Jewelry Resources

Glossary of Jewelry Terms

Scroll down to browse the list or click on the letters below to jump quickly to a definition.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Agate
A variety of chalcedony found in all colors; used extensively in Scottish jewelry
Aigrette
Jeweled ornament in the shape of a feather or supporting a feather, worn in the hair or on a cap, popular in the middle of the eighteenth century and the early twentieth century
A Jour
Open setting that leaves the pavilion facets open to the light
Alloy
A mixture of two or more metals
Aluminum
A silver white metal that is lightweight and malleable
Amazonite
An opaque form of feldspar
Amber
The fossilized resin of prehistoric pine trees which ranges in color from golden to orange-red
Amethyst
A variety of quartz found in deep purple to a bluish-violet color
Annealing
The process of heating metal and then cooling it to render the metal more pliable
Aquamarine
A form of beryl found in pale green blue to clear blue colors
Arabesque
A form of decoration characterized by flowing lines, scrollwork, leaves, branches, floral forms, symmetrical in form
Art Nouveau
A period of design between the 1890's and 1910; the jewelry is characterized by flowing lines, unusual interpretations of nature, the use of women with long flowing hair and the utilization of unusual materials
Assaying
Process of determining the proportions of precious metal contained in a piece of gold or silver
Assay Hallmark
Hallmark showing the office which assayed the metal used in a piece of jewelry (English)
Baguette
Gemstone cut in the shape of a narrow rectangle
Bakelite
Trade name for the first synthesized plastic, phenol formaldehyde resin invented by Dr. Leo Backeland
Bandeau
Head ornament in the form of a narrow band worn low, encircling the forehead
Bandelettes
Decorated ribbons worn in the hair
Bangle
Non-flexible bracelet
Baroque
Irregular shaped stone or pearl
Basse-taille
French for 'shallow cut', enameling technique worked in a chased relief metal and overlaid with translucent enamel
Berlin Iron
Cast iron jewelry worked into delicate openwork patterns, and made in Berlin during the first half of the nineteenth century
Bezel
Gemstone setting where a strip or wall of metal encircles the gemstone
Bijouterie
Art of working in gold and enamel
Biwa Pearl
Freshwater cultured pearl from Japan
Blister Pearl
Irregularly shaped and hollow pearl cut from the shell of the oyster
Bog-oak
fossilized oak from peat bogs in Ireland, popular during the Victorian Era
Bolt ring
A finding that is a hollow or partially hollow connecting ring which is drawn back on an internal spring
Borax
A flux used in soldering
Brass
An alloy of copper and zinc
Brilliant cut
A cutting style most often used for diamonds, consisting of 58 facets, also known as 'modern cut' or 'full cut'
Briolette
A teardrop shaped stone faceted with triangular or rectangular facets, sometimes pierced at the top, also known as 'drop-cut'
Bronze
An alloy of approximately 8 parts copper to 1 part tin
Buff top cabochon
Style of stone cutting where the top of the gemstone is a dome (en cabochon) and the pavilion is faceted
Bulla
Two concave plates that form a hollow receptacle, a form used in ancient jewelry
Cabochon
Stone with a smooth carved surface, domed and unfaceted with a flat base
Calibre-cut
Small stones cut in usually rectangular shapes and faceted in a step cut to fit exactly into a setting or against another stone
Calipers
Instrument for fine measuring of both the outside and inside surfaces of a stone
Cameos
A design cut in relief, usually into a hard stone or shell
Cannetille
A type of gold or silver filigree of fine twisted wires forming a coiled spiral, used in early nineteenth century jewelry (Georgian period)
Carat
Unit of weight used for precious stones
Carbuncle
A garnet cut en cabochon
Casting
Process of forming an object by pouring a molten or liquid substance into a mould until it solidifies and takes on the impression of the mould
Catalin
Trade name for an early phenol plastic
Chalcedony
A quartz, greyish-blue in color
Champlevé
French term for 'raised field', Technique of enameling in which enamel is placed in stamped or cut recesses of a metal form
Channel setting
A row of stones of the same dimension, fitted into a metal channel
Chasing
Working a design into a metal from the front using a hammer and/or punches
Chatelaine
A girdle or belt from which various implements are suspended
Choker
A necklace approximately 15 inches long
Chrysoberyl
A semi-precious stone of transparent golden yellow, green yellow or brown
Citrine
A variety of quartz found in a range of colors from light yellow to red-orange to almost brown
Cloisonné
Technique of enameling in which enamels are contained in cells of metal
Collet
Round band of metal encircling a gemstone to hold it in place
Collier
A wide necklace encircling the neck from throat to chin
Coral
The skeleton of small marine animals, found in colors ranging from white to pink to red
Creole earrings
A hoop earring broader at the bottom than at the top, popular in the 1850's
Cross facet
Small triangular facets above and below the girdle of a brilliant cut stone
Crown
Part of a cut gemstone above the girdle
Cut steel
Faceted studs riveted into arranged holes to created a pavé effect
Demi-parure
A small matching set of jewelry consisting usually of a brooch and earrings, or a necklace and bracelet, etc.
Diadems
A semi circular band worn around the head and usually jeweled and three dimensional
Dog collar
A wide collar of fabric, gemstones and or pearls worn high and tight on the neck
Double clip
Type of brooch consisting of two halves joined together on a frame which can be detached and worn singly
Doublet
A stone consisting of two separate layers
Dwt
Abbreviation for pennyweight
Edema collarettes
Dog collar" meant for daytime wear which is usually made of a soft material laced to a series of jeweled bars
Electroplating
A method in which an electric current deposits a layer of metal on an object (i.e.: gold over a base metal)
Emerald cut
Rectangular shaped stone with mitered corners which is elongated and octagonal
Enamel
Process of fusing powdered colored glass to a surface by means of high heat
Engine-turning
Decorated metal surface made by moving the surface of the object against the blade
Engraving
A technique in which metal is cut away with a tool known as a "graver" to form a design, done by either hand or machine
Etching
Removal of part of a metal surface by acid for a decorative effect
Etui
Small cylindrical case that hangs from a chatelaine
Facet
A flat surface ground or cut and polished on the surface of a gemstone
Faience
Glazed porcelain or earthenware
Fede ring
A ring with two hands clasped together first
Ferronnière
Narrow band with a center jewel worn encircling the forehead
Festoon
Design motif of a garland or string of flowers, leaves and ribbons
Fibula
Archaeological term for brooch
Filigree
Wire twisted into patterns, usually gold or silver, may be soldered to a sheet of metal or twisted to form an openwork pattern
Flux
Material used in soldering
Fob
A small charm, amulet or trinket that hangs on a watch chain or chatelaine
Foiling
A technique used to enhance the color of a gemstone, a thin sheet of metal is applied to the base of a stone which is in a closed setting
Freshwater pearl
Pearls found in river mussels
Gallery
A strip on metal with a pattern usually refers to the sides of a ring
Garnet
A semi-precious stone found in many colors. The Bohemian type is blood red, the almandine variety ranges from deep red to deep purple, hessonite garnets are brown orange, and demantoid garnets are found in several shades of green
German silver
A misnomer for an alloy of copper, zinc and nickel
Gilding
A process of covering substances such as silver, base metal, wood with a thin layer of gold or an alloy
Gimmel ring
A ring formed of two or more linked hoops, which fit together in a manner that make them appear as one ring
Gypsy setting
A setting in which the stone is sunk into the surrounding metal leaving the top of the stone almost level with the top of the metal surface
Girandole
A shape that consists of three pear-shaped stones or pearls hanging from a large stone or decorative motif such as a bow
Girdle
The widest part of a gemstone which divides the crown from the pavilion
Grain
Unit of weight; for diamonds and pearls a grain is 0.25 of a carat, 480 grains to the Troy ounce. A Troy grain is equal to an Avoirdupois grain.
Grain
A small spherical bead of metal
Granulation
The process of decorating a metal surface with tiny grains of metal
Graver Tool
A tool similar to a chisel used for engraving metal
Green gold
Gold which contains a high proportion of silver
Gerlots
Small long pendant beads
Grey gold
Gold which contains a high proportion of iron
Grisaille
A form of enamel painted in monochromatic colors
Guilloché enamel
A form of enamel work acheived by working the metal on an engine turned lathe to form a pattern and then enameling over the pattern
Hallmarking
Marks stamped on gold, silver or platinum by assay offices after the metal has been tested and determined to contain the proper amount of precious metals required by law
Handkerchief ring
Small ring worn on the little finger and connected by a chain to a larger ring in which a handkerchief was held
Hematite
An opaque mineral of iron oxide, ranging in color from deep grey to black metallic
Horn
A substance often used as a substitute for tortoiseshell which is from cow horns
Ingot
A precious metal formed into a bar or brick by pouring molten metal into a mold
Inlay
Materials such as stones, gems, woods and metals are inserted and cemented into the surface of another material and ground down to create a smooth surface
Invisible Setting
A channel setting using calibrated stones without any metal showing from the top
Intaglio
The carving or engraving of a design into a gemstone which is the opposite of a cameo which is in high relief
Ivory
African ivory is from the tusk of a male or female elephant whereas Indian ivory is from the male only
Jabot pin
A jeweled tie pin popular in the 1920's and 1930's
Jet
Fossilized coal, often known as Whitby jet for the area of England where much of it came from or black jet
Lace Brooch
Small brooch usually set with diamonds, worn in the later 19th Century
Lapidary
A craftsperson who cuts, facets, engraves and polishes gemstones
Lavaliere
A chain from which an ornament or gemstone hangs in the center
Locket
A jewel which opens on a hinge
Lost Wax Method
The method of casting metal that uses a rubber mold, which is filled with wax to form a pattern from which a plaster mold is made. The plaster is heated and the wax melts away or is "lost"
Mabe Pearl
A cultured blister pearl
Marcasite
An iron ore material, pyrite, that is facetted into rose cuts and set into silver or pewter jewelry
Marquise Cut
A stone cut in an oval with pointed ends or a boat-shaped stone
Mélange
Term for mixed diamond sizes weighing more than carat
Mélée
Classification used in the sorting of diamonds weighing less than carat
Mellon Bead
A hollow and ribbed bead popular in the Etruscan period and in the 1930's
Memento Mori
Jewel that is a reminder of death
Memorial jewel
Jewel that is made in memory of a loved one, often containing hair from that person and frequently decorated with enamel
Micro Mosaic
Mosaic of very small colored glass pieces (tessarae) inlaid in glass or hardstone
Milanese Chain
Chain consisting of interwoven rows of small links forming a mesh
Millefiori
Glass ornamentation made from canes of colored glass that are layered, and sliced to form patterns, flowers or mosaic effects
Millegrain
A decorating style creating a fine bead like effect around the edge of a metal collet; popular in the Edwardian and Belle Époque periods
Minaudière
The name for a woman's small hard vanity case or handbag, usually metal or wood, which is held in the hand
Mississippi River Pearls
Irregularly shaped pearls, usually elongated.
Mizpah Ring
A broad gold ring engraved with the word MIZPAH, meaning "I will watch over thee", popular during the Victorian period
Mother of Pearl
The smooth iridescent interior lining of the shells of certain mollusks
Navette Cut
A gemstone shaped like a boat or oval with pointed ends
Negligee
A long necklace that usually terminates in irregular length with tassels or drops
Niello
An inlay technique in which the grooves made in silver or gold are made black in color by the use of a composition of metal sulfides
Opal
A semi-precious stone with a rainbow-like iridescence which are categorized as three types: opalescent precious opals, yellow-red fire opals and the common opal
Orient
The characteristic sheen of fine natural and cultured pearls
Paillons
Small pieces of metallic foil which are placed underneath enamel work to provide a glow, popular with a number of Arts and Crafts movement jewelers
Palladium
A white precious metal belonging to the platinum group, it weighs a little more than half as much as platinum and sells for half the price
Pampilles
A cascade of pendant stones; popular in Georgian jewelry and meant to look like rain drops
Parure
A suite of matching jewelry usually four or more pieces, a necklace, bracelets, earrings and belt or brooch
Passamenterie
Jewelry inspired by furniture trimmings such as cording
Paste
A high content leaded glass which is faceted to imitate diamonds or backed with colored foils to imitate other gemstones. Also known as strass after Frederic Strass who invented this method in the 18th Century
Patina
Discoloration that forms on metals such as silver and bronze but often planned for in the artist's design, can also be introduced artificially by use of chemicals
Pavé Setting
A stone setting technique whereby the entire surface of a jewel is covered or paved with closely set stones
Pavilion
The lower part of a cut gemstone below the girdle
Pendaloque
A type of pear shaped or tear drop gemstone faceted as a brilliant cut and suspended from a smaller stone which is usually separated by a bow or other motif
Pietra Dura
Mosaic of semi-precious stones set into a floral pattern of black marble or onyx, also known as a hardstone mosaic
Pinchbeck
A gold simulant, invented circa 1720 by Christopher Pinchbeck, which is comprised of a mixture of copper and zinc
Piqué
Tortoiseshell or horn which is inlaid with mother-of-pearl, silver or gold
Planishing
A hammering process done to give a smoother finish to a piece of metal
Platinum
A non-corrosive silver white metal, which is heavy and has a high tensile strength
Plique à jour
An enameling technique in which the design is outlined in metal and filled with a transparent enamel, after firing the metal backing is removed creating a stained glass window effect. Popular with the Art Nouveau jewelers
Pomander
A pendant scent case
Posy Ring
A ring engraved with a verse
Regard Ring
A ring set with colored stones, the first letters of which spell the word "regard", ruby, emerald, garnet, amethyst, ruby, diamond. Popular in the second half of the 19th century signifying friendship.
Repoussé
A raised high relief design on the front of a metal object made by hammering, embossing or punching the reverse side of the metal to form the design from the back side out
Rhinestone
Rock crystal which is faceted into beads, originally from the Rhine River
Rivière
Choker type necklace that is a continuous line of gemstones usually of graduated or equal size stones
Rolled Gold
Early 19th century type of goldplating
Rondelle
A pierced piece of metal or gemstone strung between the beads in a necklace
Sautoir
An extremely long neck chain, which falls below the waistline and terminates with a tassel or pendant. Popular in the early 20th century
Seal
Engraved (intaglio) of stone or metal used to create an impression on a substance such as wax or clay
Sévigné
A bodice ornament set with gemstones in a bowknot shape
Shagreen
The skin of a ray or shark from the waters around China, usually stained green or another color
Shank
Hoop part of a ring
Slide
A jeweled fastener, which slides onto a chain or fabric ribbon
Soldering
A method of joining metal parts or pieces together by melting another metal alloy with a lower melting temperature at the joining point
Stomacher
A very large bodice ornament, usually triangular, filling the area between the neckline and the waistline, also known as a corsage ornament
Strap Necklace
A mesh chain with pendants suspended by short, fine chain resembling a fringe; an Archaeological Revival style during the Victorian period
Strapwork
Decorative pattern in the form of interlaced and crossed straight bands resembling straps
Swag
A motif used on a piece of jewelry of festoons of foliage, fruit and flowers
Terminal
The decorated ends of a necklace or bangle usually with stylized heads of a ram, lion, dragon, etc.
Tiara
A head ornament worn in the crown position
Torsade
Twisted strands of pearls ending in a clasp
Trapeze Cut
A gemstone cut into an equilateral triangle with a flat top
Tremblant
Jewelry with a trembling effect when the wearer moved produced by elements set upon stiff wires that move (en tremblant)
Tubogas
Sometimes referred to as gas pipe, a flexible tubular chain
Tutti Frutti
Jewelry set with multi colored gems carved in shapes of leaves, flowers and berries and often in a basket design
Vermeil
Gold-plated or gilded silver
Whiplash Curve
Flowing lines that bend and twist as in Art Nouveau designs
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