In the 11th and 12th century, in what we now call the British Isles, silver pennies were printed with a small star. A penny like this was called a steorling (most likely pronounced like “sterling”) in Old English, meaning “coin with star.” These steorlings were made up of 92.5% pure silver, with an alloy of 7.5% copper, just like sterling silver today.
Silver pennies weren’t always sterling, though; Henry II of England established this standard because those inclined to dishonesty would trim the edges of the softer pure silver pennies and keep the small pieces for later. Sterling silver, still a beautiful precious metal, was slightly more durable and discouraged this shifty habit.
Sterling is no longer used to make coins, but many recognized the advantage of a precious metal that was both beautiful and durable: two traits that are ideal in a favorite piece of jewelry.
Roberta and Talley Starbird are a mother and daughter team designing jewelry out of their Austin, Texas, based studio. "When I was little," Talley says, "my mom and I would bond by taking crafting classes together." An avid crafter, Roberta has tried everything from knitting to quilting, but working with metal has been the most rewarding. Jewelry design grew naturally out of Roberta's interest in working with color and pattern to create wearable art.
After fifteen years working as a computer analyst for IBM, Roberta decided to focus on jewelry, making singular pieces for herself and for friends. "I think I became a jeweler because I like jewelry so much," Roberta says. "I liked focusing my creative ideas on that medium." After Talley graduated from college with a degree in math, the two started a business creating their fanciful jewelry together.
In her spare time, Talley loves to swing dance, and often travels to other cities for West Coast Swing conferences. She also plays soccer, and has two kittens, Walnut and Nugget, as well as two guinea pigs named Ansel and Flower Pot. Roberta reads mystery novels and often spends the evenings doing crossword puzzles with her husband. She has a corgi named Pip, "but Talley is hard at work trying to convince me to get another dog," says Roberta.
Roberta and Talley still enjoy taking metal smithing classes together, learning new techniques, honing their skills, and bonding.
- 1.5" long sterling silver ribbon earrings
- sterling silver ear wires for a 2" total length
- TLC for your sterling silver jewelry