Jewelry Basics

A Jour

A type of gem setting that leaves the pavilion exposed to light. Most commonly used for jewelry with transparent gemstones so as to allow light to enter from both the back and the front.


The American Gem Society. This is a professional organization formed in 1934 by several independent jewelers and the founder of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). The purpose of the AGS is to set and maintain ethical standards and practices within the jewelry industry.


A species of gastropod mollusk. These mollusks produce pearls that are largely considered among the most beautiful in the world. Unfortunately, since abalone pearls are very difficult to culture, abalone pearl jewelry is rare and very expensive.

The word is also sometimes used to refer to nacre, or mother of pearl.

Abraded Culet

A culet that has become chipped or scratched, possibly as a result of contact with another gemstone.


A minuscule chip, bruise, or scratch on the surface of a finished gemstone. Abrasions produce fuzzy lines in your stone, compromising its clarity and value.


Agate is a variety of chalcedony, formed out of layers of quartz. These stones come in all colors of the rainbow, often featuring bands of several different colors in the same stone. Agate represents one of the commonly accepted birthstones for September and the Gemini zodiac sign, and agate jewelry is associated with the 14th wedding anniversary.


A hair ornament consisting of a feather plume or spray of glitter, often accentuated by either a jewel or buckle. Worn in the hair or attached to a headband.


Discovered in 1834 in Russia and named after Czar Alexander II, alexandrite is a form of the mineral chrysoberyl noted for its ability to change colors in different forms of light. In sunlight, alexandrite looks blue-green, but in indoor (tungsten) light it changes to reddish-purple. Natural alexandrite with good color is very expensive today, as very little is still being mined, and there are many synthetics on the market. Synthetic color-change sapphire is also sometimes mistaken for alexandrite.


A material that is made by mixing two or more different metals together, or by mixing metal with a nonmetal substance through fusion or electrodeposition. Rose gold, representing a mixture of gold and copper, is an example of an alloy commonly used in jewelry.


A silver-white, metallic element. Aluminum is characteristic of being highly ductile, malleable, and lightweight. It is also the most abundant metal found in the Earth’s crust, making it a low-cost option for metal products.


A gem made of a microcline form of feldspar. This stone is characteristic of an opaque to translucent appearance with a pale green, dark green, or blue-green coloration.


The fossilized resin of prehistoric pine trees which ranges in color from golden to orange-red. Amber represents one of the birthstones associated with the Taurus zodiac sign.


A purple variety of quartz, characteristic of a translucent to transparent appearance with a deep purple coloration brought on by trace amounts of iron. Amethyst was ranked among the most precious stones until the eighteenth century when a large South American deposit was found. This gem is a birthstone for February, and for the Pisces zodiac sign. It is also associated with the 4th, 6th, and 17th wedding anniversaries.


A charm, usually coming in the form of either a natural object or an item of jewelry, is worn around the neck or carried on the person as a form of magical protection or a source of good fortune.


To strengthen glass or metal by alternately heating and pounding it.


An anode is the positive end of an electrical circuit. In the anodization process, a metal object is placed in an acid bath and subjected to an electric current. This process causes oxygen atoms to bond to the surface of the metal, giving it a thin, protective film and a lustrous sheen.


The most commonly accepted definition of an antique is any object of at least one hundred years old that is valued for its old age. However, it is becoming more common to apply the term to objects made at least seventy-five years ago.


The process of darkening the recessed areas of gold or silver jewelry to enhance the visibility of the engraving, thereby creating the appearance of age. Platinum cannot be antiqued.

Antwerp (diamond-cutting)

A city in Belgium, notable for being the home of the most noteworthy and versatile diamond-cutting center in the world. Most pieces of diamond jewelry have likely passed through Antwerp’s diamond district at some point. All sizes and shapes of diamonds are cut in Antwerp.


An evaluation of an item’s monetary value. In the jewelry world, appraisals are usually performed for insurance purposes by a gemologist. An appraisal should describe the piece in detail, including color, clarity, proportions, stone sizes, flaws, and other distinguishing characteristics.


Flowing scrollwork, epitomized by curlicues in low relief. Arabesque jewelry will take on the appearance of foliage, scrolls, leaves, and fantastic animals.

Art Deco

A style characteristic of angular geometric shapes, bold colors, zigzags, molded or faceted Czech glass beads, plastics, and chrome. This is the geometric style that succeeded Edwardian jewelry beginning in the 1910’s through the mid-1920’s, representing a stark contrast with the curved aesthetic of this era. Colored stones were utilized more, and opaque stones such as onyx, jade, and coral were set in geometric shapes. Art Deco started out with relatively delicate designs and progressed to a bolder and blockier style that became known as Art Moderne.

Art Nouveau

A style is also known as “Victorian” or “Edwardian” that was popular from about 1895 to 1905. Art Nouveau is characteristic of fluid lines, floral and nature themes, and natural colors. It is also known for its flowing style, with sinuous curves and naturalistic motifs. A common motif was a woman’s head with flowing hair.


Articulated jewelry is jewelry that has been constructed with hinges to make it flexible or give it moving parts.

Arts and Crafts

A design movement that began in the late 1800’s as a rejection of the mass-produced, machine-made designs of questionable aesthetic value that were common in the late Victorian era. The designers believed that their work ought to look handmade, and therefore they often left hammer marks on their pieces. Although there was arts and crafts jewelry made of gold, silver was more commonly used to emphasize the craftsmanship of the piece rather than the intrinsic value of the components. The gemstones used were commonly less expensive. Cabochon stones such as moonstone, mother of pearl, agate, amber, and enamel work were also used.


To determine the amount of a given precious metal contained within an article of jewelry to reach the required legal standard without actually analyzing the total composition of the alloy. After successfully assaying a piece of jewelry, the article is hallmarked appropriately.

Aurora Borealis

The term Aurora Borealis is Latin for “northern lights”, describing the atmospheric phenomenon seen near the poles. In the jewelry world, Aurora Borealis rhinestones are glass stones that have a special iridescent coating that shines with many colors, similar to the lights from which they borrow their name.


The baguette cut is one of the many shapes that gemstones can be fashioned into. This shape is a step cut with a narrow, rectangular appearance, sharp corners, and a single row of step-like facets set above the girdle.


The connector at the top of a pendant or other piece of jewelry that enables the piece to hang from a chain or jump ring.

Bakelite jewelry

A synthetic plastic material patented in 1909. Also called catalin, bakelite was used in jewelry extensively during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Bakelite can be molded, lathe-carved, and inlaid with various colors to create effects like polka dots. Inlaid and carved pieces are particularly popular with collectors today. It has a distinct scent when rubbed to warm, somewhat like formaldehyde. Watch for both outright repros, and later plastics from the last 20-30 years that might be mistaken for bakelite by the untrained eye.


Head ornament in the form of a narrow band or ribbon worn low, encircling the forehead.


A non-flexible bracelet, typically consisting of a solid, circular piece of metal or two semicircular pieces fitted together with a hinge and closed with a clasp.

Baroque jewelry

Jewelry characteristic of a bold, ornate, heavy appearance. When the term is used to describe a pearl (either real of fake), it means that the shape of the pearl is irregular.


Alternatively known as “basse taille” or “bassetaille”, this describes an enameling technique wherein glass is applied to a metal surface. The surface of this metal must be engraved deeply enough to hold the enamel when heated, with sides high enough to keep the enamel colors separate.


Small hair-like or feather-like cracks along the girdle of a diamond. This is also occasionally known as “whiskers”. If you have a piece of jewelry that has developed some bearding, you may be able to restore the diamond with some light re-polishing.

Belle Epoque

Another name for the Edwardian period. Jewelry created during this time is well known for its extensive use of filigree.

Berlin Iron

Cast iron jewelry worked into delicate openwork patterns. It derives its name from the fact that such jewelry was made in Berlin during the first half of the nineteenth century.


When referring to a setting for a stone, a bezel comes in the form of a collar that surrounds the gem to hold it in place. When referring to a facet of a gemstone, the bezel describes the sloping portion of the stone just above the girdle.


The art of working in gold and enamel. Bijouterie jewelry is generally valued more for the fine craftsmanship than for the value of the materials themselves.

Biwa Pearl

Freshwater cultured pearl from Japan. Traditionally, this term was applied only to the non-nucleated pearls that were cultured in Lake Biwa. However, over time, the term was erroneously applied to any freshwater pearl cultured in Japan. Lake Biwa is currently too polluted to support pearl farming, but the US Federal Trade Commission has ruled that the term “Biwa Pearl” can be applied to any pearl coming from a freshwater mussel in Japan.


A flaw, spot, or scratch on the surface of a gemstone. The presence or absence of blemishes affect the clarity of the stone, which is a big deciding factor in determining its value.

Blister Pearl

Irregularly shaped and hollow pearl that has developed as a blister-like growth on the inside of an oyster’s shell, instead of within the soft tissues. These pearls are cut from the shell, resulting in a dome-like pearl with a flat base that is great for earrings, pendants, and other jewelry.

Blue Topaz

A topaz that is light brown or colorless when mined but turns a vivid blue when exposed to heat. Blue topaz is an alternate birthstone for December, and blue topaz jewelry is associated with the 4th wedding anniversary.

Bog Oak

Wood that was preserved over thousands of years in the bogs of Ireland which was hard enough to be carved and used as jewelry. Bog oak jewelry was popular during Victorian times.

Bolt Ring

A jewelry finding that is a hollow or partially hollow connecting ring which is drawn back on an internal spring, commonly used for necklace and bracelet fasteners.

Book Chain

A Victorian style of chain made in gold, gold filled, and sterling silver in which each link is a rectangular folded piece of metal. It gets its name from the fact that the rectangular links resemble books. They were often elaborately engraved and had large lockets attached.


Sodium borate, used as flux for soldering, melting, and brazing metals.

Box Setting

A square or rectangular setting for a gemstone, with the top edges pressed down to hold the stone in place. Also referred to as a box-shaped setting, a box-type setting, a box-like closed gem setting, or a Gypsy mounting.


An alloy of zinc and copper, consisting of between 70-90% copper and 10-30% zinc. The mixture is strong and ductile. Brass is one of the most important metals for the creation of clocks and watches.


The intensity and amount of light reflecting, dispersing, and scintillating from inside a diamond or other transparent gemstone.

Brilliant Cut

This is the most popular shape for diamonds and colored gemstones to be cut into. The standard round brilliant cut consists of a total of 58 facets: 1 table, 8 bezel facets, 8 star facets, 16 upper-girdle facets on the crown, 8 pavilion facets, 16 lower-girdle facets, and usually a culet on the pavilion or base. Although the brilliant style was devised to give maximum brilliancy and fire, many stones cut in this fashion do not have ideal proportions or angles for that purpose. Modifications of the round brilliant include such fancy shapes as the marquise, half moon, pear shape, and many others. See also Round Cut.


A diamond or other transparent gemstone that has been cut into a pear or teardrop shape, covered with triangular facets. Briolettes are occasionally pierced at the top of the stone to allow it to be worn as a pendant or part of a similar piece of jewelry.


A very dense and heavy alloy that consists of roughly 60% copper and 40% tin. It has a dull brown color and is not favored for jewelry because of the weight.


An ornamental piece of jewelry with a pin or clasp to be attached to clothing, generally worn at the neck shoulder, or breast, or on a hat. The word is taken from the French word “Broche,” meaning to pierce or an object/weapon made for piercing.

Brushed Finish

A finish also known as satin finish, brushed finish is a texturing technique that can be used on metals where a series of tiny parallel lines are scratched onto the surface with a wire brush or polishing tool. This technique is used for jewelry, watches, and silverware.

Buff Top Cabochon

A style of gemstone cutting where the top of the stone is a dome (en cabochon) and the pavilion is faceted. This style is also occasionally known as simply buff top, or buffed-top.


Two concave plates that form a hollow receptacle, comprising a form of jewelry that was worn around the necks of ancient Roman children.


A simple type of closing catch found mostly in antique bracelets and necklaces. The c-catch represents the most common means of securing such jewelry before safety catches were invented. The pin, connected to one side of the brooch, is threaded through a layer of the garment and rests in a “C” shaped catch on the other side of the brooch. The “C” had no mechanism to hold the pin in place and so the pins were usually designed to be long enough to extend far enough beyond the end of the brooch to weave back into the garment for security.


A dome-shaped, non-faceted gemstone shape. This shape is preferred for jewelry with opaque or translucent stones, like amethyst, garnet, jade, moonstone, opal, or turquoise.

Calibre Cut

Small stones that are faceted and cut into squares, rectangles, or oblongs and set close together. Calibre cut stones are used to add details to jewelry designs. This term is alternatively spelled “caliber cut”.


A measuring instrument used for determining the thickness or diameter of a gemstone.


A medallion, rink, or other piece of jewelry fitted with a carved relief. This relief comes in the form of a layered stone or material, frequently either a banded agate or sea shell, that has been carved with a woman’s profile (most common), man’s profile, a natural scene, or with themes involving the Greek and Roman deities. As the carver removed material from the surface, the different layers beneath were revealed, most often showing different colors or shades which create a 3-dimensional quality to the scene or image.

Cameo Habille

This is a French term which translates to “dressed cameo”. Most often, this comes in the form of a depiction of a female who is carved wearing a diamond pendant, earrings, or a crown; the carver adds a small stone to the piece by drilling a small hole in the cameo and then setting the tiny stone, which is wired to the back of the cameo.


A close relation to filigree, cannetille makes use of thin gold or silver wires which are coiled or twisted to create delicate ornamentation for jewelry.


A unit of weight for diamonds and other gems. The carat formerly varied somewhat in different countries, but the metric carat of .2 grams, or 200 milligrams, was adopted in the United States and is now standardized in the principal countries of the world. There are one hundred points in a carat. This term should not be confused with the homophone “karat”, which is used to express the purity of gold.


A garnet cut en cabochon. This term was once applied to all red gemstones, including rubies, spinels, and almandines.


A translucent red or orange variety of chalcedony, sometimes banded red and orange like an agate. Once believed to benefit the wearer’s health and love life. Carnelian jewelry is associated with the zodiac signs of Leo and Virgo.


A swirling or scroll-like decoration that most often comes in the form of a symmetrical design and is usually engraved as an embellishment; often found on Victorian jewelry, coats of arms, monograms, family crests, and emblems.

Metal casting

A method of shaping metal by melting and then pouring the material into a hollow mold. The casted piece is slightly more porous, with a rough surface that requires additional polishing and finishing.


Trade name for an early phenol plastic, popular for use in jewelry in the 1930’s.


An early plastic that was invented in 1868 and used in jewelry to simulate tortoise shell, coral, and alabaster. Celluloid was made of soluble gun cotton and camphor, resembling ivory in texture and color. It can also be dyed to resemble coral, tortoise shell, amber, and other natural stones. Because Celluloid is highly flammable, it enjoyed brief popularity before it was replaced by the more stable phenolic resins which came into existence in the 1930’s.


Designs that are derived from the ancient Irish, Gaelic, British, Scottish, and Welsh symbols.


A quartz-based group of stones, coming in many different colors and forms. In the jewelry world, the term is generally only applied to the waxy, translucent, light blue incarnation.


An enameling technique in which areas of metal are cut, etched, or routed and then filled with enamel or molten glass. Most commonly applied to copper or bronze for the purposes of creating jewelry and other decorative items.

Channel Setting

Stone setting method that fits a string of stones of uniform size into a channel to form a continuous strip, without the need of prongs, beads, or dividers to hold them into place.


A method of texturing the front or outside of jewelry or other metal objects by making indentations using shaped punches and a chasing hammer. The opposite of chasing is repousse.

Chaton Cut

Round crystal jewelry stone shape with twelve facets on the pointed back.


A jeweled collar or a short necklace, generally less than 14″ long.


Short for chromium. This is a hard, brittle, grayish-white metal that is resistant to corrosion. Its chief commercial importance is for its compounds, which are brilliantly colored and are used in dyeing and calico printing. Commonly used for costume jewelry and watches to provide a low-cost alternative to other shiny metals.


A semi-precious stone composed of beryllium aluminum oxide. This stone appears as transparent golden yellow, green yellow or brown.


In Victorian days, a woman did not have pockets. Instead, a châtelaine was pinned at a woman’s waist with several chains suspended from it, most commonly holding scissors, keys, a thimble, a comb, and other household necessities. Today, a châtelaine pin usually refers to pins that are joined together by small chains.


A term coming from the French words for “lost wax”, describing a method of casting metals in which a wax model is put into a plaster mold and then melted away.


A variety of quartz which occurs in a color range from light yellow to a brilliant orange, often confused with fine imperial topaz. The citrine is associated with the month of November, and the zodiac sign of Virgo. Citrine jewelry is a traditional gift for the 13th and 17th wedding anniversaries.


One of the “Four C’s” for determining a gemstone’s value. Clarity is a measure of the degree to which a gemstone is free from flaws. A clarity scale is used to grade flaws in gemstones, ranging from FL (Flawless) where there are no visible internal or external flaws to I3, where many imperfections are readily visible to the naked eye.


Another technique of enameling whereby the enamel colored glass powder is placed into pockets or cells of metal, and then baked and cooled to solidify. The metal portions have high walls that keep the colors from running into each other during firing.


Group of tiny or microscopic inclusions in a transparent gemstone. These inclusions give the stone a clouded appearance, which can compromise its brilliance and make the stone less desirable for use in jewelry.


A round band of metal encircling a gemstone to hold it in place. Alternatively, it may be used in the same way “culet” might be used to describe the small facet at the base of the pavilion of a cut gemstone.


A wide necklace worn close to the neck from throat to chin.

Color (gemstone)

One of the “Four C’s” that determine the value of a gemstone. In standard diamonds, the color scale ranges from D (colorless) to Z (light yellow). In colored gemstones and fancy colored diamonds, the grading scale differs widely depending on the type of stone.

Comfort Fit

A ring design in which the edges of the shank are rounded to achieve maximum comfort.


A common reddish-brown, metallic element. Copper is the only metal which occurs abundantly in large masses as opposed to small veins or nuggets that must be mined out of other rocks. When alloyed with tin it forms bronze and when alloyed with zinc it forms brass. Copper is ductile, malleable, and an excellent conductor of heat and electricity. It is widely used for jewelry, electrical wiring, water piping, and corrosion-resistant parts.


A form of calcium carbonate secreted in long chains by an animal called the coral polyp, which lives in colonies under the ocean. Coral can be found all over the world, but the bulk of coral used in jewelry making has always come from the waters off Sardinia and the coast of Sicily in the Mediterranean. Coral comes in colors from vivid orange, red, and white to Salmon and pale pink. In jewelry making, coral is either carved into beads, cameos, and other forms or left in its natural form. During the mid-Victorian era, large cameo brooches of coral finely carved in high-relief floral sprays or faces were popular. It used to be thought that coral protected the wearer, so it was a traditional gift to children. Since it is composed of calcium carbonate, real coral will effervesce if touched with acid like lemon juice. Imitation coral is made from glass porcelain or plastic and will not effervesce when brought into contact with acid.

Creole Earrings

Hoop earrings characteristic of being broader at the bottom than at the top, popular in the 1850’s.

Cross Facet

A small, triangular facet above and below the girdle of a brilliant cut stone.


When used to describe part of a jewel, a crown represents the facets or portions of a cut gemstone located above the girdle.


There are two basic kinds of crystal: rock crystal and man-made crystal. Rock crystal is the common name for the silicate mineral, quartz, which is a semi-precious stone that occurs in nature. A man-made crystal is produced from a mixture of quartz and soda potash and lead oxide. Oddly enough, rock crystal has nowhere near the color or brilliance of manufactured crystal.

Cubic Zirconium

Man-made gems which strongly resemble diamonds, but have an entirely different chemical composition. CZ’s, as they are often called, can be mass produced and are therefore much less expensive than natural diamonds.


The part of a cut gemstone found at the bottom of the pavilion. The culet is sometimes polished with a tiny facet, and sometimes pointed with no facet.

Cultured Pearl

As opposed to a natural pearl, a cultured pearl is a pearl that has been cultivated in a pearl farm. An oyster or mollusk is artificially seeded with a tiny object that forms the pearl’s nucleus. The mollusk then excretes a coating to protect itself from the irritant. Cultured pearls count as real pearls, as opposed to pearl simulants made out of plastic or glass.

Cushion Cut

Also called an antique cut, a cushion cut is a shape for a gemstone that has a square or rectangular outline and rounded corners.


One of the “Four C’s” used to determine the value of a gemstone used in jewelry. The cut refers to the geometric proportion that dictates the reflection and refraction of light within the stone.

Cut Steel

Steel studs that have been machine stamped, cut with facets, and highly polished. In the days before electricity, the faceted steel would be quite brilliant, giving the impression of gemstones in candlelight. Most frequently used between 1750 and 1870; highly susceptible to rust and corrosion. Finding cut steel jewelry in good condition today is not common.


A type of jewelry wherein non-precious metals like iron or steel are decorated with gold or other precious metals in a decorative pattern. This process was first used in the 14th century in Damascus, from which it takes its name. Today, most damascene work comes from Spain.


A partial set of jewelry. While a complete set of jewelry consists of a pair of earrings, a necklace, a bracelet, and a brooch, all of matching style, a demi-parure only has two or three of these items. This will usually be comprised of either a necklace and a bracelet, or a set of earrings and a brooch.


The exclusive rights to a jewelry design, granted to jewelers by the French government. If a piece of jewelry is stamped with this term, it probably comes from France.


When used in discussing cut gemstones, the depth is a measurement of the distance between the stone’s table (the top facet) to the culet (the bottommost tip). This measurement is generally given in millimeters.

Depth percentage

The average width of a cut diamond, divided by its depth. This is an important factor in determining the brilliance of the stone.


A type of crown. Traditionally, this was the ornament that Eastern monarchs would wear as a symbol of royalty. In contemporary times, the term is attached to jeweled, semi-circular headbands worn by women over the forehead (alternatively known as tiaras).


A form of crystallized carbon where the atoms are arranged in a cubic or isometric system. It is well known for being the hardest known naturally-occurring substance on the planet, boasting a rating of 10 on the Moh’s Hardness Scale. Its hardness and high refractive index (2.417) permits it to be fashioned as the most brilliant of all gems and its dispersion (.044) produces a high degree of fire. Its specific gravity is 3.52.

Though diamonds are colorless and transparent in their pure state, with the purest varieties commanding some of the highest prices on the market, impurities in diamonds make them available in a wide variety of colors. Yellow, brown, orange, green, blue, violet, white, and black diamonds are all well known to jewelers. Red diamonds are also occasionally found, but these are rare; diamonds with an intense red coloration are among the hardest gemstones in the world to find.

The diamond is commonly accepted as the April birthstone, and often associated with either the 60th or 75th wedding anniversary.

Diamond cut

More commonly known as the brilliant cut, this is a style of cutting a gemstone originally designed to achieve maximum brilliance out of a diamond. Alternatively, diamond cut might refer to flat, diamond-shaped cuts in metal on jewelry like rings, chains, and earrings.

Dog collar

Popular during the Victorian era, this was a snug necklace made from rows of pearls or beads and usually worn high up on the neck. Occasionally, this item would come in the form of a ribbon with a jewel attached to the front. It was made popular in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods by Queen Alexandra, who had a long, graceful neck.


A combination piece, consisting of two dress clips attached to a single brooch frame. A duette can be worn as a brooch, or separated to wear as a set of clips. The term started out as a registered design by Coro, but has come to be used as a generic name for such pieces.

Edwardian jewelry

Refers to the historical period spanning 1901 to 1910, marked by the reign of Edward VII of England. In terms of jewelry styles, this period also extends back to the last years of Queen Victoria’s reign, and continues until shortly before World War I when the Art Deco movement took over. This is the last of the jewelry periods to be defined by a British monarch.

As a jewelry style, Edwardian pieces are characteristic of a light, monochromatic aesthetic. White gold and platinum were most commonly used as metals, with white diamonds and pearls making up most of the gemstones. Pieces were fashioned with delicate filigree, including bows, swags, and garland effects. Dog collars and long fringed necklaces were very much in style, having been popularized by Queen Alexandra and her famous long neck.

Electroplated coatings

A process of electrochemically bonding a layer of one metal onto another. An item made of the base metal is given a negative charge and placed into a solution containing positively charged particles of the other metal. These positive particles are attracted to the negative metal and form a chemical bond, resulting in an extremely thin coating. Electroplated coatings are measured in microns.


Emeralds are the green member of the beryl family, representing the most famous and most sought-after of the green gemstones. Boasting an attractive color and a hardness of between 7.5 and 8 on the Moh’s scale, a quality emerald can be one of the more valuable gems on the market. The best emeralds have a vivid green color, sometimes with a slight blue tint that makes the gem all the more valuable.

Emeralds are a brittle stone, and are known for being heavy with inclusions. Finding a stone with no visible flaws is highly rare. Therefore, heavy inclusions in an emerald are unlikely to decrease the value of the stone as much as they would in other varieties of gem. In fact, since synthetic emeralds are such a challenge for gemologists to identify, some people appreciate the presence of inclusions as a sign of authenticity.

The emerald is commonly accepted as the May birthstone. It is also associated with the 20th, 35th, and occasionally the 55th wedding anniversary.

Emerald cut

A common shape to cut a precious gemstone into. It comes in the form of a rectangle with cut off corners, featuring steps of elongated facets on the crown and pavilion that run parallel to the girdle. The number of rows or steps may vary, though there are usually three on the crown and three on the pavilion.

This shape was specially designed for the emerald, allowing the brittle gemstone to be cut with a minimum of pressure that might further damage the stone. It also serves well to enhance the strong color usually associated with emeralds. However, it is also used for other varieties of gem, representing a strong choice for colorless stones and strong, fancy-color diamonds. It is seldom used for diamonds in the intermediate color grades.

Occasionally, an emerald cut will take on a squared appearance. This may be known as a square emerald cut.

Empire earrings

The distinctive hoop shape of Roman earrings originating around the 1st century BC. These earrings are often made with freshwater pearls or amethysts in either sterling silver or gold.

En tremblant

This French term, translating to “to tremble”, is used to describe a type of jewelry that incorporates moving parts. These parts are generally attached to coiled springs of metal concealed beneath the portion of the jewelry that is intended to move, allowing the piece to emulate nature with a subtle trembling effect. En tremblant jewelry is usually found in the form of antique brooches and hair ornaments.


A powder or paste made from glass, applied to the surface of a metal, pottery, or glass object. After application, the object is fired in an annealing oven to bake the glass onto the object. This results in a smooth, glossy appearance.

Jewelry engraving

The process of decorating an item by etching a design into its surface with a sharp tool, like a scriber or graver. Engraving is common on metal jewelry items, though it has also been used on gems and other decorative items.

Jewelry etching

A process by which acids, lasers, or specialized carving tools are utilized to produce designs or patterns on the surface of metal, gemstones, or other objects. This process is different from engraving, in that engraving involves deeper and more distinct cuts.


A small, cylindrical case that hangs from a chatelaine. This case is usually used for holding pencils, needles, cosmetics, or similar small articles.

European cut

A shape commonly used for diamonds during the period between 1890 and the 1930’s. It was characteristic of a circular girdle, a deep pavilion, a large culet, and a particularly small table relative to the diameter of the stone. The large culet creates the illusion of a hole in the bottom of the diamond when viewed from the top, since it allows light to escape instead of reflecting it back to the viewer.

Though this cut was mathematically designed as an “ideal” diamond shape, it became obsolete following the invention of more brilliant round cuts.


When discussing gemstones, extinction refers to the dark or black portion seen within a face-up, transparent gemstone. These areas are caused by off-axis refraction, often occurring in stones cut with an excessively deep pavilion.

Eye-clean gemstone

A gemstone is described as “eye-clean” if it has no inclusions that can be seen with the naked eye. This standard assumes that the viewer has 20/20 vision. A diamond with a clarity grade of about SI-1 or higher is generally going to qualify as eye-clean.


When discussing gemstones, a facet is one of the flat surfaces that is cut into a gem’s surface to enhance its brilliance and scintillation. There are several different types of facets, which are named based on where they are located on the finished stone. These include the table facet, the crown facets, the pavilion facets, the girdle facets, and the culet.


A variety of glazed earthenware made in France, Germany, Spain, or Scandinavia. The glaze in faience is made out of lead, which is rendered white and opaque through the addition of tin oxide. Such pieces are characteristic of fancy painted designs.

Faience was largely produced from the 12th to the 18th century. The craft largely fell out of practical use after the invention of creamware and porcelain, both of which proved to be more durable alternatives.

Fancy cut

Also known as a fancy shape, a fancy cut is any style of diamond cutting that is not a traditional round cut. Such cuts include the emerald cut, marquise cut, pear cut, heart cut, half moon, kite, triangle, and many others.

Faux jewelry

This is a French word that translates to “false”. In the jewelry world, this term is used to describe something that has been manufactured to resemble something more precious. A faux gemstone may be made of paste, glass, plastic, or other non-precious material.

Feather gemstone

When discussing gemstones, a feather is a type of internal flaw (inclusion) that takes on a feathery appearance. It is important to watch out for feathers, as a feather that reaches the outside of the stone leaves the stone susceptible to breakage.

Fede ring

A ring worn on the finger depicting a pair of clasped hands. Such rings have been made since ancient times, and are associated with love and marriage.


A style of headband consisting of a narrow ribbon, usually with a small jewel affixed to the center. This band is worn around the forehead so that the jewel faces forward. Such bands were commonly worn in the late fifteenth century and early nineteenth century.


An arrangement of flowers, fruit, or other foliage. During the Neoclassical period, it became popular to depict such a motif in jewelry. This motif usually comes in the form of a flowery garland, possibly tied with ribbons.


When discussing jewelry, a fibula is a type of brooch or pin akin to the type worn in Ancient Rome. They functioned much like a safety pin, and usually served to hold a cloak in place. The term is technically only applied to archaeological artefacts gathered from the Roman empire, but it is often used to refer to any brooches from the ancient or early medieval period that follow the Roman model.

Filigree jewelry

Delicate metalwork used in jewelry. Filigree generally consists of twisted, curling wires of metal, usually gold and silver, shaped to take on the appearance of rosettes, spirals, scrolls, floral patterns, and more.

There are two main varieties of filigree: designs that are soldered to a metal base, and openwork designs that are left without a metal backing. The latter type is characteristic of jewelry from 15th century Europe.

Filigree jewelry has been produced since ancient times. Archaeological finds from Mesopotamia have placed it at least as far back as 3,000 BC. It can be found in jewelry from many different cultures, commonly associated with Jewish wedding rings, English mourning rings, and peasant jewelry from Spain and Portugal.


To a jeweler, findings are prefabricated components that are used to create jewelry. These components can include clasps, pins, hooks, tabs, ear clips, and other important parts.


The finish of a piece of jewelry describes the polish or texture that is applied to the metal. Common finishes include the polished finish, matte, and brushed.

Gemstone’s Fire

In the jewelry world, fire is a key component in measuring the quality of a gemstone’s cut. Also known as “dispersion”, fire describes the phenomenon wherein white light enters a stone and is split into all the colors of the rainbow, like a prism.

Gemologists use a device known as a refractometer to determine a stone’s fire. They then assign the stone a number rating which represents the difference between the red and violet refractive indices.


When discussing gemstones, flaws come in two different forms: the inclusions (flaws inside the stone), and blemishes (flaws on the surface of the stone). Measuring the presence and visibility of flaws is how a gemstone’s clarity is measured, which is an important part of determining a stone’s value.


When discussing the clarity of a gemstone, flawless is a label attached to stones that lack any discernible inclusions or blemishes when viewed by a trained gemologist under no less than 10x magnification. Truly flawless gemstones are far rarer than eye-clean stones, and therefore much more valuable.


A French term that translates to “flower of the lily”. A fleur-de-lys comes in the form of a stylized, three-petaled iris. It was used by many royal families in Europe on flags and coats of arms, but it is particularly associated with the kings of France. Today, it remains a common French symbol, as well as a common motif for jewelry.

Florentine finish

A finish pattern used in jewelry, consisting of a cross-hatching. A florentine finish is similar to a brushed finish, but with deeper, coarser lines.

Gemstone Fluorescence

When talking about gemstones, fluorescence refers to the phenomenon wherein certain stones exhibit luminescence when exposed to ultraviolet light. Roughly a quarter of diamonds used in jewelry have some degree of fluorescence, which manifests as a blue glow that lasts as long as the stone is bathed in long-wave UV radiation. In rare instances, the luminescence may be yellow, white, or another color.

Studies have shown that the presence of fluorescence rarely has an effect on the appearance of a diamond viewed under normal lighting conditions. Occasionally, a diamond with extremely strong fluorescence may have a hazy or oily appearance.


A flux is a substance that allows certain solid substances to liquify at a temperature than its usual melting point. For example, water may serve as a flux for sugar. Jewelers use fluxes when working with metal, or to treat gemstones.


A short chain or ribbon that is attached to a pocket watch, or “fob watch”. Such chains will often have an ornament or decorative seal attached to the other end.


To a jeweler, foil refers to a thin sheet of metal that is used to coat the back of a gemstone or rhinestone. This sheet is usually made out of gold, silver, or copper. The purpose of a foil is to enhance the color and brilliance of the stone that it backs.


When discussing gemstones, a fracture can come in the form of a crack, a chip, or a “feather” in the stone.

French ivory

A plastic produced as a simulation of ivory. French ivory was created by the Xylonite Company in 1866. It occasionally goes by Celluloid, Ivoride, Ivorine, or Pyralin.

French jet

A form of glass designed to simulate jet. This glass was created during the Victorian Era, after Queen Victoria popularized jet for mourning jewelry. The demand for jet quickly exhausted sources of the natural fossilized coal, forcing people to search for alternatives.

French wire

A type of fastener used in jewelry, coming in the form of a curved wire that resembles a fish hook with a catch closure. It is most commonly used for dangling earrings to accommodate the extra weight involved.

Freshwater pearls

Pearls originating from freshwater sources, like mussels and clams. Compared to saltwater pearls, freshwater pearls tend to have a more uneven surface and irregular shape. Such pearls were popular in Roman jewelry, where they were appreciated for their unique shapes, variety of colors, and easier availability.

Today, freshwater pearls are more affordable than saltwater pearls. This is largely because freshwater mollusks can produce between twenty and fifty pearls during a single harvest period.

Full-cut brilliant

A style of gem cutting developed in 1910. Full-cut brilliant stones have a round girdle, thirty-two facets in the crown, and twenty-four facets in the pavilion.

Full-lead crystal

A man-made material used in the creation of fine crystal and glassware, consisting of glass mixed with lead. People are attracted to this material, because the lead oxide content serves to enhance its natural color spectrum. Pieces created with full-lead crystal can last for many years with daily use.


The Gemological Institute of America. GIA is a non-profit organization that specializes in grading diamonds and other gemstones, as well as providing education in the field of gems and jewelry. Largely considered to be the world’s foremost gemological authority, GIA was responsible for standardizing the practice of gemstone appraisal and created many of the more widely-accepted gemstone grading systems.


A family of precious silicate gemstones with an isometric crystal shape and a hardness of between 6.5 and 8.5 on the Moh’s scale. Garnets are most well-known as a red stone, though they come in a variety of colors that include violet, white, green, yellow, orange, pink, brown, grey, and black. It derives its name from the resemblance of the deeper red stones to the seeds of a pomegranate.

There is a number of different names for garnets, based on the appearance of the individual stone. These include rhodolite (purplish-red), hessonite (orange or pink), and tsavorite (green), among others.

The red garnet is commonly accepted as the January birthstone. It is also associated with the 2nd and 6th wedding anniversaries.


Somebody who practices the study of gemstones. Gemologists specialize in the identification, grading, and appraisal of gems.


The scientific branch of mineralogy that deals with natural and artificial gemstones. It is through gemology that we derive our standardized grading systems for appraising the value of precious stones.


Describing any kind of precious or semi-precious stone that is cut and polished for use in jewelry or other decorative accessories. Most gemstones come in the form of crystalline minerals, like diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, rubies, amethysts, zircons, and beryls. However, the term is also applied to organic materials like amber, coral, jet, pearls, or petrified wood, as well as certain rocks like the lapis lazuli or the jasper.


A pendant that is long but relatively small. Gerlots are made with beads, gemstones, or pearls.


The process of covering a cheaper metal with a thin layer of gold, or another more precious metal. Gilding can also refer to the gold leaf or other material used to gild an object.


Gold, or a substance that resembles gold, that is used to coat the surface of jewelry or a similar item. The word can also be used as an adjective to describe an object that is coated in gilt.

Gimmel ring

A piece of jewelry made of two or more hoops, linked together so that they appear to be a single ring. Such rings were popular in the 16th and 17th century as engagement rings; a couple would each wear one hoop, which would then be joined together as a single piece on the day of the wedding. Gimmel rings are occasionally known as gimmal rings or puzzle rings.


When talking about jewelry, girandole describes an earring or brooch with three pear-shaped stones, pearls, or similar pendants hanging from a larger stone or ornament, such as a bow. The three pendants are hung side by side, with the center pendant hanging slightly lower than the other two. Such jewelry gets its name from its resemblance to girandole-style candelabras, and are occasionally known as chandelier jewelry


On a faceted gemstone, the girdle is the outer edge that serves as a dividing line between the upper, “crown” facets and the lower, “pavilion” facets. This is the largest diameter of the stone, and the portion that is usually grasped by the setting or mounting.


A precious metal valued for its beautiful appearance and great malleability. Jewelry made out of gold has the advantage of being immune to oxidization and tarnish, though the great softness of the metal means that it wears down and breaks relatively easily. Gold used in jewelry is almost always alloyed with stronger metals to increase its durability.

Though naturally yellow in color, gold is often alloyed with metals of various other colors to achieve white gold, rose gold, green gold, and many other varieties.

Gold washed

A gold washed piece of jewelry consists of a base metal with an extremely thin coating of gold. This gold has been applied by either dipping or burnishing the base metal. The gold coating is thinner than that found in gold-filled or gold-plated jewelry, and will wear away more quickly.


Describing a base metal which has been covered with a thick layer of gold, generally at least 10k in purity and weighing at least one twentieth of the total weight of the piece. Gold-filled jewelry is similar in many ways to gold-plated jewelry, but more durable.

If a piece of jewelry is gold-filled, it will generally be marked with the letters “GF” along with a number expressing the fineness of the gold layer and the portion of the weight of the piece that consists of gold. For example, a piece marked with “1/10 14k G.F.” is at least 1/10 gold by weight, and the gold used is 14 karat.


Describing a piece made out of a base metal, which has been coated with a thin layer of gold bonded to its surface. This gold makes up less than one twentieth of the total weight of the piece. Gold plating is similar to gold-filled pieces, but less durable.


The practice of grading a diamond is standardized based on four different criteria, commonly referred to as the Four C’s: color, cut, clarity, and carat weight.


A process used to decorate the metal surface of jewelry, wherein tiny granules are fusion-welded to the metal to create a granulated texture. This is a process that has been used for centuries in India and Nepal.

Graver tool

A tool resembling a chisel, often used by a jeweler to engrave metal.

Green gold

Sometimes known as electrum, this is a variety of gold alloy sometimes used in jewelry. This gold has been blended with a high proportion of silver, along with copper and zinc, to give it a faint green hue.

Grey gold

A variety of gold alloy with a greyish coloration. This color is usually achieved by mixing gold with palladium, though some cheaper alloys exist with various ratios of silver, manganese, and copper added into the mix.


A painting technique wherein an image is rendered entirely in monochromatic shades, usually modeled to replicate the appearance of a sculptured relief.

Guilloché enamel

Taken from a French term meaning “engine turning”, guilloché describes a certain type of enamelling process wherein an engine-turned lathe is used to form a decorative pattern in a base metal, and then the enamel is placed over this pattern. Very few companies still practice this process, and true guilloché can be hard to come by. Jewelry collectors looking for guilloché pieces should be wary of reproductions.

Gypsy setting

A form of gemstone setting used for jewelry, wherein the stone is mounted deep within the surrounding metal so that the top of the stone is almost level with the metal. A gypsy setting is one of the most secure settings, and has therefore been a popular choice for men’s rings ever since its inception in the 1880’s. Though it was originally created specifically for men’s jewelry, it has since been used in women’s jewelry as well.


In the jewelry industry, a hallmark is a mark stamped on a piece of jewelry. Hallmarks can be used to identify the purity of the metal used in the jewelry, the country that the jewelry was manufactured in, the date that the piece was assayed, or the specific jeweler who created it. In Europe, hallmarks are legally required as a form of consumer protection against fraud. They are not officially required in the United States, but are often carried by custom and practice.


The hardness of a substance is a quantifiable quality that expresses its resistance to certain physical changes. The harder a substance is, the less likely it is to be scratched, and the more likely it is to be able to scratch another substance. The hardness of various metals and stones used in jewelry is an important consideration when shopping for a piece; jewelry made from soft materials, like gold, is more susceptible to damage, while jewelry made from hard materials, like platinum and diamonds, are safer for everyday use.

Hardness is measured on the Moh’s Scale of Mineral Hardness, with harder materials being rated with higher numbers and softer materials being rated with lower numbers. A hardness of one is the equivalent of talc, while a hardness of ten is akin to most natural diamonds.

When discussing jewelry, the head is the portion that holds the center stone in place.


Also known as bloodstone, hematite is a form of iron oxide. It gets its name from the fact that, in its powdered form, it has a blood-red coloration. However, when polished, the metal takes on a silver-grey appearance. Jewelers will use hematite to create inexpensive beads and cabochons.


Jewelers will use this term to describe a substance taken from cow horns, often used in jewelry as a substitute for tortoiseshell.


When discussing gemstones, an imperfection is a general term that describes any inclusion, blemish, fracture, carbon spot, or other defect. According to US trade practice, imperfections are defined as such only if they are visible when examined by a trained eye under as much as 10x magnification. The presence and visibility of imperfections is measured by the gemstone’s clarity, which is a big deciding factor in the value of a stone.


To a jeweler, an inclusion is a defect visible on the inside of a transparent or translucent gemstone. Different kinds of inclusions include cleavages, fractures, knots, carbon spots, feathers, and clouds. Inclusions are sometimes called “internal characteristics”, and often serve to lower the value of a gemstone.


A precious metal cast into a brick or bar shape for easy storage and sale. Ingots will generally serve as the raw materials for jewelers.


When metal is described as inlaid, it is embedded in another material so that it is level with the surface of the material. Jewelers will often make use of inlaid metals to create decorative designs on gemstones or other jewelry surfaces.


The act of embedding a material in another material so that the surfaces of both substances are even with each other. As a noun, an inlay refers to the decorative work that results from inlaying. A gold inlay, for example, may describe a pattern of gold that has been inlaid into another material.


A design carved into a gemstone. Intaglios are distinct from cameos, in that a cameo is a design that is raised out of the gem’s surface. The intaglio technique dates back to antiquity, but began to fall out of use in the nineteenth century when they were deemed to be sub-optimal for jewelry. For a while they were used almost entirely for seal rings and fobs, where they were useful for creating wax seals for letters. However, once the invention of the postage stamp made wax seals obsolete, intaglios waned into rarity.

Invisible setting

Also known as serti invisible, an invisible setting is a means of mounting a gemstone in jewelry so that the setting is not readily apparent. This is achieved by cutting the stones with carefully-calibrated, grooved girdles that are locked into a wire framework. The stones can then be mounted so that they blend seamlessly with each other, effectively concealing the wires holding them in place. The process for creating invisible settings was perfected and patented by Van Cleef & Arpels in 1933.


When a gemstone is described as being iridescent, this means that it shows a surface or interior display of colors which result not from the color of the stone itself, but rather the behavior of the light that enters it. It is this quality that accounts for much of the striking beauty of many popular gemstones.


A metal belonging to the platinum group. Iridium has a white coloration and a high level of hardness, superior to that of platinum. It is therefore often alloyed with platinum to strengthen the metal. If such an alloy is used in jewelry, the piece may be marked with a stamp indicating the percentage of each metal in the piece; “90% Plat. 10% Irrid”, for example, would indicate that the alloy is 10% iridium.


The process of exposing a subject to radiation. In the jewelry world, gemstones may be exposed to controlled radiation in order to change or enhance their color. Irradiated gemstones are generally not as valuable as their more natural equivalents, but a radiation-treated stone is very difficult to detect in laboratory settings.


A material derived from the teeth and tusks of mammals used in jewelry and decorative items. Animals harvested for ivory have included elephants, walruses, boars, whales, hippos, and even the extinct woolly mammoth, with tusk-based ivory being far more common than tooth-based pieces.

Since the ivory trade largely results in the death of endangered animals, like the elephant, ivory trade is strictly regulated. The importation of any raw ivory is not allowed in the US, though antique ivory pieces can generally be bought and sold in a legal market. Ivory objects carved from hippo teeth are available in certain other countries, as hippos shed their teeth naturally so that they can be collected without endangering the animal.

Jabot pin

A style of brooch that was popular in the 1920’s and 1930’s. These pins are attached to clothing so that only the two decorative, bejeweled ends are visible, allowing the fabric to be visible in between. They were often used to hold in place the “jabot”, a ruffled or lace piece of fabric that men would wear on the front of their shirts.


An opaque, semi-precious gemstone. Though most people think of jade as being green in color, it also naturally appears as white, red, yellow, orange, pink, blue, black, and brown. In terms of hardness, jade frequently falls into the area of 6.5 to 7 on the Moh’s scale.

High quality jade is known as Imperial jade, which is particularly rare and highly desirable for jewelry and decorative items.. It comes in the form of an emerald green stone.

Jade is identified as the Mystical birthstone for the month of March, and is associated with the 12th, 30th, and 35th wedding anniversaries.


A form of jade. This mineral was not recognized as distinct from nephrite, the other variety of jade, until 1863. Of the two, jadeite is generally the more valuable, particularly in the case of high quality pieces that can rival the price of most diamonds. Jadeite appears in nature as a semi-transparent or opaque green, orange, pink, yellow, brown, blue, violet, grey, or black mineral.


An opaque, fine-grained variety of the chalcedony gemstone. Jasper comes in a wide variety of colors, often featuring multi-colored patterns that are created by organic impurities. Some of these stones will have patterns that take on the appearance of a landscape, giving them the name “picture jasper”.

In terms of hardness, jasper falls in the range of 6.5 to 7 on the Moh’s scale.

Jasper is identified as a Mystical birthstone for the month of October.


Also known as “black amber”, jet is an organic gemstone that results from the fossilization of burned wood. It became popular as a jewelry item during the Victorian era, when Queen Victoria started using jet in her “mourning jewelry”. A soft gemstone, jet lands between 2.5 and 4 on the Moh’s scale.

Jump ring

A small, circular ring of metal that is usually not soldered closed. These rings are used to connect one object to another. To the jewelry world, these are the rings used to link charms and pendants onto a chain.


A unit used to express the purity of gold. Pure gold is designated as 24 karat, and a gold alloy’s karat describes the number of parts out of twenty-four consists of gold. For example, an alloy that is made out of 50% gold and 50% other metals is 12 karat gold. In order to legally qualify as gold in the United States, an alloy must have a purity of at least 10 karat.

The karatage of gold will generally be indicated on a piece of jewelry, using “k”, “kt”, or simply “karat”. It is rare to find gold jewelry that is any purer than 18 karat. This is because gold is a very soft metal, and pure gold is too fragile for practical use.

Karat should not be confused with carat, which is a measurement of weight used to value gemstones.


The trade of cutting, shaping, polishing, and creating jewelry out of precious and semi-precious stones. The same term is also used to describe either a professional who practices lapidary, or a shop where lapidary work is done. Used as an adjective, the word can describe gemstones used in the profession.

Laser Drilling

A process used for removing dark inclusions and enhancing the clarity of diamonds. An infrared laser is used to drill tiny holes of between 0.005 and 0.2 millimeters into the stone so as to burn away inclusions under the surface, after which a chemical solution of either sulfuric acid or iron oxide may be introduced to dissolve these inclusions away. Once this process is completed, the holes are filled in with a clear solution so that they are practically invisible.


Alternatively spelled “lavalier” or “lavalliere”, this is a term used to describe a necklace consisting of a pendant hanging from a long chain. The name is borrowed from the Duchess Louise de La Valliere, who was a mistress of King Louis XIV of France.


When discussing gemstones, leakage describes the phenomenon wherein light entering a transparent stone fails to reflect back through the crown. This light instead “leaks” out through the pavilion, giving the gem a “window” which robs it of much of its beauty. If a stone exhibits leakage, it is a sign that the pavilion has been cut either too deep or two shallow.

Liquid Silver

A form of sterling silver used in jewelry, created by carefully slicing narrow tubes of silver into tiny pieces and stringing them together. This is representative of Native American heishi jewelry.

Living Jewelry

Jewelry made from materials that were once a part of a living creature, including ivory, pearls, mother of pearl, seashell, coral, or bone.


A form of pendant that opens up on a small chamber, typically used to house a photograph, lock of hair, charm, or similar sentimental object. Lockets usually come in the form of an oval or heart-shaped object attached to a necklace or chain.

Lost Wax Process

Also known as lost wax casting of cire perdue, this is a manufacturing process that has been used to cast jewelry since the early periods of ancient Egypt. In this process, a wax model is encased in clay or a similar investment, after which the wax is melted away and the empty space is filled with molten metal. Once the metal has hardened, the investment is broken away.


A jeweler’s loupe is a special magnifying glass used to examine the fine qualities of a gemstone for the purposes of identification and grading. A standard loupe lens has a length of 11 millimeters and a magnification of 10x, though 20x and 30x models are also occasionally used.


A form of plastic patented by the DuPont company in 1941. In its basic form, it is a clear, transparent thermoset acrylic resin. It was often treated to give it a variety of colors and other properties. Back in the 1940’s and 1950’s, lucite was popular for use in women’s purses and jewelry.


A material’s luster describes how light reflects off of its surface. Depending on the quality and quantity of light that comes off of the material in question, it can be assigned one of ten classifications. “Metallic” represents the highest level of luster, describing materials with a luster equal to that found in metals. This is followed by “submetallic”, for slightly less lustrous materials. “Adamantine” and “subadamantine” come next, representing the luster exhibited by diamonds. This is followed by “vitreus” and “subvitreous”, representing the luster of glass. “Resinous”, “greasy”, “waxy”, and “dull” round off the list.

When discussing pearls, there are five different grades for luster. These begin with “excellent”, describing pearls with sharp, uniformly bright reflections; this is followed by “very good”, “good”, and “fair”, all the way down to “poor”, which describes pearls with extremely weak or non-existent surface reflections.


This style of pearl gets its name from the mabe oyster, in which they are cultivated. Mabe pearls generally grow against the inside of the oyster’s shell, rather than in the fleshy tissues of the animal. The result of this process is a hemispherical pearl with a multi-colored sheen. Such pearls are generally less expensive than spherical pearls of similar quality, and are popular for use in earrings, rings, and brooches.

Thanks to developments in cultivation technology, it has become possible to grow full spherical Mabe pearls.

Maltese Cross

Also known as the Amalfi Cross, this symbol comes in the form of a cross with four arms of equal length, each one of which becomes wider as they move outward from the center. The most traditional form of this cross has a V-shaped notch on the outer end of each arm. It gets its name from the Knights of Malta, an order of Christian warriors dedicated to offering aid to pilgrims as they travelled through dangerous areas.

Today, the Maltese Cross is used as a symbol of courage. It is said that the eight points on the cross’s arms stand for the eight points of courage: loyalty, piety, bravery, generosity, contempt of death, glory and honor, helpfulness towards the poor and sick, and respect for the church.


A form of iron sulfide. This mineral is chemically identical to pyrite, or “fool’s gold”, and is often known as white iron pyrite. However, marcasite represents a denser form of the mineral, and comes in an orthorhombic crystal structure. It appears as an opaque metal with a whitish to brassy yellow coloration.

In the jewelry world, the term is often used to describe pieces of pyrite that have been faceted to imitate the appearance of diamonds. It is popular to mount marcasite in silver or pewter pieces.

Master Stones

When grading the color or other qualities of gemstones, they are compared to sets of stones with known attributes. These known stones are called master stones.


When discussing jewelry, matte describes a kind of finish used for metals. A matte finish is characteristic of a polished but non-reflective surface, achieved by abrading the metal with a chemical process or a fine material. This finish is similar to a brushed finish, and the two terms will often be used interchangeably; however, a matte finish is not as coarse as a brushed finish.

Memento mori

Memento mori comes from a Latin term that translates to “remember you must die”. It is used to describe a style of jewelry from the sixteenth to eighteenth century that was designed as a reminder of the inevitability of death, and the need to live a pious life. Such jewelry bore motifs of skulls, skeletons, and coffins, as well as Latin, French, or English text expressing thoughts of mortality, remembrance, or religion. Rings were the most common form memento mori jewelry would take, though lockets, brooches, and pendants were also produced.

Memorial jewel

A jewel that is made in memory of a lost loved one. Such jewels might contain a hair from the deceased individual, or be made from the carbon resulting from his or her cremation.

Micro mosaic

Sometimes called “micromosaic” or “micro-mosaic”, this term describes a special variety of the mosaic art made up of very small pieces of colored glass. Images rendered in this fashion are finer and more polished than normal mosaics, often achieving the illusion of being a solid, fluid picture. Micro mosaic jewelry was popular in Italy in the mid 19th and early 20th century.

Milanese chain

A chain mesh constructed of links made from exceptionally fine wire so that it takes on a fabric-like appearance. These meshes are generally made out of either gold or silver. Milanese chain bands are used for wristwatches or bracelets, as well as decorate ribbons from which to hang a watch or brooch.


Alternatively spelled “millgrain” or “millegrain”, this term describes a pattern of small, round bumps imprinted upon a metal surface. The word is borrowed from the French “mille grains”, which translates to “a thousand grains”. Milgrain textures are applied to many rings and other pieces of jewelry.


Alternatively known as “millefiore glass”. This term, which is taken from an Italian term meaning “a thousand flowers”, describes a method of working glass into decorative designs. An assortment of glass rods are arranged into patterns, after which they are partially melted so that they stick together. The rods are then drawn out and cut into thin slices for use in pins, pendants, and other pieces of jewelry.


A woman’s small vanity case, generally held in the hand. These cases most typically come in the form of an oblong, metal-plated accessory, often decorated elaborately with gold, silver, precious or semi-precious stones, or mother of pearl. Compartments inside the case provide storage space for small items like lipstick, makeup compacts, glasses, or keys.

The invention of minaudières is attributed to Charles Arpels of the French jewelry company, Van Cleef & Arpels, back in 1934.

Mine cut

A diamond shape that was popular from about 1800 to 1890. It is similar to the modern brilliant cut, in that it features the same number and arrangement of facets. However, it has an outline that is more akin to the cushion cut. The girdle is square, the crown is higher, the table is smaller, the pavilion is deeper, and the culet is larger compared to the brilliant cut.

Mississippi River pearls

These freshwater pearls get their name from the river where they were most commonly harvested. They were also commonly known as unio pearls, after one of the species of mussels in which they were found, or Mississippi dog-tooth pearl, describing the distinctive, elongated shape that they frequently take. Mississippi river pearl jewelry makes use of the irregular nature of these pearls to create innovative, organic designs.

Mizpah ring

A type of ring popular in the 19th century, coming in the form of a broad, gold band embossed or engraved with the word “Mizpah”. This term is borrowed from a Hebraic farewell, one which literally translates to “watchtower” but has been attributed to the Biblical passage, “Lord watch between me and you when we are absent one from another”. Such rings were given to soldiers and worn as a talisman.


A rare form of feldspar, generally coming in the form of a transparent or translucent stone. These stones have a hardness of between 6 and 6.5 on the Moh’s scale. Most moonstones are colorless with a silver sheen, but they are also found with a blue, green, peach, pink, yellow, brown, or gray hue.

The moonstone is one of the modern birthstones associated with June. Moonstone jewelry is also attributed to the 13th wedding anniversary.


An art form wherein multicolored pieces of material, known as tesserae, are used to form pictures or designs. Mosaic artwork is most often made out of glass, stone, or ceramic tiles.


The pearlescent interior lining found in the shells of mollusks. Mother-of-pearl is made out of the same nacre that the creature will use in producing its pearls, so it is appreciated for possessing many of the same qualities of the pearls themselves. Jewelers will cut this material out of the shell for use in jewelry or other decorative items.


When discussing jewelry, a mount is the place where a stone is fixed in a setting.


Another term for “mount”. The mounting is an empty ring with no center stone. There are different types of mountings like a halo type mounting.

Mourning Jewelry

Jewelry worn during a period of mourning following the death of a loved one, generally coming in the form of a ring, brooch, or necklace. Memento mori jewelry was used for this purpose from the 16th to the 18th century. After the death of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria revived the practice by popularizing mourning-themed jewelry made out of jet.


When discussing jewelry, this term describes an assortment of diamonds of different sizes, all weighing more than a carat.


In the jewelry world, melee describes small, round, faceted diamonds of approximately .18 carats or less. The term is occasionally used to describe other varieties of gemstones, or stones cut into different shapes.


An iridescent substance formed organically by many oysters and mussels, consisting of a crystallized calcium carbonate bound together by conchiolin. This substance makes up the “mother-of-pearl” that lines the inside of the creature’s shell, and is used in the creation of the more desirable kinds of pearls. Different mollusks will produce nacre with different qualities, which accounts for the wide variety of colors and iridescent properties found in pearl jewelry.

A stone cut into the Marquise shape. Navettes have a long, oval appearance with a point on either end, giving it the ship-like shape from which it gets its name. Occasionally, the Marquise cut is known as a navette cut.


In jewelry terms, a negligee is a necklace coming in the form of a lengthy chain of beads, pearls, metal links, or rope-like strands. These necklaces generally end with a set of parallel pendants or tassels of irregular length.

Nickel silver

A silver-white colored alloy made out of copper, nickel, and zinc, sometimes used in jewelry and silverware as a substitute for real silver. The composition of this metal generally falls in the range of 52%-80% copper, 10%-35% zinc, and 5%-35% nickel. First manufactured in Germany in 1770, nickel silver is sometimes known as German silver.


An alloy created by bonding sulfur with one of several other metals, including copper, gold, silver, or lead. In any form, the resulting metal is soft and dark colored, used in the creation of inlays for gold and silver jewelry.

The term “niello” is also used to describe the technique of inlaying with niello alloys.


When discussing jewelry, oiling describes a practice by which mineral oil is applied to a gemstone to temporarily improve its appearance. The oil serves to conceal defects, enhance clarity, and bring out the color more richly. Usually, the oil used will be colorless, but some will employ coloring agents to effectively “dye” the gem. Oiling is most commonly used on emeralds and jade.

Old-European Cut

An early predecessor to the contemporary round brilliant cut, dating back to the 19th century. They are similar to the round brilliant, but feature a smaller table and a greater depth. It fell out of popularity after the development of the round brilliant when it was determined that the newer version was better at letting light through it.

Occasionally, an old-European cut will be incorrectly identified as an old-mine cut.

Old-mine cut

An early form of the brilliant cut widely used in the 18th and 19th century jewelry. This shape involves a square or cushion-shaped girdle outline, a high crown, and a small table. Occasionally, the term is incorrectly used to describe an old-European cut.


A form of chalcedony quartz characteristic of a fine texture and an opaque to translucent black coloration. In terms of hardness, it boasts a rating of 7 on the Moh’s scale. Occasionally, onyx will be found with ribbons of white running through it; when this happens, it is known as sardonyx.

Sometimes, this same term will be used to describe any engraved gemstone with a solid color base, or any gemstone with parallel banding. A standard chalcedony onyx will therefore often be qualified as “black onyx” to avoid confusion.

In the jewelry world, onyx represents one of the most important stones for engravings and cameos. The onyx is a mystical birthstone for December. It is also associated with both the 7th and 10th wedding anniversaries.


A rare and popular variety of gemstone made from crystals of silicon dioxide. Precious opals are prized for their magnificent play of color, with many varieties featuring a rainbow of different hues. The sub-categories of opal are generally identified by their base colors, which can be white, black, gray, red, orange, yellow, blue, or colorless.

When opal is used in jewelry, it often comes in the form of a cabochon. However, a few specimens have a higher level of clarity that works well with being faceted. Unfortunately, with a hardness of 5.5-6.5 and a high water content, these stones are too delicate for most jewelry uses; they scratch and crack easily, particularly if they are allowed to dry out.

Opal is one of the birthstones for the month of October. It is also associated with both the 14th and 18th wedding anniversaries.


A quality common to the precious variety of opals, wherein the surface of a given substance exhibits a lustrous play of colors or iridescence.


A term used to describe an item that is neither transparent nor translucent, not allowing any light to pass through it. To a jeweler, the opacity of a gemstone plays an important role in determining whether it should be faceted or polished into a cabochon.

Open back setting

A variety of jewelry setting that leaves the back of the stone exposed to the light. This allows more light to be transmitted through a transparent or translucent gem, enhancing its appearance. They usually come in the form of an open-bottomed collet or box that held the gemstone in a set of prongs above the opening. Such settings were first developed in the 18th century, and rose in popularity during the Victorian Era.


A mineral that contains a rich enough density of a certain metal that the metal in question can be profitably mined. Copper ore, for example, might consist of small amounts of copper mixed in with minerals of no commercial value, known as gangue minerals. Many metals have to be extracted from ore through the use of metallurgy, but certain metals, known as native metals, can be naturally found in uncombined veins.


An iridescent quality observed in some pearls. It happens when the pearl’s nacre manages to achieve a brilliant prismatic display originating deep under the surface that shows every color of the visible spectrum.

Orient is particularly rare in round pearls, and mostly found in baroque specimens with a very thick nacre. It is also more likely to appear in natural pearls than in cultured pearls, since natural pearls have more nacre and cultured pearls contain large nuclei.

Oriental pearl

A pearl that forms naturally in the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, or the Gulf of Myanmar. Due to pollution and the development of pearl cultivation practices, the production of authentic oriental pearls is almost nonexistent.

Sometimes, the term “oriental pearl” will be used to describe any naturally occurring saltwater pearl.

Oval cut

A fancy gemstone shape, representing a modified form of the round brilliant. As the name suggests, oval cut stones have an elongated, elliptical outline. This is a relatively recent innovation, first developed in the 1960’s. People appreciate it for its high levels of fire and brilliance, which are almost on par with that of the round brilliant.


A chemical process in which oxygen atoms are bonded to a material. This results in chemical changes, like the rust that occurs when iron oxidizes. In the jewelry world, oxidation is used to blacken metals like silver, copper, or brass for use in antique finishes.


A chemical compound containing a single oxygen atom per molecule. Iron oxide, for example, features both iron and oxygen atoms chemically bonded together. Oxides are often used in jewelry to create blackened, antique-style metals.


A nonmetallic chemical element, appearing naturally on Earth as a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas. A highly reactive element, oxygen combines easily with many other elements. When it does, the resulting compound is known as an oxide. Jewelers make use of oxygen to create metallic oxides, like antique silver, for use in blackened, antique-style jewelry.


A thin piece of metal used in jewelry to serve as a backing for a mounted gemstone, or placed between two translucent layers of enamel. In either case, the purpose of the paillon is to enhance the appearance of the gem or enamel. The arts and crafts movement is characteristic of a heavy use of paillons in its jewelry.


A rare metal from the platinum family. Similar to platinum, it is characteristic of a cool, gray color and a high durability and melting point. It is also highly malleable, lightweight, hypoallergenic, and tarnish-resistant.

Palladium plays an important role in the jewelry world. Many people appreciate that it offers most of the benefits of platinum, but without the same high price. It is often times alloyed with gold to produce white gold, or used by itself with a purity of 95% or higher.


A style popular in Georgian jewelry wherein a cascade of pendant stones were used to simulate the appearance of raindrops.


A set of matching jewelry designed to be worn together. Typically, a full parure would consist of a necklace, a set of earrings, a brooch, and a bracelet, though particularly elaborate sets might come with as many as sixteen different pieces. A demi-parure would have only two or three of these items. Traditionally, a parure would come in a special, decorated box.

The trend of parures was popularized in the late 1600’s by the French, from whom the term is derived. The French word, parer, translates to “to adorn”.


Alternatively spelled “passementerie”, this is a French term used to describe a style of jewelry consisting of a lace, gimp, or braid made from gold or silver. This style was inspired by the aesthetic of furniture trimmings.

Paste (simulated gemstones)

When discussing jewelry, paste refers to a substance used in the creation of simulated gemstones. It originally was used for a specific glass-based material with a high lead content most commonly used in costume jewelry. However, the word is also occasionally used as an umbrella term for any variety of fake jewel.


A film that develops on the surface of metal. This might be the result of natural oxidation from age and exposure to the elements, or it might be intentionally applied to a metal with the use of chemicals. Jewelers will sometimes apply a patina to a piece of jewelry to give it an aged appearance.


On a faceted gemstone, the pavilion is made up of all of the facets that are below the girdle and above the culet.


Taken from a French word for “pavement”, this term describes a form of mosaic-like setting. Pave-set gems are placed close together so that they don’t show any metal between them.


A form of organic gemstone that develops inside of shelled mollusks, including oysters and mussels. The mollusks grow these gems when a tiny object irritates their delicate, fleshy tissues, coating the offending objects in layer upon layer of a substance that, in the more valuable varieties of pearl, includes the lustrous nacre that comprises mother of pearl.

Pearls differ from one another largely based on which species of mollusk they come from. Though the most familiar colors of pearl are white, they can also be found in black, gray, silver, and every other color of the rainbow. The more beautiful varieties will have complex undertones and overtones to give them a fascinating, multi-colored appearance.

Pearls can also be found in a wide range of shapes, from irregular, lumpy shapes to the highly desirable, perfectly spherical specimens. In terms of hardness, they range greatly from 2.5 to 4.5 on the Moh’s scale.

The development of pearl cultivation practices has made it possible to mass produce high quality pearls. Pearls created in this manner are known as cultured pearls. A vast majority of pearls available on the market are cultured, since high quality natural pearls are exceptionally rare.

The pearl is a birthstone for people born in June, and are associated with both the third and 13th wedding anniversaries.


A diamond or other gemstone that has been cut into a shape resembling a pear cut, but with a longer and more pointed end. Such gems are most often hung as a pendant from a smaller gemstone, which is separated by a bow or similar motif.


Any of a number of metal alloys consisting of tin as the main component. Such alloys will contain a hardening agent, such as lead, copper, or occasionally antimony. Lead was a big part of pewter prior to 1769, but has fallen out of popularity when its poisonous properties were discovered. Today, due to the greater costs of tin, you will often seen aluminum-based simulants of pewter.

Pewter has been used in the creation of dishes, utensils, and jewelry. Such articles are often referred to simply as pewter, or pewterware.

Pietra dura

An inlaying technique wherein semi-precious stones are set into a mosaic floral pattern in marble or other hard rock. The term comes from the Italian words for “hard stone”, and the technique is occasionally known simply as hardstone mosaic. The technique was popular in Italy around 1600, but was eventually replaced by the much more affordable Scagliola process.


A metal alloy designed by Christopher Pinchbeck in 1720 to serve as a gold simulant. The usual chemical composition of this alloy was about 80% copper and 20% zinc. It had the appearance of gold, but was much lighter and less expensive. This made it popular for costume jewelry and other accessories. However, it fell out of use in favor to 9K gold and rolled gold.


A process by which tortoise shell, ivory, horn, or bone was inlaid with metal, usually either gold or silver. The term is also used to refer to the pieces created through this process. Pique items were popular in the 17th century, and then again in the mid to late 19th century.


When discussing gemstones, a pit is a type of flaw that comes in the form of a tiny hole or indentation on the surface of a stone that is visible under 10X magnification.


The process of hammering a metal with a broad, smooth-faced hammer. This is done to give the metal’s surface a smooth, unmarked appearance.


The most valuable of the precious metals used in jewelry. Platinum comes in the form of a silvery-white element, known for its superior strength, durability, and malleability. Many people favor platinum as a base metal for jewelry, as it never tarnishes, never rusts, rarely requires maintenance, and does not contain any allergenic substances.


A transparent or translucent form of enamel. This enamel is fired in an open-backed cloisonne setting, allowing light to pass through it. Plique-a-jour was frequently used for jewelry during the Art Nouveau period to depict the wings of dragonflies, or similar translucent objects.


To a jeweler, a plot is a diagram provided by a gemstone’s appraiser that details the clarity characteristics of a gemstone.


In the jewelry world, a point is a form of measurement that equals one hundredth of a carat, or about 0.002 grams. Alternatively, the term may be used as a synonym of “culet”, representing the tip or facet at the base of a pavilion.


A type of perforated box worn as a pendant or hung from a girdle. This box was filled with aromatic herbs and perfumes, and served to guard against odors and infections.

Pomanders were big throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The streets of urban areas were unsanitary and highly pungent, and it was believed that the scent was the source of plagues and infections. They were originally used only by the nobility and clergy, but eventually turned into a necessary accessory for many people. Jewelers would work to decorate the boxes with jewels and intricate metalwork so as to make them a fashion statement.

Posy ring

A type of finger ring that was engraved with a “posy”. A derivation of the word “poetry”, a posy would come in the form of a brief sentimental expression. The posy would be written on the inside of the band.

Posy rings were often worn in England from the 14th century to the 18th century, often gifted to another as a sign of affection.

Pot metal

Also known as white metal, this term is used to describe any silvertone metal alloy that does not contain any precious metals. Traditionally, a pot metal would come in the form of a mix of tin, cadmium, zinc, and lead. Such metals would often be used for costume jewelry; due to their lead content, they have largely fallen out of use.

Precious metal

A metal which, due to its great appearance, malleability, and rarity, is assigned a high economic value. Precious metals commonly used in jewelry include gold, platinum, rhodium, and silver.

Princess cut

A fancy diamond shape, coming in the form of a highly faceted, modified brilliant cut stone with a square outline. One of the most popular of the fancy cuts, particularly for engagement rings, the princess is known for its great sparkle. They are also generally less expensive per carat than other shapes, since a single raw diamond can be easily cut into two princess shaped gemstones without losing much of the diamond’s mass.

The princess cut is occasionally known as the “square modified brilliant”.

Prong setting

Also called a claw setting, a prong setting is a type of gemstone setting in which the stone is held in place by a set of four to six claw-like prongs. This represents the most common form of gemstone setting, particularly for engagement rings.


To a gemcutter, proportion is an important aspect of a well-cut stone. This represents the angles, size, and placement of the facets in the stone. Gem cuts are mathematically plotted out so as to achieve ideal proportions and maximize the light that is reflected off of and out of the stone.


The quartz family refers to naturally occurring crystals of silica, or silicon dioxide. These crystals come in several forms, the most common of which is a colorless, transparent variety that is often known as clear quartz, rock crystal, or simply quartz. Amethyst, citrine, rose quartz, smoky quartz, and milky quartz represent the other members of the quartz family. In all forms, quartz is a hexagonal crystal with a hardness of about 7 on the Moh’s scale.

REGARD (Ruby, Emerald, Garnet, Amethyst, Rose quartz, Diamond)

When referring to jewelry, REGARD describes jewelry that spells out a word with the first letter of the various gemstones set into it. For example, a piece set with a ruby, emerald, garnet, amethyst, rose quartz, and diamond would be used to signify “regard”. Such jewelry was popular during the Victorian era.

Radiant cut

A variety of gemstone shape that resembles a blend between the emerald and the brilliant. It has the emerald outline, coming in the form of a rectangle with truncated corners, but is faceted to achieve much of the sparkle associated with the brilliant cuts.


Describes the effect wherein light enters an object and leaves the same object at a different angle. When white light is refracted, it splits into a rainbow. The refraction of a transparent or translucent gemstone is an important quality of its beauty, and the gemstone cuts are designed to maximize this quality.


An image that protrudes off of the surface of an object. Reliefs come in three forms, including high relief, low relief, and sunken relief. In a high relief, the image stands far out from the background. In a low relief, also known as a bas-relief, the image is more shallow. A sunken relief, alternatively called a hollow or intaglio relief, the image is carved into the background.


A form of relief used on a metal surface created by hammering, embossing, or punching the reverse side.


Originally, the term “rhinestone” was specific to rock crystal pebbles from the Rhine River Valley. Today, the term is used to describe any glass that has been faceted, polished, and colored to simulate the appearance of natural gemstones.


A metal from the platinum family characteristic of a high durability, a silver-white coloration, and a highly reflective finish. It is often used as a plating for jewelry to achieve the aesthetic of platinum at a lower price.

Ring size

A measurement of the inside diameter of a finger ring. Ring sizes are denoted in different ways, depending on where you are in the world. In the United States, your ring size is a number between one and thirteen. In the United Kingdom, your size is a letter from between A and Z. In most of Europe, it is a number from thirty-eight to seventy.


A process by which two flat metal objects are joined together. A series of holes is punctured in both objects, and then a flat-headed pin made from the same metal is passed through both holes. The pin is then pounded flat to secure it in place. Some jewelry makes use of riveting when soldering is not a good idea.


A type of choker necklace that consists of a series of gemstones, usually of graduated or equal size. Such necklaces are usually made from diamonds, though other precious and semi-precious stones have been used.

Rock crystal

A form of quartz, representing the most common colorless, transparent variety. This form is often known simply as quartz.

Rolled gold

A style of gold plating from the early 19th century. It was achieved by mechanically fusing a base metal sheet with a sheet of gold with a fineness of at least 10K. The gold coating would comprise less than one twentieth of the total weight of the metal piece.


A circular disk made out of metal or a gemstone and pierced through the middle. Rondelles are usually strung between the beads of a necklace.

Rose cut

A style of gem cutting with a flattened base and a dome made up of triangular facets terminating in a point at the middle. This cut is thought to have originated in India, and was used mainly from the 17th to the 18th century. Today, it is generally only used for very small diamonds.

Rose finish

A type of finish used to give jewelry the pinkish appearance of rose gold, without the use of any actual gold.

Rose gold

An alloy of gold and copper. Such alloys will go by different names, based on the copper content. Typical rose gold features approximately three parts gold to one part copper. Rose gold with a lower copper content may be called pink gold, due to its more delicate red color, while rose gold with a higher copper content may be called red gold.

Fans of rose gold appreciate it for its warm, feminine appearance. Jewelry made from rose gold is also generally less expensive than an equal piece made with another form of gold.

Rose quartz

A form of quartz with a delicate pink coloration. A heavily included stone, rose quartz has a milky and usually streaked appearance. Many people associate the rose quartz with love, making it a popular choice for Valentine’s Day gifts.

Round cut

A gemstone shape characteristic of a circular outline. The most popular shape for diamonds, round cuts make up about 75% of all diamonds sold. This popularity is due largely to the superior brightness achieved in round cuts.


A form of crystallized corundum with a red coloration. The chemical composition of rubies is largely identical to sapphire, except for the chromium oxide impurities from which it derives its famous hue. With a rating of 9 on the Moh’s Scale of Mineral Hardness, rubies are second only to diamonds as the hardest gemstones used in jewelry.

An exceptionally rare stone, particularly in larger sizes, the ruby is one of the most valuable gems available in the jewelry market. A fair-sized ruby will often beat out the price of most diamonds of equal size and quality.

The ruby is a birthstone for July, and attributed to both the fifteenth and fortieth wedding anniversaries.

Safety catch

A form of secondary fastening device used in jewelry, like brooches and bracelets. While older models would come in the form of a simple “C” catch without any locking mechanism, a safety catch incorporates a sliding piece that locks the pin-stem in place to protect against an accidental release.

Sand casting

A process of casting molten metal in a sand mold. Under this process, natural sand is packed onto a pattern of wood or metal, after which the sand is removed from the pattern and metal is poured into the resulting empty space. This represents the oldest known casting technique, having been used for jewelry for hundreds of years. Today, sand casting survives mostly in the production of larger metal forms.


A crystalline form of corundum. Though sapphires are most often thought of as blue, these gems come in many colors, including yellow, green, white, pink, orange, brown, purple, and colorless. The only varieties of crystal corundum that are not considered sapphire are the red varieties, which are classified as rubies, and a rare orange-pink variety that is known as padparadscha.

Sapphires have a hardness of 9 on the Moh’s Scale of Mineral Hardness. This places them just below diamonds as the hardest gemstone used in the jewelry market.

The sapphire is a birthstone for people born in September. It is also a traditional gift for the 5th, 23rd, and 45th wedding anniversaries. The star sapphire in particular is associated with the 65th wedding anniversary.


A type of onyx featuring a series of white bands or ribbons against a background of black or brown. It may be a combination of Pearl and Garnet or Ruby and Sapphire.

Satin finish

A type of finish often used in jewelry. Satin finishes are characteristic of a fine-grained, pearl-like luster rather than a bright, polished appearance. Such a finish is achieved by texturing the metal with a fine, abrasive brush tool. Satin finishes are also known as matte finishes.


A style of woman’s necklace that was popular in the late 19th and early 20th century. These necklaces were exceptionally long, designed to fall below the waist. They generally were made from gold or silver links and featured a jeweled pendant at the bottom.

Today, the term is also used to refer to a pearl necklace that is longer than thirty-six inches.


A form of dung beetle that was regarded as sacred to the ancient Egyptians. The scarab was associated with rebirth, rejuvenation, and fertility. Depictions of these beetles were rendered in metal or carved from semi-precious stones for use in jewelry, including bracelets, necklaces, and earrings. Scarab jewelry was popular in the 1950’s.

Scatter pin

A set of small pins or brooches intended to be worn together in small groups. These pins usually feature motifs of flowers, birds, or insects.


A ceremonial staff that serves as a symbol of either spiritual or worldly power. These staffs came in many forms, depending on the part of the world or the time period they were used, but they were generally crafted with precious metals and gemstones.

Screw Back

Alternatively known as “screwback”, this is a type of attachment used for earrings that do not require a pierced ear. This backing is tightened against the earlobe through the use of a screw with a flat, round end.


A gemstone or bit of metal designed with a relief that is used to stamp the impression of an emblem in hot wax or a similar temporarily soft substance. Seals would be used to stamp a personalized design onto a document or an envelope so as to prove their authenticity and prevent tampering.

Seed bead

A form of mass-produced bead created by slicing tubes of glass or plastic into oblong pieces with flat ends. These are strung together to create bracelets or necklaces, most frequently serving to act as spacers between larger beads. Their name comes from the fact that original seed beads were made out of actual seeds, which were pierced for use in jewelry thousands of years ago.

Seed pearl

A very small pearl. Seed pearls are generally considered to be any pearl of less than 2 mm in diameter, weighing less than a quarter grain. Such pearls were popular from the mid to late Victorian era, when they were strung together for long, fringed necklaces or used to create accents on other forms of jewelry.

Semi-precious stone

Originally, the term “semi-precious” was used to refer to any stone used in jewelry that was not a diamond, ruby, sapphire, or emerald. Today, the term is no longer used in the jewelry industry, as many of the traditionally semi-precious stones are highly valuable. It is often used informally to refer to gems that are arbitrarily deemed less expensive than others.

Professionals in the jewelry industry favor the term “fine” when describing inexpensive gemstones.


A mechanism used to secure a gemstone or other ornament into a piece of jewelry or a similar object. Settings come in many forms, including bezel, pave, prong, tension, and channel. The term is also used to refer to the part of a piece of jewelry in which one or more stones are set.


A form of leather created from the skin of a horse, camel, ray, or shark. The most popular variety is a tanned shark skin, usually dyed green. Such leather was widely used for decorative purposes, including Japanese sword hilts, French Revolution-era furniture, and jewelry from the Art Deco period.


Also occasionally referred to as the hoop, this is the part of a finger ring that encircles the finger. Does not include the setting.


When discussing gemstones, the shoulder refers to the curved edge of a stone’s girdle found between the head and the belly of an oval-shaped or pear-shaped gem. When discussing a ring, the shoulder is the place where the shank and the setting meet.


A personal seal, often set into a finger ring. Signet rings would have a reversed image of a unique, private insignia which would be pressed into wax and used to authenticate documents. Signets have been used as far back as ancient Egypt, when the seal would be placed on the reverse of a scarab ornament.


Silvertone jewelry does not necessarily have any actual silver content, but has been plated or coated to give it the appearance of silver.

Simulated stones

Any object comprised of a natural or synthetic substance that is designed to resemble a more precious gemstone. Examples of simulated stones include the cubic zirconium, which is a common substitute for a diamond.

Single-cut diamonds

Diamonds that have been cut into simple shapes, often used to produce small melee. Such diamonds have eight pavilion facets, eight bezel facets, a table, and occasionally a culet, making for a total of seventeen or eighteen facets. Since the girdle is circular, the cut is often known as a round single cut or a rounded single cut.


When discussing jewelry, a slide is a type of fastening mechanism wherein a belt or ribbon is secured in place without the use of a buckle. Alternatively, the term can refer to a pendant that has no bale.

Smoky quartz

Alternatively known as smoke quartz, this is a variety of quartz characteristic of a pale smoky quality. Such stones come in brown to nearly black, and range from transparent to nearly opaque.

Smoky topaz

Despite its name, smoky topaz is not a true form of topaz. Rather, it is an alternative name for the smoky quartz. This is largely considered a misnomer in the gem trade, and its professional use is discouraged.

Snake chain

Also known as a Brazilian chain, a snake chain is a form of chain used in jewelry. Unlike a conventional chain, which is made up of a series of linked rings, a snake chain consists of a series of round, wavy rings of metal. When strung together, these rings form a flexible tube that has a smooth, scaly texture akin to that of a snake’s skin.


A technique used to join two pieces of metal. A third piece of metal that has a lower melting point than the other two pieces is melted and placed at the point where the metals are to be joined together. The molten metal is then allowed to solidify, serving as a bond.

Soldering is commonly used to both create and repair jewelry.

Solitaire gemstone

When discussing jewelry, a solitaire can be either a single precious stone in a piece of jewelry or the piece of jewelry with a solitaire gemstone set into it. The term is generally used to describe rings, but it is occasionally used to refer to a pendant. The term may also be applied to a ring that has a single main gemstone surrounded by less precious stones, set into the shank as an embellishment.

Split ring

A type of ring used to link objects together, similar to a jump ring. They are comprised of a piece of wire that is coiled around so that it has the appearance of having been split down the middle. Such rings are commonly used as key rings, and occasionally employed to hold two parts of a piece of jewelry together.

Spring ring

A form of fastening device commonly used for necklaces and bracelet chains. This fastener comes in the form of a hollow or semi-hollow tube fashioned into a ring. A tiny spring-operated catch can be drawn back to open the ring, and then released to let it close again. Spring rings are occasionally known as revolver catches.

Square cut

A stepped gemstone shape similar to the emerald cut. Square cut gems have a square table, bordered by four isosceles trapezoids on each side.

Stabilized turquoise

A form of turquoise that has been treated for use in jewelry. Since turquoise is naturally a highly porous stone, it is prone to absorbing oils from your skin and other pollutants. Such pollutants spoil the aesthetic of the stone, so jewelers impregnate their turquoise with polymers to reduce the number of pores.


The process of impressing a shape or texture into metal through the use of a tool called a punch.

Step cut

A style of gem cutting which includes the emerald cut and the square cut. Such cuts are characteristic of step-like facets arranged around a square or rectangular table. Step cuts are the oldest and simplest form of gem cutting, representing a strong choice for emeralds and other straight-sided crystals.

Sterling silver

Often known simply as “sterling”, sterling silver is a metal alloy consisting of about 92.5% silver, with the remaining percentage representing copper, nickel, or another lesser metal. Since pure silver is too soft for most purposes, sterling is the standard for use in jewelry and similar applications.

Jewelry products made out of sterling silver can be identified by their stamp, which will read either “sterling” or “.925”.


A bodice ornament that was sewn to the front of a woman’s dress. Such accessories would typically coming in the form of a large, triangular piece extending from roughly breast level down to the waist. Stomachers were originally embroidered, but many women would have theirs made with precious gemstones and metals to serve as a status symbol.

Stomachers first came into fashion during the Renaissance, and largely died out in the 18th century. The Victorian era saw a brief return of the style.

Strap necklace

A type of necklace, coming in the form of a band made out of mesh golden chain. Such necklaces were frequently decorated with a series of closely-spaced, suspended ornaments representing flowers, scarabs, mythological figures, framed gemstones, or other subjects. Strap necklaces were in style during the Victorian period.


A decorative motif of ribbon-like straps arranged into interlacing patterns, used for furniture, ironwork, ceramics, or jewelry. Strapwork jewelry is often engraved, stamped, or cast in silver. Strapwork was popularized in the sixteenth century, and featured prominently in the Elizabethan era.


Also known as a “festoon”, this is a decorative element resembling a garland of natural elements like leaves, flowers, and fruits.


In the jewelry world, symmetry is an important aspect of the quality of a cut gemstone. Gem labs will assign a rating to a stone based on how symmetrical its cut is, ranging from poor to fair, good, very good, and excellent or ideal. The better a stone’s symmetry, the better its sparkle and fire will be. Stones of exceptional symmetry are rare, as such stones generally lose more of their weight in the process of achieving precise proportions.

Synthetic gemstones

Gemstones that are produced in a laboratory, rather than found in nature. Synthetic gemstones are not the same as simulated gemstones, as the chemical composition of a synthetic is identical to that of its natural counterparts. However, a skilled jeweler can generally identify a synthetic based on certain telltale physical properties.

Oftentimes, a synthetic stone is considered “too perfect”, lacking the flaws that frequently afflict the genuine article. It is for this reason that, even though synthetics are generally cheaper and of higher quality than natural stones of the same type, many people prefer the natural stones.

The most common varieties of synthetic stones are emeralds, opals, rubies, and sapphires.


A form of brooch designed in the shape of a bow with pendants, worn as a bodice ornament. Such brooches were popular during the mid 17th century through the 18th century. They get their name from Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, marquise de Sevigne.


To a gem cutter, the table is the facet that is usually the largest and topmost on a cut stone, parallel to the girdle and opposite the culet. This is an important facet, as the light that is reflected through the table is a key component of a stone’s brilliance and scintillation.

Table Percentage

The table percentage of a cut gemstone is a quality determined by dividing the width of the stone’s table by the stone’s total diameter. Achieving a proper table percentage is a critical part of the sparkle and fire of a transparent or translucent gem.


Likely the oldest variety of symmetrical cutting for a gemstone. This shape is characteristic of a large, flat, rectangular table at the top and a smaller culet at the bottom, joined by four sets of abutting isosceles-trapezoid facets. Table-cuts were used largely in the Middle Ages through the seventeenth century, after which the modern step cuts took over.


A form of the zoisite gemstone, representing the blue or blue-violet form of the mineral. Such gems are appreciated in the jewelry world for their rich, striking colors. Most tanzanites available for purchase have been heat treated to achieve the most marketable color.

Tanzanite’s name is derived from Tanzania, where the gem was first discovered at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro in 1967. To this day, this remains the only known source of tanzanite.

Tapered Baguette

A variation on the standard baguette cut, tapered with a trapezoidal outline. Tiny gemstones cut into the tapered baguette shape are popular for use as accents in engagement rings and other pieces of jewelry.


A discoloration that forms on the surface of a metal when it becomes coated in a thin layer of dirt or a corrosive grime that reacts with the material. When a metal is tarnished, its luster is dulled. Tarnish can generally be removed easily with basic cleaning products and gentle abrasion.

Tennis Bracelet

A form of bracelet made up of a row of individually set gemstones of the same size and color, most typically diamonds, linked together on a flexible chain. Variations on this style exist, such as bracelets with a pattern of alternating stones.

Tennis bracelets are sometimes described as resembling a row of tennis balls. However, such bracelets get their name from a 1980’s US Open Tournament wherein tennis player Chris Evert-Lloyd dropped such a piece and had the match stopped until she could find it.


Decorative pieces found at the ends of a necklace or bangle, usually depicting the head of a lion, dragon, ram, or similar creature.


A woman’s jeweled headdress. Tiaras resemble a crown, but they do not form a complete circle. Such pieces have been commonly worn since the 18th century by noblewomen on formal occasions. They would often come as part of a set of matching jewelry, representing the most valuable piece of the set.

Originally, the term tiara was used to describe a form of headdress worn by the ancient Persians. Today, the term is also applied to the triple crown worn by the Pope.


A silvery, non-precious metallic element. Tin is highly malleable and resistant to oxidation and corrosion. It is important to jewelers in the creation of numerous metal alloys, including solder, pewter, and bronze. A coating of tin is often placed over iron products to protect them from rusting. Most commonly, tin foil is used with mercury to create the reflective surfaces of mirrors.

Toggle Clasp

A type of fastener used for bracelets, necklaces, or other chains. One end of the chain has a ring attached to it, and the other has a bar that is fed through the ring and turned sideways to lay across the ring so that it does not slide back through. Such fasteners are occasionally known as a bar and ring clasp.

Tolkowsky, Marcel

A mathematician who, in 1919, wrote a thesis on the ideal proportions for a round brilliant cut diamond in order to achieve a maximum brilliance. It is from this thesis that we get the Tolkowsky theoretical brilliant cut, which dictates that the diameter of the table should be 53% of the diameter of the girdle, the thickness of the crown should be 16.2%, the thickness of the pavilion should be 43.1%, the total depth should be 59.3%, the angle of the crown facets should be 34°30′, the angle of the pavilion facets should be 40°45′, and the ration of the crown height to the pavilion depth should be 1: 2.66.


A precious gemstone comprised of crystallized silicon, aluminum, and fluorine. They come in the form of transparent, prismatic crystals of red, orange, pink, peach, yellow, blue, green, purple, grey, brown, and colorless varieties. Such crystals boast a hardness of 8 on the Moh’s scale, though they are fairly brittle.

The most valuable variety of topaz is the variety with a golden-yellow to orange color, commonly known as Imperial topaz. The most popular is the blue variety, which is often heat-treated to enhance the natural color of the stone.

Yellow quartz is occasionally known as topaz, but is chemically different from real topaz.

Yellow topaz is a birthstone for November, and blue topaz is a birthstone for December. It is also associated with the 4th, 19th, and 23rd marriage anniversaries.


A form of choker-type necklace made of multiple strands of pearls, beads, or chains. These strands twist around each other and end in a clasp.

Tortoise Shell

In the jewelry world, tortoise shell general refers specifically to the shell taken from the hawk’s bill sea turtle. It comes in the form of a mottled, yellow-to-brown material with a spotted, striped, or occasionally speckled pattern. Jewelers were able to heat it and easily shape it into jewelry, boxes, combs, and other items. Any authentic tortoise shell piece are likely antique, since the use of tortoise shell has been criminalized.

Sometimes, plastic is passed off as tortoise shell. Authentic tortoise shell can be identified by touching it with a hot pin; plastic will give off an acrid, chemical smell, while tortoise shell will smell like burning hair.


Another word for semi-transparent. Translucent materials will allow light to pass through them, but diffuse the light so that objects on the other side of the material cannot be clearly viewed. Examples of translucent gemstones include moonstones, opals and carnelian.

Trapeze Cut

A fancy gemstone shape, representing a modification of the step cut. This shape has a trapezoid outline, and is commonly used as a supplement to a square-shaped center stone.


This term comes from the French “en tremblant”, which translates to “to tremble”. It is used to describe a variety of jewelry, like a brooch or pendant, that features an ornament mounted on a coiled spring. Ornaments mounted in this way tremble when the wearer moves. Tremblant jewelry was big throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.

Trillion Cut

A form of gemstone shape with a triangular outline, often used as a side stone. The term “trillion” is often used interchangeably with “trilliant cut” or “triangle cut”.


A flexible, tube-like chain used in the creation of watches, necklaces, and other jewelry. Occasionally, such a chain is known as a gas pipe.


A semi-precious gemstone made from aluminium phosphate and copper. It comes in the form of a translucent or opaque stone of sky-blue or green. Since translucent varieties are rare, turquoise is generally cut en cabochon for the purposes of jewelry. Turquoise is a fairly soft gemstone, with a hardness of five or six on the Moh’s scale.

A number of turquoise variations are available on the market, named for the locations from which they are mined. These include the Eilat stone, a green-blue variant found in the copper mines of Israel; Kingman turquoise, a strong-colored variety from Arizona’s Mineral Park Mine; Navajo turquoise, a variety from South West America known for having veins of brown and black; and Persian turquoise, a high-quality turquoise from Iran known for its pure sky-blue coloration.

Turquoise is accepted as a birthstone for December.

Tutti Frutti jewelry

A style of jewelry characteristic of multi-colored gemstones. These stones are fashioned to resemble flowers, leaves, and berries to give the piece a fruit-like appearance. Such jewelry was popularized in the 1920’s, and was given the name “tutti frutti” in the 1970’s from an Italian term for “all fruits”.

Ultrasonic jewelry cleaner

An ultrasonic cleaner, often known simply as an ultrasonic, is a machine used to clean jewelry. Jewelry is submerged in a cleaning fluid and subjected to ultrasonic waves, which penetrate deep into cavities and hard-to-reach places to remove dirt and grime. Such cleaning techniques are advantageous for jewelry that risks being damaged by chemical or abrasive cleaners, but represents a risk for certain fragile gemstones.


Describes jewelry that is made out of pure or sterling silver and plated with a thin layer of gold. Vermeil is also a dated term used to describe spinel or a variety of garnet characteristic of a reddish-brown coloration.

Victorian jewelry

The Victorian period ran from approximately 1837 to 1901, when Queen Victoria served as the Queen of England. Due to the length of this period, it is often divided into the early Victorian (1837 to 1860), mid-Victorian (1860 to 1880), and late Victorian (1880 to 1901). It is preceded by the Georgian period and followed by the Edwardian period.

As one of history’s most popular monarchs, Queen Victoria was highly influential in terms of fashion. Her reign ushered in many distinct jewelry styles that were mimicked by people throughout Europe and the British Empire. Victorian jewelry is largely characteristic of heavy, elegant pieces. Gold, diamonds, and beads were common. Many people would wear charms containing human hair or similar keepsakes. After the death of Victoria’s beloved Prince Albert, mourning jewelry made with jet became popular.

White Gold

An alloy created by combining gold with other metals, which may include copper, silver, nickel, and palladium. The natural yellow color of the gold is diluted down to a faint, near-white coloration by the lighter-colored metals. Modern jewelers will generally coat this alloy in a thin layer of rhodium to completely disguise the yellow of the gold.

People appreciate white gold as a more affordable alternative to platinum. However, since modern white gold needs to be periodically re-plated with rhodium to avoid discoloration, white gold requires more maintenance than stronger metal.

White Metal

Also known as pot metal, this term applies to any metallic alloy consisting entirely of non-precious metals. White metal may be made with antimony, copper, lead, tin, and zinc. Jewelry made from white metal will be attractive and economical but is susceptible to breakage and corrosion.


A bluish-white metallic element from the magnesium-cadmium group found abundantly in the Earth’s crust. Zinc is characteristic of brittleness, but becomes malleable when heated.

Since zinc does not oxidize easily in moist air, it is often used as a coating for galvanized iron and similar rusting metals. In the jewelry world, this metal is also an important part of numerous alloys, including brass, bronze, nickel silver, and various kinds of solder.


Not to be confused with the man-made cubic zirconium, zircon is a naturally-occurring gemstone that is valuable in the jewelry market. It comes in many forms, including yellow, green, red, brown, blue, and colorless. On Moh’s scale of mineral hardness, the zircon rates a 7.5.

Zircon is a very important stone, in that certain specimens represent the very oldest minerals on the planet. Zirconology is a branch of gemology devoted entirely to the study of zircon, and the breakdown of radioactive materials found within the stones.

Zircon is one of the birthstones for the month of December.

Emoche ᛜ Gemstones & Jewelry