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The A-Z of Jewellery Terms

Abalone 

Seashell creature of the Pacific Coast with an inner shell lining of gray/pink natural pearlised substance. Used extensively by Indian tribes of the West.


Amber

A yellowish-brown fossil resin. Also found in black and varieties of brown and orange. Amber comes from ancient forests of fir trees, or mined from under the Baltic Sea. Orange color amber comes from Sicily.


Amethyst

A gemstone found in shades from pale lavender to deep purple. A crystallized quartz found in Russia, Brazil, Uruguay, Ceylon and the U.S.


Arabesque

Following scrollwork, often in low relief, epitomized by curlicues of line.


Art Deco

(1910-1930) A stilted, stylized design which was named after the 1925 L’Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes, held in Paris, France. Much of the Art Deco design was a transition from the earlier Art Nouveau, and as with the nouveau epoch, was inspired by the Art of the American Indian, ancient Egyptian, and Greek and Roman architecture. The early 1920′s interest in Cubism and Dadism as a new Art form, greatly influenced the Art Deco period. The King Tut traveling exhibit, in the 1970′s, renewed the craze for Egyptian design jewellery. Additionally, the mysteries of the pyramids and a continuing revival of astrological studies, lent itself to Art Deco designs which in turn were incorporated in the Art Moderne period following 1930.


Art Moderne

(1935-1945) It is generally accepted that the period of the 1920-s to the 1930′s is the Art Deco period. The decade of 1940-1950 is considered the "modern" period, an era in which just about any conceivable type of design — whether it be flamboyant or contrived with delicate fancy — survived. However, the Art Moderne period (1935-1945) avoided such frivolous swirls and instead streamlined into crisp geometric lines, all designs of decorative and utilitarian Art forms. "Modern" seems to be a term giving license to all creativity in any form, be it eccentric or strictly along conventional jeweler’s lines. The Art Moderne period expresses the conflict between machine and nature, which is so evident in Art Deco. But Art Moderne contains somewhat less contrived Artistry, although some pieces do appear as near absurdities.


Art Nouveau

A period of design between the 1890′s and 1910; the jewellery 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.


Baguette

A narrow rectangular-cut stone most often chosen for diamonds. When associated with emeralds, it is called an emerald-cut.


Bakelite

A trademark for a synthetic resin chemically formulated and named after Belgian chemist, L. H. Backeland (1909). This newer plastic was for molding items formerly created in the highly flammable Celluloid or in hard rubber molds. It is capable of being molded and carved.


Bangle

Non-flexible bracelet.


Baroque

Bold, ornate, heavy-looking ornamentation. Irregular shaped stone or pearl.


Berlin Iron

Cast iron jewellery 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.


Blockchain

A centralised, digital ledger of transactions made with cryptocurrency maintained across several computers on a peer-to-peer network. Blockchain could have applications in the jewellery and diamond industry in relation to supply chain tracking and diamond provenance.

Brilliant Cut

A cutting style most often used for diamonds, consisting of 58 facets, also known as "modern cut" or "full cut".


Briolette

An oval or pear-shaped diamond entirely faceted in triangular cuts.


Buff Top Cabochon

Style of stone cutting where the top of the gemstone is a dome (en cabochon) and the pavilion is faceted.


Cabachon 

A stone without facets, and shaped like a dome.


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.


Cameo

Conch shell, onyx gem, coral and various gemstones, which were carved in either relief or intaglio. Cameos are also molded in synthetics such as plastic or glass. Cameos usually depict a scene or portrait, but may be symbolic. Ivory and wood can also be carved into a cameo, but natural elements cannot be molded.


Carat

Unit of weight used for precious stones.


Care Plan (Jewellery care plan)


Carnelian

A variety of chalcedony with a wax-like luster. An ornamental stone found mainly in Greece or in Asia. Carnelian has a translucent color which may be deep red, flesh red, or reddish-white. It takes a good polish and cut, and is ideal for seals and intaglios.


Chalcedony

An ornamental stone found in Asia Minor, primarily Greece, which has a translucent quality. It is a variety of quartz. The term chalcedony denotes a grayish or milky-colored quartz including the family of onyx, agate, cat’s eye, jasper, carnelian, and chrysoprase. All take high polish and are suitable for good intaglio work except for the cat’s eye which is polished into a cabochon-cut stone.


Channel Setting

A series of stones set close together in a straight line with the sides for the mounting gripping the outer edges of the stones.


Chasing

The ornamentation of metal with grooves or lines with the use of hand-chisels and hammers. Obverse (front) chasing is called intaglio; chasing from the reverse side (back) is called repousse.


Chatelaine

A decorative clasp or a hook from which many chains are hung to accommodate various household accessories such as thimbles, scissors, keys, files, or to display jeweler’s conceits such as watches, seals, and other decorative implements. From chatelaines hung various ‘necessaries’, such as a miniature fan, glove buttoner, or a dog whistle. There were also grooming devices: an ear spoon for cleaning the ears, a sharp pick for cleaning under the nails, as well as a toothpick. Very short chatelaine chains were called chatelettes; they measured from 2" to 6" in length. An ornamental pink or brooch was attached, although the jewellery could be worn separately. The chatelette chain had a swivel at the end of the chain from which to hang a watch. The brooch was in the popular bowknot of pansy wrought in baroque fashion or an unusual twisted design. Early chatelaines were worn at the waist, but in more recent times, the clasp-type was pinned to the dress or waist, another ornament. Silver card cases, coin holders, and vanity cases comprised the chatelaines of the 1925-1940 years, when the chatelaine ring was introduced. From the tiny, short chain, came a clasp which secured a handkerchief and vanity cases equipped to hold scent pills, a little mirror, straight pins, coins, a lipstick and powder puff. The introduction of rhinestones studded plastic evening purses during the deco period ended the long-reigning chatelaine.


Chrysoberyl

A semi-precious stone of transparent golden yellow, green yellow or brown.


Chrysoprase

Apple-green in color, it is actually a dyed chalcedony or agate which has a cloud-like rather than brilliant color. It is almost like "Vaseline" glass, seemingly with an oily surface. This stone was very popular during the Art Deco and Art Moderne periods, particularly when combined with marcasites and silver.


Citrine

A pale lemon-colored gemstone of the quartz variety often mistaken for topaz.


Coral

(genuine) Skeleton of the coral polyp which was highly popular in fashionable English Victorian circles. Most coral used in Victorian jewellery came from the Mediterranean.


Double Clip

Type of brooch consisting of two halves joined together on a frame which can be detached and worn singly.


Ebony

Ebony is a black colored wood of great hardness, heavier than water and capable of taking on a fine polish. It is found primarily in Ceylon and is used in making beads and in combination with other materials such as silver and gemstones combined in Deco jewel Artifacts.


Edwardian

Edwardian jewellery (1900-1915) is named after the period of King Edward VII reign. King Edward VII came to power after his mother, Queen Victoria’s death, in 1901. Known for being feminine and delicate with elements like filigree, bows, wreaths, and garland motifs which characterized the “Belle Epoque” style, which lasted 5 years past King Edward’s death.


Emerald Cut

Rectangular shaped stone with mitered corners which is elongated and octagonal.


Enamel

Enameling is a firing of melted glass. The powdered glass mixture is composed of feldspar, quartz, sods, borax, calcium phosphates, and kaolin. Metallic oxides produce the various desired colors. There is little transparent, see-through, colorless enameling; rather a better and more definitive term is translucent. However, the word transparent has been an accepted term for plique-a-jour enameling which permits light to pass through as in stained glass.

There are several important types of enameling:

Basse-Taille: Metal plate cut to various depths into which translucent enamel is poured, thus achieving a 3-dimensional effect. The depth of relief produces shadings from light to dark. The deeper the metal is cut, the darker the color; where shallow routing occurs, the shading is almost transparent. This routing is worked intaglio, the opposite of repousse.

Champleve: An enameling technique in which areas of metal are cut, etched, or routed and filled with enamel. Unlike cloisonne, the cells are cut rather than formed by wires (cloisons). Champleve is most commonly applied to copper or bronze. The metals are gilded on exposed and visible surfaces.

Cloisonné: Enameling in which thin wire made of silver, gold, bronze or copper is gilded, then bent to form cells (cloisons). Each cell or cloison is then filled with enamel. Each color is in a separate compartment, each compartment separated by this thin wire.

Guilloche: This technique differs in that the designs are machine-turned and etched, and then enameled … this is a much faster process. Guilloche pattern consists of interlacing curved lines.

Limoges enamel: A colorful application of enamel which depicts a portrait or scene similar to that rendered on canvas.

Niello enameling: The lines or incisions of a design are contrasted with the color of the metal, i.e., gold, silver, etc., by applying in several layers a mixture of sulphur, lead, silver and copper. This addition appears black when filled into the engraved metallic work. Niello is a blackish enameling process, providing contrasts in highlights and darkness of the design.

Plique-a-Jour: A translucent cloisonné in which there is no metal backing for the enamel work. During firing, a metal supportive base is used until firing ceases. Then, when the piece has cooled and the enamel has hardened, the finished product no longer requires the base, so this support is removed. It is a most cautious procedure, requiring highly skilled craftsmanship and technique.


Engraving

Cutting lines into metal which are either decorative or symbolic. Method used in monogramming a crest, cartouche or escutcheon.


Faberge 

Peter Carl Faberge (1846-1920) is best known for the Easter eggs he began making in 1884 for the Tsar and Tsarina of Russia. After studying in several European centres, he began working for his father Gustav’s firm. Upon his father’s retirement in 1870, he took over the establishment. His international renown was secured in 1900 at the Paris Exposition. Afterwards, he began creating objects for Edward VII and other European royals. The firm’s success continued until the 1918 Revolution when Faberge escaped to Switzerland.


Facet

Small flat surface cut into gemstone, glass, or shell. Its purpose is to refract light or enhance the design.


Filigree

To apply thread-like wire and decorate into a lace, lattice, or cobweb work.


Fobs

The terms "fobs" and "charms" were interchangeable from mid-1850 through the 1930′s. Watch fobs or watch charms were in vogue in the 1890-s through the turn of the century and certainly on into the 1930′s when the pocket watch became more popular than ever.


Foil

Silver, gold, or other color thin leaf of metal used to back imitation gemstones or faceted glass to improve their color and provide greater brilliance.


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.


Girdle

The widest part of a gemstone which divides the crown from the pavilion.


Granulation

A decorative jewellery technique where small balls or spheres of precious metal are applied to a surface to create intricate patterns. Use of granulation as a decorative technique dates back more than 5000 years ago to the ancient Sumerians. 

Green Gold

Gold which contains a high proportion of silver.


Hallmarks

An official mark first adopted in England. The mark is incised, punched, or stamped on gold or silver to show quality and to signify purity of metal according to "sterling" or "carat" standard.


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.


Intaglio

To cut a design deeply on the obverse or front side of a gem or other type material. Intaglio is the opposite of repousse work done in metals.


Jabot Pin

A jeweled tie pin popular in the 1920′s and 1930′s.


Jet

Jet is the name given most black jewellery whether it be genuine or glass. Genuine jet will retain its sparkling polish for many years. "Black glass" (also known as ‘French Jet’, even though most black glass came from Bohemia), will crack, scratch, and become dull. Genuine jet is a brown-black lignite in which the texture or grain of the original fossilized wood comprised of coal, can still be seen.


Jubilee or Twentieth-Century Cut

The short-lived Jubilee Cut was created in the United States in honor of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1875. The cut didn’t appear until the beginning of the twentieth century. The Jubilee is a brilliant cut diamond that is faceted similar to the round in many regards but in a square shape.


Lapis Lazuli

Deep blue gemstone, sometimes containing gold-colored specks of iron pyrites. Horn, stone, or jasper are all sometimes artificially colored to look like genuine Lapis.


Lavaliere

A chain from which an ornament or gemstone hangs in the center.


Locket

A jewel which opens on a hinge.


Mabe Pearl 

A cultured blister pearl.


Marquise Cut

A stone cut in an oval with pointed ends or a boat-shaped stone.


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.


Moonstone

A translucent gemstone with a pearly or opaline luster.


Mother-of-Pearl

Differs from abalone in color in that Mother-of-Pearl is the iridescent inner-shell layer of a pearly oyster.


Navette Cut

A gemstone shaped like a boat or oval with pointed ends.


Numismatics

The study and collection of coins, banknotes and medals. 


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.


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.


Parure

Matching jewellery containing three or more pieces such as a necklace, choker, brooch, earrings, bracelet, and ring. Demi-parure consists of only two or three matching sets.


Paste

A superior glass containing oxide of lead used for jewellery to imitate gems and gemstones. Much paste is actually a composition of pounded rock crystal melted with alkaline salts and colored with metallic oxides. Some paste stones are set with bright foil, a think leaf of metal placed in back of a glass stone to heighten its brilliance. The finest quality paste, however, requires no foil or backing and is usually claw-set or bezel mounted as if it were the genuine article. Inferior paste may be backed with mercury or quicksilver and applied by machine rather than the more expensive handwork which requires each paste stone to be individually mounted.


Pave’ Set

Stones placed so closely together that almost no metal shows between them.


Pearls

Pearls are the natural formation of a secretion called nacre. This nacre lies within an oyster and is caused by some irritating substance such as a grain of sand. When the pearls are naturally formed, they are called Oriental pearls. Cultured pearls are made by nature with the help of man. Fresh-water pearls are called "river pearls".


Platinum

A non-corrosive silver white metal, which is heavy and has a high tensile strength.


Plique-A-Jour

A translucent cloisonné in which there is no metal backing for the enamel work. During firing, a metal supportive base is used until firing ceases. Then when the piece has cooled and the enamel has hardened, the finished product no longer requires this base so the support is removed.


Porosity

In metal - metal porosity if a manufacturing fault whereby air bubbles become trapped within a metal weakening the structural integrity of the jewellery items leaving it open to damage and cracks. Visible pitting on the surface of the metal can indicate metal porosity.

In gemstones - Porous gemstones can be penetrated by air and liquid leaving them vulnerable to fractures, fading, colour-change and more. Porous gemstones should be handled with care and kept away from chemicals, abrasives, detergents, extreme conditions and ultrasonics.

Repousse’

Decorating metal by pushing out from behind or from the reverse side, in order to create a design in relief. Repousse’ is work in metal. Working from the front is called intaglio, which can be achieved in metal and/or gem. However, neither process can be done in glass or plastics, which must be molded.


Riviere

Choker type necklace that is a continuous line of gemstones usually of graduated or equal size stones.


Rose Cut

Various forms of the rose cut diamond have been around since the mid 16th century derived from older cuts. Basic rose cuts have a flat base and crown composed of triangular facets which rise to form a point. These cuts are rare and usually only seen in antique jewellery. There is a growing demand for rose cuts for the purpose of repairing or reproducing antique pieces.


Roundels

Tiny round beads often used as spacers or separators.


Sautoir

An extremely long neck chain, which falls below the waistline and terminates with a tassel or pendant. Popular in the early 20th century.


Scarabus

(Scarab) Form of a beetle, the Egyptian symbol of longevity. Many Deco designs were inspired by this form, especially after the opening of King Tut’s tomb in 1922.


Synthetic Diamond

A diamond produced in a non-natural environment such as a laboratory. Also called laboratory or ;ab-created diamonds. Synthetic diamonds have the same basic chemical composition as natural diamonds and can only be distinguished by experts in controlled conditions.

Torsade

Twisted strands of pearls ending in a clasp.


Trapeze Cut

A gemstone cut into an equilateral triangle with a flat top.


Tutti Frutti

Jewellery set with multi colored gems carved in shapes of leaves, flowers and berries and often in a basket design.


Ultrasonic

Ultrasonic cleaning is a method of removing dirt and debris of items using high-frequency sound and a cleaning solution. Ultrasonic cleanings are routinely used in the jewellery industry as they were well adept at cleanings small, intricate items. Never use an ultrasonic to clean your jewellery items without speaking to your jewellery beforehand as some gemstones and other materials can be irreversibly damaged by improper ultrasonic use.

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