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The Language of Jewelry

Jewelry has its own vocabulary to describe gemstones, jewelry components, and scientific properties. See which of these terms are familiar to you and which ones are new! Let us know if there is terminology that we forgot to include. 


The part of the pendant that goes over the chain is called the bail or bale. This holds the piece to the chain. Most bails are attached to a metal pendant. However, some connect directly to a gemstone.

Bezel Setting

The earliest method of setting stones into a piece of jewelry. The bezel is a band of metal that has been shaped into the size of the gemstone to be placed. The setting is then soldered to the piece of jewelry and the prepared stone is placed into position.

Body Jewelry

Jewelry worn on various parts of the body including the eyebrow, lip, nose, belly button, nipple, cheek, labret, bridge of the nose, and more 

Box chain

A chain in which the link is wide and square and resembles a box. Can be made of gold, silver, platinum or other non-precious metals.

Brilliant-full Cut

This cut has at least 32 facets plus the table on the upper part, and 24 facets on the lower part. Usually referred to as a brilliant cut when talking about diamonds. 


Gem which is cut and polished to have a dome shaped upper surface. Such stones are said to be en cabochon.


Unit of weight for gems. A carat is 1/5th of a gram.


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Chandelier Jewelry

Any type of dangle jewelry that features multiple hanging pieces. The pieces often dangle from an intricate filigree setting giving the piece a resemblance to an ornate chandelier.


Any design created from a repeat of the V shape. 


A type of necklace that sits close to the throat along the collar bones. Chokers were extremely popular with cameos and other vintage pieces and have recently come back into vogue.

Circle of Life Jewelry

The circle of life design, also referred to as the circle of love design, features either several circles or one prominent one. The circle represents endless love, choices, and possibilities.

Circle of Love Jewelry

Also known as circle of life jewelry, these pieces feature either one or several circles. The design represents endless love and possibilities life affords.


Clearness of appearance.


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Cocktail Ring

Any ring that features a dramatic centerpiece stone or extravagant design. The classic cocktail ring design features an oval or marquise cut centerpiece stone surrounded by a frame of contrasting stones. Cocktail rings were popular in the 1940s and 50s, and were worn by women who were not afraid to stand out in a crowd. 


One of the 4 c’s of diamond grading, the term color actually refers to the absence of color in a diamond. 

Costume Jewelry

Popularized in the1940s, costume jewelry are items that do not contain genuine precious gemstones and were usually not made from precious metals.

Cubic Zirconia

Because of its low cost, durability, and close visual likeness to diamond, synthetic cubic zirconia has remained the most economically important competitor for diamonds since commercial production began in 1976. Its main competitor as a synthetic gemstone is a more recently cultivated material, synthetic Moissanite. 

Cushion Cut

A popular style of cutting gemstones wherein a square or rectangle is cut with rounded corners and a multifaceted top.


A term used to describe how a stone is faceted or shaped. The most popular shapes are round, brilliant, marquise, pear, emerald, princess, square, and oval. 

Designer Jewelry

Jewelry that is often designed to cater to a certain trend or fad. Designer jewelry can also refer to a line created by a specific jewelry craftsman.

Doorknocker Earrings

Dangle earrings that are hinged and sway back and forth. Often chandelier earrings have this type of motion.

Earring Jacket

The metal housing on the earring on which the settings and gemstones are placed. The jacket is a piece that can be removed to show just the center gems.

Emerald Cut

Step cut with an octagon shape, especially used with emeralds, but also longer diamonds.


A jewelry item that has a hinged bale that can be opened or closed so that it can fit on a wider chain without having to slide over the clasp. 


Surface of a cut and polished gem.

Fancy Cut

A custom cut that does not fit into any other category. Often, fancy cuts are variations on common cuts like the emerald or oval cut.


French for fake or imitation.


Intricate metal work that is often open to the back. The metal work is often flowery with curves and spirals.


The various pieces commonly used by jewelers when crafting jewelry such as clasps, bales, settings, O-rings, jump rings, hooks and often even refers to the tools the jewelers use.


Refers to the way a metal surface has been done. Metal can be glossy, brushed, hammered, etc. These are all types of finishes popularly used in jewelry

Freshwater Pearl

Pearls produced by freshwater mollusks.

G. I. A. – Gemological Institute of America

Established in 1931, GIA is the world’s largest and most respected nonprofit institute of gemological research and learning. The GIA maps out the unique details of individual diamonds and provide certification papers to verify and identity specific diamonds.


The width, of a bracelet or necklace. Most commonly used to measure the size of an earring’s post. Traditional piercings are done with a 20


The band around the widest part of a cut stone, where the crown meets the pavilion. 

Gold Tone

Refers to a piece of jewelry that is only gold in color, not in make up or a piece of jewelry that is simply plated in gold and not comprised of it.

Green Gold

An alloy of gold created when combined with silver. Green gold does not actually look green, but more yellow-green.

Gunmetal Finish

A piece of metal that has a dark silver finish or metallic steel grey. Gunmetal can also look almost black.

Hammered Finish

A type of metal finish achieved by hammering the piece of metal in such a way that it becomes multifaceted. This type of finish is often used with gold or silver creating more planes from which light can reflect. They are commonly used on hoop earrings, bangle bracelets and large pendants. Hammered Finishes can be glossy, satin, or matte depending on the finishing technique.

Heat Treatment

The application of heat to a gem with the purpose of enhancing the gems color and or clarity.

Herringbone Chain

A thick, flat chain crafted from precious metals that features the classic herringbone design by placing short diagonal, parallel links side by side with the direction of the diagonal alternating each row.

Hook and Eye Clasp

The simplest type of clasp is a just a hook and eye made from wire. Usually handmade and quite strong, they complement jewelry designs nicely. However, these clasps aren’t recommended for bracelets because they may unclasp during wear.

I.G.I. – International Gemological Institute

The International Gemological Institute (IGI) is the largest independent gem grading and appraisal institute in the world, renowned for their expertise and extensive experience in serving the diamond and jewelry industry for over 25 years. 


Markings or foreign bodies found within the stone.

Infinity Link Bracelet

A type of link bracelet wherein each link is shaped like the infinity symbol, or a sideways figure eight symbol.


A technique wherein a recessed area is filled with a precious gem, mother of pearl, or enamel. The decorative inlay is flush with the rest of the piece creating a clean aesthetic. Inlays are popular with guitars, antique furniture, and jewelry.


A design in which the subject is cut lower than the background.

Invisible Clasp

An invisible clasp, or hidden clasp, refers to one that cannot be seen when closed. These types are often used in repeating patterns like tennis bracelets to ensure the design is not broken up by the clasp. Most invisible clasps are tensioners that are hidden by gemstones set along the top. One side slides into the other and remains completely hidden.

 Invisible Setting

A technique developed in France nearly two hundred years ago wherein a group of gemstones are placed side by side without any visible setting. This is achieved by placing small grooves into each stone’s girdle and slipping them carefully into the metal.


Reflection of light off internal features in a gem, giving rise to a rainbow-like play of colors.


The process of bombarding a gemstone with X-rays, gamma rays or superheated streams of subatomic particles in an effort to change the gemstone’s original color. It is a common acceptable practice and the method used to acquire the pristine vibrant color of jewelry quality gemstones. 

Jump Ring

A jump ring is a piece of round or oval metal that is used at the end of a piece of jewelry to close the piece or to connect different part of the jewelry. Also called an O-ring, these small gold or silver circles are used in jewelry fabrication. Small wire circles used for adding gemstone beads to a piece, connecting links, as the female half of a jewelry clasp’s closure, to connect pendants or charms to a chain, or fulfill any other need as a small connector. Jump rings, though a circle, can be opened by gently twisting one side down with a pair of jewelry pliers.

Lobster Clasp

The lobster or lobster claw clasp is the strongest type of clasp. For maximum strength, they contain massive amounts of metal.


A)   The unique, internally emanating glow that distinguishes pearls from all other gems.

B) Refers to the way light reacts with a certain mineral in reference to whether or not the stone is dull (reflecting little white light) or brilliant (reflecting copious amounts of white light).

Mabe Pearl

An assembled pearl created by filling a hollow blister and then applying a mother-of-pearl back to complete the pearl.


Refers to the markings of the face of a watch one uses to tell time or other information like date.

Melee Diamond

The tern used for small brilliant-cut diamonds as well as all small diamonds that are used in embellishing mountings for larger gems. Accent diamond.


Decorative raised bumps made in precious metals within a jewelry piece’s design. Milgrain is done with a special engraver’s tool.

Mirror Finish

A metal finish wherein the surface is so highly polished that it reflects images as though it were a mirror. This finish generally has the highest gloss.

Mohs Scale of Hardness

The measure of a mineral’s hardness in relation to other minerals, based on its ability to resist scratching.


A man-made diamond simulants of a higher quality than CZ.


Refers to a piece of jewelry – commonly a necklace, bracelet, or pair of earrings – that features a grouping of strands that come together as one. The strands within can be a combination of different types of gold and other metals or all the same kind.


The usually whitish crystalline substance which the mollusk secretes around a foreign “intruder” and which forms what we know as the pearl. Layers build up over time.

Opera Length

This term refers to a long necklace that is usually 24 to 36 inches in length. The term was coined as women flocked to the opera in long strands of pearls. Today the term can be used with any type of necklace.

Oriental Pearl

A natural pearl.


A chemical reaction between different types of metals and the air. Tarnish is the result of the oxidation process with sterling silver and pure silver.


Glass made to imitate gems.


A type of setting in which the stones are effectively “paved” into the piece of jewelry with a precious metal. Often small gemstones or pieces of jewelry with curve surfaces use this technique to set stones.


A smooth, rounded bead formed within the shells of certain mollusks and composed of the mineral aragonite or calcite in a matrix, deposited in concentric layers as a protective coating around an irritating foreign object

Pink Sapphire

Corundum with a pink hue colored by Chromium.

Pink Topaz

A type of quartz with a pink color.


A heavy precious metallic element; grey-white and resistant to corroding; occurs in some nick and copper ores and is also found native in some deposits.

Promise Ring

A ring given to another or worn by the purchaser that symbolizes a promise or vow. Commonly worn by couples, friends or those who take a vow to remain pure. The latter are also called purity rings.


A tapering metal projection, usually heavier than a claw, rising from the base of a jewelry setting and used to hold a stone in position as needed.

Puff Ring

A ring that features a three-dimensional object that “puffs” away from the ring’s shank. This style is popular with solid metal pieces, uniquely shaped designs, and heart rings.


A very hard mineral composed of silica, found worldwide in many different types of rocks, including sandstone and granite. Types include amethyst, smokey quartz, tiger’s eye quartz, rose quartz, among others.

Radiant Cut

A cross between the emerald and brilliant cut, the radiant cut is a rectangular cut with seventy facets.

Reconstituted Stone

A stone that has been crushed and put back together with a polymer resin. Reconstituted stones are an interesting alternative to the original as the patterns created with the crushed stone and resin can have a marble effect.


Bending of light as it passes from air into a different medium.

 Refractive Index

Measures the slowing down and bending of light rays as they enter a gemstone. Maybe used to identify gem species.

Replacement Value

The base cost to repair or replace a piece of jewelry. 

Ring Jacket

A ring jacket is an accessory for other rings. Ring jackets come in many shapes in order to accommodate the numerous different ring styles, however, most feature an ornate band or shank and an open area on the middle. When worn with a wedding or engagement ring, the ring jacket slips around the feature stone.  

Ring Wrap

A piece of jewelry that features two bands designed to wrap around another ring. Ring wraps usually feature decorative bands or gemstone inlays to add interest to the updated piece.

Rose Gold

Also known as pink and red gold, rose gold is a type of gold alloy that is created when gold is combined with copper. The highest karat weight for rose gold is referred to as crown gold and is 22 karat gold.


Term used to describe a rock or crystal still in its natural state, before faceting or polishing.


Refers to gemstones that contain flecks or crystals of various types of metal. The most common type is rutilated quartz with inclusions of needle-like titanium spires inside the translucent stone.

Satin Finish

A matte finish achieved on a metal surface by sandblasting, polishing the piece with a stiff wire brush, or chemically treating the surface. Satin finishes are popular because they are less likely than a high gloss finish to show wear. Satin finishes have a lustrous pearl-like sheen.

Scatter Necklace

A necklace, often featuring multiple strands or invisible strands, that features the unique placement of gemstones or charms across the décolleté and neck. Each accent is positioned in such a way that the piece appears scattered.  

Seed Pearls

Tiny natural pearls weighing under 1/4 grain, usually less than 2 mm in diameter.

 Semi Mount

A ring that has accenting stones in place, but there is no feature stone yet in the setting. These rings are often sold for those who want to create their own jewelry or change the style of their ring, but keep the original stone.

Signet Ring

A ring that features an insignia, monogram, coat of arms, or family crest.

Spring Ring Clasp

The spring ring clasp is lightweight and inexpensive. Although popular, it’s not as strong as a lobster clasp. Occasionally, the spring mechanism may stick, resulting in the loss of the jewelry item.

South Sea Pearls

Naturally occurring pearls produced by the large oyster (Pinctada maxima) in white, silver, and gold. South Sea Pearls tend to be the largest, rarest, and priciest of all the pearls.

Stack Rings

Rings that are designed to be stacked one upon the other on the same finger. Often these rings will feature a curved band or a three-dimensional design that may overlap one of the adjacent rings. While these rings are designed specifically for his purpose, almost any ring can be stacked.

Synthetic Gemstone

A laboratory-made stone whose chemical composition and optical properties are similar to those of its natural equivalent.

Tension Setting

A setting that holds the gemstone in place entirely with tension and not prongs.

Tiffany Setting

Name for the jeweler Tiffany & Co. that began using the setting in 1886. The setting is characterized by a high 5 or 6 prong setting that rises up away from the shank to secure and protect the stone. There are variations on the setting, but traditionally, the prongs are slender and the presentation is simple. 


A strong, low-density, highly corrosion-resistant, lustrous white metallic element that occurs widely in igneous rocks and is used to alloy aircraft metals for low weight, strength, and high-temperature stability.


Refers to a gem that appears three different colors or shades when viewed from different directions

True to Size

An industry term used when a ring is exactly a specific size and not slightly smaller or larger.

Ultrasonic Cleaner

Used to clean jewelry by using energy released from the collapse of millions of microscopic cavitation bubbles, which are formed when ultrasound passes through the cleaning liquid.

Under Gallery

The portion of a piece of jewelry that is not seen while it is worn. Often, personal engravings are placed here to keep the message private.


Areas that are open on jewelry to allow more light to pass through a set stone.


Gold plated silver. 

Waterfall Ring

A ring that features a prominent stone at the center and a series of stones either on the band, or encircling the entire gem, that are set gradually lower as in steps. Waterfall rings are popular with the cocktail style or classic diamond rings.

White Gold

An alloy of gold and nickel, sometimes also containing palladium or zinc, having a pale platinum like color.

Yellow Gold

Gold that has been alloyed with a mix of 50% copper and 50% silver.



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