Diamond Estate Jewelry Buyers is the nation’s #1 buyer of estate jewelry and important diamonds. As part of effort to provide you the most comprehensive knowledge before selling your fine jewelry and gemstones, we have created this extensive glossary of terms used in the jewelry making and gemstone industry.
Abalone is a mollusk whose shell is prized in jewelry making for its multicolored iridescence and natural decorative patterns.
Adamantine is an adjective used to describe gemstones that exhibit the luster or hardness of diamonds.
Commonly used when describing moonstone, adularescence is a term describing how light moves within a gemstone when it is turned back and forth.
Agate is an ornamental type of chalcedony, which is a microcrystalline type of quartz. Typically banded in appearance, agates are composed of thousands of tiny crystals. Their concentric bands can be round, oval, or irregularly shaped, and occur in a variety of colors.
Taking its name from the French word for egret, an aigrette is a jeweled ornament, usually made into the shape of a feather, designed to be worn as a cap pin or hairpin.
An à jour setting is an open-style setting that leaves the pavilion facets of the gemstone open to light. It is often used with halo type designs in order to expose the accent stones to more light.
Alexandrite is a rare, color-change variety of chrysoberyl, and was named for Czar Alexander of Russia in 1834. Appearing greenish in daylight, alexandrite reveals itself as reddish when viewed in incandescent light. Once thought to occur only in the Ural mountains of Russia, sources today include Brazil, Sri Lanka, and India.
An alloy is a metal made by combining two or more metallic elements to produce a new metal. Because pure metals are often too soft or too brittle for practical applications, alloys can be created that result in a stronger metal, or one that is less susceptible to corrosion. Some alloys are used for both structural and aesthetic functions, like white gold, an alloy of gold, copper, nickel, zinc, and silver.
A gemstone that ranges from dark, brownish red to purplish-red in hue, almandine, sometimes called almandite, is a species of mineral from the garnet group. It is prized primarily for its color, a high refractive index that results in above average brilliance, and its hardness at 7.5 on the Mohs scale.
Amber is the name given to a wide variety of fossilized, hardened resins often used in jewelry. Almost always cut en cabochon, amber is normally yellow, orange, or brown, but is sometimes found in blue or even red.
Ranging in color from deep violet or purple to soft lilac, and often displaying color zoning, amethyst is a popular gemstone from the quartz family. Amethyst is the birthstone for February.
Ametrine is a two-color variety of quartz that combines amethyst and citrine in a single crystal. Colors can range from pale-yellow to golden-brown and pale-violet to deep-purple, with an abrupt color split. The most valuable ametrine features a even 50/50 split of color.
When used in gemology, the term amorphous refers to a substance lacking a crystalline structure, like glass or amber.
Andalusite is considered a “collector’s gemstone,” highly prized by collectors but still relatively unknown to the general public. Named after Andalusia, Spain, where it was first discovered, andalusite is an aluminum silicate that exhibits a pronounced level of pleochroism, resulting in the stone revealing different colors when viewed from different angles. Occurring in colors from yellow, yellow-green, and green, to brownish-red, olive, and reddish brown, andalusite colors often blend, and gem cutters typically orient the stones in an attempt to maximize the mix of colors.
One of six gemstone species within the garnet group, andradite includes the highly prized variety known as demantoid andradite, a rare and valuable green garnet. Another variety, rainbow andradite, exhibits an intense iridescent play-of-color.
Annealing is a metalworking procedure in which a piece is heated and cooled repeatedly in order to make it more pliable.
Apatite is a group of phosphate minerals, and though it is very common, transparent, gem-quality apatite is quite rare, fairly soft, and seldom seen in jewelry stores. Because apatite occurs in many colors, it has historically been mistaken for other gems, like topaz and tourmaline–in fact, the name apatite comes from the Greek word meaning “cheat.” Apatite that exhibits chatoyancy, or a ‘cat’s eye’ effect, is quite rare and highly prized.
A blue variety of the mineral beryl, aquamarine takes its name from the Latin for “water of the sea.” The highest quality aquamarine is blue to slightly greenish blue, with high clarity and transparency. Most aquamarine is heat treated to improve its bluish appearance. Aquamarine can occur in in large, gem-quality crystals appropriate for carvings and larger jewelry pieces.
In jewelry, arabesque is a kind of decorative ornamentation depicting varieties of interlaced foliage, including leaves, branches, and floral motifs, often in repeated, rhythmic patterns.
Any form of jewelry designed to be worn around the ankle is an anklet.
Art Deco designs in jewelry are based on the larger Art Deco movement that informed all the decorative arts in the 1920s and 1930s. Characterized by bold geometric shapes and strong, vibrant colors, Art Deco jewelry has remained a distinctive and popular style.
Art Nouveau is a design style that was popular in art, architecture, and the applied arts between 1890 and 1910. Characterized by flowing, sinuous lines, and curves based on natural, often floral forms, Art Nouveau jewelry often featured flowers, ferns, snakes, dragonflies, and butterflies, as well as sensuous depictions of the female form.
In jewelry, an assay refers to the testing of precious metal to determine its purity and carat weight.
An assay hallmark is a stamp or series of stamps on a piece of jewelry that indicates the quality and quantity of precious metal. It also indicates the institution that performed the assay.
B: Glossary of Jewelry Terms
A bail, sometimes spelled ‘bale,’ is a jewelry component found mainly in necklaces that is used to attach a stone or pendant. Usually found at the center of the chain, some bails are fashioned so that the pendant can be attached after the necklace is completed.
A band is a continuous circle of material, usually metal, designed to be worn on the finger. Often set with gemstones, bands are usually made with a uniform thickness and width. Typical bands include wedding bands, anniversary bands and eternity bands.
A bandeau is a kind of ornament used to hold a hairstyle in position, and is often made of a narrow band that is worn around the forehead.
A bangle is a type of rigid bracelet designed to be slipped over the wrist. While most bangles are solid with no clasps, those that open to be put on are called hinged bangles.
A bar closure is a bar-shaped fastener, usually found on the backs of brooches and pins, that attaches into a catch with a pin.
Pearls of any irregular, non-spherical shape are considered baroque pearls. Shapes can vary widely, from only slightly ovoid to completely irregular and lumpy. Most cultured freshwater pearls are baroque because of the way the pearl is seeded.
Used to connect two ends of a chain, a barrel catch, or barrel clasp, features two pieces that screw together and form the shape of a barrel when connected.
A basket setting is an open-style setting that features prongs that secure the gem in a basket-like shape, allowing more light to pass through the stone.
Beryl is a group of transparent minerals that are made up of silicate of beryllium and aluminum. This group consists of several varieties of gemstones, including emerald, aquamarine, and morganite. Beryls occur naturally in many colors, and rate high on the Mohs’ hardness scale at 7.5 to 8.
Often found on watch bezels, a beveled edge is any surface that is cut with a sloped edge of less than 90 degrees.
Designed to go completely around a gemstone, a bezel setting is a thin metal ring that is used to secure a gem in place on a jewelry piece. Some bezels can be set with gems and may or may not feature textured detailing.
Black onyx is a variety of the mineral chalcedony, and is regularly treated in various ways to enhance its color.
Any scratch or nick in the surface of a gemstone that is not easily removed by polishing is a blemish.
Blister pearls are formed over a nucleus that is attached to the shell of a mollusk. They must be cut away with the shell, and are therefore flat backed hemispheres.
Bloodstone is a member of the chalcedony family of gemstones. With a dark green hue and orangey or red splotches, bloodstone is very tough, and was traditionally used in carved jewelry like seals, cameos, and intaglios.
A box chain is a chain made of links in the form of square, interlocking boxes, making it one of the strongest chain designs available.
Also called a tongue-and-groove clasp, a box clasp is used to connect two ends of a chain, and does so with a metal spring on one end that slips into the box on the other end and locks.
A bridal set refers to an engagement ring and a coordinating wedding band designed to fit together and be worn as a set.
Brilliance is the term used to describe how well light reflects and refracts through a gemstone. Generally used in reference to diamonds, brilliance can also be used when evaluating colored gemstones.
A brilliant cut is a way of cutting a gemstone in order to maximize its brilliance, or the quantity of light that reflects and refracts from the stone back to the eye. The round brilliant cut was developed by Marcel Tolkowsky in 1919, and features 58 facets.
A briolette is a faceted, pear-shaped gemstone. Because it has no true pavilion or table, it appears the same when viewed from every direction, and is ideal for pendants or dangling earrings.
A brooch is an ornamental piece of jewelry that is designed to be pinned onto clothing, hats, or cloaks with a pin, and is held in place with or without a clasp.
Created by scratching the surface of a metal with a wire brush, a brush finish is a matte finish that features tiny, parallel lines, creating muted, soft reflections.
Bruting is the part of the diamond cutting process that fashions the initial dimensions of the girdle.
Burnishing is the polishing of a metal using a highly polished, hardened steel tool called a burnisher. Friction and compression are used to harden the metal and intensify its luster and shine without the removing any of the material itself.
A deep setting with six prongs emanating from a concave base, a buttercup setting is named for its resemblance to the popular flower.
Resembling buttons, button-style earrings are worn flat against the ear with no dangling parts.
A Byzantine chain features multiple, interwoven oval links that form an intricate, textured, rope-like pattern.
C: Jewelry Glossary of Terms
The most standard of chain varieties, the cable chain features round or oval links of a uniform size.
A gemstone that is cut en cabochon features a polished, domed surface with no facets. This cut is used primarily to highlight a stone’s special optical qualities, like asterism or chatoyancy. Moonstone’s adularescence and opal’s play-of-color are best displayed when cut en cabochon. This cut may also be used in stones that lack transparency.
Featuring standard dimensions in millimeters for specific shapes, calibrated gemstones are most often used to fit into mass produced, commercial mountings.
A cameo is a scene or figure carved in relief into a variety of gem materials, often using the varied color bands of the material to provide color to the raised portion of the carving.
Carat is a unit of weight for gemstones. One carat equals 0.2 grams.
Carnelian is a translucent red variety of of chalcedony, an aggregate of many microscopic quartz crystals that are oriented in varied directions. Colors of carnelian range from brownish red to orange. Naturally colored carnelian is rare today, with most examples now artificially colored.
Casting is a wide variety of jewelry making processes in which molten metal is poured into a mold and allowed to cool and harden.
Caused by parallel, needle-like inclusions, a cat’s eye effect is an optical phenomenon that reflects light off a gemstone as a single ray, making it appear like the narrow slit-like pupil of a cat. Also known as chatoyancy, cat’s-eye stones are cut en cabochon to highlight the effect. Although this effect can occur in a number of different gems, the term “cat’s eye” by itself refers to the chatoyant variety of the mineral chrysoberyl.
Chasing is a decorative technique in which the surface of a metal piece is indented, using a hammer and a chasing tool, without cutting or engraving the surface.
Chalcedony is cryptocrystalline quartz, meaning that it is an aggregate of microscopic crystals oriented in various directions. Chalcedony refers to the species of gemstone that includes sard, agate, chrysoprase, and carnelian, though it is often used to describe only the grayish blue variety of cryptocrystalline quartz.
The term champlevé is a French word meaning “raised field,” and it refers to an enameling technique in which a piece is engraved or carved prior to enameling. Powdered enamel is then fired into the design up to the height of the individual cells, highlighting the design.
Channel setting is a way of setting a line of gemstones in a trough or groove, girdle to girdle, with no metal between them. The edges of the channel are then formed around the edges of the stones to secure them.
The French word meaning “lady of the castle,” a châtelaine was originally a belt hook from which the keys to the castle were hung. Châtelaines evolved into an accessory worn by men and women that suspended any number of ‘necessary items,’ like watches, seals, small knives, and writing instruments. They were popular from the 17th century until the early 20th century.
Chatoyancy, also called a “cat’s eye” effect, is an optical property that results in light being reflected to the viewer in a narrow line, resembling a cat’s narrowed pupil. Caused by thin, parallel inclusions, chatoyancy is best revealed in stones that are cut en cabochon.
Tight fitting necklaces worn high on the neck, chokers were popular in the 18th century, and later evolved into the “dog collar” style. Classic pearl strands worn close around the neck, (14 to 16 inches long), remain a popular choker style.
Although its name derives from the Greek for “golden beryl,” chrysoberyl differs from beryl in both crystal structure and chemical composition. Chrysoberyl ranges in color from yellow to green, with two notable transparent varieties–the color changing alexandrite, and cymophane, or “cat’s eye.”
A subvariety of chalcedony, chrysoprase is bright, apple-green cryptocrystalline quartz that was popular in Victorian cameos and intaglios.
Citrine is a yellow to golden-yellow variety of quartz that gets its color from trace amounts of iron. Most citrine available today is heat treated, and colors may range from dark yellow to reddish brown.
A traditional ring design that features two hands clasping a heart with a crown above, claddagh rings have been used for centuries to symbolize love, friendship, and loyalty.
Along with color, cut, and carat weight, clarity is one of the classic “four Cs” used to grade diamonds, but it is also used to describe colored stones as well. The clarity of a gemstone is based on the presence or absence of inclusions, with fewer inclusions resulting in a higher clarity grade.
Any sort of catch, plate, hook, or other fastener that connects two ends of a piece of jewelry is referred to as a clasp. Ranging from simple hook and loop arrangements to highly complicated spring loaded mechanisms, clasps can be strictly utilitarian, or they may be a highly ornate focal point for the entire piece.
Crystals are made up of bonded atoms occurring in regular three dimensional patterns, with the bonds along some planes being naturally weaker than others. Cleavage is the ability of a crystal to split along a plane with relatively weak atomic bonding, and is of great concern to a stone cutter, or lapidary. Not only can rough material be shaped to desired dimensions, but the cut facets need to lie in parallel to a cleavage plane, otherwise they will not take a good polish.
Cloisonné is a kind of enamel work that uses soldered metal strips to create a motif or pattern, with the resulting design then filled in with enamel paste and fired.
Often used in ring and pendant designs, a cluster is a number of smaller gemstones grouped together in a setting, giving the effect of a single, larger stone.
Early rings often featured closed-back settings, which were designed with metal behind the stone, hiding all of the stone below the girdle. Gemstones in closed-back settings were sometimes wrapped with foil or even painted before setting in order to change the color or appearance of the stone.
A clutch slides onto the post of an earring to secure the earring in place, either with friction or by twisting onto a threaded post. A friction back clutch typically features two loops that provide pressure on the post, securing the earring.
Popular in the 1940s and 50s, but seeing a resurgence in the last ten years, cocktail rings are large, oversized rings often set with multiple gemstones. Designed to be eye catching, these dramatic rings were originally fashioned to be worn at dinner or cocktail parties.
Also known as a bezel setting, a collet setting completely encircles the girdle of a gemstone with metal that is pressed over onto the crown to secure it in place. Collets are sometimes left unadorned, though they are often decorated with carving or millegraining.
Color is one of the four main criteria for how gemstones are evaluated, and is made up of hue, or basic color; saturation, or intensity of color; and tone, or depth of color.
Diamonds that are outside the traditional color scale for “white” diamonds are described as colored, or fancy colored diamonds. Color diamonds occur in nearly every color of the rainbow.
Copal is a fossilized organic resin that is often confused with amber. Yellow to brownish in color, copal is much younger than amber, and is easily distinguished from the older material with a simple acetone test.
Coral is an organic gemstone that is actually the exo-skeletal secretions of certain marine coelenterates. Coral occurs in a wide variety of colors and is used in many different jewelry items.
The mineral corundum is a combination of oxygen and aluminum, and is second only to the diamond in hardness. In its most pure state, corundum is colorless and is regularly used as an industrial abrasive, but the most widely known varieties of corundum are the gemstones ruby and sapphire.
In a faceted gemstone, the crown is the upper part of the stone above the girdle.
Literally meaning “hidden crystal,” cryptocrystalline material has crystals so small that they are only revealed under crossed polarized light. When viewed this way, the stone will transmit light in all positions when rotated. Chalcedony is a common example of a cryptocrystalline material.
A man-made gemstone that is commonly used as a diamond simulant, cubic zirconia can be created in nearly any color, and is a durable and affordable alternative to the diamond.
Cuff bracelets are rigid, wide, band-style bracelets that feature a gap, usually on the back of the piece, and fit the wrist tightly without a clasp.
In a faceted gemstone, the culet is the tip of the pavilion. The culet can be either a sharp point or, as in many historic diamonds, in the form of a facet.
Cultured pearls are pearls that have been forced to grow in a mollusk due to the intervention of a pearl farmer rather than the natural process that is due to chance. Cultured pearls are of two varieties, freshwater or saltwater, and come in numerous colors and sizes.
A curb chain is made by twisting interlocking oval links until they flatten out slightly, or by feeding the chain through a rolling mill until it is flat.
A cushion cut, sometimes called an “old mine cut,” is a squarish, antique brilliant cut with bowed or curved sides that may resemble a pillow, or cushion. When used today, cushion cuts incorporate techniques designed to optimize a diamond’s fire.
D: Dictionary of Jewelry Terms
Damascene is a decorative process of inlaying gold or silver into grooves formed in a metal, usually bronze, iron, or steel. It is named for Damascus, its city of origin.
Discovered in Russia’s Ural Mountains in the 1868, demantoid is the green gemstone variety of andradite, in the garnet family of minerals. Prized for its color that can range from yellowish green to the green of a fine emerald, demantoid sometimes features a “horsetail” inclusion, which further increases the value of this precious stone.
A demi-parure is a suite of jewelry taken from a parure, or full set of matching jewelry and usually includes only two items, like earrings and a necklace.
Worn by both men and women in ancient times, a diadem is a band-style head ornament designed to be worn across the brow. They were worn by Greek and Roman royalty, and featured garland and wreath motifs. The diadem was briefly re-popularized in the 19th century as a symbol of wealth.
The depth of a gemstone is measured from the tip of the pavilion to the highest point on the crown facet.
Diamonds consist of chemically pure, extremely hard carbon, and are evaluated in four categories: clarity, color, cut, and carat weight. Though highly prized as a colorless gemstone, diamonds occur in nearly every color, including green, yellow, blue, pink, purple, and red.
Dichroism is an optical property in which light that enters a gemstone is doubly refracted, meaning that the light undergoes differing selective absorption, creating a different color or shade of color.
Mostly used for sapphires, diffusion is a treatment process used to alter the color of a gemstone. Lattice diffusion uses small atoms to penetrate the crystal’s lattice structure, altering the color deeply, and surface diffusion changes only the color of a thin outer layer of the stone. This fairly modern treatment process is difficult to detect without sophisticated lab equipment.
Belonging to the pyroxene mineral group, gemstone quality diopside is found in two forms. Chrome diopside contains chrome, which gives it a rich, green color, and black star diopside occurs in black with a four rayed star.
Dispersion is the separation of white light into the different colors of the visible spectrum in diamonds and other gemstones. Also known as “fire,” the dispersion of light results in the sparkle you see when a gemstone is turned or tilted.
Emblematic of Edwardian jewelry fashion, a dog collar, or collier de chien, is a necklace designed to fit very close about the neck. Today the term is used to describe necklaces that lie flat to the body and are typically fourteen inches in length.
Earrings with a hinged bottom that are designed to hang and swing below the earlobe are called door knocker earrings.
Double Clip Brooch
A double clip brooch is one that utilizes two complementary or matched clips that are joined together on a frame to form a larger brooch. The resulting piece can then be worn as one large brooch or, when detached from the frame, as two separate brooches.
Double refraction is a property most crystals posses in which a single beam of light is split into two polarized beams that then pass through the crystal at different speeds.
A doublet is a type of composite gemstone in which two pieces of material are joined together with a transparent bonding agent. The two pieces may be of the same gemstone, different gem materials, or gem material and glass.
A drawplate is a tool used in jewelry making that consists of a sheet of metal with a series of holes of graduated sizes. Wire is drawn through the chosen hole to reduce its size to the proper diameter while simultaneously increasing the wire’s strength.
Designed to hang just below the earlobe, drop earrings are generally slightly shorter than dangle earrings.
A dress clip is kind of brooch that attaches with either a double prong hinged clip with points that pierce the fabric like a standard pin, or with a flat metal clip that follows the outline of the jewelry piece.
The term dress set refers to a suite of gentlemen’s jewelry for formal occasions, and usually includes shirt studs, cuff links, and vest buttons.
Druse, sometimes spelled druze, refers to a layer of small crystals that project from the surface of a mineral, often lining the sides of a cavity, like the interior of a geode. Druzy or drusy is the adjective used to describe the formation, as in “druzy quartz.”
Ductility refers to a metal’s ability to deform under stress without breaking. In jewelry making, ductility is important when die striking, chasing, or pulling wire.
Durability is the ability of a gemstone to withstand the rigors of the wear and tear of everyday use, and consists of hardness, toughness, and stability. Hardness includes a stone’s resistance to scratches or abrasion, toughness is a measure of how likely a stone may be to fracture, and stability is the ability to resist damage from light or chemicals.
E: Jewelry Glossary of Terms
Designed for women who do not have their ear lobes pierced, an earclip is a tension mechanism that holds an ear ornament in place with no part of the mechanism passing through the lobe.
An earring jacket is a piece of jewelry designed to enhance the appearance of a simple stud earring. Designed with a hole which lets the stud pass through, and earring jacket is held in place by the stud itself.
Electroplating is an electrochemical process in which an extremely thin layer of metal is bonded to the surface of a base metal. In the jewelry industry, precious metals like gold, silver, platinum, and rhodium are often applied using this process.
Used in ancient jewelry and very early coins, electrum is a naturally occurring alloy of silver and gold, but can also contain small amounts of copper and platinum.
In jewelry making, embossing is a technique that creates a raised relief design from the back of the piece. Embossing often refers to a mechanized method of using a die, in contrast to repoussé, which uses hammering techniques and hand punches.
Known for its highly prized, rich green colors, emerald is the most famous gemstone from the beryl family of minerals, and has long been among the most precious of all gemstones. Often very included, emeralds have been treated for centuries to enhance their clarity and appearance–a practice that remains widely accepted in the industry. Emerald is the birthstone for May.
A rectangular step cut design, the emerald cut features horizontal facets with different angles of inclination. Although most often used for colored gemstones like tourmaline and beryl, the emerald cut is occasionally used for diamonds.
Enamel is a powdered form of of glass that is colored by the addition of various chlorides and oxides, fired at high heat, and then fused to the surface of metal, glass, or pottery. Enameling is a fine art, and has many different schools, including champlevé, guilloché, cloisonné, and plique-à-jour.
Engraving is a technique in which a sharp tool, like a graver or scriber is used to cut a design or pattern into the surface of a metal piece. Traditionally done by hand, some modern engraving is done by machine.
In gemology, an enhancement is any kind of man-induced treatment that improves the durability or appearance of the stone. Enhancements include heat treatments, diffusion, irradiation, filling, and others. Some enhancements are widely accepted while others are undoubtedly intended to be deceptive.
En tremblent refers to a late 19th century practice of setting hair ornaments and other jewels with a small, concealed battery that made them “tremble.” The slight movement produced created a heightened level of fire and scintillation.
Estate Jewelry refers to jewelry that has been previously owned, and perhaps passed along through families as part of the “estate.” Estate jewelry can include antique and vintage jewelry as well as contemporary and modern pieces.
An etched designed is one that is produced on a piece of jewelry using acid. The design is cut into a coating (or resist) that has been applied to the piece, and when the coating is removed, the design remains.
A ring that consists of a continuous circle of similarly sized gemstones is an eternity ring. Half eternity rings have stones only halfway around the ring.
“Old European cut” diamonds were cut in the later 19th and early 20th centuries, and featured mostly symmetrical, round outlines, with octagonal table facets, high crowns, and an open culet.
A term used when referring to the clarity of a gemstone, an eye clean stone is one with no imperfections or inclusions visible to the naked eye.
F: Glossary of Jewelry Terms
Facets are flat, planar surfaces that are ground into the surface of a diamond or other gemstone. They can be made in many sizes and shapes, and are generally of two categories– either crown facets or, pavilion facets, though the table and the culet are also considered facets.
When referring to diamonds, any cut that isn’t the traditional round cut is considered a fancy cut. These cuts include oval, heart, pear, cushion, and marquise.
Any naturally colored diamond with a detectable hue other than yellow or brown that falls outside the normal color grading scale is said to be a fancy-colored diamond.
The French term for “false,” faux is used to refer to imitation jewelry, and is often used to describe simulated pearls.
Fede Rings are an ancient ring design that features two clasped hands that indicate love, loyalty, or marriage. Some, called gimmel rings, have hands that open to expose intertwined hearts on a third ring below the hands.
Feldspar is a large group of minerals that occurs in a variety of crystal structures and colors, and includes the gemstones labradorite, moonstone, andesine, and sunstone.
Fer de Berlin
From the French term for “Berlin iron,” Fer de Berlin refers to jewelry that was fashionable in the early 1800s when wealthy Prussians gave up their gold to finance the war against Napoleon. They were rewarded with iron jewelry that was sand-cast and lacquered black, and often inscribed with “Ich gab Gold fur Eisen” (I gave gold for iron).
A figaro chain is a type of curb chain made with alternating long and short links.
Filigree is a type of jewelry design that features finely drawn metal wires that are soldered or twisted and woven into intricate patterns. The resulting pieces may be of an open design or soldered onto a metal base.
Filling refers to a gemstone enhancement that includes a wide range of treatments, from simple oiling to fracture filling with epoxies and resins.
In jewelry manufacturing, findings are prefabricated pieces that are incorporated into a jewelry piece. Typically, findings are functional parts of the piece, like catches, earclips, and other types of clasps.
Fineness is a way to refer to the purity of gold or silver. It is a proportion expressed in parts per thousand. Sterling silver, for example, is .925 silver and .075 copper.
Finish can refer to two aspects of a gemstone: the precision and accuracy of its cut, or the degree and uniformity of its polish.
Fire refers to the rainbow-like flashes of color seen in diamonds and other gemstones. The result of an optical property known as dispersion, fire is most commonly seen in colorless or lightly colored gems as deep colors tend to diminish the effect.
Fire agate is a brown, iridescent type of the mineral chalcedony.
Fire opal is a reddish to yellowish variety of opal. Ranging from translucent to transparent, fire opal only rarely displays the play-of-color typical of other types of opals.
A fissure is a fracture that reaches the surface of the stone.
Fissure filling is a type of gemstone treatment that improves the clarity of the stone by filling voids with materials that have a similar refractive index to the stone itself. Oils, resins, glass, waxes, and various polymers can be used, depending on the type of gem.
Flame fusion is a method for creating synthetic gemstones using powdered elements and high temperatures to grow crystals. Discovered in 1902 by Auguste Verneuil, flame fusion was originally limited to the production of rubies, but later innovations yielded other gems, including “Linde Star” sapphires made famous in the 1940s.
A Florentine finish is type of textured decoration made of intersecting parallel lines. Cut with a flat graver on the surface of a piece, this finish can resemble cross-hatching.
Fluorescence occurs when ultraviolet light or X-rays are used to illuminate a stone, and visible light is emitted. Fluorescence is often used to help identify particular gemstones.
A flush mount (sometimes referred to as a gypsy setting) is a gemstone setting in which the table of the stone is at the same height as the surrounding metal, and that metal is pressed over the upper girdle of the stone to secure it in place.
Fluting is a surface texture made of rounded grooves that appear as an undulating surface. Typically, fluting “flares out” from a smaller end to a larger one.
Flux is a liquid catalyst which allows some metals to melt at a lower temperature than their normal melting point. In jewelry making, it is commonly used to facilitate soldering.
Originally, a fob was a vest pocket in a gentleman’s suit that held a pocket watch. Today, the word fob is used to describe any small pendant that can be suspended from a fob chain.
Foiling is a type of gemstone treatment in which a thin sheet of metal is used behind a stone in a closed setting to enhance its color and and reflective properties.
Typically used for necklaces and bracelets, and especially watch clasps, a fold-over clasp is a kind of hinged clasp that collapses on itself and locks with a pressure tab.
The four C’s are the qualities used to determine the value of diamonds and other gemstones. They are clarity, color, cut, and carat weight.
A foxtail chain consists of three rows of links that are braided together.
A fracture is a chip or break in a gemstone that occurs in any direction other than parallel to the planes of atoms that make up the crystal.
Another term for ‘clip-on’ earrings, French clips secure earrings to non-pierced ears through tension from a padded spring clip.
French cut stones are multifaceted square or rectangular gems most easily recognized by the cross created by the crown facets.
A freshwater pearl is one that is cultivated in mollusks grown in lakes, rivers, or ponds as opposed to saltwater.
Synonymous with brilliant cut, a full cut is a round diamond cut with 57 or 58 facets.
G: Jewelry Dictionary of Terms
A gallery is a stamped or patterned repetitive design that goes around a jewelry piece, often surrounding a large, central stone on a ring. The gallery can include the area beneath the gem and may incorporate the prongs used to set the stone.
A wide ranging family of gemstones that occur in nearly every color, garnets are minerals with a common crystal structure and similar chemical composition. Some garnets are quite rare and valuable, while others are very common. Common varieties include almandite, andradite, pyrope, and grossularite.
Also known as a lapidary, a gem cutter is someone who cuts, shapes, and polishes gemstones.
Also called optical phenomena, gem phenomena are characteristics of gemstones that are the result of light interacting with the natural structure or inclusions of the gemstone. These include asterism, chatoyancy, and play-of-color.
A gemstone is an organic or inorganic mineral crystal that possesses an exceptional, though arbitrary, quality. Gemstones are usually cut and polished for use in jewelry.
Established in 1931, the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) is the most influential gemological institute in the world, providing research, laboratory services, and educational resources.
Gilding is the process of coating one material, like silver or copper, with a thin layer of gold alloy.
Gimmel rings are made up of two or more linked hoops that fit together, giving the appearance of a single ring. Often symbolizing love and fidelity, gimmel rings can be adorned with gemstones or clasped hands, and were sometimes worn separately by betrothed couples and reunited at the wedding on the bride’s hand.
On a faceted gemstone, the girdle separates the crown, or upper part of the stone, from the pavilion, or lower part. Gemstones settings often grip the stone at the girdle, which can be left in its original, bruted condition, or polished and faceted.
From the Greek word glyptos, meaning “to carve,” glyptography refers to the art of gemstone carving, which includes both cameos and intaglios.
Treasured since antiquity for its color and warm glow, gold has been used in jewelry throughout the ages due to its beauty and versatility. Pure gold, or 24 carat gold, is generally considered too soft for jewelry, and is usually combined with other metals like nickel or silver to harden it. The resulting in alloys are of lesser purity, like 18 carat gold. Purity is measured as a percentage of 24, so 18 carat gold is 75 percent pure.
Electroplating is a process of coating one metal with another by using a chemical bath and electric current. Gold electroplate is a minimum of 7 millionths of an inch thick. If the gold is less than 24 carat, the layer must be proportionally thicker.
Gold filling is a mechanical process of plating gold onto another metal by brazing, welding, or soldering. Plating must be at least 1/20th of the total weight of the piece.
Gold leaf is extremely thin sheets of gold, produced by rolling and hammering gold ingots. Gold leaf is used to decorate various objects, including furniture, paintings, and sculptures.
Gold plating covers a base metal with a layer of at least 10 carat gold by the same process that produces gold filled pieces.
Gold wash is an extremely thin layer of gold (less than .175 microns thick) that is applied by dipping or burnishing the base metal. Gold wash wears away more quickly than gold plated or gold filled pieces.
Goshenite is a colorless beryl with a vitreous luster, named for Goshen, Massachusetts, one of the primary sources for the gem.
Granulation is a technique for applying very small gold beads to a surface metal, using heat, and no apparent solder. These finely textured designs date as far back as Etruscan times, and were very popular in the 19th century.
Usually made of sharpened, tempered steel with a wooden handle, a graver is a cutting tool used to engrave metal.
A design motif that dates back to ancient Greece, a Greek key design features repetitive, interlocking rectangles and was often used as a border decoration.
Green gold is a greenish alloy of 14 to 18 carat gold, usually made of 75 percent gold and 25 percent silver. It is occasionally made using zinc and copper, reducing the amount of silver needed.
Pale grey in color, grey gold is an alloy of gold and iron, or gold, silver, and iron.
Grossular gemstones belong to the garnet family and include hessonite, a brownish-red to orange gemstone sometimes referred to as cinnamon stone, and tsavorite, a green garnet named for Tsavo national park in Kenya where it was discovered in 1967.
Guilloché is a decorative design that is engraved on metal using a lathe. Sometimes referred to as engine turning, the elaborate, concentric patterns of guilloché are often covered by translucent enamel, and were used extensively by Carl Fabergé in his clocks and jewelry.
Gunmetal can refer to a blue-black finish made by electroplating iron onto an item, or to an alloy of 90 percent copper and 10 percent tin.
A dark, rubbery, organic material derived from tropical trees, gutta-percha was popular in the mid 1800s, and used extensively in mourning jewelry.
In a gypsy setting, the gemstone is set by recessing it into a hole in the ring. The gem is then secured by pressing a small flange of metal around its girdle.
H: Glossary of Jewelry Terms
Technically, a hallmark is a small impression struck in jewelry by an official assay office, indicating the fineness of the precious metal. Other marks, like maker’s marks are often also referred to as hallmarks.
Halo settings are made by encircling a center stone with numerous smaller gemstones, often enhancing the look of the primary stone.
A hammered finish in metal is created by repeated blows with a small hammer, creating a decorative pattern of small divots that results in a warm, glowing look. Simulated hammered finish can be made by casting, but is easily recognizable by its perfectly flat ‘hammered’ surfaces.
In gemology, hardness is a measure of a stone’s ability to withstand abrasion, and is typically referred to by the Moh’s scale of relative hardness. The Moh’s scale ranges from 1 to 10, with gypsum rated at 1 and diamond rated at 10. Any stone with a rating of 7 or lower may be fairly easily scratched.
The head is the elevated part of a ring that is designed to hold the gemstone in place.
Heat treatments are used on gemstones to change their color or enhance their clarity. The practice has a long history and is widely accepted when used on some stones, like rubies, but can be deceptive when not disclosed.
The name hematite comes from the Greek word for blood, and refers to a reddish-black mineral consisting of ferric oxide. Hematite is commonly used for carving intaglios and as strung beads, and was widely used in Victorian mourning jewelry.
A hidden-box clasp is a chain clasp designed to be “hidden” under the last link in the chain.
In the shape of a circle or hoop, a hoop earring generally has a post or wire at the top that goes through the pierced ear, creating the illusion that the hoop itself passes through the air. Some narrow gauge wire hoop earrings actually do pass through the ear in a continuous hoop.
High pressure-high temperature treatment (HPHT) is a method of diamond enhancement that results in a change of color. When HPHT is applied by a reputable laboratory, an inscription is made on the girdle of the stone. Without that inscription, HPHT treatment requires advanced spectral analysis to be detected.
One of the three characteristics used to describe color, hue refers to the dominant wavelength reflected by a gemstone. Hue is often referred to as the “body color” of a given stone.
Gems that derive their color from elements that are an intrinsic part of their chemical composition are idiochromatic. Allochromatic gemstones get their color from impurities that are not an essential part of their chemical make up.
I: Jewelry Glossary of Terms
A type of prong setting, an illusion setting uses a ring of metal around the girdle of the diamond that diffuses the outline of the diamond, making the diamond look bigger than it actually is.
In jewelry, an imitation, (sometimes known as a simulant), is simply a substitute of a less valuable material for a gemstone, like red glass for ruby.
A common method of treatment used to enhance a gemstone, impregnation involves using oils, waxes, or plastic fillers to enhance the appearance or durability of a gem.
An inclusion is an internal characteristic of a gemstone, and can be important in distinguishing natural gemstones from synthetic ones. Inclusions will generally devalue a stone, though some inclusions are responsible for desirable optical effects like chatoyancy, asterism, and play-of-color.
Inlay is a decorative technique in jewelry making that uses cut or carved gem material that is then fit into recessed cavities in the main jewelry item, creating a pattern or other design.
From the Italian word for “carving,” intaglio is a carved gem in which the design has been engraved or carved into the stone, resulting in a hollow design that is below the surface of the gem–the opposite of the cameo technique. Intaglios were often used for wax seals, as they would leave a raised impression.
A ring made of with the head and the shank made from a single piece of metal is said to have an integrated head.
Perfected in 1933 by Van Cleef & Arpels, an invisible setting is a type of channel setting that features closely calibrated stones cut with grooved girdles that allow them to be locked into a thin wire framework. The stones appear to be set seamlessly, with no visible prongs or bezels holding them in place.
Iridescence is an optical phenomena of light diffraction or interference from thin films of liquids, gas, or solids that produces a rainbow-like play-of-color either within or on the surface of a material. Iridescence is often observed as color change when the item is viewed from different angles, like in pearls or mother-of-pearl.
Irradiation is a gemstone treatment process that uses high-energy atomic particles to alter or improve the stone’s color. Irradiation is often followed by annealing, or heating, for color stabilization.
J: Dictionary of Jewelry Terms
Jade is a family of gemstones that includes two varieties, nephrite jade and jadeite, though both are commonly referred to as jade. Most jade on the market is nephrite, with jadeite being the more rare and valuable variety.
A fine-grained quartz from the chalcedony family of gemstones, jasper comes from the Greek word for “spotted stone,” and is usually a brownish-red color, but it does occur in green, yellow, and black. Historically used for seals, intaglios, and cameos, today jasper is used in mosaics, or cut in cabochons or beads for jewelry.
K: Jewelry Glossary of Terms
Karat (carat) is a term used to indicate the purity, or fineness, of gold. Pure gold is 24 karats, and alloys are expressed as a ratio to that number. Eighteen karat gold is 18/24ths pure, or 75%, which can also be expressed as the number ‘750,’ meaning 750/1000, or 750 parts out of 1000.
A keeper ring was originally a simple ring worn on the finger to keep another more valuable ring from sliding off the finger. Today, most keeper rings are referred to as “guard rings,” and serve both as keeper and to enhance the ring they surround.
L: Glossary of Jewelry Terms
A lab created gemstone, sometimes referred to as a ‘synthetic’ gemstone, is one made in a lab that has the exact chemical properties of its naturally occurring counterpart. Lab created gems are much cheaper than natural ones.
A gemstone in the feldspar family, labradorite is known for metallic tints of green, blue, red, yellow, and purple, as well as its brilliant play of color.
A lapidary is an artist or artisan who cuts or carves and polishes gemstones, minerals, and other hard materials into decorative items such as engraved gems, cameos, or cabochons, and faceted designs. Diamond cutters are not usually referred to as lapidaries, as the techniques required to cut diamonds are highly specialized.
Lapis lazuli is a rock aggregate made up of a number of minerals, including sodalite, nosalite, hauyne, and lazurite. Typically cobalt blue in color, lapis lazuli will often exhibit patches of golden pyrite or white calcite.
Laser drilling is a treatment used to improve the clarity of a diamond or other gemstone. A laser is used to make a small channel from the surface of the stone to an inclusion, and acids are then used to either bleach or remove the inclusion. The resulting ‘drill hole’ may or may not be filled after the inclusion is removed.
Lever-back earrings feature a hinged lever on the back that functions as the closure.
Lobster Claw Clasp
Used primarily on bracelets and necklaces, a lobster claw clasp has a spring mechanism that holds it closed. Introduced in jewelry by Cartier, these clasps can be pear or oval shaped, and are sometimes referred to as ‘snap hooks’ or ‘Cartier Clasps.’
A locket is a kind of jewelry case designed to hold a small keepsake. Lockets typically open with a hinged clasp and are usually worn on a necklace or chain.
Luster refers to the quality and quantity of light that is reflected from the surface of a finished gemstone, and depends on both the refractive index or the gem and its ability to take a good polish. Gemstones with high hardness and a large refractive index have the highest luster.
M: Jewelry Dictionary of Terms
Mabe pearls are a type of blister pearl that is cultured with a hemispherical nucleus placed against the shell. The resulting domed pearl is cut away from the shell, and the nucleus is removed, replaced with resin, and covered with mother-of-pearl.
A Maltese Cross is an eight-pointed cross that features four arms of equal length that widen from the center and have ends that are indented in a shallow V-shape.
Mariner-link chains feature oval links with a bar across their centers.
A marquise cut gemstone is shaped like an oval with pointed ends, and takes its name from the Marquise de Pompadour, the mistress of King Louis XV.
Matinee Length Necklace
Traditionally worn for semi-formal occasions, a matinee length necklace ranges from 20 to 25 inches long.
A matte finish is an even textured, non-reflective finish that is applied to metal by sandblasting, engraving, or with acid.
The term melée refers to small cut gemstones that are traditionally used in pavé work or as side stones around a larger center gemstone.
Millegrain, (sometimes spelled milgrain or millgrain), is a finely beaded detail that finishes an edge on a jewelry item. The malleability of platinum lends itself to the finest millegrain work.
The Moh’s scale is a measure of relative hardness of a mineral, and ranges from one to ten. As the hardest mineral, diamond is rated ten, and talc is very soft at one.
A gemstone in the tektite group, moldavite is a natural glass formed from melted rock resulting from a meteorite strike. The surface can be rippled, wavy, or pitted, and it ranges from bottle-green to brown-green in color, with a vitreous luster.
The source of all pearls, mollusks are invertebrate bivalve animals composed of mantle tissue and a hard outer shell.
A variety of orthoclase feldspar, moonstone is named for its blue-white resemblance to the moon.
A mordant is a the finished end of a belt or bracelet on the opposite end from the buckle. A mordant can be simply metal, or jeweled, and is often used as a decorative way to finish the non-buckle end of a strap bracelet.
Morganite is a gemstone in the beryl family, and ranges in color from salmon to violet to soft pink, with a vitreous luster.
Mother of Pearl
Mother of pearl is the nacreous, iridescent lining of a mollusk shell. Composed of calcium carbonate and conchiolin, mother of pearl is often used as decorative inlay or carved and used to decorate jewelry items like cuff links and shirt studs.
The metal frame or housing in which gemstones are set.
N: Glossary Jewelry of Terms
The organic material that forms the outer coating of pearls. Nacre is strong, resilient, and iridescent.
First identified in 1863, nephrite is one of two distinct mineral forms that is classified as the gemstone jade — the other form is jadeite.
Hard, malleable, and resistant to corrosion, this white metal is malleable and often mixed with precious metals such as gold and silver.
A black alloy composed of silver, copper, lead, and sulphur, which is used to fill engraving, creating an inlaid effect.
O: Jewelry Glossary of Terms
The birthstone for Leos and the anniversary gemstone for the 7th year of marriage, onyx banded variety of the oxide mineral chalcedony (agate being another variety).
A popular gemstone that is sought-after for its play of color, which consists of iridescent color flashes that change with the angle at which the stone is viewed. Fine jewelry often incorporates “opal doublets,” which are thin slices of precious opal glued onto a base material.
In the fine jewelry industry, an opaque gem refers to a gemstone that does not allow light to pass through it; thus it is not transparent or translucent.
The process wherein a metal mixes with oxygen and becomes rusted. Platinum and gold do not oxidize. Impurities in any alloys containing gold or platinum may oxidize but the actual metals do not.
P: Dictionary of Jewelry Terms
The surface coloration of metal due to natural oxidation, age, wear, or the application of chemicals and/or acids. Bronze, copper, and brass often develop a green patina, while silver turns gray or black.
From the French, literally meaning “paved,” occurs when gemstones are set very close together to resemble a paved cobblestone road.
A time-consuming style of setting produced by drilling tapered holes in a metal base to seat the gemstones, then securing them with tiny beads formed from the surrounding metal. In current usage it has often come to mean any type of bead setting.
Any article or ornament suspended from a chain or necklace worn around the neck.
A pennyweight (abbreviated dwt.) is measure used to weigh precious metals of gold, platinum and silver. There are 24 grains in a pennyweight and 20 pennyweights in a Troy ounce.
A metalworker who works in platinum when it is hot and malleable.
This metal group is generally defined as referring to platinum, gold, and silver, which are valued for their rarity, color, and malleability.
Q: Jewelry Glossary of Terms
The second most abundant mineral on earth, the gem varieties of quartz include amethyst, citrine, tiger’s eye, chalcedony, jasper, and others.
Queen Victoria (1819-1901)
The longest serving British monarch, Queen Victoria reigned from 1837 until her death in 1901. During her sovereignty England experienced many political and social reforms and a rapid expansion of the British Empire. The Victorian period forms one of the most important eras of antique jewelry.
R: Glossary of Jewelry Terms
Stretching from the 15th to 17th centuries, this European period experienced rapid advancements in the Arts and Sciences. The jewelry of this period feature engraved gemstones, portrait cameos, hat badges, and finger rings, in a style heavily impacted by the Medici in Florence, Italy and the Pontiffs of Rome.
The measurement of how large a ring needs to be to fit securely on a person’s finger. Traditionally the average ring size of a woman was 6 and a man 10, but this has been slowly increasing.
A variety of the mineral corundum (aluminium oxide) coveted for its beautiful pink to blood-red color. The rarest color of ruby is known as “pigeon blood”.
S: Jewelry Dictionary of Terms
This extremely hard gemstone is from the Corundum class of minerals. It is one of the four precious gemstones, the other three being diamonds, rubies, and emeralds. Available in a multitude of eye-catching colors, sapphires of blue and pink hues are the most popular kind used today.
A textured finish produced by brushing the metal surface to produce tiny parallel lines. Today it is popularly used in platinum jewelry, and is sometimes referred to as matte finish.
Scalinger, Julius Ceasar
The first European reference to platinum appears in 1557 in the writings of the Italian humanist Julius Caesar Scalinger (1484-1558), wherein he describes a mysterious metal found in Central American mines that can’t be melted by any means.
SI grade diamonds are frequently found in jewelry, especially in multi-stone diamond earring, rings, pendants, and bracelets. The grade signifies that inclusions cannot be seen by the naked eye but can be seen under 10x magnification.
Star of Africa
Now among the Crown Jewels, the Great Star of Africa, weighing 530.20 carats, is mounted in one of the British Royal Sceptres, while the Lesser Star of Africa, weighing 317.40 carats, can be found in the Imperial State Crown.
T: Glossary of Jewelry Terms
The son of Charles Lewis Tiffany, who founded the legendary jewelry firm which bears his name, designer Louis Comfort Tiffany was an early exponent of the Art Nouveau movement and later moved on to become famous for his Favrile iridescent glassware.
A high pronged diamond setting commonly used in diamond solitaire engagement rings, which was first created by Tiffany & Co. in 1886.
A popular material used in antique jewelry and haircombs in 19th century jewelry and haircombs, but which is now banned (along with coral and ivory) in jewelry making.
Surpassing other things; to be above and beyond the material universe.
An opaque semi-precious colored gemstone that has been used for centuries in the making of jewelry and burial ornaments, including among Native Americans. Colors can range from blue to blue-green to yellow-green.
U, V, W, X, Y, Z: Jewelry Glossary of Terms
A machine that cleans jewelry by vibrating a solution at an ultra-high frequency. Capable of cleaning tiny cavaties of a jewelry piece without scratching the surface but can damage soft or brittle gems. Never to be used on pearl jewelry.
Silver with gold plating.
A popular period of antique jewelry that spans approximately from 1837-1901 (the reign of Queen Victoria), and divided into three parts: Romantic, Grand, and Late Victorian.
A classic, characterized by excellence, maturity, and enduring appeal. Vintage jewelry typically refers items made from the 1930s through the 1980s.
VS clarity diamonds are of superior quality and frequently used in fine jewelry. The grade signifies that minor inclusions are difficult to see, even under 10x magnification.
Created by alloying yellow gold with palladium, nickel, zinc, and/or silver, white gold is often selected as a less expensive alternative to platinum. It is often plated with rhodium (a member of the platinum family of metals) to give a platinum like sheen.
In its natural state gold come in varying shades of yellow. Relatively pure when initially mined, gold is usually alloyed with copper, zince, and/or silver when used in jewelry making.
Brittle at room temperature but malleable when heated, this bluish-white metal is used to form such alloys as Brass, Bronze, and Nickel Silver.