Glossary of Jewellery terms on this site.
Jewellery consists of small decorative items worn for personal adornment, such as brooches, rings, necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. Jewellery may be attached to the body or the clothes. For many centuries metal, often combined with gemstones, has been the normal material for jewellery, but other materials such as shells and other plant materials may be used. It is one of the oldest type of archaeological artefact – with 100,000-year-old beads made from Nassarius shells thought to be the oldest known jewellery.
A gemstone or gem is a piece of mineral crystal, which, in cut and polished form, is used to make jewelry or other adornments. However, certain rocks or organic materials that are not minerals, are also used for jewelry, and are therefore often considered to be gemstones as well. Most gemstones are hard, but some soft minerals are used in jewelry because of their luster or other physical properties that have aesthetic value. Rarity is another characteristic that lends value to a gemstone. Apart from jewelry, from earliest antiquity engraved gems and hardstone carvings, such as cups, were major luxury art forms. A gem maker is called a lapidary or gemcutter; a diamond worker is a diamantaire.
Gold – The most malleable and ductile of all metals, it is unalterable by heat and moisture, and will never tarnish. Pure gold is too soft for practical use alone and so is alloyed, the purity expressed in carats:
9ct – Is 37.5% or 375 parts out of 1000 pure 24ct gold.
18ct – Is 75% or 750 parts out of 1000 pure 24ct gold.
(White) Gold – An alloy of gold with a high percentage of other white metals to make it a pale gold colour. It is then plated with rhodium for a bright white finish.
Rose Gold is an alloy that combines gold with copper to create a golden metal with a reddish hue.
Sterling silver is an alloy of silver containing 92.5% by mass of silver and 7.5% by mass of other metals, usually copper. The sterling silver standard has a minimum millesimal fineness of 925. Fine silver, for example 99.9% pure silver, is generally too soft for producing functional objects; therefore, the silver is usually alloyed with copper to give it strength while preserving the ductility and appearance of the precious metal.
Plating – A coating of precious metal over another metal base. See also vermeil.
Vermeil – Gilded silver, i.e. sterling silver covered with a layer of gold by plating.
Less Common Metals in Jewellery Making
Although the majority of jewellery is created using more popular and main-stream materials, there is still a diversity of metals that continue to be used to create some truly unique pieces of jewellery. Here we'll take a brief look at several:
Palladium is a rare Silver-white metal of the Platinum family.
Rhodium is a rare Silver-white metal of the Platinum family. It is particularly hard and is the most expensive precious metal.
Titanium is a natural element which has a Silver-white colour. Titanium is the hardest natural metal in the world. It's three times the strength of steel and much stronger than gold, silver and platinum but yet is very light weight. Pure titanium is also 100% hypoallergenic which means that it if safe for anyone to wear.
Tungsten is a steel-gray metal whose strength and high melting point makes it a favourite of the arms industry. Metallic tungsten is harder than gold alloys and is hypoallergenic, making it useful for rings that will resist scratching, especially in designs with a brushed finish.
Copper is a reddish gold metal that patinas to a warm brown but can also take on a green patina with oxidation. The oldest known metal, it was associated with the Greek goddess Aphrodite and her Roman counterpart, Venus. In addition, Copper jewellery is often considered to have healing properties.
The mark(s) stamped on some items of gold or silver that attests the purity of the metal, in compliance with legally established standards. The marks also include a date letter, as well as a maker’s mark and an assay mark to indicate the office that does the assaying.
Goldsmith - A goldsmith is a metalworker who specializes in working with precious metals to create jewellery.
Luster - From the Latin word "lux", meaning "light". Describes the way light interacts with the surface of a mineral or metal.
Brilliant Cut – The style of cutting a gemstone, usually a diamond, with many facets of different shapes and sizes so as to increase its brilliance by minimizing the amount of light that escapes at the bottom of the stone. It consists of 32 facets above the girdle and 24 below.
Cabochon – A stone cut with a domed, smooth, rounded surface, with no facets and highly polished.
Carat – The unit of weight for a diamond or other gemstone. There are 100 points to every 1 carat.
Channel Setting – A style of setting to secure a row of identically sized and shaped stones, whereby the stones sit within two parallel walls of metal which are then pushed together to hold the stones in place.
Claw Setting – A style of setting a gemstone in which the stone is held above the girdle by a series of encircling, vertically projecting prongs (claws) which are pushed over the stone, securing it in place.
Crown – The upper part of a cut gemstone. The part of a brilliant cut above the girdle, which usually protrudes above the setting.
Cushion Cut – A style of cutting a gemstone with a square or rectangular shape but having rounded corners.
Baguette Cut – A gemstone cut so that the table is in the shape of a long, narrow rectangle, bordered by four facets each step cut.
Bar Brooch – A type of brooch in the form of a horizontal bar, often with decoration along its length or set with gemstones at its centre.
Bezel – The top metal rim or setting edge that surrounds the cavity which holds a gemstone.
Culet – The point at the base of a brilliant cut diamond. These appear as a small flat facet on old-cut diamonds.
Cut – The final form into which a rough gemstone is shaped.
Emerald Cut – The style of cutting a gemstone, usually a diamond or emerald, so that the shape or table of the stone are square or rectangular, with chamfered corners and the sides are step cut.
Facets – One of the small, flat surfaces of a cut gemstone. Facets are of various shapes and sizes, and the many arrangements of the facets depend on the style of cut.
Girdle – The thin band that forms the widest circumference of a brilliant cut stone and that separates the crown above it from the pavilion below.
Lap Setting – A gemstone which is set down into the bezel, with the top of the stone protruding upwards, to be cut back down into a domed shape which sits flush with the top of the bezel.
Marcasite – These are small cut and faceted stones made from an iron ore called Hematite. They are a dark grey, metallic colour, usually seen in conjunction with other stones; as a cluster, for example, to give added sparkle.
Marquise Cut – A gemstone that is cut into a boat shape with points at the top and bottom.
Pavé Setting – Literally, paving-stone setting. A style of setting in which many small gemstones are set very close together in a mass so as to cover the entire piece and to conceal the metal.
Pavilion – The part of a brilliant cut stone, below the girdle.
Pear/Teardrop Cut – A style of cutting a gemstone into the shape of its name, with a point at the top, tapering out into a rounded bottom.
Point – A unit of weight for a diamond or other gemstone. There are 100 points to every 1 carat.
Rub-Over Setting – A style of setting a gemstone whereby metal is pushed over the girdle of the stone to secure it in place.
Setting - 1.) The method in which a stone or stones are secured in a ring, pendant, brooch etc.
2.) Channel Setting, Claw Setting, Rub-over Setting, Pavé Setting, Cluster Setting, Lap Setting.
Moh’s Scale - The Moh’s scale of hardness is the most common method used to rank gemstones and minerals according to their hardness, 1 being the softest and 10 being the hardest. It was devised by German mineralogist Friedrich Moh in 1812. See table below.