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Jewelry Glossary

There are many useful terms that help to understand the use of the techniques and styles of settings and how they have been used in jewelry throughout time. This glossary features an extensive listing of terms related to settings and jewelry construction, and will help to provide context and further information about everything that has been presented on our Settings pages.

 

pink diamond ring accent stone
Pink diamond ring with diamond accent stones.

Accent stone:  refers to side stones that enhance a larger central gemstone in a setting.  Diamonds are often selected as accent stones, but any gemstone may be used.

 

Aigrette:  a piece of jewelry that either contains feathers or resembles a plume of feathers that is usually worn in the hair, on a hat, or in a turban.   

 

Anisotropic:  a term describing gem materials that exhibit different optical properties in different crystal directions.

 

antique silver tribal bracelet
Antique Afghani silver tribal bracelet.

Antique jewelry:  refers to jewelry made more than one hundred years ago.

 

Apotrope:  an amulet or talisman that protects the owner by warding off evil.

 

Art Deco:  an international design movement popular from 1925 to about 1939, which is based on streamlined geometric shapes.  

 

Art Nouveau:  a style of art and architecture that peaked in popularity between 1890 and 1905, which is characterized by organic forms and highly stylized curvilinear forms.  

 

arts and crafts brooch
An Arts and Crafts silver and gemstone brooch.

Arts and Crafts style:  a British and American aesthetic movement, spanning 1880 to 1910, that was inspired by the writings of John Ruskin and the romantic ideal of the craftsman.

 

Asterism:  a term that refers to the stars that can be seen in some cabochon-cut gemstones.

 

Astrological jewelry:  jewelry that relates to astrology and the zodiac.  

 

jewelry bar setting drawing
A drawing that illustrates a bar setting for jewelry.

Bar setting: a setting that incorporates a small bar of metal between the gemstones in a typical channel setting.

 

Barbarian jewelry:  the “barbarians” as they are collectively called, were separate groups of semi-nomadic tribes that controlled various parts of Europe from approximately 400 to 800 A.D.  Despite this characterization, the Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Franks, Lombards and Anglo-Saxons were not at all uncivilized, and their jewelry and art provide ample evidence of this fact.

 

Baroque:  a Western cultural period, which began near the onset of the 17th century in Rome, Italy.  It was exemplified by drama and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music.

 

Worlds Fair Paris 1900 photo
A photograph of one of the pavilions from the World’s Fair in Paris in 1900 at the peak of the Belle Epoque period.

Belle Époque:  a period in European history that began during the late 19th century and lasted until World War I.  The Belle Époque was considered a “golden age” of peace and prosperity fostered by new technologies that improved people’s lives.

 

Bezel setting:  a setting where a strip of metal encircles the edge of the stone.  It is also called a rub-over setting. This is a popular means of setting cabochon gemstones.

 

Bib necklace:  a necklace made of multiple strands and baubles that covers much of the upper chest.

 

blemish gray pearl
A small blemish on a gray Tahitian pearl.

Blemish:  a gem characteristic or irregularity that is confined to the surface of the stone.

 

Bridal jewelry:  jewelry worn by the bride on her wedding day.

 

Bridal Set/Wedding Set:  refers to a set of two rings that fit and compliment each other, usually the bride’s engagement ring and the wedding band.  A Trio Set is comprised of three rings–an engagement and wedding band for the bride, and a coordinating wedding band for the groom.

 

Brilliance:  describes the amount of light reflected back to the viewer from the interior of a cut stone.

 

Brilliant cut:  a popular cutting style with triangular or kite-shaped facets.

 

rose quartz briolette cut
A pair of briolette cut rose quartz stones.

Briolette:  a teardrop-shaped gem with triangular facets and no girdle.  

 

Buddhist jewelry:  jewelry that celebrates aspects of the Buddhist religion.

 

Byzantine art:  refers to the art of the Eastern Roman Empire also known as the Byzantine Empire from c. 395 to 1453.  It is a blend of Classical art and the art of the Near East.

 

opal cabochon ring
A gold, diamond, and opal cabochon ring.

Cabochon:  a smoothly rounded and polished stone with a domed crown and a flat or curved base.  

 

Calibrated sizes:  gemstones cut to certain sizes to fit standard settings.   

 

Carat:  a unit of weight for a gemstone.  This should not be confused with karat, the measure of the fineness of gold.  

 

Carolingian jewelry:  the Carolingians were a dynasty of Frankish kings of whom the most famous was Charlemagne.  The Carolingian Renaissance (8th and 9th centuries A.D.) is a revival of art, religion, and culture developed through the medium of the Catholic Church.  The jewelry of this period is a mix of the Barbarian and Classical styles.

 

Celtic art:  an art and cultural tradition that began with Iron Age tribes in Europe.  It is difficult to define precisely because it covers such a large extent of time, geography, and culture.  Celtic art typically is ornamental and abstract, showing a preference for arabesque shapes and lines and spare use of symmetry.  It reached its climax in the early Middle Ages in Ireland and parts of Britain.

 

channel setting drawing
Drawing for a channel setting.

Channel setting:  a setting where stones are set into a grooved channel with no metal separating them.

 

Chatoyancy:  an optical effect referred to as a “cat’s eye” which is seen in some gemstones.  It is caused by fibrous inclusions or needle-like structures found within a gem.

 

antique pearl and diamond choker
An antique seed pearl, diamond, and platinum choker.

Choker:  a short necklace (14″ to 16″) that sits at the base of the neck.

 

Christian jewelry:  jewelry that celebrates aspects of the Christian religion.

 

Classical style:  a style relating to Classical antiquity—a broad term for the cultural history associated ancient Greece and Rome.  Jewelry in the Classical style is characterized by an interest in nature, which is represented with a high level of realism.  

 

Cleavage:  breaks or cracks in a gemstone parallel to lines of atomic weakness within the crystal framework.  

 

Retro ruby cocktail ring
A Victorian-inspired Retro ruby and diamond cocktail ring.

Cocktail ring:  a fancy ring worn for dressy occasions, usually set with gemstones, produced by commercial jewelers since 1925.

 

Color zoning:  portions of a stone that exhibit different colors due to variable growth conditions during crystal formation.  

 

Commercial quality:  average quality, mass-marketed gemstones, as opposed to high-end gemstones.

 

Corbeille:  a 19th century tradition where the groom presents the bride with a marriage gift—often a casket of jewels.    

 

Crown:  the top of the gem above the girdle.

 

culet drawing
An illustration depicting a culet.

Culet:  the tiny facet or point at the very bottom of a cut gemstone.

 

Designer cuts:  unique and artistic stone cuts that do not have traditional or specific facets, shapes, or styles.  

 

Dichroic:  a term for gems that exhibit two colors.  

 

Dispersion:  the breakup of white light into spectral colors.  Diamonds have high dispersion; rubies have low dispersion for example.  

 

Dog collar:  a necklace, usually comprising multiple strands, which is worn at the throat.

 

Double refraction:  an optical doubling effect that is caused by the splitting of light into two separate components in an optically anisotropic gemstone.  

 

gemstone doublet drawing
Drawing depicting a gemstone doublet.

Doublet:  an imitation gem that is assembled from two separate pieces cemented together.

 

Durability:  a gem’s natural ability to withstand heat, chemicals, and wear.  

 

Edwardian period:  the period during the reign of British King Edward VII from 1901 to 1910.  Jewelry of this period is characterized by lacy designs executed in platinum and studded with diamonds.

 

Elizabethan era:  a period associated with Queen Elizabeth I’s reign (1558–1603), often considered to be the golden age in English history.  It was the height of the English Renaissance.

 

Enamel work:  the fusion of colored glass onto metal.  Different kinds of enameling include basse-taille, champlevé, cloisonné, plique-à-jour, and sgrafitto.

Extinction:  areas of a transparent gemstone where the body color looks very dark to black.  This can be caused by improper cutting.

 

Eye-clean:  gemstones with inclusions that are only visible with the aid of magnification.  

 

Facet:  a flat polished surface on a cut gemstone.

 

antique opal festoon necklace
An antique opal and pearl festoon necklace.

Festoon necklace:  an elaborate necklace made with multiple chains of garlands, swags, and other ornamental drops that typically drapes from shoulder to shoulder.  

 

Fibula (plural fibulae):  an ancient brooch used to fasten clothing.

 

Finding:  small metal parts used as components in the making or repairing of various items of jewelry.

 

Finishing:  adding the polish and symmetry to a fashioned gemstone.  This term also refers to the process of cleaning and polishing an item of jewelry–where tool marks are removed, edges are smoothed, luster is achieved, or other surface effects are applied.  

 

ring with flush setting
A white gold ring with diamonds in a flush setting.

Flush setting:  this kind of setting does not have prongs or a bezel.  Gems are set directly into the jewelry so that the top of the gem is flush with the metal surrounding it.

 

Fracture:  a break or crack in a stone that is not along a cleavage plane.

 

Fracture filling:  a treatment where the fractures in a gem are concealed by a variety of fillers thus improving the apparent clarity.  

 

Georgian period clothing
Illustrations of clothing during the Georgian period.

Georgian era:  a period of British history defined to include the reigns of Kings George I to George IV, covering the period from 1714 to 1830.  A sub-period known as the Regency period, from 1811 to 1820, is included in this term. Sometimes the reign of William IV (1830 to 1837) is also included.  The term “Georgian” is normally used in the contexts of architecture and social history.

 

Girdle:  the junction between the crown and pavilion of a stone, often corresponding to the area of a gemstone with the largest dimension.

 

Gothic art:  a medieval art movement that lasted about 200 years from c. 1200 to 1400 A.D.  It emerged in France after the Romanesque period and gradually evolved into the Renaissance.

 

Graduated necklace:  a strand of beads or pearls in which the size of each bead decreases toward the clasp.

 

crystal habit in minerals
A chart illustrating crystal habit in minerals.

Habit:  the characteristic shape or form of a mineral crystal.  

 

Hardness:  a gemstone’s resistance to scratching and abrasion as measured by the Mohs scale.

 

Head:  refers to the top or ornamental part of a finger ring.

 

Hindu jewelry:  jewelry that celebrates the cultural and religious traditions of the peoples of the Indian Subcontinent.  

 

Hue:  a gemstone’s basic color, as in red rubies.

 

Inclusion:  a feature of a gem such as a feather, a crystal, or a cloud.  Inclusions can have both positive and negative effects on the value of a gem.  

 

carnelian intaglio Ptolemaic queen
A carnelian intaglio set with a Ptolemaic Queen, circa 1st century B.C.

Intaglio:  an image carving frequently used in seals so that a raised design is left on the material being stamped.  

 

Invisible setting:  a difficult setting to execute, stones are grooved just below their girdle and slid over wire supports.  This allows many gems to be placed together with no gaps between them.

 

Jewish jewelry:  jewelry that celebrates aspects of the Jewish religion.

 

Kabbalah jewelry:  jewelry celebrating the Kabbalistic tradition, a mystical sect related to Judaism.  

 

Karat:  a measure of purity in gold.  One karat is 1/24 pure, so 24 karat is pure gold.  Karat is abbreviated as “K” or “Kt.” Outside the U.S. “karat” is often spelled “carat,” but this should not be confused with the unit of weight for gemstones also called measured in “carats.”  

 

Kundan:  the setting of precious and semi-precious stones within bands of highly purified soft gold.  Often kundan work is combined with enameling (meenakari), so that a piece of jewelry has two equally beautiful surfaces, enamel on the back and kundan-set gems in front.

Lariat:  a very long necklace (usually wrapped around the neck two or more times) with unattached ends that are tied or knotted in different ways on the chest.

 

Lavalier(e):  a necklace with two pendants of unequal length suspended from it—also called a negligee necklace.  Lavalier is also used as a generic term to describe necklaces with a drop pendant.

 

Livery collar:  also called a “chain of office,” a heavy chain, usually of gold, which was worn as an insignia or a mark of fealty in Europe from the Middle Ages onwards.

 

Luster:  the surface appearance of a gemstone in reflected light.

 

Matinee necklace:  a necklace approximately 20 to 26 inches long.

melee setting styles
A depiction of common melee setting styles. Photo from gia.edu.

Melée: very small faceted gemstones that are often used in pavé settings.

 

Mixed cut:  a cutting style that combines brilliant and step cutting styles.

 

Modern jewelry:  refers to jewelry made within the last twenty or thirty years.  

 

custom ring mounting design
Platinum and diamond custom ring mounting design.

Mother’s ring:  a ring made with the birthstones of a woman’s children.

 

Mounting:  the precious metal part of an item of jewelry before the stones are placed into it.

 

Muslim jewelry:  jewelry that celebrates aspects of the Islamic religion.

 

Native cut:  an informal gemstone cut that is determined by the natural shape, color, and clarity of a rough ruby crystal.

 

New Age jewelry:  jewelry celebrating aspects of Western spirituality, esotericism, alternative medicine, and religious practices that emerged in the 1970s and 80s.  

 

sapphire and diamond parure
Sapphire and diamond parure created for Queen Marie-Amelie of France.

Opera necklace:  a necklace approximately 27 to 34 inches long.

 

Parure:  a matched set of jewelry pieces.  A popular style through the 19th century, a complete parure consisted of two matching bracelets, a necklace, earrings, and a brooch.  

 

Pavé setting:  a popular setting style where the stones are placed close together to hide the metal mount.  The name comes from the fact that the finished piece looks like it is paved with stones.

 

Pavilion:  the lower part of a gem below the girdle.  

 

Phenomena:  an unusual optical effect in a gemstone, such as asterism or chatoyancy.  

 

Pleochroic:  describes a gem that exhibits different body colors when viewed from different directions.   

Porosity:  a metal defect that appears as pits or holes in the metal’s surface.

 

Princess necklace:  a necklace approximately 17 to 19 inches long.

 

Prong setting:  a popular setting style (also called a claw setting) wherein pointed, rounded, flat, or v-shaped metal supports called prongs or claws are used to hold a stone. A combination of four or six prongs is the norm, but more may be used depending on the style and desired effect.  

 

Proportion:  the overall shape (angles and dimensions) of a fashioned gemstone.  

 

Regency Period walking dress
Common walking dress style from the Regency Period, circa 1817.

Refractive index:  a number that indicates the property of light refraction in a material.  In gemology, the refractive index is highly diagnostic and gives an indication of the optical density of a gem relative to that of air.  

 

Regency period:  the period between 1811 and 1820, when King George III was deemed unfit to rule and his son, later George IV, was installed as his proxy. The term is often expanded to apply to the years between 1795 and 1837, a time characterized by distinctive fashions, politics and culture.  In this sense, it can be considered to be a transitional period between the “Georgian” and “Victorian” eras.

 

Renaissance art:  a cultural movement–lasting from about 1400 to 1600–that began in Italy in the late Middle Ages and spread throughout Europe.  

 

Retro style:  a popular art and jewelry style that encompasses the 1930s to the 1950s.  Influenced by its predecessor, Art Deco, the retro style also uses geometric shapes, but they are generally bolder and heavier.  

 

Right hand ring:  a new fashion trend for right hand cocktail rings–designed to sell jewelry and celebrate a woman’s success and independent spirit.  

 

Romanesque architecture
Elaborate Romanesque architecture.

Ring jacket:  also called a ring guard or wrap, a jewelry element designed to fit over the band of a solitaire engagement ring to both protect and further enhance the solitaire itself.  

 

Romanesque: refers to the art and architecture of Western Europe from approximately 1000 A.D. to the rise of the Gothic style in the 13th century.

 

Rope necklace:  a necklace longer than 36 inches.

 

Rough:  a natural, uncut gemstone crystal.  

 

Sacred geometry jewelry:  jewelry inspired by a system of religious symbols and structures involving space, time, and form.  

 

Saturation:  the strength or intensity of a color (hue).  

 

Art Deco sautoir
An Art Deco pearl and onyx sautoir.

Sautoir: long chains or ropes of pearls or beads that have tassels at the ends.

 

Shank:  the band of a finger ring.

 

Silk:  needle-like inclusions that create the “velvety” or “sleepy” texture and “stars” found in some gemstones.

 

Simulant:  natural or artificial materials that imitate the appearance of a gem without possessing any of its chemical or physical properties.

 

Slide:  a type of jewelry pendant through which a supporting chain or ribbon is passed.

 

soldering a ring
Soldering a silver ring.

Solder:  a metal or metal alloy used to join other metals together.  

 

Specific gravity:  the ratio of the weight of a material to the weight of an equal volume of water.

 

Step cut:  a popular cutting style with square and rectangular facets.  

 

Subadamantine:  describes the luster of a gemstone when the reflections off the surface are sharp, but not quite as sharp as seen in a well-polished diamond.  

 

Synthetic: a man-made gemstone that has the same composition and structure as its natural counterpart.   

 

tension setting ring
A diamond set in the tension setting of a ring.

Tension setting:  a modern setting that requires no bezel or prongs where the stone seems to float in mid-air.  In this setting, a gemstone is held in place by the metal shank or band, which presses on the stone’s girdle in a spring-like manner.

 

Thermal enhancement:  another term for heat treatment in which a gemstone’s color or clarity is improved.  

 

Tone:  the darkness or lightness of a color (hue).  

 

Torc:  also spelled torq or torque, a rigid, open-ended necklace or bracelet.  Torcs are well represented in ancient Scythian and Celtic jewelry produced in the European Iron Age.

 

Torsade:  a twisted, multi-stranded short necklace or bracelet usually made of beads or pearls.

 

scale of gemstone toughness
Illustrated scale of gemstone toughness. Photo by gia.edu.

Toughness:  a gemstone’s resistance to chipping, cracking, and breaking.

 

Trace elements:  atoms in a gem that do not constitute part of its basic chemical composition but occur as minute impurities.  Trace elements determine the color of some gemstones.

 

Trilogy ring:  an engagement or anniversary ring with three stones, which symbolize the past, present, and future of the happy couple.  

 

Trinity ring:  a ring consisting of three interwoven bands often made of different precious metals alloys.

 

Uniform necklace:  a necklace where all the beads or pearls are the same size, unlike a graduated necklace.

 

Vedic astrology pendant
A silver, garnet, and carnelian pendant inspired by Vedic astrology.

Vedic jewelry:  jewelry that celebrates aspects of ancient Vedic texts.  

 

Victorian era:  refers to Queen Victoria’s rule from 1837 to 1901. The era was preceded by the Regency era and succeeded by the Edwardian period.  The latter half of the Victorian era roughly coincided with the first portion of the Belle Époque era of continental Europe.

 

Vintage jewelry:  refers to jewelry made between twenty and one hundred years ago.

 

Vitreous:  describes the luster of a gemstone when the reflections off its surface resemble those of glass.

 

pearl and diamond wedding set
A pearl and diamond jewelry wedding set.

Wedding Set/Bridal Set:  refers to a set of two rings that fit and compliment each other, usually the bride’s engagement ring and the wedding band.  A Trio Set is comprised of three rings–an engagement and wedding band for the bride, and a coordinating wedding band for the groom.

 

Windows:  portions of a transparent gemstone where the body color appears to be see-through or watery.  This can be caused by improper cutting.

 

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