Glossary of Jewellery Words and Terms

Abalone
An edible mollusc most commonly found in the Pacific ocean and usually associated with New Zealand pacific. The interior side of the shell is a stunning iridescent show of blue, turquoise and green sometimes with flashes of pink and purple. A very popular material in jewellery design.

Agate
A translucent and semi-translucent variety of quartz, often displaying beautiful bands of natural colour, created by deposition of layers over time.

Albert Chain
This device was named by Queen Victoria in honour of her husband, Prince Albert. It is a chain from which a pocket watch hangs, with a T-bar fitting for placement in a buttonhole of a man’s waistcoat.

Alexandrite
A gemstone variety of chrysoberyl which appears to change colour when viewed in different lights. Legend has it that the stone was named after the Tsar Alexander II of Russia.

Alloy
The combination of more than one metal. For example, sterling silver is 92.5% silver combined with 7.5% of another metal (usually copper) to strengthen it. Gold is combined with other metals to achieve different colours and durability.

Amazonite
A relatively scarce mineral gemstone occurring in shades of green to blue.

Amber
This beautiful and popular gemstone ranges in colour from honey to cognac, most commonly translucent. It is light in weight do to it being fossilised tree sap. Occasionally it contains natural inclusions, such as insects and leaf matter.

Amethyst
One of the most well known and popular semi-precious gemstones. Mostly purple in colour, ranging from pale violet to deep purple, it is a member of the quartz family. Amethyst was particularly popular during Victorian times and is February’s birthstone.

Antique
A collectable item of 100 years or more in age.

Antiqued and Antique Finish
A technique applied to metal jewellery to darken, to appear older i.e. non-natural patina.

Aquamarine
This gemstone is a member of the beryl family. Mostly clear aqua blue, it is the birthstone of March.

Art Deco
Geometric styled objects, patterns, architecture and ornaments originating in the 1920s.

Art Nouveau
At its height between the 1890s and 1910s, the Art Nouveau movement celebrated more feminine, flowing styles than the later, more angular designs of the Art Deco period. The Art Nouveau style is defined by familiar images such as flowing hair flourishes incorporating flowers and leaves.

Aurora Borealis ‘AB’
Usually abbreviated to AB, this is an effect applied to crystal and glass stones and beads, giving an iridescent rainbow appearance.

Bail
The loop/ring at the top of a pendant which enables it to be hung from a chain.

Bangle
A rigid hoop bracelet which is pushed over the hand or opened and closed around the wrist.

Bezel Setting
Unlike claws, this is a more substantial setting and usually a band of metal which is pushed against the girdle (widest outside perimeter of stone) to hold it firmly in place. This method is most commonly used for cabochon cut stones.

Briolette
A pear-shaped gemstone with facets.

Brooch
Known more commonly as a 'pin' in the USA, a brooch is an ornamental accessory attached by a hinged pin.

Cabochon
A gemstone cut, normally oval or round, with a flat base and domed top.

Cameo
Often carved from shell and usually a silhouette of a person’s head and shoulders. The background is cut away leaving a relief image.

Carat
A carat is a weight unit measurement for precious stones and pearls.

Channel Setting
A type of setting in which a number of stones are secured by two parallel metal pieces, the stones appear to sit independently within the sides, due to the absence of claws or other additional settings.

Drop Earring
Also referred to as dangle earrings, extends below the earlobe.

Edwardian
Jewellery and antiques made between 1901-1910.

Facets
The multiple flat surfaces found on a cut gemstone, creating their sparkle.

Georgian
Jewellery and antiques made between 1714-1830.

Gold Filled
Mechanically applied layer of gold. In order to be labelled ‘gold filled’ the layer of gold must be at least 5% of the piece’s total weight. If the gold applied is less than 5%, it can only be referred to as ‘rolled gold’ or ‘gold overlay’.

Hallmark
A stamped mark or marks applied to precious metal articles, guaranteeing its authenticity.

Intaglio
A gemstone, crystal or other material in which a design is carved into the surface. When stamped onto a soft material, such as warm wax on an envelope seal, it leaves a mirror image, raised version of the design.

Jump Ring
A metal ring usually used to connect one item to another, for example, a pendant to a chain.

Karat
A measurement of purity in gold, as spelt in America. Karat is spelt ‘carat’ in other countries.

Lustre
The quality of appearance of a pearl. Those which are most iridescent and have the best ability to reflect light, are the more valuable.

Marcasite
A type of pyrite, warm dark grey in appearance and cut to sparkle. This stone rose to popularity during the Victorian era.

Opal
A natural gemstone which displays flashes of multi-colour, spectacular in certain lights.

Pennyweight
A unit of weight dating back to the middle ages: one twentieth or 24 grains of an ounce troy.

Quartz
A family of mineral which many familiar semi-precious gemstones are part of, such as: amethyst, smokey quartz, rose quartz etc.

Rose Gold
The pinker hue of rose or pink gold is achieved by alloying with copper.

Sterling Silver
An alloy of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% harder metal (usually copper), to achieve a less soft material with which to work and that which provides better durability at a high purity.

Tarnish
The dulling and darkening of metals as a result of exposure to atmospheric conditions. Often resolved by polishing, depending on the metal.

Victorian
Jewellery and antiques made between 1837-1901.

Whitby Jet
This black gemstone is fossilised wood, formed over millions of years and made into jewellery over many centuries. It was highly popular during Victorian times following the death of Prince Albert.

Zircon
A natural gemstone occurring in many colours in many countries. Often heat treated to enhance the intensity of its colour.