» Jewelry Glossary

Jewelry Glossary


Alloy: A compound that is comprised of two or more metals. In jewelry it is usually done to make the metal harder, more durable, or to alter its color.

Art Deco: This jewelry movement, considered a protest against the excesses of Art Nouveau, was launched at the 1925 L’ Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes’ in Paris. The style features geometric and abstract designs and regained popularity in the United States during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Art Nouveau: This period started in the 1890s and ended with the onset of World War I. It featured various free-flowing natural motifs, including dragonflies, butterflies, and curvaceousfloral designs, along with female faces.

Articulated: Jewelry fashioned with hinges to provide movement and flexibility.

Artisan: A highly-skilled craftsman who exhibits great manual dexterity.


Base metal: A collective term used to describe any non-precious metal.

Beveled: A surface that has been cut at an angle less than 90 degrees.

Bezel set: A setting where the gemstone has been set within a metal encasement surrounding the stone.

Burnish setting: When the gemstone is held in place without the use of prongs or beads and is set flush with the setting’s surface.


Carat: A measure of weight used for gemstones. Not to be confused with “karat”, which is a measure of gold alloy purity. Often abbreviated as “ct.” one carat is equal to 200 milligrams (one fifth of a gram). Gemstones are measured to the nearest hundredth carat (known as a “point”). For example, a .25 carat stone would be said to have twenty five points. A carat is one of the 4 Cs of diamond grading. The others being Clarity, Cut, and Color.

Cartier, Louis: Grandson of Louis Francois Cartier, the founder of the House of Cartier in Paris-which fast became one of the world’s leading jewelry firms. Louis was responsible for popularizing the use of platinum in jewelry during the early 1900s. Famous for his garland designs during the Edwardian period, Louis Cartier also was influential during the Art Deco period, as well as the designer responsible for inventing the first wristwatch.

Center stone: The prominent precious gemstone which is the centerpiece of a ring setting.

Chandelier Earring: An earring with a drop that dangles like a chandelier.

Clarity: One of the four Cs of diamond grading (the other three being Cut, Color, and Carat), clarity refers to the perfection of a gemstones crystalline structure. When grading diamonds, the rating scale ranges from I (where visible imperfections-or “inclusions”-can be seen by the naked eye) to FL (meaning “flawless”).

Conquistador: Usually used in reference to 16th century Spanish soldiers who conquered the civilizations of Mexico, Central America, and Peru.

Couture: Highly fashionable clothing and jewelry created by leading designers.

Crest: A family emblem or royal insignia which appeared above a coat of arms in medieval times.


Diamond melee: Not to be confused with diamond chips, these small diamonds are full cuts, containing all 58 facets, and are frequently used in fine jewelry as accent diamonds. The word melee refers the diamond’s weight, which is less than 1/5 of a carat.

Drop Earring: Sometimes referred to as a “dangle earring”, this design includes any earring with hangs below the earlobe.


Edwardian: This style of jewelry began during the waning days of Queen Victoria’s reign and flourished until the onset of World War I when geometric Art Deco designs took center stage. During this period heavy use was made of garlands and bows, with diamonds and pearls set in platinum to reflect a monochromatic appearance. Delicate filigree can be found in many ring designs from this period as well as graceful, floral motifs and fringed necklaces.

Estate Jewelry: By definition this term simply means “previously owned,” although many people today have confused the term to be interchangeable with antique jewelry.

Eternity Band (Ring): Traditionally, this term refers to a millenniums old ring design wherein the band has been set with a continuous row of gemstones. Today it is most frequently given to mark an anniversary or the birth of a child, though many have begun exchanging the rings as bridal bands.


Fabergé, Carl: The legendary jeweler to the Tsars, this talented Russian became most famous for his world-renowned jewelled eggs. Numbering 56 in total, of which 44 remain, these prized enameled eggs were created as Easter gifts for the Russian court beginning in 1884, each one containing a precious suprise. Fabergé creations are famous for their meticulous craftsmanship and mind-boggling detail.

Facet: The polished surface/plane on a diamond or gemstone.

Filigree: A delicate metal openwork wherein fine wire is bent into spiral, vine-like, shapes and soldered into the gallery of the piece.

Finish: The texture or polish on any piece of jewelry.

Freshwater Pearls: Grown in the United States and world-wide, freshwater pearls are born from several different mollusks and commonly have an uneven surface or irregular shape. They come in a variety of colors, including rose, lavender, and violet.


G (in color): When grading diamonds “color” refers to the absence of color in a diamond. The rating scale begins at D (meaning colorless) and ends at Z (meaning having a lot of color). Though some color can be seen when a G diamond is graded, it appears colorless when mounted, thus it is commonly used in fine jewelry.

Gold: The most malleable, and most ductile of all metals, gold by itself is too soft to be used in it natural state to be used for jewelry making, and it is commonly alloyed with copper, nickel, or other metals. Unlike silver it does not oxidize or tarnish.

Gemstone: Any crystallized mineral structure (natural or synthetic) used in jewelry making. This includes all precious and semi-precious stones but excludes all types of plastics and glass.

Garland Style: Popular during the Edwardian era, this style (which includes bows, swags, and tassels) was made famous by the house of Cartier who set the delicate design in platinum.


Heirloom: A valued possession that is passed down among family members through generations.

H-I (in color): When grading diamonds “color” refers to the absence of color in a diamond. The rating scale begins at D (meaning colorless) and ends at Z (meaning having a lot of color). Though some color can be seen when an H-I diamond is graded, it appears colorless when mounted, thus it is commonly used in fine jewelry.

Hope Diamond: This famous diamond is named after Lord Henry Philip Hope who bought the diamond from a London merchant in 1830. Weighing 45.52 carats and displaying 60 plus facets, the diamond possesses a unique deep blue color. It now resides in the Smithsonian Institution after a dubious history of bringing tragedy to its previous owners.


Icon: An important and enduring symbol, often holding religious meaning.

Inclusion: A naturally occurring flaw within a diamond or gemstone.

Iridium: One of the platinum family of metals. It is often alloyed with platinum to increase workability.


Janety, Marc Etienne: The royal jeweler of King Louis XVI, Janety was commissioned to create several platinum pieces for the French monarch. The only piece known to remain is a glass-lined platinum sugar bowl dated 1786 which now finds it home in the metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Janety fled Paris during the French revolution only to be recalled in 1795 to fashion from platinum the standard lengths and weights for the newly established metric system.


Karat: Abbreviated with the letter “K”, karat refers to the purity of gold, which is often alloyed with silver, nickel, copper or other metals to improve its workability and make the soft metal more durable. This is what the following marks mean:

24K = 100% pure gold

18K = 18 parts gold and 6 parts alloyed metal(s) or 75% pure gold

14K = 14 parts gold and 10 parts alloyed metal(s) or 58.5% pure gold

King Louis XVI (1754-1793): Reigned over France from 1774-1792. Married to the Archduchess of Austria Marie Antoinette, he sent forces to assist the American colonies during the revolutionary war. Is quoted famously as stating that platinum was the only precious metal fit for Kings.

Koh-I-Noor: Among the world’s most famous diamonds, the Persian name is translated to mean “The Mountain of Light.” The origin of the diamond, according to legend, dates back 5000 years in ancient India. The diamond weighed 186 carats until it was recut, by the demand of prince Albert, to its current weight of 108.93 carats. Today the diamond adorns Queen Elizabeth’s crown.


Lever back: A classic design wherein the earring is attached to a pierced ear by means of a hinged lever that bends and latches behind the ear.

Lineage: Direct descent from a particular ancestor.

Luster: Refers to the brightness a piece of jewelry reflects.


Matte Finish: A textured finish produced by brushing the metal surface to produce tiny parallel lines. Today it is popularly used in platinum jewelry, and sometimes referred to as satin finish.

Medieval: Relating or belonging to the middle ages, roughly from 500-1450 AD.

Micro-set: A setting that involves even smaller gemstones and techniques than pavé set.

Milgrain (also spelled millgrain): The raised beaded edge of piece of jewelry created with a knurling tool. The effect resembles antique embroidery.

Mounting: The metal frame or housing in which gemstones are set.


Nickel: Hard, malleable, and resistant to corrosion, this white metal is malleable and often mixed with precious metals such as gold and silver.


Oxidize: The process wherein a metal mixes with oxygen and becomes rusted. Platinum and gold do not oxidize. Impurities in any alloys containing gold or platinum may oxidize but the actual metals do not.


Pavé: From the French, literally meaning “paved,” occurs when gemstones are set very close together to resemble a paved cobblestone road.

Pavé set: A time-consuming style of setting produced by drilling tapered holes in a metal base to seat the gemstones, then securing them with tiny beads formed from the surrounding metal. In current usage it has often come to mean any type of bead setting.

Pendant: Any article or ornament suspended from a chain or necklace worn around the neck.

Platinumsmith: A metalworker who works in platinum when it is hot and malleable.

Precious metal: This metal group is generally defined as referring to platinum, gold, and silver, which are valued for their rarity, color, and malleability.


Queen Victoria (1819-1901): The longest serving British monarch, Queen Victoria reigned from 1837 until her death in 1901. During her sovereignty England experienced many political and social reforms and a rapid expansion of the British Empire.


Renaissance: Stretching from the 15th to 17th centuries, this European period experienced rapid advancements in the Arts and Sciences. The jewelry of this period feature engraved gemstones, portrait cameos, hat badges, and finger rings, in a style heavily impacted by the Medici in Florence, Italy and the Pontiffs of Rome.

Ring size: The measurement of how large a ring needs to be to fit securely on a person’s finger. Traditionally the average ring size of a woman was 6 and a man 10, but this has been slowly increasing.


Sapphire: This extremely hard gemstone is from the Corundum class of minerals. It is one of the four precious gemstones, the other three being diamonds, rubies, and emeralds. Available in a multitude of eye-catching colors, sapphires of blue and pink hues are the most popular kind used today.

Satin Finish: A textured finish produced by brushing the metal surface to produce tiny parallel lines. Today it is popularly used in platinum jewelry, and is sometimes referred to as matte finish.

Scalinger, Julius Ceasar: The first European reference to platinum appears in 1557 in the writings of the Italian humanist Julius Caesar Scalinger (1484-1558), wherein he describes a mysterious metal found in Central American mines that can’t be melted by any means.

SI (clarity): SI grade diamonds are frequently found in jewelry, especially in multi-stone diamond earring, rings, pendants, and bracelets. The grade signifies that inclusions cannot be seen by the naked eye but can be seen under 10x magnification.

Star of Africa: Now among the Crown Jewels, the Great Star of Africa, weighing 530.20 carats, is mounted in one of the British Royal Sceptres, while the Lesser Star of Africa, weighing 317.40 carats, can be found in the Imperial State Crown.


Tiffany, L.C.: The son of Charles Lewis Tiffany, who founded the legendary jewelry firm which bears his name, designer Louis Comfort Tiffany was an early exponent of the Art Nouveau movement and later moved on to become famous for his Favrile iridescent glassware.

Transcendent: Surpassing other things; to be above and beyond the material universe.


Ultrasonic Cleaner: A machine that cleans jewelry by vibrating a solution at an ultra-high frequency. Capable of cleaning tiny cavaties of a jewelry piece without scratching the surface but can damage soft or brittle gems. Never to be used on pearl jewelry.


Vintage: A classic, characterized by excellence, maturity, and enduring appeal.

VS (clarity): VS clarity diamonds are of superior quality and frequently used in fine jewelry. The grade signifies that minor inclusions are difficult to see, even under 10x magnification.


White Gold: Created by alloying yellow gold with palladium, nickel, zinc, and/or silver, white gold is often selected as a less expensive alternative to platinum. It is often plated with rhodium (a member of the platinum family of metals) to give a platinum like sheen.



Yellow Gold: In its natural state gold come in varying shades of yellow. Relatively pure when initially mined, gold is usually alloyed with copper, zince, and/or silver when used in jewelry making.


Zinc: Brittle at room temperature but malleable when heated, this bluish-white metal is used to form such alloys as Brass, Bronze, and Nickel Silver.