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Jewelry Terminology

The jewelry terminology commonly used in descriptions of pieces and throughout this website are defined here.

Articulation:  Division of a piece of jewelry (usually a bracelet) into segments that give it flexibility.

Aurora borealis (AB):  An iridescent coating on rhinestones to add shimmer, invented in 1955 by Swarovski (the Austrian firm that had produced superior imitation stones since 1895) in collaboration with Christian Dior.  AB rhinestones change color from different angles, creating a sense of movement.

Baguette:  A rectangular-shaped rhinestone.

Bakelite:   A trademark for a type of plastic that can be molded or carved, invented in 1909 by Belgian chemist L.H. Baekeland.

Bangle:  A non-flexible bracelet that must be slipped over the hand or has a hinge for opening.

Baroque pearl:  An irregularly-shaped pearl.

Cabochon:  A stone without facets, shaped like a dome.

Carnelian:  A type of chalcedony (quartz) that is usually translucent red or reddish-brown in color.  Also spelled cornelian.

Channel setting:  Rectangular stones set in a row with the metal folded over the edges.

Chicklet: A modern name for a type of jewelry (usually a necklace) comprised of open-back, clear- or colored-glass stones set in metal mountings that are linked together.

Choker:  A type of necklace designed to fit tightly around the neck.

Chrysoprase:  A type of chalcedony (quartz) that is apple green.

Citrine:  A type of quartz usually pale yellow but sometimes red-brown to red-orange in color.

Clip: A type of brooch with either a hinged, double-prong fastener with sharp tips to pass through fabric, or a hinged, triangular-shaped mechanism with teeth to grip fabric.

Clip-back earring:  An earring held in place by a spring-clip mechanism.

Collet:  A collar of metal that encloses a stone.

Costume jewelry: Usually jewelry made of non-precious materials, designed to copy precious jewelry and meet a fashion trend.  Mass-produced and considered expendable.  Originally defined as fake jewelry designed to be worn on stage as accessories to costumes.

Crystal:  High quality, very clear glass containing lead oxide.  Most commonly used for high-quality glass beads and other types of glass jewelry.

Dentelle:  A type of faceting of rhinestones that forms an eight-pointed star design.

Design patent:  Protection granted by a government for the way an article looks.

DiamantéThe French term for rhinestone.

Double-clip brooch:  A pair of clips that can be worn separately or together as a brooch when nestled on a frame.  Clip-Mates is Trifari’s term for a double-clip brooch; Coro’s term is Duette.

Dress clip: See clip.

DuetteSee double-clip brooch.

Festoon:  A type of necklace that drapes in the front.

Filigree:  Thin metal wire that is twisted into delicate lacy patterns.

Findings:  Functional jewelry parts such as clasps, links and settings.

Foil:  A thin sheet of metal placed on the back of a rhinestone to reflect light or enhance its color.

French jet:  Black glass or imitation jet.

Fruit Salads:  Molded red, blue and green glass or plastic stones (to simulate rubies, sapphires and emeralds) in shapes such as leaves or fruits.  Pastel shades were also produced to simulate moonstone, coral and turquoise.  Tutti Frutti is another name for Fruit Salads.

Galalith: The European name for Casein, a milk-based type of plastic invented in 1897 by Adolph SpittelerGalalith was very popular in the 1920s and 1930s because it resembles natural horn and tortoiseshell, physically and chemically, enabling it to be turned, drilled, milled, stamped, soldered and then stained all colors and highly polished.

Gilding:  The coating of metal with a layer of gold.

Inclusion:  A foreign material (usually very small) that is enclosed within a natural mineral.

Invisible setting:  A technique used to set stones from the back so that no metal mounting shows, giving the impression of a larger single stone.  This technique was invented by Van Cleef & Arpels for precious gems.

Japanned:  Metal treated with a black finish.

Jelly Belly:  A figural with a clear Lucite stone to represent the animal’s belly or body center, created by Trifari in the 1940s but copied by Coro and others.

Jet:  A variety of coal formed by pressure, heat and chemical action on ancient driftwood, which can be highly polished, carved, faceted and engraved.  Used extensively for mourning jewelry in the19th century.  See also French jet.

Key stone:  A stone that resembles the shape of a kite, i.e., a long, rectangular stone that is wider at one end.  Also known as kite-shaped.

Lapis lazuli:  A deep-blue gemstone sometimes with white mottlings or brassy-colored inclusions.

Marcasite:  Pyrite cut into small pointed or rounded facets to reflect light.  Used as substitutes for diamonds as early as the 1700s.  Popular in the 1920s and 1930s.

Marquise cut:  An oval-shaped stone with pointed ends.  Also known as a navette.

NavetteSee marquise cut.

Onyx:  A type of chalcedony (quartz) usually dyed black or green.

Parure:  A matched set of jewelry, usually consisting of a necklace, bracelet, earrings and brooch.

Paste:  Another term used for glass that is cut and faceted to imitate a gem stone.

Pavé:  Small stones set so closely together that almost no metal shows between them.

Porphyry glass:  Glass with straight-line striations running through it.

Pot metal:  A gray-colored alloy of tin and lead, used in early 20th century costume jewelry.  During World War II, pot metal was not available for jewelry-making, as it was needed in the war effort.

Rhinestone: A colorless crystal or glass stone that is cut and faceted to resemble a diamond.  Also known as paste, strass or diamanté.

Rhodium:  A greyish-white metal (related to platinum) often used to plate silver or a base metal to give it a shiny, smooth finish.

Rock crystal:  Natural quartz (as distinguished from lead glass).  Sometimes known as crystal.

Rondelle:  A disc-shaped metal ornament placed between beads, often set with rhinestones.

Rose montée:  A faceted glass stone with a flat base and hole for sewing onto fabric or wiring onto a metal base.

Sautoir:  A very long strand of beads or pearls, often ending in a tassel.  Popular in the 1920s.

Screw-back earring:  An earring held in place by an adjustable screw attachment.

Spacer:  A decorative element placed between beads to enhance a piece.

Sterling:  The highest standard of silver, i.e., 925 parts of silver to 75 parts of another metal.

Strass: A form of lead glass used to imitate diamonds.  Named after Georges-Frédéric Strass (1701-1773).

Striations:  Parallel scratches, grooves or lines in a stone.

Tourmaline:  A gemstone found in a wide range of colors, including blue, red, pink, green, brown and yellow, as well as pink and green in the same crystal (known as watermelon tourmaline).

Tutti Frutti:  See Fruit Salads.

Utility patent:  Protection granted by a government for the way an article is used and works.  In jewelry, utility patents pertain to mechanisms such as earring clips or brooch fasteners.

Vermeil:  Known mainly as a gold wash over sterling silver.  Also means the silver, bronze or copper that plates a base metal.

Watermelon:  A term used to describe a bi-color stone with the coloring of a watermelon, i.e., a fuchsia center and green outer edge.