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Jewelry Glossary: A Guide to Jewelry Terms

As a jewelry lover, you know that there are terms & definitions that are specific to this industry. Whether you're looking for the meaning of your favorite pieces or need help with an unfamiliar term, we've got your back!

 

A

ACCENT GEMSTONES

Accent gemstones are stones used in jewelry design that are not the main focus, but instead accent or complement the center gemstone plus any side gemstones.

ALLOY

An alloy is a combination of two or more metals created to make an individual metal stronger & more attractive.

ALTERNATIVE METALS

Materials used in jewelry that are less precious than platinum or gold. For example: palladium, titanium, stainless steel, tungsten and cobalt.

AKOYA PEARLS

Akoya cultured pearls are rare as well as have a beautiful luster that makes them more valuable than freshwater cultured pearls.

ALEXANDRITE

Alexandrite is a mineral found in Russia, named after Czar Alexander II of the Russian Empire. This gemstone has two colors: green when exposed to sunlight plus red when lit by artificial light.

AGATE

A semi precious gemstone, agate is a variety of quartz. Moreover, agate gems usually features bands of color that vary from tan to red or brown to green. On the Mohs Hardness Scale, it has a hardness of 6.5 to 7 making it ideal for both jewelry and decorative objects.

AGGREGATE

A type of gem that's composed of small crystals or particles. These include chalcedony, jade, lapis lazuli, malachite and turquoise.

AMETHYST

Amethyst, traditionally gifted as the customary present for someone celebrating their 6th or 17th wedding anniversary, is a purple form of quartz.

ANKLE BRACELET/ANKLET

Anklets are a type of bracelet worn on the ankle often embellished with gems or diamonds.

ANTI-TRAGUS PIERCING

In an anti-tragus piercing, the earring goes through the fold of the cartilage at the top of the lobe often at the highest points, so it sits opposite the tragus.

ANNIVERSARY BAND

A ring to celebrate an anniversary can complement a wedding band or be given as a gift on the anniversary.

ANNIVERSARY RING

As the name suggests, an anniversary ring is often diamond-encrusted and designed to symbolize your commitment. Popular styles include eternity rings or three-stone bands that is often worn alone.

ANODIZED

A chemical or electrolytic protective glaze added to shield certain metals.

ANTIQUE FINISH

Used in sterling silver, the oxidation process enhances the finer points in the design. Oxidized pieces need special care in order to preserve their contrast.

AQUAMARINE

Aquamarine is a jewel from the beryl family, primarily found in blue-green hues. It's the traditional birthstone for people born in March and one of the customary 19th wedding anniversary gemstones.

ASSCHER‐CUT

Asscher cuts are square-cut coupled with intensely shaved on the corners. They imitate a house of mirrors.

B

BAGUETTE

Baguette-cut stones are either rectangular or narrowing in shape with stepped edges. They're usually used as accents to accentuate larger stones in jewelry, but they can also be used as a main stones for smaller pieces.

BANGLE/ BANGLE BRACELET

A bracelet that is either solid or hinged designed to slide easily around the hand and onto the wrist.

BAROQUE PEARL

Baroque pearls are pearls with an irregular, non-spherical shapes

BAROQUE JEWELRY

Similarly to other elements of the Baroque period, Baroque jewelry is distinguished by its botanically inspired motifs and its exuberant symmetry.

BARREL CLASP

Two pieces on either end of a necklace or bracelet that screw together to form the clasp.

BERYL

A transparent pale green, blue, or yellow mineral consisting of a silicate of beryllium and aluminum, sometimes used as a gemstone.

BLACK DIAMONDS

Black diamonds are opaque diamonds with a black color that come in only one color-intensity: Fancy Black, unlike the characteristic of color in other color diamonds.

BLACK GOLD

Black gold is a mixture of yellow gold and other black metals.

BLISTER PEARLS

Blister pearls are pearls that are grown against the inside of the oyster's shell and not within its tissue.

BLUE DIAMOND

A blue diamond is a colored diamond with a noticeable blue tone due to the presence of boron in the diamond's carbon structure.

BOOK CHAIN

A book chain is a Victorian chain style consisting of interlocking links of flat folded metal resembling the binding of a book.

BRONZE

Bronze is a yellowish‐brown alloy of copper, iron and tin with up to 1/3rd of that being tin.

BRUSHED FINISH

Jewelry with brushed finishes reflects less light and has a wispy, feathery effect.

BUTTON EARRINGS

Button earrings rest flush against the ear without any dangling parts in a disk or dome shape.

C

CABLE CHAIN

A cable chain features uniform round or oval‐shaped links connected to each other to form a chain.

CABOCHON STONES

Cabochon stones are a type of stone with a domed hemispherical or oval shape, polished but not cut into facets.

CANARY DIAMOND

A Canary Diamond refers to a pure yellow diamond with a strong shade - meaning pure intense yellow diamond.

CARVED PEARLS

Carved pearls are authentic Tahitian pearls that are hand carved. 

CITRINE

Citrine is the yellow to red-orange variety of crystalline quartz.

CREOLE EARRINGS

Creole earrings are a variety of the hoop earring style that are generally not the same thickness the whole way around or feature an elongated
shape.

CONCH PIERCING

A conch piercing is a piercing that goes through the cartilage at the back of your ear.

D

DAITH PIERCING

A daith piercing is a piercing that goes through the inner ridge of cartilage.

DEMI-PARURES

Demi-parures are matching pieces of jewelry that are typically worn together though they are not a full set.

DIAMOND

Diamonds are the hardest natural mineral. These sparklers are the birthstones for April and the traditional gift for people celebrating their 10th, 60th or 75th wedding anniversaries.

DIAMOND CLARITY

One of the four Cs, a diamond's clarity is calculated by measuring the amount/absence of blemishes on it. These sparklers have varying clarity levels; from flawless to imperfect.

DIAMOND SLICES

Diamond slices are thinly sliced sections of large, rough diamonds characterized by their abundance of inclusions.

DOUBLE HELIX PIERCING

Piercing the upper-outer cartilage just once creates a classic helix, but piercing two locations in the same area makes this style a double helix piercing.

E

EMERALD

Emerald is a member of the beryl family and for that reason, it can sometimes be found in an array of different shades of green. It is the traditional birthstone for those born in May. Additionally, it is the standard gemstone gift for anniversaries 20, 35 and 55.

EMERALD‐CUT

An emerald‐cut jewel is rectangular in shape coupled with beveled, step-cut corners.

ETHIOPIAN OPALS

Ethiopian opals, also called Welo Opals, are opals that have translucent to transparent body colors with a vivid play-of-color in a variety of patterns.

F

FACETED GEM

A faceted gemstone is a precious stone cut in such a manner as to have flat, polished surfaces.

FACETS

Facets on a gemstone are the cut, flat surfaces that determine how much light shines through.

FIGARO CHAIN

A figaro chain is a chain with flattened links which vary in size. It usually has 2 or 3 shorter links alternating with a longer link.

FLAT PIERCING

A flat piercing is a piercing that sits through the 'flat' area of skin between your ear canal and cartilage.

FLORENTINE FINISH 

A florentine finish is a crosshatched decorative technique engraved into the surface of a precious metal.

FORWARD HELIX PIERCING

A forward helix piercing is a piercing that sits right above the tragus.

G

GIA

The Gemological Institute of America is the authority on gemological teaching and research.

GARNET

Garnet, the traditional birthstone for January and the 18th wedding anniversary gift, is principally found in a reddish-brown color. Less common colors are also found in all shades except blue.

GEM TREATMENT

There are many types of treatments used to improve a gem's appearance or durability. These gem treatments include bleaching, coating, diffusion, dyeing, filling, heating, etc.

GOLD WASH

A gold wash finish is the process of applying a thin layer of gold to an object like jewelry or metal that's not made from precious metals, but it will still have a yellowish hue due to the chemical reaction between copper and sulfur in air.

GREEN DIAMOND

A green diamond is one of the rarest and most valuable diamonds. Its natural green color results from exposure to radiation while still within the Earth's crust.

H

HALF-BEZEL SETTING

A bezel setting goes around the entire stone. Half‐bezel settings wrap metal on either side of the stones girdle, as opposed to all around the stone..

HALF‐CHANNEL SETTING

A half-channel setting has a thin strip of metal bordering each side either of diamonds or gems.

HAMMERED FINISH

A hammered finish is a type of jewelry finish with the texture of hammered metal or even wood.

HELIX FLAP PIERCING

A helix flap piercing is a cartilage piercing where the jewelry sits on the outside of the ear, as opposed to the inside. It's perfect for people whose ears fold over a little at the top.

HELIX PIERCING

A helix piercing is any piercing made to the upper cartilage of the ear, though there are different types. A standard helix piercing sits on the outer upper cartilage, but you can also get forward, backward, double or even triple helix piercings.

HIGH-GLOSS FINISH

A high-gloss finish is a jewelry finish with a shiny, reflective surface.

I

IDEAL‐CUT

An ideal‐cut diamond features a series of prisms and mirrors. The manner in which light shines from the top of a diamond (not its sides or back) determines how brilliant and fiery it is.

IMITATION

An imitation is a gem look‐alike. Unlike a synthetic, an imitation (or simulant) doesn't have the same chemistry and structure as the gem it resembles. Appearance is the only similarity.

INDUSTRIAL PIERCING

An industrial piercing usually includes two piercings in the cartilage of an ear connected by a single piece of jewelry.

 

J

JADE

Jade is the common name for two types of minerals, jadeite and nephrite traditionally used in jewelry because they are difficult to break.

JOURNEY NECKLACE

A journey necklace features a ladder or S‐curve that progresses from the smallest to largest gemstone.

 

K

KARAT

Karat is the standard measurement of gold purity. Pure gold is 24 karats and therefore, the amount of gold in a compound revolves around 24 parts. Moreover, this means 14K (14 parts) consists of 14 parts pure gold and 10 parts alloying metal.

KUNZITE

Kunzite is the pink to light purple gem variety of the mineral Spodumene.

L

LAB-CREATED

A lab‐created gemstone is a type of man-made stone, which has the same chemical, physical and optical properties as natural gemstones.

LARIAT

Lariats allow for an open-ended necklace secured together using a clasp, usually on the front.

LAPIS LAZULI

Lapis lazuli is a semiprecious stone valued for its deep blue color.

LOBE PIERCING

A lobe piercing, or earlobe piercing, is any piercing that goes through the fleshy lower part of the ear—basically where you got your very first ear piercings (most likely).

M

MABE PEARLS

MABE pearls are pearls that are grown against the inside of the oyster's shell and not within its tissue.

MADEIRA CITRINE

Madeira citrine is a particular type of citrine, that's deep orange in color.

MAGNETIC CLASP

A magnetic clasp features a magnet on each end of the chain which draws towards each other to hold jewelry in place.

MAN MADE DIAMONDS

Man made diamonds, also known as engineered or cultured diamonds, are grown in highly controlled laboratory environments using advanced technological equipment.

MATTE FINISH

A matte finish is a type of jewelry finish with a dull, satin-like surface.

MOONSTONE

Moonstone is a variety of the feldspar-group mineral orthoclase.

MORGANITE

Morganite is the pink to orange-pink variety of beryl, a mineral that includes emerald and aquamarine.

N

NACRE

The nacre is the material that builds up around foreign particles in mollusks to form pearls.

NATURAL FANCY COLOR DIAMONDS

Natural Fancy color diamonds feature deep body colors in brown, yellow, blue, violet, orange and pink. Categorized as Z+ on the Diamond Color scale and come in nine saturation levels from Faint to Vivid Fancy.

O

OLIVINE

Peridot is the mineralogist's name for olivine.

OMEGA BACK

An omega back is a hinged and curved earring backing that supports the rear of a post.

OPAL

Opal is a silica mineral extensively used as a gemstone.

OPAQUE FINISH

An opaque finish is when one color covers another completely and doesn't leave any shine through it on top as seen in cloisonné or millefiore.

ORBITAL PIERCING

An orbital piercing is when one piece of jewelry passes through two or more piercings. This is commonly done on the lobe, but it has been known to happen in other places as well.

OXIDIZED FINISH

An oxidized finish is when silver reacts to oxygen outside its airtight container to produce black oxidation on top of it which then becomes dark brown as time passes.

P

PALLADIUM

Palladium is a rare and lustrous silvery‐white metal.

PAVILLION

The pavilion is the bottom portion of a diamond, located between the girdle and the culet.

PINK DIAMOND

A pink diamond is a colored diamond with a pink hue. The source of its pink color is greatly debated in the gemological world but it is most commonly traced to enormous additional pressure during formation.

PRECIOUS GEMSTONES

There are typically four types of precious stones: diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires. Pearls, opals and jade stones are occasionally classified as precious gemstones, but they are more commonly classified as semi-precious. These four precious stones have traditionally been the most expensive and sought-after stones.

Q

QUARTZ

Quartz is the most common type of mineral on Earth. Variants include amethyst, ametrine, citrine, rock crystal, rose quartz, smoky quartz and tiger's eye

R

RADIANT-CUT

A radiant cut gemstone is typically an eight‐sided stone with approximately 70 facets.

RED DIAMOND

Red diamond is the rarest color of diamonds, making it harder to find in nature than standard diamonds. The red color results from exposure to certain elements and conditions during formation.

ROOK PIERCING

A rook piercing is a piercing that goes through the cartilage on the ridge between the inner and outer conch.

RUBY

A ruby is a pink to blood-red colored gemstone, a variety of the mineral corundum (aluminium oxide).

S

SALTWATER PEARL

A saltwater pearl is a mollusk-created pearl that comes from the ocean or other bodies of saltwater. Akoya, South Sea and Tahitian pearls come from saltwater.

SATIN FINISH

A Satin finish is a type of jewelry finish with a shiny, silky surface.

SATURATION

One of the three color components, a color's saturation level represents how strong and pure the color is.

SAPPHIRE

Sapphire is a variety of the mineral corundum that only comes in all colors except red. Sapphires and rubies are the second hardest minerals (diamonds being the hardest). Sapphire is the traditional 5th, 23rd and 45th wedding anniversary gift. It is also September's birthstone.

SCINTILLATION

Scintillation refers to the flashes of light that you see as diamonds move under light.

SCREW BACK

Screw-backs are commonly used for diamond earrings. These secure backs attach to the posts and tightened by turning a small metal screw.

SEAL RING

A seal ring is a finger ring engraved with a seal.

SEMI‐MOUNTING

Semi‐mount ring is a ring that has everything, but the center gemstone.

SEMI-PRECIOUS GEM

Semi-precious gems include all varieties of stone that are not considered "precious" like diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires.

SETTING

Jewelry typically has a setting, the metal work that holds stones in place. Prong is one of many settings; channels is another.

SIGNET RING

A signet ring is a finger ring engraved with a signet, seal or monogram.

SILVER

Silver is a type of metal most often mixed with other metals to increase its strength. Sterling silver is a compound consisting of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals.

SIMULATED GEMSTONE

A simulated gemstone is a synthetic stone that mimics the color of a birthstone.

SINGAPORE CHAIN

A Singapore chain is a type of twisted curb chain. The links join together in a way that forms an automatic curve, even when the chain is not twisted.

SMOKY QUARTZ

Smoky quartz is a type of brown-colored quartz.

SMOOTH FINISH

A Smooth finish is a type of jewelry finish with no ornamentation and creates an appearance that looks polished, shiny, without any textures.

SNAKE CHAIN

A snake chain is a series of small metal bands constructed closely together, resembling the body of a snake.

SNUG PIERCING

A snug piercing is a piercing that goes through the cartilage on the outer ridge of the ear.

SOLDER

Soldering is the process of melting metal and joining it together to make, repair or adjust jewelry.

SOLITAIRE

Solitaires are rings, earrings or necklaces that feature only one diamond.

SOUTH SEA PEARL

South Sea Pearls are the rarest type of cultured pearls grown, typically in Australian, Indonesian, and Filipino waters. These pearls come in a large size ranging from 8 to 18 millimeters with shapes that are typically circular. South Sea Pearls are found in many different colors including white and cream, silver gray, golden-yellow.

SPACER

A spacer is a decorative bead or accent placed between charms to create an extra design detail.

SPECTROPHOTOMETER

A spectrophotometer is an advanced gem‐testing instrument that measures selective absorption from infrared to ultraviolet.

SPECTROSCOPE

A spectroscope is a gem‐testing instrument used to analyze absorption spectrum.

SPIGA CHAIN

A spiga chain features small, figure‐of‐eight shaped links that form a 3D braided chain.

SPINEL

A spinel gemstone is often mistaken for a ruby, though it's made of aluminum and magnesium oxides.

SPRING RING CLASP

The spring‐ring clasp consists of a small metal ring with a gap that is opened and closed by the lever on the back.

SQUARE-CUT

A square-cut stone features a square outline with facets cut into "steps." Most often, this type of cut contains 57 facets.

STABILITY

Stability is the resistance to harm not directly related to hardness or toughness that may come from heat, sudden temperature change, intense light, moisture loss or chemicals.

STAINLESS STEEL

Stainless steel is a metal that is less likely to rust or corrode than regular steel or other jewelry metals.

STAR EFFECT

The phenomenon that occurs when bands of light intersect in a way that makes star shapes and appear to move in a “star effect”. The little needle like crystals are known as “inclusions”, which may provide the reason why only certain stones such as star ruby and star sapphire have this effect.

STEAM CLEANER

A device that typically employs high‐pressure blasts of hot water to remove dirt from unset gems or jewelry. While it is effective at cleaning unmounted stones, steam cleaning can damage colored gemstones.

STEP‐CUT

Step-cut is a type of diamond cut. Step-cut diamonds have rows of facets positioned in a step-like fashion and typically take on the shape of an emerald or baguette, with four sides.

STERLING SILVER

Sterling silver is a durable jewelry metal composed of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% alloy.

STUD EARRINGS

Stud earrings are post-style earrings with a single gem or small cluster.

SUNSTONE

Sunstone is an interesting feldspar gemstone with a glittery appearance and usually an orange or reddish color, hence its name.

SYMMETRY

Symmetry is the precision of a diamond's cut.

SYNTHETIC STONE

A synthetic stone is a colored gemstone that is man-made in a laboratory. Synthetic gems have the same chemical, physical and optical properties as any natural gemstone, but they are often called lab-created stones.

 

T

TAHITIAN CULTURED PEARL

Tahitian cultured pearls have a rich dark color that ranges from metallic to gray with some overtones of color.

TATTOO PEARLS

Tattoo pearls are authentic Tahitian pearls that are hand carved. 

TANZANITE

Tanzanite, known for its bluish-purple color, is the December gemstone as well as the traditional gift for 24th wedding anniversaries.

TARNISH

Tarnish is the degradation of lustrous surface. Air and moisture attack certain metals, such as sterling silver, causing them to tarnish.

TENSION SETTING

In tension setting, the stone is suspended by the metal in a way that it appears to be floating. Unlike other settings, most of the stone can be seen.

TEXTURED FINISH

A textured finish is a jewelry finish that has a rough and irregular surface with different patterns.

THREADER EARRINGS

Threader earrings come with an ear post on at least one end which you thread through your piercing then simply pull gently, so the dainty chain slide through the ear.

TIGER'S‐EYE

Tiger's eye is a chatoyant variety of quartz. The color usually ranges from yellowish brown to brownish-yellow. This gem displays an appearance similar to that of the tiger; hence the name “Tiger’s eye."

TITANIUM

Titanium is a metal that weighs 1/3 less than gold, but is just as strong.

TOGGLE CLASP

A toggle clasp features a metal bar on one end of the chain secured by a small metal ring on the other end. The bar cannot fit back into the ring, securing the ends together, when it is flat.

TONE

One of the three color components is tone. The lightness or darkness of a color defined by its tone. Red and pink, for example, have different tones.

TOPAZ

Topaz is a mineral species that occurs in many shades of blue, yellow, brown, orange, red and pink.

TOTAL WEIGHT/TOTAL CT. WEIGHT

Total weight or total ct. weight is the sum weight of all gems in a piece of jewelry.

TOUGHNESS

Toughness is the ability of a stone to withstand pressure from collision.

TOURMALINE

Tourmaline is a semi‐precious stone and comes in a variety of colors ranging from black to brown, violet, green, pink, or a dual‐colored pink and green.

TRAGUS PIERCING

A tragus piercing is a piercing that goes through the thick cartilage right in front of the ear canal.

TREATMENT

A treatment is an artificial process that improves a gem's appearance or resilience. Treatments for colored gems include bleaching, coating, diffusion, dyeing, filling, heating, impregnation and irradiation.

TRI‐COLOR

Tri‐color designs feature three colors of metal in one piece. Either the same metal, such as gold or the blending of different metals.

TRIPLET

A triplet is a three-part assembled gem.

TSAVORITE

Tsavorite is a bright green variety of grossularite, a type of garnet.

TUNGSTEN/TUNGSTEN CARBIDE

Tungsten is a fairly new metal in the jewelry industry, often used for wedding bands. Tungsten is resistant to corrosion and four times harder than titanium.

TURQUOISE

Turquoise, the December birthstone, is a mineral species that's opaque and light to medium‐dark blue or bluish-green. It may also shows spangles of pyrite or include remnants of matrix.

TWO‐TONE

Two-toned designs combine two metal colors in one piece. Either consisting of the same metal, such as gold or made of a mixture of metals.

 

U

ULTRASONIC CLEANER

An ultrasonic cleaner is a cleaner that uses high-frequency sound waves to clean jewels by passing them through a detergent solution.

 

V

VERMEIL

Gold vermeil, or just vermeil, refers to items made of silver plated with a thin layer of gold.

 

W

WEDDING BAND

Symbolic of everlasting love and commitment, wedding bands are exchanged between the bride and groom on the wedding day.

WHEAT CHAIN

A wheat chain consists of oval and twisted oval-shaped links that intertwined to form an elaborate chain with lots of visual detail resembling wheat grains.

WHITE DIAMOND

White is the body color commonly associated with diamonds. White diamonds are scored on a scale from colorless to slightly yellow, where diamonds that are closer to colorless are more costly.

WHITE GOLD

White gold is created by blending pure gold with a copper, zinc and nickel (or palladium) alloy.

WHITE TOPAZ

White topaz is a rare gemstone, transparent variety of silicate inosilicate of aluminium and fluorine. It’s name derives from the Greek 'to shine', and for good reason - it dazzles whoever sees it. The stone forms during metamorphosis of rocks (mountain formation), parallel to the formation of diamonds.

WORN FINISH

A worn finish is a scratched or eroded metal finish that gives off an antique look like copper with green patina on top of it from age and use.

 

Y

YELLOW DIAMOND

Yellow diamonds are less common than traditional diamonds in nature. The presence of nitrogen during the forming process is what gives the material its yellow hue.

YELLOW GOLD

The purest form of gold is 24K, which is much too soft for use in jewelry. Yellow gold preserves its rich yellow color while increasing its longevity by mixing it with copper and silver.

 

Z

ZINC

Zinc is a metal alloy that's added to other metals like gold, silver and copper to create different shades of gold. White gold results from mixing zinc with gold and other alloys.

ZIRCON

Zircon, the December birthstone, is a mineral that comes in a variety of colors, including blue, green, yellow, brown, orange, red, pink, purple and even colorless. The optical phenomenon known as dispersion occurs in light-colored zircons.