Jewelry Terms

Aigrette: A hair ornament consisting of a feather plume, or a spray of glitter, often accentuated by either a jewel or a buckle. Worn in the hair or attached to a head band, aigrettes were popular in the 1920’s through the early 1930’s.

Alloy: Combination of metals fused together. A base metal mixed with a precious ore to make it workable, to harden it, or to change its color.

Amethyst: Ranked among the most precious stones, until the eighteenth century when a large South American deposit was found in 1760. Its purple color is thought to be caused by iron and is still very popular. For more information about the history of amethysts, visit Fabulous Facets Gem History (use your browser's "back" key to return here)

Anneal (verb): The process of hardening glass, pottery, or metal by alternately heating and pounding it

Anodized: An "anode" is the positive end of an electrical circuit. In the anodization process, a metal object is placed in an acid bath and an electrical current is passed through the tank. The process causes oxygen atoms to bond to the surface of the metal giving it a thin protective film and a lustrous sheen. Aluminum, magnesium, titanium, and tantalum are often anodized.

Antique: Any object that is 100 years or more old.

Antiquing: A process of darkening the recessed areas of gold or silver jewelry to enhance the visibility of the engraving, thus lending the look of age or natural patination. Platinum cannot be antiqued.

Arabesque: Flowing scroll work, epitomized by curlicues in low relief

Articulated: Jewelry constructed with hinges to make it flexible; jewelry with moveable parts

Art Deco: Originally a French movement in the 1920s reacting against the ornate Art Nouveau style which preceded WWI. Popular in the US the style laid emphasis on bold geometric patterns and abstract forms.

Art Nouveau: Art movement widespread throughout Europe from around 1880-1910 particularly in the decorative and applied arts characterized by sinuous, organic forms and elaborately curving lines

Assay: The process of establishing the standards of purity of gold, silver and other alloys. After successful assay the article is hallmarked outside the US. Assaying finished pieces to ensure standards are maintained though is not a legal requirement in the US

Asscher Cut Diamond Shape: The "Asscher cut diamond" was developed in 1902 by the Asscher Brothers of Holland. It is a stepped square cut, often called the "square emerald cut" and like an emerald cut has cropped corners. Until recently very few stores carried Asscher cut diamonds. It gre in poularity after celebs and TV stars started receiving them in engagement rings.

Art Moderne (1935-1945): Also known as Streamline Moderne was a late version of Art Deco design. It emphazised curves, long horizontal lines and sometimes used nautcial elements.

Art Nouveau: Art movement widespread throughout Europe from around 1880-1910 particularly in the decorative and applied arts characterized by sinuous, organic forms and elaborately curving lines

Arts and Crafts: An artistic design movement that began in the late 1800s by jewelry designers who felt that their work should look handmade. Although some pieces were made of gold, silver was more commonly used to emphasize the craftsmanship of the piece rather than the intrinsic value of the components. Pieces purposely look hand-made, incorporating hammer marks and using less expensive stones like moonstone, mother of pearl, agates, or amber in simple cabochon settings. The Arts and Crafts movement also revived the art of enamel work.

Aurora Borealis: The term "aurora borealis" is Latin and means "Northern Lights". Aurora borealis rhinestones are glass stones that have a special iridescent coating that shines with a rainbow of colors.

Bakelite: A trademarked name for a synthetic resin named after Belgian chemist L.H. Baekeland in 1909. Bakelite is a combination of phenol and formaldehyde, which makes for a very hard plastic.

Baguette: A narrow, rectangular-cut stone.

Bail: The connector at the top of a pendant, enabling the pendant to hang from a chain or cord.

Baroque: Bold, ornate, heavy looking ornamentation. When the term is used to describe a pearl, either real of fake, it means that the shape of the pearl is irregular.

Basse-taille: (pronounced bass-tie) This describes a technique of applying glass enamel to a metal surface that has been engraved deeply enough to hold the enamel when heated, with sides high enough to keep the enamel colors separate.

Bezel: A setting for a stone that has a collar instead of prongs to secure the stone

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

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; popular during Victorian times.

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 resembling a book. They were often elaborately engraved and had large lockets attached.

Box Setting: A stone enclosed in a box-shaped setting with metal edges pressed down to hold the stone in place; also referred to as a "gypsy" mounting.

Brass: An alloy made up of roughly half copper and half zinc which has a nice yellow color.

Brilliant Cut: The standard round brilliant cut consists of a total of 58 facets: 1 table, 8 bezel facets, 8 star facets and 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 brilliance 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".

Briolette: A pear-shaped stone that is faceted and drilled to hang like a bead.

Brooch: A large pin; an ornamental piece of jewelry with a pin and clasp to be attached to clothing. It's from the French word "broche" which means "to pierce," or an object/weapon made for piercing.

Bronze: A very dense and heavy alloy of 60% copper and 40% tin. It has a dull brown color and is not favored for jewelry because of its weight.

Brushed Finish: Brushed finish, also known as “satin” 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. The finish is semi-matte and may or may not show brushstrokes.

"C" catch: The most common means of securing a brooch before 1900 or so when "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.

Cabochon (pronounced cab-oh-shawn): A dome-shaped stone without facets

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

Channel Setting: Stone setting method that fits stones of uniform size into a channel to form a continuous strip.

Chaton Cut: Round crystal jewelry stone shape with 12 facets on the pointed back.

Choker: A short necklace, generally less than 14" long.

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

Calibré Cut: Small stones that are often step-cut and rectangular. They are made to set into a certain size and shape setting or are set against another stone.

Cameo: A layered stone (frequently banded agate) or sea shell that has been carved with either a woman's profile (most common), a man's profile, a natural scene or themes involving the Greek and Roman gods and goddesses. As the carver removed material from the surface the different layers beneath were revealed, most often showing different colors or shades which created a great, 3-dimensional quality to the scene or image.

Cameo Habillé (pronounced Cameo Hab-ee-yay): Most often, this is a depiction of a female who is carved wearing a diamond pendant, earrings or crown. The carver adds a small stone to the piece by drilling a small hole in the cameo, then setting the tiny stone which is wired to the back of the cameo.

Cannetille: A wirework decoration which uses coiled and twisted gold wire to achieve a delicate scrolling effect. It has a similar look to filigree.

Carnelian: Sometimes called cornelian. A translucent red or orange variety of chalcedony, sometimes banded red and orange like an agate. It is a grounding stone that boost personal prosperity and energy. Most carnelian comes from Brazil, India, Siberia, and Germany

Carat: A unit of mass used to measure diamonds, pearls and other gems. One carat equals 200 milligrams.. There are 100 points in a carat.that are 2 milligrams each.

Cartouche: An oblong design that holds an inscription. In Ancient Egypt they had a flat line at the bottom which meant a royal person or deitys name was written on it.

Casting: The technique of forming a substance, like glass or plastic or any substance that can be melted, into a specific shape with the use of a mold (see also "lost wax process")

Catalin: A brand name for bakelite. It is a thermoset polymer that can be cast and worked with files and saws eventually being polished.

Celluloid: A very thin, highly flammable plastic containing camphor. Celluloid is an early plastic that was invented in 1868 and used in jewelry to simulated tortoise shell, coral and alabaster. It was quickly abandoned for heavier, more stable plastics invented in the later part of the 19th century.

Celluloid brand: A trademark of Hyatt Brothers, Newark, NJ (1868), made of soluble guncotton and camphor, resembling ivory in texture and color. Celluloid can also be dyed to resemble coral, tortoise shell, amber, malachite and other natural stones. Should not be confused with the harder plastics such as Bakelite or Catalin. Because Celluloid is highly flammable, it enjoyed a brief popularity before it was replaced by more stable products which came into existence in the `1930’s, the phenolic resins.

Celtic: Designs that are derived from the ancient Irish, Gaelic, British, Scottish & Welsh symbols

Chasing: A method of decorating the front, (or outside), of metal objects by making indentations using shaped punches and a chasing hammer. The opposite of chasing is repoussé.

Chaton: A faceted stone that is round.

Champlevé: An enameling technique in which areas of metal are cut, etched or routed and then filled with enamel (molten glass). Most commonly applied to copper or bronze.

Channel Setting: A setting, usually narrow (hence "channel"), into which stones of the same size and cut have been tightly set, without prongs; the tension between the stones held in the channel is what holds them in, thus omitting the need for prongs. Created by Cartier in the 1920's.

Chatelaine (pronounced "Chat-ah-lain"): In Victorian days, woman did not have pockets. A chatelaine was pinned at a woman's waist, with several chains suspended from it, most commonly holding scissors, keys, thimble, comb and other household necessities. Today, a chatelaine pin most commonly refers to 2 pins that are joined together by small chain(s).

Choker: A close fitting necklace worn tight around the neck like a collar.

Chrome: A hard, brittle, grayish-white metal, fusible with difficulty and resistant to corrosion. Its chief commercial importance is for its compounds, as potassium chromate, lead chromate, etc., which are brilliantly colored and are used dyeing and calico printing. The common modern usage is for very shiny metal objects like chrome bumpers on cars.

Cire-perdue: The French word for lost-wax casting. see "Casting"

Clip: A dress clip is like a brooch, except instead of having a pin stem on the back it has a folding clip that enables it to be worn or used in a variety of ways. A fur clip also has a folding mechanism on the back, but the mechanism is made of 2 sharp prongs and was originally used to hold fur wraps around a woman's neck. They were popular in the 1920's through the 1940's. Today they are very collectible, and can be used in many ways.

Cloisonné (pronounced "cloi-zon-ay"): Another technique of enameling whereby the enamel (colored glass powder) is placed into pockets or cells of metal, then baked and cooled to solidify. The metal portions have high "walls" to keep the colors from running into each other during firing.

Copper: 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. It is also found in various ores such as chalcopyrite, chalcocite, cuprite, and malachite. When alloyed with tin it forms bronze, and when alloyed with zinc it forms brass. Copper is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity and is widely used for electrical wiring as well as water piping and corrosion-resistant parts. When in moist conditions, a greenish layer forms on the outside. It has been extracted and used for thousands of years.

Coral: Coral is a form of calcium carbonate, (like aragonite or marble), secreted in long chains by coral polyps who live 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 (called angelskin coral). In jewelry making coral is either carved into beads,cameos, and other forms, or is left in its natural branch-like form and just polished. 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 touched with acid.

Cubic Zirconia: Cubic Zirconia are man made gems which appear very much like diamond yet do not have the same intrinsic properties such as hardness. “CZ’s” as they are often called, are mass produced and much less expensive than natural diamonds but it is nearly impossible to tell the diference between the two stones with the naked eye.

Culet: The flat face on the bottom of a faceted gemstone.

Cultured pearl: When an oyster or mollusk is artificially "seeded" with a tiny grain of sand. The mollusk then excretes a coating to protect itself from the irritant. Several layers are accreted creating a real, freshwater pearl. See freshwater pearl

Cushion Cut: A square or rectangular stone that has rounded corners, also called "antique cut". The older form of the brilliant cut having a girdle outline approaching a square with rounded corners. Essentially an "old-mine cut". (See also "Mine Cut")

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 from 1750-1870; highly susceptible to rust and corrosion. Finding it in good condition today is not common.

Damascene: Refers to a type of jewelry that today most often comes from Spain; the jewelry is inlaid or engraved with gold or silver metals and black enamel; originated in the 14th century in Damascus, hence the name.

Demi-Parure: A partial set of jewelry. A full set usually includes a necklace, earrings, bracelet and brooch, all matching. A demi ("demi" is the French word for half) can refer to any combination such a necklace and brooch, or bracelet and earrings, but is lacking the other pieces of a full set

Deposé: The rights or patent granted for an exclusive jewelry design in France. If the reverse of a piece of jewelry is stamped "deposé" it was made in France. The literal translation is "hand made".

Diamond: A mineral composed essentially of carbon that crystallizes in the cubic, or isometric, crystal system and is therefore singly refractive. It is by far the hardest of all known natural substances (10 on Mohs’ scale); only manmade Borazon and synthetic diamond are as hard. In its transparent form it is the most cherished and among the most highly valued gemstones. It occurs in colors ranging from colorless to yellow, brown, orange, green, blue, and violet. Reddish stones are known, but those of an intense red color approaching that of ruby are excessively rare. 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. The specific gravity is 3.52. Sources include various sections of south, west, southwest and middle Africa; Russia; central, east and northeast South America; India; Borneo; and Australia. It is also found in the United States, but not in commercial quantity.

Diamond Cut: A name sometimes used in the colored-stone trade for brilliant cut.

Dog Collar: Popular during the Victorian era, this was a snug necklace made either of rows of pearls or beads and usually worn high up on the neck. Ribbons were also used with a jewel or pendant hanging at the front. It was made popular in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods by Queen Alexandra who had a long, graceful neck.

Duette: A combination of two clips on a pin back. Duette was a registered design by Coro, but is now used generically for this design

Edwardian Era: Refers to the years that King Edward of England held the British throne from 1901-1911. Edward was Queen Victoria's son and inherited the British Crown when she died in 1901. His wife, Danish Princess Alexandra, and him set the trends for dress. The jewelry is characterized by white metal set with pearls and diamonds and accented with colored stones.Earrings, rings, bracelets and necklaces had light, airy, lace-like designs.

Electro-plating: the process of applying a metal (most often gold) to adhere to the surface of another metal using electrical current.

Emerald Cut: A form of “step cutting.” It usually is rectangular, but sometimes is square, in which case it is known as a square emerald cut. It has rows (steps) of elongated facets on the crown and pavilion, parallel to the girdle, with sets on each of four sides and at the corners. The number of rows, or steps, may vary, although the usual number is three on the crown and three on the pavilion. The emerald cut is seldom used for diamonds in the intermediate color grades since it tends to emphasize color. It is excellent, however, for colorless stones and when it is desirable to emphasize the color of fancy colors. 

Empire Earrings: The distinctive hoop shape of Roman earrings of around 1st century BC with freshwater pearls or amethysts in sterling or gold.

Enamel: A glass powder or paste that is applied to metal, then fired in an annealing oven to bake the glass onto the metal.

Engraving: The process of decorating metal by etching a design or letters into its surface

En Tremblant: A moveable, trembling effect generally achieved through the use of coiled springs of metal mounted underneath the portion of the brooch that is intended to move; often found in antique brooches or hair ornaments.

European Cut: Now mostly obsolete; a style of diamond cutting popular from1890 to the 1930s typified by a round girdle, a smaller table in relation to the diameter of the stone and a large culet. The large culet appears to create a hole at the bottom of the diamond when viewed from the top, since the large culet lets light escape instead of reflecting back to the viewer.

Facet: A small plane surface on a cut stone that is polished.

Fancy Cut: Any style of diamond cutting other than the round brilliant or single cut. Fancy cuts include the marquise, emerald cut, heart shape, pear shape, keystone, half moon, kite, triangle, and many others. Also called the “fancy-shaped” diamond or “modern cut.”

Faux (pronounced "foe"): French word meaning false, fake, imitation or artificial. In a manufacturing context, faux is used to indicate something made to resemble something else. A common example is that cubic zirconia stones are faux diamonds.

Filigree: Thin strands of wire are intricately interlaced or bent into rosettes, spirals, scrolls and vines. The wire is typically gold or silver, and may be plain, twisted, or plaited. There are two major styles of filigree. The first is when wire is soldered to a metal base. This style was used in Byzantine, Carolingian, Ottonian, Roman, Anglo-Saxon, and 13th century German and Italian jewelry. The second style is to leave the wire as an openwork design without a metal backing which is characteristic of European jewelry until the 15th century. Filigree was used on Jewish marriage rings as well as Spanish and Portuguese peasant jewelry. In England it is found on some mourning rings.

Findings: All types of construction components used in jewelry making such as clasps, headpins, jumprings, etc.

Finish: Finish is used to describe the polish or texture applied to a metal. Common finishes include high polish, matte, scratched or brushed.

Fire: Flashes of different spectrum colors seen in diamonds and other gemstones as the result of dispersion.

Fleur-de-lis: From Old French "flor de lis": flor (flower) + de (of) + lis (lily). A stylized three-petaled iris flower used as the armorial emblem of the Kings of France. It is commonly found in jewelry.

Florentine Finish: A Florentine finish is a cross-hatched pattern, tooled into the surface of a metal. The lines are often coarse and more deep than that of a "brushed finish".

Fob: A short chain or ribbon attached to a pocket watch, often with an ornament or decorative seal attached to the end.

Foil: The reflective coating on the back of a gemstone or rhinestones to increase brilliance and depth of color. It was often used on gemstones in the 18th & 19th centuries. Today, foiling is mostly used on rhinestones.

French Ivory: A plastic produced to simulate ivory. It was first produced by the Xylonite Company in 1866. Other names include Celluloid, Ivoride, Ivorine, Ivorite and Pyralin

French Jet: Black glass that is neither "French" nor "jet". Originally meant to simulate real jet which is black ignite (fossilized coal). Victorian jet was made into jewelry for use during mourning and was made popular by Queen Victoria . As a result, sources of natural jet were quickly depleted.

French Wire: A curved wire resembling a fish hook which passes through the pierced earlobe and has a catch closure. It is mostly used with dangling earrings due to their extra weight.

Freshwater Pearls: Pearls produced by fresh water mussels.Humans place an irritant inside the mussels covers it with nacre which eventually produces a pearl. Multiple pearls are created at one time by one mussel. They are then harvested after a set amount of time. Freshwater pearls are much more expensive than saltwater pearls but have similar look.

Full-Cut Brilliant: A brilliant-cut diamond or colored stone with the usual total of 58 facets, consisting of 32 facets and a table above the girdle, and 24 facets and culet below.

Full Lead Crystal: Full lead crystal is the finest man-made crystal because its high lead oxide content serves to enhance its natural color spectrum. The production of full lead crystal begins by combining proportionate amounts of quartz and soda, potash and lead oxide which are then subjected to extremely high heat until molten. Crystal is not considered full lead until the lead oxide content goes above 30%. Swarovski full lead crystal has a lead content of 30% plus.

Garnet: A family of stones having many varieties differing in color and in their constituents, but all are silicates with the same isometric crystallization and conforming to the same general chemical formula. Garnet is a very commonly found in gneiss and mica slate. The name is derived from its resemblance in color and shape to the seeds of the pomegranate. The most common color of garnets range from light red to violet or plum-red, but can also be white, green, yellow, brown, and black varieties. Known varieties of garnet include Andradite, Tsavorite, Grossularite, Essonite, Pyrope, Almandine, Spessartite, Melanite, Allochroite, Ouvarovite, Demantoid, and Rhodalite. (See individual listings). Garnets have a hardness that varies between 6-8 on the Mohs scale. It is believed that the wearer of garnets was kept in good health and protected while traveling. Garnets are worn to signify truth and faith. Red garnet is the birthstone for January.

Gilding: An object decorated with a thin layer of gold, gold leaf or gold foil.

Gilt: Gold-plated

Girandôle: A style of earring or brooch in which a large stone or decorative element suspends three smaller, pear-shaped pendants of similar design.

Girdle: The outer edge, or periphery, of a fashioned stone; the portion that is usually grasped by the setting or mounting; the dividing line between the crown and pavilion. The 'rim' or 'edge' of the diamond. The girdle plane is the largest diameter of the stone.

Gold: Because pure gold is too soft to resist prolonged handling, it is usually alloyed with other metals to increase its hardness for use in jewelry, goldware, or coinage. Most gold used in jewelry is alloyed with silver, copper, and a little zinc to produce various shades of yellow gold or with nickel, copper, and zinc to produce white gold. The color of these gold alloys goes from yellow to white as the proportion of silver in them increases; more than 70 percent silver results in alloys that are white. Alloys of gold with silver or copper are used to make gold coins and goldware, and alloys with platinum or palladium are also used in jewelry. The content of gold alloys is expressed in 24ths, called karats; a 12-karat gold alloy is 50 percent gold, and 24-karat gold is pure. Rose gold or red gold is alloyed with copper to give its hue. 

Gold-Filled: Base metal which has had 0.025 mm of gold bonded to it's surface. More durable than gold-plated. Unlike real gold, gold-fill will eventually tarnish.

Gold-Plated: Base metal which has been bonded with at least 0.0025 mm of gold. Not as durable as alloyed gold or gold-fill. With moderate to heavy use gold-plated jewelry will eventually lose its coating, leaving the base metal exposed. The United States jewelry product standard for gold- filled is a minimum of 12 carat as accepted by the Manufacturing jewelers & Silversmiths Association.

Gold Vermeil: A think layer of gold plating over sterling silver. The under layer must be sterling silver for it to be considered vermeil.

Gold Washed: Products that have an extremely thin layer of gold, (less than .175 microns thick), applied by either dipping or burnishing the metal, but not plating it. This will wear away more quickly than pieces that are gold-plated, gold-filled, or gold electroplated.

Girandole: A piece of jewelry that has 3 dangling, pear shaped pendants.

Guilloché: A style of enameling in which a continuous decoration is engraved by an engine-turned lathe, and then covered with translucent enamel, so that the engraving can be seen through the enamel.

Habillé: French for dressed up or formal. See "Cameo Habillé"

Hallmark: A mark stamped on jewelry throughout much of the world to attest to the purity of the metal after assay. European hallmarks are legally required and date back to the Early Middle Ages, an early form of consumer protection against fraud. Marks are not officially required in the US but are carried by custom and practice. Marks may indicate the purity of the metal, the maker, the country of manufacture, and/or the date that the piece was assayed or had its design registered. On we carry items with the hallmark 925 whcih means the piece is made from 92.5% sterling silver.

Hardness: The resistance of a substance to being scratched. Diamond is 10 in Mohs’ Scale of Hardness (see table below). Tests prove that diamond is approximately five to 150 times as hard as corundum, the next hardest mineral. The variation stems not only from the differences obtained from different hardness-testing methods, but also from the fact that various directions on a given stone’s surface show a considerable variation in resistance to abrasion. The hardest direction in diamond is parallel to the faces of the octahedron. 
1.Talc 6. Orthoclase feldspar 
2. Gypsum 7. Quartz 
3. Calcite 8. Topaz 
4. Fluorite 9. Corundum 
5. Apatite 10. Diamond

Hardstone: The term used for any opaque stones used in making cameos, intaglios or mosaics such as agate, carnelian, onyx, etc.

Heishi (pronounced hee-shee): The oldest form of jewelry in the Americas pre-dating the introduction of metals. The literal meaning of heishi is "shell" and specifically refers to pieces of shell which have been drilled and ground into disk-shaped beads and then strung into necklaces. Centuries ago, the shells used by the Pueblo Indians to make beads were obtained in trade from the Gulf of California. The most commonly used are seashells of all kinds--dark and light olive shells, spiny oysters, mother of pearl, and melon shell. Coral and stones such as lapis, turquoise, onyx, pipestone and serpentine are also used to create exquisite contemporary heishi necklaces. A string of good heishi will have a uniform consistency. If you gently pull it through your hand, it should feel like a single serpent-like piece

Hematite: Iron ore consisting of ferric oxide in crystalline form. Hematite is silvery, shiny and opaque stone that becomes a red powder when ground down. It manifests in splendent rhombohedral crystals that are very heavy and cold to the touch.

Inlay: A decorative technique in which part of the surface of a piece of jewelry, furniture, or ceramic is cut away and stone, mother of pearl, or some other substance is imbedded into the hollowed-out area so that it is level with the surface of the piece. 

Intaglio: Carved gem where the design is created by incising into the stone making a negative pattern. When pressed into wax or clay the design would be raised. Itaglio rings were used to seal wax over a letter with the person's crest. Reverse intaglio is when an image is carved on the flat side of a cabochon so you can see the image through the front.

Invisible Cut: When a stone is cut on the surface so that is appears that there are multiple stones.

Invisible Setting: Invisible setting is a style in which rows of square princess cut diamonds or other gemstones rest perfectly flush against one another within a metal border or frame, with no metal separating them. This enhances the sparkle of a stone because no prongs or other metal is visible.

Iridescent: A display of lustrous rainbow-like colors. The colors seen in an oil slick or mother of pearl are good examples of iridescence

Ivory: A hard, smooth yellowish-white substance made from the tusks of elephants and walruses. There are different laws for different types of ivory depnding on whether the animal us endangered or not. Estate African elephant ivroy can be sold within the US, but Asian elephant ivory cannot be bought, traded, sold, imported or exported in the US.

Jabot Pin: A "jabot", (pronounced zhah-Bow), is a kind of ruffle worn on the bosom of a man's shirt or woman's blouse. The jabot pin was designed to hold the jabot onto the shirt. It is basically a pin with a brooch at either end. One brooch is removable so that the pin can be stuck through the garment and then secured by reattaching the removable brooch. It is a form of Art Deco mourning jewelry.

Jade: An opaque semiprecious gemstone which is usually found in shades of green, but can be also be found in lavender and rose shades.It's a traditional stone in China where it has been mined since 6000 BCE.

Jadeite: A hard, translucent variety of jade which is rarer than the other varieties of nephrite and comes in a variety of colors such as orange, pink, yellow, brown, blue, violet, and black.

Jasper is an opaque, impure, cryptocrystalline variety of quartz that may be red, yellow, or brown. It breaks with a smooth surface and can be highly polished like marble. Varieties of jasper include Fancy Jasper, Picture Jasper, Poppy Jasper, Red Jasper, and Striped (or Banded) Jasper.

Jet (also called "black amber"): A dense black variety of lignite (fossilized coal) that can be highly polished and is often made into mourning jewelry, Zuni inlay, toys, buttons, etc.

Japanned: Metal that has been enameled black or charcoal gray

Jump Ring: A small oval or round wire ring that can be opened to link charms or pendants onto a chain.

Karat: A unit of fineness that measure the percentage of gold in 24ths. Pure gold is designated 24K and is much too soft to be used in jewelry except as a decoration. If your jewelry is 14K gold (the standard fineness in the U.S.), it means that it is 14/24 parts gold and 10/24 parts base metal. Rings, particularly men's rings, are often 10K gold due to it's higher durability. The purest form of gold used in jewelry is 18K. It was often used in ancient cultures as a symbol of wealth and royalty.

Lavaliere (also called a "negligé"): A pendant on a fine chain worn as a necklace. The name comes from the name of the mistress of Louis XV, Louise de la Valliere, because she wore a jeweled pendant suspended from a chain.

Liquid silver: The term given to strands of small silver beads which were made by carefully slicing tubes of sterling silver into 1/8" pieces and stringing them together. When strung together they look like one long piece of silver tube.

Locket: A hinged case, usually in the shape of an oval or heart, which can be opened or closed and usually contains a photograph or memento inside.

Lost Wax Process, or Casting: Casting process where a carved or cast wax original is encased in clay or other investment, the wax is melted under temperature and the resulting voids are filled with molten metal. Used since early Egyptian times for casting fine metals where the highest level of detail was required.

Mabe (Or Mobe): A Japanese term for cultured pearls which are cultured against the shell so that only half a pearl is formed resembling a half-sphere.

Maltese Cross: Named for the Knights of Malta, a group of knights who bore this symbol on their tabards during the Crusades. A Maltese cross has four broad arms of equal length, sometimes having a V-shaped notch cut out of the ends.

Marcasite: A mineral with the same composition as pyrite, (fool's gold), and often called "white iron pyrite", but differing in crystal structure. It can be faceted like a gemstone and is often used in sterling silver jewelry. Marcasites were popular during the 18th & 19th centuries, and right into the Art Deco period. In the days before electricity, they looked like shimmering gemstones in candlelight.

Marquis Cut (pronounced Mar-KEYS): Faceted, elongated oval stone, which tapers to a point at both ends; named for the Marquise de Pompadour, Mistress of King Louis XV (sometimes also called "Navette cut").

Matinee Length: A necklace which is 30 to 35 inches long.

Matte: On jewelry with a matte finish the designer uses either a chemical process or an abrasive material to scratch the top layers of the piece, creating a dull and non-reflective surface. Also referred to as having a "brushed" or "satin" finish.

Micromosaic: An ancient Roman mosaic craft created by using minute pieces of colored glass or stone called tesserae (tiles), applying up to 1,400 per square inch. Micromosaics were used for brooches and pins for Victorian tourists on "The Grande Tour" of Europe.

Millefiori: Glass or clay beads with imbedded floral designs. Millefiori means "a thousand flowers" in Italian

Mine Cut: Differs from the modern brilliant cut only in its girdle shape, which is square instead of round. It also has a higher crown, smaller table, deeper pavilion and larger culet, but the number and arrangement of the facets are the same. It is lumpier than the form accepted today. This form of cut surfaced in the early 1800's and began to disappear around the turn of the 20th century.

Moonstone: A transparent, slightly iridescent, milky white variety of feldspar with white or light blue opalescent spots. Moonstone is considered a good luck stone, especially for lovers.

Mosaic: A design created by pressing pieces of stone, glass, or ceramic tiles, (called tesserae), into mortar.

Mother-of-pearl: The pearlescent material on the inside of mollusk shells like abalone, oysters, and mussels. This material can be scraped off, sliced thin, and used as inlay on a variety of jewelry.

Mount: To place or fix a stone in a setting.

Mounting: A piece of metal that holds a gem in place.

Mourning Jewelry: Jewelry worn to commemorate the death of a loved one, usually in the form of a ring, brooch, or necklace; widely worn during the Victorian era when the death of Prince Albert plunged Queen Victoria into a lifetime of mourning

Nacre: The shiny, iridescent substance secreted by a mollusk as a response to an irritant, like a piece of sand. Over time layers of nacre build up to become a pearl.

Naja (or "Najah") (pronounced Na-Ha): From the Navajo word "Najahe", meaning "crescent": A crescent-shaped silver ornament believed to go back to Moorish designs that was originally a forehead pendant on horse bridles. It is now commonly found pendant from the bottom of a squash blossom necklace. (see also "Squash Blossom")

Navette cut: Alternate name given to the marquis cut. See "marquis cut".

Niello: A black metallic alloy of sulfur, copper, silver, or lead, used as inlay for an incised design on the surface of another metal. Niello refers to both the substance and the process.

Old-European Cut: A term applied to the earliest form of a circular, girdled round stone or brilliant. It is characterized by a very small table, a heavy crown, and usually great overall depth. Improperly referred to as an "old-mine cut".

Old-mine Cut: (a) An early form of brilliant cut with a nearly square girdle outline. (b) Incorrectly applied to a somewhat more modern style of brilliant cut that also has a much higher crown and smaller table than the modern brilliant cut, but whose girdle outline is circular or approximately circular—a style of cutting that is more properly called a “lumpy stone” or and old-European cut.

Onyx: A semi precious stone that is black or white in color lends itself to flat jewelry creation such as cameos, since it has a layered structure. Onyx belongs to the "chalcedony" family of minerals, which are somewhat porous stones. It has a hardness of between 6.5- 7 on the Mohs Scale.

Opal: Opals, known for their iridescent, luminous qualities, are adored by many. Opals contain a large amount of water and need to be cared for properly since experts warn of potential cracking. This semi precious stone contains a wide-ranging mixture of colors that produce a fire-like quality, which are actually inclusions which can refract hues in a rainbow of colors. For more information about the history of opals, visit Fabulous Facets Gem History (use your browser's "back" key to return here)
Opaque (pronounced "oh payk"): Not transparent or translucent. An opaque stone will not allow any light to pass through it. 

Open Back Setting: Setting in which the back of the stone can be seen; if a rhinestone, usually the crystal is unfoiled.

Opera Length: A necklace which is 48 to 90 inches long.

Ore: A metal bearing mineral from which metal can be profitably mined or extracted.

Oriental Pearl: A pearl that has formed naturally with no human intervention. See also "Pearl".

Ormolu: A term referring to gilded bronze or brass mounts. From the French for "ground gold"

Oval Cut: Faceted, elongated stone, round at both ends.

Oxidation: A chemical process in which a metal, such as silver, is blackened or tarnishes, as a reaction to sulphur and oxygen.

Oxide: A compound containing one oxygen atom per molecule.

Oxidize: The act of combining with oxygen molecules to make an oxide.Oxidized metal is rusted.

Oxygen: A nonmetallic element that is normally a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that constitutes 28 percent of the Earth's atmosphere. Oxygen combines with many other elements easily. These compounds are called oxides and make up about half the solid matter on Earth, making oxygen the most abundant element present in the Earth's crust.

Palladium: A charcoal gray form of platinum found in Russia, South Africa and North America. Palladium has many of the same properties as platinum, such as its resistance to corrosion and versatile applications in jewelry designs. Pieces made with Palladium bear the hallmarks of Pd950 or Pd500.

Paste: In the context of jewelry, "paste" is a glass-based substance used to simulate gemstones. It has become a slang term for all fake gemstones; paste stones are lead crystals with a high lead content. Paste is more brilliant than glass rhinestones.

Paté de Verre: An ancient process of grinding glass into a powder, adding color, putting it into a mold and heating it so the powder became molten. Basically, an early rhinestone.

Pavé: From the French term for "pavement" or "cobblestone", means a large field of small stones set very close together to create a "wall-to-wall" paved effect. The more stones in the field, the more faceted surfaces there are, creating a more reflective piece.

Pearl: Pearls are organic gems grown within oysters and other mollusks, which are most valued and sought after when they are perfectly round and are lustrous. Pearls form as a result of an irritant or foreign body has made its way into the oyster or mollusk shell. The living oyster or mollusk’s natural reaction is to secrete "nacre", the luminous substance that forms around the irritant. This process can take between five to eight years, usually the entire life of an oyster or mollusk. With the marvels of science, this process has been reproduced using human intervention to create "cultured" pearls. Natural Pearls are made with no human intervention. For more information about the history of pearls, visit Fabulous Facets Gem History (use your browser's "back" key to return here).

Pearlescent: A term used to describe a surface with lustrous cloudy rainbow-like colors like one might see in an oil slick or mother of pearl. Synonymous with iridescent

Pear-shaped Cut: Stone cut into the shape of a pear or teardrop, rounded at one end and pointed on the other..

Pietra Dura: An inlaying technique usually associated with workshops in Florence, Italy, used to describe sculptural or decorative use of hard stones to decorate furniture, cameos, vases, and panels with various stones such as malachite, lapis lazuli, and jasper

Pinchbeck: A type of imitation gold composed of an alloy of copper and zinc invented by Christopher Pinchbeck in the 18th century.

Platinum: Platinum is over 20 times rarer than gold. It takes 10 tons of ore to get one ounce of platinum, whereas gold takes 3 tons of ore for one ounce of gold. Platinum is more difficult and consequently more expensive to refine. Platinum is almost double the weight of 18k gold. White gold is a less expensive "white metal", white gold is man made and does not occur naturally in nature (see also "Gold"). Platinum is the most precious of white metals. Both platinum and silver have the appearance of a white metal, but platinum is extremely durable and resists tarnishing. Platinum will never wear out.

Plique-a-Jour: A form of enameling popular in Art Nouveau jewelry that is similar to cloisonné, but where the transparent enamels are held in place by wires on the edges rather than on a metal plate.

Pot Metal: Any alloys which do not have gold, silver, or platinum as a component. Also called White Metal

Precious metal: Metals valued for their color, malleability, and rarity. There are only three precious metals: gold, silver and platinum.

Princess Cut: A highly faceted, square cut crystal similar to a brilliant cut, but adapted to a square shape to increase its brilliance.

Prong setting: A gemstone held in place by small finger-like wires attached to the bezel which bend over the edges of the stone.

Prystal: Trade name for a glass substitute invented in Italy made of plastic

Quartz: The family name for naturally occurring crystals composed of silica or silicon dioxide occurring in hexagonal habit. The most common variety is colorless and transparent. This is often referred to as "Clear Quartz", "Rock Crystal" or simply "Quartz". The crystalline varieties include: amethyst, ametrine, citrine, rose quartz, and smoky quartz. There are a variety of crypto-crystalline varieties including agate (chalcedony), onyx, sardonyx, carnelian, sard, chrysoprase, bloodstone, jasper, and prase. Quartz is an essential constituent of granite, forms the rock quartzite and forms most of the sand on the seashore.

Quatra-Foil: A design element with four divisions, as in a four-leaf clover.

Radiant Cut: A rectangular gemstone with a total of 70 facets combining the shape of an Emerald cut and the sparkle of a Brilliant cut.

Refraction: The action of changing the direction of a light wave, so the light enters the object in one direction, and leaves it in another.

Regard: A kind of Acrostic jewelry, meaning jewelry where the first letter of each type of stone spells out a word. In this case, a ring or brooch set with a Ruby, Emerald, Garnet, Amethyst, Ruby, and a Diamond so that the first letter of each gemstone spelled out "Regard". Popular in the Victorian era.

Relief: A kind of raised decoration that protrudes above the surface, like a cameo.

Repoussé: A method of embossing a metal sheet by punching and hammering a design from the back, then polishing it up in front with a chasing hammer, producing a three-dimensional bas-relief surface.

Rhinestone: A faceted stone made of glass.

Rhodium: A metal that is a member of the platinum family of metals, but is liquid in its raw, natural state, not solid like platinum. Rhodium can be applied to base metals, gold, sterling silver, or some other alloy, to give it a shiny white surface like platinum. This process was popular in the 30's and 40's, is very durable, and very expensive.

Riveting: A method of joining two objects together by making a hole in each piece, then passing a screw (composed of the same metal as the piece), through the holes to join the parts. This process was used in jewelry instead of soldering when it was not advisable to use heat or when one part was intended to swivel.

Ring Sizes: One of the few aspects of the jewelry industry that is standardized is ring size, though many national systems are in use. The US uses a numeric system from 1-13. The UK has an alphabetic system from A-Z. The European system is numeric from 38-70, representing the interior circumference in millimeters. The most common sizes for women are 6 and 7, and for men 10 and 11
US, British & European Finger Ring Sizes

This comparative chart attempts to reconcile the differing sizing systems in use. Rarely do the measurements coincide but using this list it is possible to approximate one sizing system to another. Sizes within 0.01mm have been equated.

Rivière: A necklace composed of a single strand of gemstones of the same size and cut, usually diamonds.

Rock Crystal: see "Quartz".

Rose Cut: A style of stone cutting that produces a gem with a flat, unfaceted base and a somewhat dome-shaped top that is covered with a varied number of triangular facets and terminates in a point.. This style of cut has been in use since the 16th century. It is an early style of cutting that is thought to have originated in India and to have been brought to Europe by the Venetians. The rose cut is now used primarily on small diamonds.

Rose finish: Jewelry finished so that it has the look of Rose Gold, but no actual gold content.

Rose gold: An alloy of gold mixed with copper, which gives it a red tint.

Rose Quartz: A translucent milky pink variety of Quartz (see also "Quartz")

Round Cut or Brilliant Cut: The most common style of cutting for both diamonds and colored stones. The standard round brilliant consists of a total of 58 facets: 1 table, 8 bezel facets, 8 star facets and 16 upper-girdle facets on the crown; and 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.

Ruby: One of the four precious gemstones along with Diamonds, Emeralds and Sapphires. Ruby is a member of the corundum family whose color comes from chromium oxide in the stone. Although corundum can come in many colors, rubies are, by definition, red. Rubies have been synthesized since at least 1890 and can only be distinguished from natural rubies by trained gemologists. Rubies are extremely hard, a 9 on the Mohs scale, second only to diamonds. Fine rubies of good color can be more valuable than diamonds, For centuries, rubies have symbolized beauty, charity, love, passion, power, and royalty. In some countries, engagement rings are set with rubies instead of diamonds. The ruby is the birthstone for July. For more information about the history of rubies, visit Fabulous Facets Gem History (use your browser's "back" key to return here).

Safety Catch: One of several means of securing a brooch to a garment. Before the invention of safety catches, the most common means of securing a brooch was a simple "C" catch with no locking mechanism. A safety catch has a swiveling head that locks the tip of the pin stem into the "C" catch.

Sand Casting: For hundreds of years sand casting was the most popular of all casting methods. It still plays an important role in the production of large metal forms, (typically Iron, but also Bronze, Brass, Aluminum). Tempered sand is packed onto wood or metal pattern halves, removed from the pattern, and metal is poured into resultant cavities. Molds are broken to remove castings

Sapphire: One of the four precious gemstones. The other three are diamonds, rubies, and emeralds. Sapphire is a member of the corundum family which come in a variety of colors from white to orange to green to pink. If a corundum gemstone is red, it is a ruby, but any other color are properly referred to as sapphires. Sapphires have been synthesized since the 1920's. Ancient Persians believed the blueness of the sky was caused by the reflection from an enormous blue sapphire that the Earth rested on. Blue sapphire is the birthstone for September.

Sard: A deep, orange-red to brownish-red variety of chalcedony.

Sardonyx: A variety of onyx consisting of alternating layers of sard and white chalcedony.

Satin finish: A series of tiny parallel lines scratched onto a surface with a wire brush or polishing tool to produce texture. Satin finish is also called "brushed" or "matte" finish.
Sautoir (pronounced soh-TWAH): A long, rope style necklace popularized in the Edwardian era, because Queen Alexandra often wore them. They were usually decorated with seed pearls and had a tassel as a pendant.
Scarab: Known as the sacred beetle in Ancient Egypt; a very fine, gold, original scarab pendant, as shown at right, is in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Scarabs were symbols of rebirth and rejuvenation and were popular as amulets. This scarab is inscribed "for Queen Mutnodjemet, wife of Pharaoh Horemheb XVIII", Dynasty c. 1323-1295 BC. This scarab is of unrivaled beauty and delicacy, and is one of the very few in gold to have survived into modern times. Scarabs were ancient Egyptian fertility symbols, based upon a common dung beetle found in Egypt. It was often carried as an amulet cast from gold, or carved from semiprecious stones. The flat underside could have a design carved into it that could be used as a signet.

Scatter Pin: A small pin, usually featuring flowers, birds and insects, that is intended to be worn in a group with many other scatter pins.

Scepter: A symbol of spiritual and worldly power used as a part of royal insignia. A scepter is really nothing more than a simple staff, but the ones used in ceremony are usually highly decorated with precious metals and gemstones. The topping of a scepter varied in different countries and in different periods. In the Middle Ages two forms were distinguished: a long staff (baculum), otherwise called rod, and a short one (sceptrum), although their meaning was identical. The long staff, topped with a globe, is a typical attribute of God in Carolingian painting. A scepter could be crowned with three leaves or a lily, a globe, a bird, etc.

Screw back: A type of earring attachment for non-pierced ears where the earring is tightened against the earlobe by means of a screw with a flat, round end.

Seed bead: Mass produced tiny glass or plastic beads made by slicing tubes into tiny, evenly spaced pieces. This makes them oblong in shape, rather than round, and flat on the ends. Seed beads can be strung together to make a necklace or bracelet, but are commonly used as spacers for larger beads. They can also be strung on a loom to make beaded bands and belts and curtains.

Seed Pearl: A very small pearl popular during the Victorian period as accents set into gold jewelry or woven into long, fringed necklaces called sautoirs; still very popular today, often incorporated into larger designs.

Semi-precious stones: A stone that is less rare and less expensive than precious stones, but is still valued for its beauty. Examples are peridot and amethyst.Semiprecious: Any gemstones valued for their beauty but which are not one of the four "precious stones", (emerald, diamond, ruby or sapphire). Some examples of semiprecious stones are amethyst, aventurine, carnelian, garnet, opal, peridot, rose quartz, etc.

Setting: Setting refers to the mechanism by which a stone is held by precious metal into a mounting. Common settings include bezel, pave’, channel, and prong. Setting can also refer to the part of jewelry in which one or more stones are set.

Setting: The part of the jewelry into which stones are set. Also refers to the mechanism used to hold the stones in place, such as the bezel, pave', channel, and prong settings.

Shank: The part of a ring that encircles the finger, does not include the setting.

Shoulder: The part of a ring between the shank and the center of the setting

Shank: The shank is the round body of the ring, and encircles the finger, but the shank does not include the setting

Signet: A private seal once impressed into wax to authenticate a document was often formed into a finger ring with the seal forming the bezel of the ring. Known since Egyptian times where the seal would be on the reverse of a scarab. The seal would usually be in reverse, so the impression in the wax would be right reading

Single-cut Diamonds: Genuine diamonds, commonly used in watchcases, that contain only 18 facets

Silvertone: Jewelry finished with a silver color that has the look of sterling, but no actual sterling silver content.

Simulated stones: Any natural or synthetic substance which is meant to resemble a gemstone; cubic zirconia, for example, is a simulated diamond.

Simulated tortoise: A synthetic material resembling the mottled brown and yellow color found in genuine tortoise shell.

Smoky quartz: A variety of quartz that ranges in color from cloudy brown to a dark root beer shade with a smoky appearance (see also "Quartz").

Smoky Topaz: see "Quartz"

Snake chain: Unlike most chains which are a series of linked rings, a snake chain is made up of round wavy metal rings joined side by side forming a flexible tube with a smooth, scaly texture like snake skin.

Soldering: A technique used in making and repairing jewelry whereby two pieces of metal are joined by applying a molten metal which has a lower melting point than the two metals being joined.

Spray Brooch: A type of brooch, usually worn at the shoulder, which is characterized by floral themes featuring long stemmed, jeweled flowers and leaves.

Spring Ring: A very common kind of clasp used for joining two ends of a necklace. The clasp itself consists of a hollow metal tube in a circle shape with a gap in the side. The hollow tube contains a small wire held in place by a spring inside the tube behind the wire. The wire can be pulled back by means of a small knob which slides along the outer edge of the circular tube. Releasing the knob allows the spring to push the wire forward closing the gap. The other end of the necklace terminates in a small ring. By using the knob on the spring ring to open the gap in the hollow circular tube, one can then place the small ring through the gap and close the wire through the ring securing it in place and closing the necklace.

Square cut: A style of gem cutting resembling the emerald cut.

Squash Blossom Necklace: A traditional piece of Navajo jewelry based on an old and favored Spanish-Mexican ornament which was actually not a squash, but a stylized version of the pomegranate. A shape that the Spanish Conquistadors used as buttons on their trousers, and also as ornaments on their horses' bridles and saddles. The squash blossom necklace is comprised of beads resembling squash blossoms placed at regular intervals with a "naja", (crescent shaped pendant), at the center.

Stabilized Turquoise: Turquoise is very porous by nature which allows it to absorb any pollutants that it comes in contact with, including oils from the skin. Stabilized turquoise has been treated by various methods to reduce the porosity, thus making less changeable over time.

Stamping: Using a punch or die to cut or emboss metal with a mark

Step cut: See "Emerald Cut". 
Sterling Silver: A silver alloy made up of at least 92.5% pure silver. This is the standard fineness for silver, usually designated ".925". The commonest British standard of silver purity, dating back to the currency in use in England in the 14th century, comprising 92.5% pure silver and the balance of copper and other traces. Now widely accepted as an international standard. 

Synthetic stone: Synthetic stones are man made gemstones, usually produced in a laboratory, which imitate the characteristics of naturally occurring gems. Often they are difficult to distinguish from natural stones, and synthetic gems are almost always created with little or no imperfections.

Strass (or "Strasse"): A brilliant glass with high light refraction and exceptional iridescence, (essentially consisting of a complex borosilicate of lead and potassium), used to manufacture artificial gemstones. Named after its inventor, a German jeweler, F. Stras. See also "Paste" and "Rhinestone".

Synthetic: Gemstones produced in a laboratory rather than found in nature. Synthetic gemstones are not "fake", since they have exactly the same chemical characteristics as the natural stone, but they are usually flawless and much cheaper than the real thing. The most common synthetic gems are emeralds, rubies, sapphires and opals.

Table: The large facet that caps the crown of a faceted gemstone. In the standard round brilliant, it is octagonal in shape and is bounded by eight star facets; the top facet.

Table-cut: See "Emerald Cut".

Tanzanite: A variety of zoisite named after its country of origin, Tanzania, where it was first discovered in 1967 and is still the only place where it can be found. Tanzanite is popular for its brilliance and is known for its varying shades of violet; from deep rich purple to lilac. The gem can be heated to achieve the most sought after shade, a vibrant blue violet. Good quality tanzanite is usually faceted, but the rare pieces that have flaws are simply made into cabochons.

Tapered baguette: A small gemstone cut in a trapezoid shape with one end narrower than the opposite end.

Tarnish: A dulled luster or finish caused by a thin deposit of a dirt which discolors the surface of metal and is easily removed. Also a reaction between metals and other chemicals which discolors the surface, particularly silver which reacts with sulfur. The silver sulfide can be removed with a proprietary cleaning product and gentle abrasion. A thin deposit of a dirt which discolors the surface of metal and is easily removed. Also a reaction between metals and other chemicals which discolors the surface, particularly silver which reacts with sulfur (sulfur). The silver sulfide (sulfide) can be removed with a proprietary cleaning product and gentle abrasion.

Tanzanite: A beautiful violet colored crystal stone that derives its name from the gemstone discovered in Tanzania, Africa.This popular gemstone color works very well with a wide range of purples and blues.

Topaz: Topaz is a stone which occurs in many colors, including blue, green, yellow, pink, brown and clear; it is often treated with heat to develop it into a rich “Tiffany” blue color. The most valuable topaz is "Imperial" topaz with a golden yellow to orange color. Although it is a hard stone, topaz can be susceptible to breaking. Topaz is sought after for many reasons, as it is lustrous, has double refraction and a strong hue.

Taxco (pronounced TAHKS' coh): The center of silversmithing in Mexico. Silver produced there up until about 1970 is considered collectible. In 1979 the government began to require silversmiths to stamp a registration mark consisting of two letters and several numbers

Tennis bracelet: A bracelet made up of individually set gemstones of uniform size and color linked together like a chain so it is somewhat flexible

Tiffany Setting: A generally round, high, six-prong setting with long, slender prongs that flare out from the base introduced by Tiffany & Co. in 1886. It is most commonly used today for large stones such as a diamond solitaire.

Tin: A malleable, silvery metallic element which is not easily oxidized in the air, and so is used chiefly to coat iron to protect it from rusting. It is primarily extracted from the ore cassiterite where it is found as an oxide. Tin is malleable at ordinary temperatures, but brittle when heated and is a part of numerous alloys such as soft solder, pewter, type metal, and bronze. It is most commonly used in the form of tin foil with mercury to form the reflective surface of mirrors.

Toggle clasp: A means of fastening two ends of a chain together consisting of a ring on one end and a short bar on the other. The bar is slid through the ring and sits across it so it does not slide or pull.

Topaz: A fluosilicate of aluminum that occurs in rhombohedral crystals and is used as a gemstone. Although it is a hard stone, topaz can be susceptible to breaking. According to some, the name is from Topazos, a small island in the Red Sea, where the Romans obtained a stone which they called by this name, but which is now called chrysolite. Topaz is sought after because it is lustrous, has double refraction and a strong hue. It may be found in many colors, such as blue, brown, clear, green, orange, pink, red, yellow, white. The most valuable topaz is "Imperial" topaz with a golden yellow to orange color. The most popular color is an enhanced blue treated with heat to develop it into a rich “Tiffany” blue color which resembles aquamarine, but is more affordable. Yellow quartz is sometimes called topaz, but is considered "false topaz". True topaz is said to be the symbol of love and affection to act as a protector by making the wearer invisible in emergencies. Topaz is the birthstone for November. For more information about the history of diamonds, visit Fabulous Facets Gem History (use your browser's "back" key to return here)

Torsade: A necklace formed by many stands of beads; sometimes the beads include many different sizes.

Tortoise Shell: A mottled, nutty brown shell material with a spotted, striped, or sometimes even speckled pattern. Popular for 19th century jewelry and hair combs, tortoise shell was banned and is no longer used for these items. There are very close plastic imitations of tortoiseshell. One technique to differentiate tortoise from its imitators is to touch the surface with a hot pinpoint. Tortoise will give off a smell like burning hair, while plastic will emit an acrid chemical odor. 
Translucent: Partially transparent. A translucent stone will allow some light through, but it will still be too cloudy to see objects through clearly.

Trembler: See "En Tremblant"


Trillion Cut: Trillion cut is a triangular shaped diamond with abbreviated corners and typically 44 varying facets.

Tungsten: And extremely hard and durable element that is more than 19 times denser than water. Tungsten is a preferrable ematerial used to make mens wedding bands as it is extremely scratch resistant and can withstand normal wear and tear far better than softer metals such as sterling silver or gold. Because of it's density it weighs more than a classic wedding band and will feel hefty on the hand.

Turquoise: Turquoise is a semi-precious stone, and is known for its true "robin’s egg blue". Although turquoise is very opaque, it is also porous and is predominantly found in desert regions worldwide. It was originally discovered in Turkey, and green hued turquoise can be found in North America. This unique stone is usually cut into cabochons, or domes, to enhance the natural beauty of the gem. For more information about the history of turquoise, visit Fabulous Facets Gem History (use your browser's "back" key to return here)

Vermeil: (Vehr-MAY) A substantial amount of real gold which has been chemically bonded to sterling silver. The finish looks so much like solid gold that, except for the price, it is difficult to tell the difference.

Victorian: The designation given to the period from approximately 1837 when Victoria became Queen of England until 1901 when she died. This long period is divided into early (approx. 1840-1860), mid (approx. 1860 - 1880) and late (approx. 1880-1900) since it covers a wide span of time, and a number of distinctive design trends. This period was preceded by the Georgian period, and succeeded by the Edwardian period after Victoria died in 1901, and her son Edward became king.

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