Glossary of Jewellery Terms

An alphabetical list of some of the many terms used in the jewellery industry. We link to more in depth articles in our growing library for further information where possible. We have tried to keep the information general and not too technical, and are happy to field any questions you may have via email or the telephone.

ALLOY – Two or more metals combined when moulten. Sterling silver is an alloy of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper, 18ct gold is an alloy of 75% gold with 25% other metals, typically silver, copper, zinc and/or palladium.

ANNEALING – The process of softening a metal by using heat and rapid cooling.

ASTERISM – A pattern of usually 6 light rays that cross in a single point when lit by a single light source. This occurs on some stones with dense inclusions, often sapphires and rubies, that employ a cabochon cut to feature this phenomenon.

ANNIVERSARY BAND – A ring worn next to the engagement ring and set with a row(s) of diamonds that encircle the ring. Variations include a three quarter or half circle of diamonds. This ring is usually  given to celebrate an anniversary, often the tenth.

BAGUETTE – From the French meaning long and thin. Gems cut in this style have parallel  sides (similar to emerald cuts) are generally smaller stones. A variation is the tapered baguette, where the  short sides are uneven in length and the long sides are not parallel to each other.

BANGLE – A stiff bracelet that slides over the hand. Bangles may be completely solid, hinge or open at the ends. It is very common to see people wearing several bangle bracelets together.

BAROQUE PEARL – A pearl that is not a sphere, out of round.

BASE METAL – A non-precious metal used in costume jewellery, normally underneath a plating of silver, nickel or gold. Base metals include copper, brass, nickel, stainless, bronze and aluminium.

BERYL – A mineral that is the basis of emeralds, morganite, aquamarine and heliodor. Impurities present in the crystal determine the colour of the gemstone. Of these emerald is considered precious,  the other formations are semi-precious.

BEZEL SETTING –  A precious metal tube that contains a gem stone with the top edge folded over to hold the stone in place. This is a very secure mounting as there are no ‘claws’ frequently used in  other mountings, that may bend or break away from the stone being set.

BRILLIANT CUT – The best known shape of a diamond. It has 57 or 58 facets (depending on whether the culet has been faceted) that have been calculated to reflect and refract the most light when a  diamond is viewed from above.

BROOCH – Jewellery designed to be worn pinned to clothing, most often above the breast and large in size.

BURNISHED SETTING – Where the face of a gemstone is flush with the surface of the precious metal it is mounted in.

BURNISHING – Applying friction to the surface of a metal to improve its shine. (See also Tumbling)

CABOCHON – A gemstone that is flat on the bottom and domed on top, often used with star rubies or star sapphires to feature the asterism of those stones.

CAMEO – A carved gemstone, usually with a solid base colour and the upper section of another colour is carved in relief. Popular early last century, a woman’s bust and head was a popular design.

CARAT – A weight scale used for gemstones and a ratio of the amount of pure gold in an alloy.
As a weight: 1 carat is 200 milligrams (200mg), one point is 1/100th of a carat (2mg).
As a rating of purity: 24 carat gold is pure, 18 carat (18/24) is 75% gold hallmarked as 750, 9ct (9/24) is 37.5% gold which is hallmarked as 375.

CASTING – A method of producing quantities of an item of jewellery from a master. Lost wax casting is commonly used to produce charms, pendants, earrings, chain links and other items using rubber  or silicon moulds and a plaster investment.

CHANNEL SETTING – Frequently used for rings where a row of small evenly sized stones are set between two walls on the outer edges of the ring.

CHASING – Performed on the front of the work, a technique that produces grooves, channels or indentations. Often used in conjunction with repousse, which is performed on the back of the work.

CIRCA – From around an approximate date, where the exact date is unknown. An item made in the mid 1850’s may be  described as Circa 1850.

CLARITY – Used to describe the overall existence or absence of imperfections in a gemstone. Clarity takes into account the size, shape and number of blemishes (surface defects) and inclusions  (internal defects) in precious and semi-precious stones.
See diamonds article.

CLASP – A fitting (finding) used to easily open and close a necklace, bracelet or anklet to aid putting it on or taking it off. Parrot clasps, bolt rings and spring ring clasps are the most common on modern
jewellery and are deigned to work easily but not open unintended.

CLUTCH – The removable fitting of a stud earring (sometimes called a butterfly) which grasps the post of the stud to hold an earring securely in place.

CLUSTER RING – A ring set with multiple gemstones. They may be the same or different gems, in similar or varying sizes.

COCKTAIL RINGS – Often have a large centre stone, surrounded by other stones and are very ornamental. These rings are typically worn to functions and are designed to be noticed.

COIN SILVER – Silver used mainly for old or commemorative coins. An alloy comprised of 90% silver and 10% copper.

COLOR – A rating of the hue either present or absent in a gemstone, most notably a diamond. ‘Clear’ diamonds are rated from ‘D’ being colourless through to ‘Z’ being light yellow.
See diamonds article.

COLORED STONES – Any gemstone not being a diamond. Diamonds with a hue (other than a faint yellow) are known as fancy diamonds.

CORUNDUM – A mineral with a high hardness rating (9 on the Mohs scale) from which rubies and sapphires are formed. Various colours of this stone are produced according to the impurities present in the crystal structure.

COSTUME JEWELRY –  Jewellery made from materials other than precious metals. Generally low in quality, and not expected to last more than a few wearing’s. Some designers do however produce  good quality costume jewellery which will last well.

CUBIC ZIRCONIA – A synthetic gemstone that closely resembles a diamond and is cut in the same styles.

CUFF BRACELET –  An open bangle, i.e. not a closed circle, but has a gap where the bangle can be slid over the wrist rather than pulled down over the hand.

CUFF LINK – A piece of jewellery that is fitted through two open buttons holes on the cuffs of a shirt sleeve.

CULTURED PEARL – Pearls are formed naturally where an irritant enters an oyster and a secretion of nacre is released, building up layer upon layer to form a pearl. Cultured pearls are produced by
placing a bead (nucleus) into an oyster to stimulate this process, normally in fresh or saltwater farms. The size of the pearl will depend upon the size of the nucleus and the time from implant until  harvest.

CURB-CHAIN – A chain with links twisted to allow the chain to sit flat when laid on a flat surface. The cross section of each link is a circular shape.

CUSTOM DESIGN – An item of jewellery made to the customers design or request, not available ‘off the shelf’.

CUSHION CUT – A square or rectangular gemstone with the edges being rounded. An older style found in many antique pieces.

DIAMOND CUT – A style of curb chain with the outer edges left untouched, but the upper and lower faces of the links are ground flat by a diamond cutting tool.

DOUBLET (& triplet) – A two (or three) layer gemstone created by gluing or fusing materials together. The lower material may be opaque and the upper layers transparent or translucent.

ELECTROFORMING –  Jewellery manufactured by creating a thin layer of silver or gold over the top of a wax form which is removed from the finished piece by melting.

ELECTROPLATING – An electrical / chemical process used to deposit a thin layer of metal (often silver or gold) on top of a base metal. The item and the plating material are both placed into an acid  solution and electrical current is passed between then through the solution, transferring the material onto the item to be plated. Increasing the time of this process increases the thickness of the plated  layer.

EMERALD CUT – A large open rectangular table and the step cuts of the pavilion are usually finished off with cut corners to help prevent chipping of stones faceted in this manner.

ENAMEL – A powdered glass to fused to a substrate (often silver or gold) by firing in a kiln at around 800 degrees Celsius. The glass powder melts in the heat of the kiln and flows together before the  heat is removed and it hardens as it cools causing it to fuse to the substrate.

ENGRAVING – The process of carving into a piece of metal often using a vibrating or rotating cutting tool. The increasing availability of laser devices is seeing the reduction of skilled hand engraving  being replaced by computer controlled cutters which offer repeatable and accurate results.

ESTATE JEWELRY – A fancy name for second hand or ‘preloved’. Was previously meant to describe jewellery from the estate of a person now deceased.

ETCHING – A chemical process that burns away the surface of the material being treated. The areas to be etched away are untreated and the areas to be kept are protected by a mask that the etching  fluid will not dissolve.

FACETING – The process of creating facets (flat surfaces) on a gemstone by grinding and polishing. The properties of a gem including the raw shape and imperfections will be taken into account in
determining the best style and hence the number, placement and relative dimensions/angles of the facets to be created.

FANCY COLOR DIAMOND – A diamond other than white (colourless) with strong colour hues which may be yellow, blue or pink or red caused by impurities in the crystal lattice of these rare stones.

FANCY CUT – A stone not cut into a round shape. Styles of cut change with fashion and are also chosen to give the best finished result for an uncut stone. Marquise, baguette, princess, emerald, pear,  heart & briolette are some of the many styles commonly used.

FILIGREE – An open style of decoration comprised of very fine and delicate patterns, often seen in heart shaped padlocks for bracelets. Earrings are often created using this technique.

FINDINGS – Fittings for joining jewellery together. Clasps for chains, jump rings for charms, bails for pendants, shepherd’s hooks for earrings and brooch pins are all examples of findings.

FOUR C’S – The four factors that determine the value and qualities of gemstones, specifically diamonds. They are Cut, Clarity, Colour and Carat.

GOLD – A precious metal widely used in jewellery. Gold is normally alloyed with other metals to give it added strength and change it’s
from yellow to rose or white.

GOLD FILLED – A layer of 10 carat or higher purity gold weighing a minimum of 5% of the total item weight which is bonded to a base metal such as copper or brass. Slightly better than gold plated, but  still an inferior material used in costume jewellery.

GOLD OVERLAY – Another term for gold filled.

GOLD PLATED – An item electroplated with a very thin layer of gold. Costume jewellery that has been gold plated will not wear well and the plating is likely to wear through in as little as a month or two  exposing the base metal to which the plating was applied.

GOLD TESTING – A number of different methods can be used to test the purity of gold in jewellery. Acid testing is an older process, but is still in use for a quick and fairly accurate result. Electronic  testers give more accurate results and are completely non-destructive.

GREEN GOLD – An uncommon alloy containing cadmium, zinc, silver and gold that has a green hue.

HAND MADE – A piece of jewellery made entirely by hand, not produced by machines.

HIGH POLISH – A mirror like finish produced by buffing with a series of papers and compounds, each one finer and less abrasive than the last.

IDEAL CUT – The cut of a round diamond developed by Marcel Tolkowsky in 1919 that led to todays brilliant cut style. He calculated the proportions of the faceting required to produce the optimum  balance between brilliance and fire.

IONIC CLEANER – A device that uses electricity and detergent to remove dirt, grime, tarnish and oxidisation from metal and stones.

ILLUSION SETTING – A mirror like plate into which diamonds are set giving the impression they are larger than they are.

IMITATION GEMS – A gemstone that is made to look like another and manufactured from a different material. A cubic zirconia could be said to be an imitation diamond.

INITIAL RING – A ring bearing an initial in the face.

INLAY  – Where stones are set into a channel and the top of each stone is flush with the metal.

INVISIBLE SETTING – Gems are held in place by means of fine wires or other methods at the base, using no bezel or prongs visible above the stones.

IRRADIATED – the process of using radiation (x-rays, gamma -rays) to enhance or alter the colour of a gemstone.

KARAT – See Carat above. A measure of the purity of gold in an alloy.

LAPIDARY – Relating to the cutting and polishing of gems and rocks other than diamonds.

LASER a noun: an acronym for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.

LASER WELDING –  A superior method of joining silver, gold and other precious metals. Laser joints are much stronger than soldering and produce a superior finish. All of our chains are laser welded.

LOCKET – A pendant or charm that opens to reveal a picture.

LOST WAX CASTING  – Used to produce multiple copies of an original item by creating wax copies in a plaster investment.

LOUPE – A magnifying glass available in different magnifications for examining gemstones, solder joints or any other fine detail in jewellery. Diamonds are graded under a high quality (corrected for
colour and image distortion) loupe with a 10x magnification.

MARCASITE – A gemstone with a metallic steel grey colour made from fool’s gold (pyrite).

MARQUISE – An oval shaped gemstone with pointed ends, similar to an American football.

MATTE FINISH – A non reflective finish where the surface is dulled by brushing or stone finishing.

MELEE –  A diamond with a carat weight of less than 0.2 carats (20 points)

MOSAIC – A design made of a number of individual pieces.

MOTHER OF PEARL – The inner lining (nacre) of a molluscs shell that is iridescent. It is the same material from which pearls are made.

MOUNTING – The part of a ring, pendant or other piece of jewellery into which a stone is set.

NATURAL – A gemstone which has been mined, a pearl that was created without seeding. Gemstones like rubies produced synthetically are ‘real’ because they have the same properties as those  created in nature, but they are not natural.

OLD EUROPEAN CUT – A round cutting style, the forerunner of the modern Brilliant Cut. It has a large culet, small table and high crown.

OVAL CUT – Similar to a brilliant round cut in the faceting, but with an overall oval, rather than round shape.

OXIDATION –  A layer of oxide on the surface of a metal, caused by exposure to and a reaction with oxygen. Not to be confused with tarnishing which is a chemical reaction to sulphides.

PALLADIUM – Atomic number 46, chemical symbol Pd. Lighter and cheaper than platinum, it is often mixed with yellow gold to produce white gold. In the same group on the periodic table as Nickel (Ni) and Platinum (Pt)

PAVÉ – Stones set next to each other in rows so that no metal shows between them appearing to be ‘paved’

PEAR SHAPE – A shape of gemstone where one end is curved or rounded and the other is pointed. The facets are similar to those on a round brilliant cut.

PENDANT – A decoration that is worn on a chain around the neck and swings freely. A bail connects the pendant to the chain.

PERIOD JEWELLERY – Jewellery that is typical of a particular time period. Georgian, Edwardian, Arts and Crafts, Victorian, Art Deco and retro are well known periods where jewellery had an individual styling.

PINK GOLD – Another name for rose gold. A high copper content gives the red/pink tone.

PLATINUM – A white metal in the same group as Palladium on the periodic table. It is denser and more expensive and frequently used to plate white gold rings to give a harder surface and brighter  shine. The plating should be reapplied yearly. Alloyed with Iridium it is used mainly for engagement rings due to its high cost.

PLATINUM GROUP – Five noble metals comprising Platinum, Palladium, Iridium, Rhodium and Ruthenium.

POINT – One one hundredth of a carat (2mg) Used to measure the weight of diamonds and other gemstones of less than one carat in weight.

PRECIOUS METALS – Gold, Silver, Platinum, Palladium, iridium, Rhodium and Ruthenium.

PRINCESS CUT – A square stone, faceted similarly to an emerald cut above the girdle and like a brilliant cut below. This PROMISE RING – A ring given prior to an engagement ring, visually
similar, but with a small diamond of 5 or 10 points in size.

RHODIUM – One of the metals in the platinum group, a white metal. Often used to plate sterling silver to prevent tarnishing and provide a brighter finish.

SATIN FINISH – Same as Matte Finish meaning a surface with little reflection.

SEMI-PRECIOUS – Coloured gemstones other than diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires used in fine jewellery.

SHANK – The part of a ring that encircles your finger, it can be sized larger or smaller to suit your finger. The size is determined by a ring sizer and UK/Aus, US, China, India and Italy have their own standards.

SIGNET – A ring with a flat face onto which initials or insignias are carved or engraved.

SINGLE CUT – A style used mainly for gemstones below 10 points in size, it gives a round stone with 17 facets.

SOLITAIRE – A ring with a single stone, very commonly seen as a diamond set engagement ring.

SPRING RING – A clasp for a thin necklace or bracelet chain, it is a loop shape with a spring that closes the loop when released.

STERLING SILVER – 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper alloyed. The most common form of silver used in jewellery.

STICK PIN – A long piece of rigid wire fitted to clothing and secured with a clutch at the bottom to prevent loss. The top is fitted with a piece of jewellery and the pin is hidden behind.

STUD EARRINGS – A metal post with a butterfly backing where the front may be a bulb of precious metal or fitted with a gemstone, often a solitaire diamond.

SYNTHETIC (created) – Gemstones that are produced in a laboratory rather than found naturally. Many gemstones exist in both forms.

TEMPERING – The process of hardening a metal using controlled heat.

TIE BAR – Also called a tie clip. A bar that crosses a man’s tie and holds both ends of the tie together and can also be used to clip the tie to the shirt.

TIFFANY SETTING – A ring setting with 4 or 6 prongs holding a solitaire gemstone in place. Named after the company that designed the first solitaire setting.

TOTAL WEIGHT – Also Total Carat Weight (TCW). The added weights of all stones in a piece of jewellery, frequently used where a pave design would make it difficult to list each stone seperately. Can  be used to make a ring sound more impressive. Compare a 2 carat solitaire diamond and 2 carats of small stones. They will have very different values, but each has a TCW of 2 carats.

TUBE SET – Another name for the bezel setting.

VERMEIL – Sterling Silver jewelry that has been gold plated.

WEDDING SET – A wedding band and engagement ring. The wedding band is noramlly shaped to fit around the engagement ring so the two shanks sit together.

WHITE GOLD – An alloy of gold and white metals, most often zinc and paladium. Nickel due to its association with allergies has fallen out of favour.