop approximately 3 cm. Made from alpaca silver coated with sterling silver (25%), the inlay is crushed green turquoise.
What is Alpaca?
“Alpaca silver" is a superior alloy usually made up from combining nickel, copper and zinc. These metals combine to give the jewellery the visual appearance of sterling silver, but the alloy contains no silver. Pieces are usually stamped, “Alpaca, Mexico”. On earrings, it is not uncommon to find the hallmark on only one of a pair.
Alpaca has been used for many years by artisans in South America to handcraft beautiful jewellery. Because the jewellery is handmade, each piece is unique so pairs are rarely identical and there may be imperfections - I can find none on this pair. Alpaca is often used for pieces handcrafted in Mexico and Peru, usually combined with semi-precious stones, abalone shell, and as in this case, crushed turquoise. Its advantage is that it is a highly durable alloy that is easily manipulated into delicate and intricate designs. It will not rust, resists tarnishing and is very strong, so you can expect your piece to last for many years.
Is Alpaca Hypoallergenic?
If you suffer from allergies be sure to purchase pieces that have been Sterling Silver coated or plated for peace of mind. Someone started a popular myth that Alpaca is hypoallergenic; I can assure you it is not. Most allergy sufferers react to the nickel content in metal jewellery and Alpaca usually contains nickel.
This pair was coated at our request by the artisan in Sterling Silver (25%) to provide extra security for those concerned about allergies. The hooks are silver plated.
Tarnish and Cleaning
Alpaca will resist tarnishing, but the copper in it does tend to react with oxygen in the air to develop a green tarnish over time. If you want to keep your alpaca jewellery tarnish free, store it in a zip locked plastic bag; depriving the earrings of oxygen is what has kept my stock shiny and new after more than 30 years in storage.
A little tarnish is easily cleaned off with a silver cleaning cloth. If it’s heavily tainted, make a paste from bi-carb soda and water (3 parts bi-carb soda to every 1 part water). Spread the paste over the tarnish and let it sit for 5 minutes (longer if heavily tarnished), clean it off with a lint free cloth. Even the most heavily tarnished piece will come up like new with this method. Avoid cleaning your jewellery with papertowel or anything fibrous that might scratch the piece. I use a glass cleaning cloth. Avoid using silver dipping cleaning solutions, the chemicals may loosen the glue which holds the delicate pieces of stone in place.