Become a jewelry expert!
Intriguing facts, fictions, and terminology
Abalone is a mollusk, and a source of mother of pearl. It is the beautiful iridescent inside of the mollusk's shell that is called mother of pearl.
A type of thermoplastic, often used in jewelry.
Meaning to have a diamond-like luster.
Reference to stones that appear to be different colors depending on the light they are viewed under.
A homogeneous mixture or solid solution of two or more metals, the atoms of one replacing or occupying interstitial positions between the atoms of the other. Common jewelry allows include gold, sterling silver, brass, bronze, pewter, and alpaca (also spelled alpaca, not to be confused with alpaca wool). Brass, for example, is an alloy of zinc and copper.
Alpaca (aka alpacca)
Sometimes used in jewelry as a silver substitute, alpaca is an alloy of copper, nickel, and zinc.
A lightweight, silver-white metal, first discovered in the 18th century. At that time, aluminum was more expensive than gold!
A method of subjecting glass or metal to heating and slow cooling in order to toughen and reduce brittleness.
An electrochemical, acid-bath/electrical current treatment for metal that changes the molecules of the surface layer (controlled oxidization) into a thin, protective, lustrous, sometimes colorful film.
A translucent plastic the color of apple juice, used in jewelry.
A mixture of hydrochloric and nitric acids, used to test gold and platinum.
Arcade Setting (aka Coronet or Chaton Setting)
A setting of many metal claws holding the stone in place.
Actually rock crystal, not a real diamond.
An abrasive used to smooth metals, used in jewelry-making.
Art Deco (1925-1935)
Deriving its name from the 1925 Paris Exposition of Decorative Arts and Modern Manufactures, Art Deco was actually a largely North American style that influenced everything from jewelry to architecture. With an emphasis on symmetry and geometry, the Art Deco movement strove to soften the mass produced look with a somewhat more sensitive, artful purpose. In jewelry, platinum, and diamonds played a central role, often mixed with inexpensive crystal and even coral. From Art Deco, the introduction of new emerald, pear, and marquises cuts resulted, harmonious with the symmetrical themes of the Art Deco style.
Art Nouveau (1890-1912)
In jewelry, the Art Nouveau movement broke away from the solemn conventions of Victorian and Edwardian styling, a rebellion that unleashed a creative, inspired outpouring of phenomenally beautiful works of art, incorporating much of the natural world - elegant flowers, dragonflies, ferns, snakes, and lithe, sensual animal and human forms. Also with the advent of Art Nouveau came a mastery of new gold casting and carving techniques, and the widespread use of enameling.
Arts and Crafts
A late 1800s artistic movement, with items intentionally made to appear handmade, and with simple settings.
An assay is a test of the purity of an alloy.
A luminescent, star-like effect in some gemstones, reflecting light.
Aurora Borealis or AB
Often used in reference to glass rhinestones or beads coated with a thin layer of metals to achieve an iridescent sheen, named after the "Northern Lights." This process was jointly invented by the Swarovski and Christian Dior companies in 1955.
Japanese name for abalone pearls.
Thermoset plastic first produced in the 1920s, named after its creator, Leo Hendrick Baekeland. A dense, synthetic resin, Bakelite is difficult to melt and easily colored. It quickly became a popular material for jewelry, even fostering its own counterfeits. Bakelite was initially designed to imitate amber.
A stiff bracelet, solid or sometimes featuring a hinge closure.
Bar and Ring Clasp
A bar fastener, where the bar is inserted into a ring, to connect two ends of a bracelet or necklace.
A trade name for a colorless glass stone backed with foil.
Refers to irregularly shaped, natural or artificial pearls and stones.
Bar Pin (or Bar Brooch)
A long pin worn horizontally.
Jewelry closure where one end of the closure screws into the other, barrel-like end.
Non-precious metals, including copper, lead, tin, and zinc.
Translucent enameling of low relief metals to produce a sculpted surface.
A long, thin, rectangular stone cut, larger than a baguette.
A pearl necklace of strands that have been twisted together.
Glued onto a hole-less bead or stone to make threading possible.
The Edwardian period (1901 - 1910)
Bezel (aka Crown)
The top of a cut stone, protruding above the edge of the setting. A bezel setting, on the other hand, is a band of metal tightened around the outside of the stone to hold it in place.
Bib Necklace (aka Collarette)
A short necklace featuring flowing ornaments.
Diamond, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds are known as "The Big Four", the most desirable gemstones in the world today, in that order.
Irregularly shaped freshwater pearls from Lake Biwa, Japan, smoother and more lustrous than most freshwater pearls.
Removing or subduing a gemstone's color with a bleaching agent.
Slang term coined by rapper Cash Money Millionaires, describing ostentatious, usually diamond jewelry.
Blister Pearl (aka Bouton Pearl)
A pearl that attaches itself to a mollusk's shell, so that it must be cut from the shell during removal, resulting in a flattened backside.
A renaissance era hairpin, laden with many jewels.
In the Victorian Era, bog-oak was carved into inexpensive jewelry and other decorative objects. It is old oak, blackened in Irish and Scottish peat bogs.
Rock crystal (not an actual diamond)
Bolt Ring (aka Spring Ring)
Invented in the early 1900s, the bolt ring is a circular metal fastening with a spring opening, designed to attach two other links in a bracelet or necklace.
A coating of plastic or another colorless bonding agent onto a porous gemstone to make it harder and richer in color.
Minerals formed of plant material, including amber, coconut pearl, and pearl opal (found in damaged bamboo shoots).
Brazilian Chain (aka Snake Chain)
Link chain made of small cup-like links.
Soldering with high temperature alloys to join high temperature metals.
Stones cut with 56 facets, 32 above the girdle, 24 below, maximizing the amount of reflected light. The brilliant cut is the most popular diamond cut today, dating from the 1600s.
Bridging the gap between precious and costume jewelry, sterling silver is an example of bridge jewelry.
Briolette (aka Drop Cut)
A pear-shaped cut with triangular facets on the top surface.
Brooch (aka Pin)
An ornament of any material that can be pinned to a garment.
Brushed metal, with reduced reflectivity.
The shaping of the girdle of a diamond, the first step in the cutting process, determining the basic shape of the finished gem.
Bubbles of gas caught in glass or resins, and sometimes in minerals.
A long, thin, tube-shaped glass bead.
Butterfly Wing Jewelry
Made from real butterfly wings, often with a picture painted on the wings, enclosed in plastic or glass.
A cut with a rounded, domed surface, with no facets.
Small step-cut stones for inclusion in larger designs.
A relief carving on a shell or stone.
Cloudy white glass, popular mid-nineteenth century.
A unit of measurement introduced in 1907, .2 grams.
Melting and shaping metal through the use of molds. There are many methods of casting, including the lost wax process, centrifugal, and sand methods.
A simple setting, a band that arches upward.
A short necklace designed to rest close to the throat, usually 13-15" in length.
A simple spring clip mechanism to lock earrings in place, not requiring piercings.
A plant-derived plastic, invented in 1869 by John Wesley Hyatt.
Designed by the Celts in Brittany, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, using bronze, silver, and gold.
Cultured, freshwater pearls.
This "sunken enamel" style is achieved by first cutting designs into the surface of metal, then filling the grooves with enamel, firing it to a polished sheen. Similar, but not as delicate, as cloisonné.
Jewels resting in a metal channel, held by a slight rim.
Small, symbolic ornaments, usually worn on bracelets or necklaces.
Decorating metal by use of hammer strikes.
A stone backed with reflective foil.
The cat's eye effect found in some polished stones, including cat's eye, tiger's eye, and various other stones. The cabochon cut best shows off this trait.
An Irish ring, featuring two small hands clasped together.
The lack of internal flaws in a gemstone. In diamonds, clarity ranges from FL (flawless), to 13 (with many imperfections visible to the naked eye).
A metal prong positioned to hold a gemstone securely in its setting.
The way a mineral natural breaks.
A certain application of enamel to metal. First, a design is cut into the metal; then, the cuts are filled with enamel and fired to a polish.
A setting that completely encases the back of a stone.
Usually a cluster of tiny inclusions in a stone, making it appear milky, greatly reducing the stone's value.
A gemstone surrounded by small stones or pearls.
A thin, round band of metal encircling a stone, with one edge crimped over the top of the stone, and the other edge of the band soldered to the metal of the setting.
Jewelry that can be assembled into one piece or disassembled into two or more pieces, so that they can be worn as one item or separately.
A marine mollusk with a pearly, typically white or pink shell that is cut into beads for jewelry.
A soft metal bead that, when crimped, secures the loose ends of threading material.
The crown is the top part of a cut gem.
Glass made of a minimum of 10 percent lead oxide, producing very clear glass, a process discovered in 1676 by Englishman George Ravenscroft.
Cubic Zirconium (aka Cubic Zirconia)
Resembling diamond, cubic zirconium is an inexpensive, manufactured gemstone, created in 1977.
A rigid, wide bracelet.
Pearls produced by mollusks that have been purposefully injected with bits of shell. They shell serves as irritant, compelling the mollusk to begin coating the irritant with layer after layer of self-produced nacre, in an instinctive attempt to smooth and sooth the lodged irritation. This method of "farming" pearls was invented by Kokichi Mikimoto in 1893.
Stones cut into a square cushion-like shape, rounded on the edges, with facets typically similar to a brilliant cut.
The inlay of soft metal into hard metal, an ancient process developed in Damascus.
Tin-glazed earthenware jewelry, typically blue-on white pottery depicting Dutch scenes, usually set in silver.
"Half moon" cut, where the stone is cut into a half or crescent moon.
A tiara jewelry crown, worn on the head.
An effect whereby a gemstone displays more than one color, especially from different angles. Rubies, opals, and various other gemstones are naturally dichroic. This quality can also be artificially added to other types of stones, as well as glass, by coating the stones with a thin layer of metallic oxides.
Die Stamping (aka Machine Stamping)
Medallions and mass-produced jewelry are often cut with the die-stamping method, whereby sheet metal is cut and shaped by sandwiching it between two dies.
A process of color-enhancing a stone by coating it with other, coloring minerals, and then heating the stone to a high temperature.
Dog Collar (aka Collier de Chien)
A 14-15", tight-fitting, multi-strand choker.
A bonded gem, featuring a bottom layer of inexpensive stone or glass, and then a top layer of gemstone. Designed to create a larger-appearing stone at a fraction of the cost of a pure gemstone of the same size.
Drop Cut (aka briolette)
A pear-shaped cut with triangular facets on the top.
A layer of crystals, like those formed inside a geode.
Edwardian Period (aka Belle Epoque) (1901-1910)
Jewelry of this period was elegant and tended toward delicate. Filigree and bow designs were common, and diamonds and peals were highly prized.
Electroplate (aka Galvanotechnics)
Coating one metal with another through use of electricity. Inexpensive metal is often electroplated with gold, for example, for use in jewelry.
Designs are sometimes etched into the surface of metals and stones.
A process of applying enamel to metal.
A surface decorated with a raised design
A glassy, usually opaque, protective or decorative coating baked on metal, glass, or ceramic.
Stones artificially treated to improve color, clarity, or strength through heat treatment, coatings, oiling, irradiation, bleaching, dying, etc.
A narrow ring with gemstones set along the entire circumference.
European Cut (aka Old European Cut)
Similar to the newer brilliant cut, the European cut features a small table and heavy crown.
Flat cuts in gemstones, glass, or plastic, designed to reflect light.
Unusual stone cuts, such as heart shapes, fans, triangles, and half-moons.
A new cut featuring freeform angles at the discretion of the jeweler.
Fashion Jewelry (aka costume jewelry)
Jewelry featuring inexpensive stones, glass, or metals.
False, or imitation.
Feather (aka fracture)
A deep crack in a gemstone, often beginning at or near the surface. Feathers can destroy the value of a stone or increase its beauty, depending on the feather's appearance and the type of stone.
A ring depicting two clasped hands.
A decoration believed to have magical properties, often depicting a person or animal.
A jewelry pin that looks somewhat like a safety pin, used to secure clothing since ancient times.
Jewelry designed to look like real subjects, such as butterflies, animals, flowers, etc.
A crack, cavity, or other inclusion in a gemstone, generally decreasing the value of a stone (but sometimes increasing it, as in moss agate or rutilated quartz).
Beads or pearls strung apart from each other on a clear or nearly invisible threading material.
Crosshatched lines engraved onto the surface of metal to reduce its reflectivity.
An effect where light is emitted from a stone. Many stones fluoresce under ultraviolet light.
A ribbon or chain that attaches to a pocket watch.
The tusk of the Woolly Mammoth, an extinct, Ice Age, elephant-like animal.
The remains of ancient plants or animals, often found in rocks, opals, and amber, etc., and sometimes designed into beautiful jewelry.
Synthetic ivory, molded from plastic.
A pearl from a freshwater mollusk, typically shaped like a grain of rice.
A precious or semiprecious stone that may be used as a jewel when cut and polished. Amber, coral, and pearls are also considered gemstones.
A crystal-filled rock, typically with a rounded, unattractive exterior.
A Renaissance ring of two or more interlocking bands.
Gipsy Setting (aka Gypsy or Star Setting)
A recessed setting, typically with engraved (especially star-like) designs around the stone.
A brooch or earring featuring three pearls or stones, handing from a larger stone.
The widest perimeter of a stone.
The art of engraving stones, creating intaglios and cameos.
A necklace or bracelet of pearls or beads of different sizes, orderly arranged from small to large in a graduated manner.
Four grains are equal to one carat (a weight measurement used for natural pearls and diamonds).
An alloy of 90 percent copper, 10 percent tin.
An official mark indicating the quality of the metal and the manufacturer.
Today, many commercially available gemstones are heat-treated to improve clarity and color, increasing the market value of the gems.
Disk-like flat stones or beads, strung on a wire and then sanded to relative evenness. Native Americans are credited with developing this method of bead making.
Hook and Eye Clasp
A simple, ancient fastener composed, as the name suggests, of a hook that slips into an eyelet.
A solid, liquid, or gaseous particle contained within a mineral, usually decreasing the value of a stone, but sometimes increasing the value, depending on the inclusion and the type of stone.
A design cut or etched into the surface of jewelry.
Two mineral crystals that have self-bonded into one.
Stones are often exposed to radiation to improve their color. The radiation alters the crystal structure, sometimes in a stable fashion, and sometimes not so stable (sunlight and heat can sometimes reverse the effects of irradiation).
A black lacquer metal finish.
The hard seeds of a tropical grass dried and used as jewelry beads.
A unit of measure of the quality of gold. The higher the karat (up to 24kt), the higher the quality.
A trademark for a certain method of thick gold electroplating.
A ring worn beside a more expensive ring, to hold the more valuable ring securely on the finger.
Typically used for large diamonds, the king cut has 86 facets.
A small raised inclusion, typically found near the surface of a finished gem.
The artisan who cuts and polishes gemstones.
A pendant necklace with a dangling stone, named for the mistress of King Louis XIV of France.
A cabochon cut featuring a stone identically cut on both top and bottom.
Lobster Claw Clasp
A snap-shaped fastener, with a tiny spring that holds the lock of the clasp closed.
A pendant designed to hold objects precious to the wearer.
Lost Wax Casting (aka Cire Perdu)
A 4,000-year-old casting method, using wax and clay to create a mold for metal casting.
A step-cut, diamond-shaped stone.
Acrylic resin, thermoset plastic developed by DuPont in 1937.
Large, cultured pearls that develop attached to the inside shell of the mollusk, rather than freely suspended, resulting in one flat side.
A shiny, metallic, semi-precious iron pyrite stone.
Stones cut in an oval, but with two pointed ends.
A single strand necklace, 22-23" long.
A small diamond, .20 carat or less.
Mesh of braided wires, used in some jewelry.
Italian for "thousand flowers", millefiori glass is formed of various canes of class fused together and then cut crosswise, to clearly display each of the canes.
A stone set in tiny beads of metal.
Stones cut with a cushion style girdle.
A stone cut with different styles of facets above and below the girdle.
Molded (as opposed to traditional, carved cameos), usually made of plastic, porcelain, or glass.
Vintage Lucite plastic first produced in the "Space Age" 1950s, featuring a desirable moonstone-like luminescence.
The iridescent coating on the inside of oyster and various other shells.
Typically jet or other black gemstone, glass, or Jappanned (black finish) metal.
A crystalline substance mollusks secret around an irritant, such as a shell chip, sand, or stone lodged inside the shell. Layer after layer of nacre eventually results in a pearl.
Nickel Silver (aka German Silver)
An alloy of approximately 60 percent copper, 20 percent nickel, 20 percent zinc.
An ancient engraving technique possibly pre-dating the Roman Empire, where designs, cut into metal, are filled with a dark alloy of lead, silver, copper, and sulfur.
Gold, Platinum, and Silver.
A method improving the appearance of a gemstone. Mineral oil is rubbed onto the surface of the gemstone, and into any surface inclusions.
A milky white to blue iridescence.
A substance impenetrable by light; neither transparent nor translucent.
A necklace without a clasp, usually with ornamented ends, worn by tying the ends together.
A valuable, light-gray metal sometimes used in jewelry, isolated as an element by William Hyde Wollaston and Smithson Tennant in 1802, and more recently employed in the making of catalytic converts (which caused the price of the metal to rise to more than $700 an ounce).
Parure (and Demi and Full Parure)
A Parure, meaning "personal adornment," is composed of three or more matching items of jewelry designed to be worn together (e.g. necklace, earrings, bracelet). A Demi Parure includes two matching items. A Full Parure includes four or more matching items of jewelry.
Glass faceted to emulate the appearance of a cut gemstone.
The sheen on any surface produced by age and use. A patina can also be artificially created through the use of oxidizing acids or electrolytes.
Stones set very close together, ideally held by metal claws, but less expensively secured with glue.
The part of a cut gemstone below its girdle.
Pear Cut (aka Drop Cut)
A teardrop cut popularly used for pendants, drop earrings, etc.
First manufactured during China's Quing Dynasty (late 1600s), when glassmaking was introduced to the country. Initially designed to imitate porcelain, Peking Glass later evolved into a multi-layered, carved, bas-relief form, with a cameo-like appearance.
Circular Celtic brooches featuring a long pin that served as a clothes fastener.
A lozenge-shaped cut.
Petrified Wood (aka jasperized wood or xyloid jasper)
Wood converted to stone through time; fossilized wood.
An alloy composed primarily of tin mixed with a variety of other metals.
An ancient inlay method, impressing semi-precious stones into marble or other soft stone.
Pinchbeck (aka False Gold)
An 83 percent copper, 17 percent zinc alloy that looks like gold, invented in the 18th century by Christopher Pinchbeck.
A method of coating one metal with another.
A phenomenon whereby different colors appear when certain crystals are viewed from different directions.
Plique A Jour
Appearing somewhat like stained glass, plique a jour is translucent enamel, without backing, featuring thin metal separations between each color cell.
.002 grams, or 1/100th of a carat.
Fine kaolin clay, fired to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and coated with a decorative glaze.
Pot metal is an inexpensive alloy, typically containing lead.
Precious and semiprecious stones
Semiprecious stones are simply gemstones bearing less commercial value than precious stones. For example: amethyst, garnet, jade, and tourmaline are semi-precious. Diamonds are precious.
Princess Cut (aka Quadrillion or Squarillion cut)
A square cut gem.
Princess Length Necklace
A necklace, typically pearls, 18" in length.
A pre-engagement ring typically set with a modest, small stone.
Stones secured with tiny metal claws.
Simulated crystal made from plastic.
Abbreviation for platinum.
A highly faceted cut for rectangular stones.
A stone created from pieces of smaller stones or crystals.
The measure of how light is refracted in a gemstone or other substance.
Various gemstones cut and positioned to spell the word "regard." Regard jewelry was popular in the Victorian era, and was given as a token of affection.
1940s style geometric, large jewelry.
Sheet metal decorated with designs pressed into the back of the metal, so that the designed are raised when viewed from the "front.
Hard glass with a tin or foil backing added to reflect light. Rhinestones are believed to have been named after the Rhine River in Germany.
A white, precious, very expensive metal.
A small disc-like spacer used to separate beads.
A string of pearls over 40" in length.
Rose Cut (aka Rosette Cut)
A diamond cut used in the 17th and 18th century, featuring a flat base and triangular facets.
An alloy of copper, nickel, and silver, invented in the 1800s.
Russian Gold Finish
An antiqued finish for gold.
A precious platinum metal.
An older screw-type mechanism especially on heavier earrings, designed to encouraging the earring to sit firmly flat against the ear.
A semi-glossy metal finish.
Egyptian style carving in the form of the scarab beetle. The scarab was regarded as sacred by the ancient Egyptians, and kept as a talisman and symbol of the soul.
A lustrous iridescent or bronze-like reflection in certain minerals.
Sea Glass (aka Beach Glass)
Broken glass that has been worn by sea and sand, often threaded as beads.
Small, round peals less than 2mm in diameter, popular in the Victorian era.
A ring carved with a symbol, used as identification for persons of rank or importance.
A small hoop earring worn as a placeholder in newly pierced ears.
A ring set with a single stone.
Jewelry designed for tourists, as reminiscent of a certain locale.
A common, circular fastening, composed of a ring with a spring opening.
Gemstones impregnated with plastic to improve appearance and durability.
A gem set into a metal star-shaped setting.
A square or rectangular cut with many parallel facets.
The color of a mineral in its powdered form.
Beads coated with fine grains of ground glass or plastic.
The flat, top area of a gemstone.
In the state of Guerrero, Mexico, Taxco is a town renowned for its high-quality silver jewelry. American silversmith William Spratling is credited with the international popularization of Taxco silver. Spratling set up shop in Taxco in 1929, a move that soon attracted a following of other talented silversmiths to the area.
A method for hardening metal or glass by heating, or heating and cooling it.
A simple bracelet featuring a circumference of diamonds. The name was coined in 1987 when Chris Evert's diamond bracelet fell onto the court during the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament.
Minerals that emanate a bright light when heated.
A decorative bar-shaped clip, used to secure a man's tie.
A decorative pin that pierces a man's tie, to be pressed into a solid backing. The tie tack secures the tie in place.
A high set, six-pronged solitaire diamond ring on a simple band, introduced by Tiffany & Co. in 1886.
Torque (aka Torc)
A narrow, twisted metal necklace, worn by the ancient Celts (among other neighboring cultures).
An almost clear, see-through quality; admitting the passage of light without permitting objects to be distinctly seen through it.
A necklace of many twisted strands.
The richly beautiful shell of the tortoise, popularly used in the1800s for use in jewelry. True tortoise shell is banned for use today. It has been replaced with plastic tortoise shell.
Material that allows light to pass, but which causes sufficient diffusion to prevent perception of distinct images.
Material capable of transmitting light so that objects or images can be seen as if there were no intervening material.
An item of jewelry set on a spring, designed to allow the jewelry to quiver when moved.
A triangular cut featuring many facets.
A stone manufactured of three sandwiched layers of stone.
Measurement for precious metals, including the following units: pennyweight, ounce, and pound (the latter two differing from the common measurements of the same names).
Stones mechanically tumbler for a smoothing, polishing effect.
Gold plated silver. Sometimes also refers to gold plated bronze.
Victorian Era (1837-1901)
The time during which Queen Victoria ruled Great Britain.
A hollow glass bead filled with wax, designed to resemble a pearl.
Wedding Cake Beads
Glass beads originally from Murano, Italy, featuring colorful glass overlays (especially roses).
An earring clasp patented by Judith McCannin 1944, designed for ears too small to wear clip back or screw back earrings. Wing backs stay in place by resting above the ear lobe on the ear's cradle.
Designed to fit and hug any size wrist, some of these spring-type bracelets are now designed of "memory wire," which self-coils around the wrist.
Xenolith (aka inclusion)
A foreign fragment within a gemstone.
YAG (Yttrium Aluminum Garnet)
A hard synthetic garnet used in laser technology and as an imitation diamond in jewelry.
An alloy of zinc with a small percentage of aluminum and copper.