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Glossary of jewelry terms

Comprehensive and helpful glossary of jewelry terms for shopping online.

Do you sometimes feel out of your depth when you encounter jewelry jargon online? Or are you not entirely clear on what a term you often come across really means? What is sterling silver anyway? Why do precious metals matter? What is tarnish and what do I do about it?

It can be easy for designers to forget that not all non-jewelers are familiar with the terms we use, so we're here to help with our comprehensive Jewelry Glossary.

The jewelry definitions below will cover the terms we use in relation to Simone Walsh Jewelry, but the list also includes terms you'll see elsewhere. We'll keep adding more, so bookmark this page so you can find it again later.

The list is in alphabetical order. You can use the find function in your browser to search for any specific term.

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Alloy

An alloy is a mixture of metals or a mixture of a metal and another element. All gold less than 24ct is an alloy of pure gold with one or more other metals. Sterling silver is an alloy of pure silver (92.5%) and copper (7.5%). Alloying is usually done to make an improved version of the main metal: it can make it harder, less prone to tarnish (or the opposite can be a downside), a different color, lower cost or add other desirable features.

Baguette

A faceted gemstone that has a rectangular-cut which is more complex than an emerald cut.

Bail

A finding component usually used to hang pendants or charms from a necklace. It can be as simple as a jump ring made of wire or a more complex and detailed design.

Base metal

A common type of metal which is not considered precious, eg. copper, brass, tin, zinc or nickel. Cheap jewelry may be made from these sorts of metals. They may cause skin irritation or green or black skin discoloration and may also wear badly over time. We don’t recommend wearing base metals against your skin. We do recommend always checking the type of metal used to create a piece of jewelry before purchasing as it may not be clear. Simone Walsh Jewelry designs are all made of precious metals unless otherwise specified.

Bezel setting

A type of gemstone setting which is usually used for cabochon gemstones, but a similar type of setting using a small tube can be used with faceted gemstones. For a bezel setting a rim of metal is pushed and/or rubbed over the edge of the gemstone to hold it in place. Usually these settings are made in silver or gold.

Bolt clasp or bolt ring

A clasp which has a circular shape. It has a tiny spring inside which is connected to a bolt which you can operate with a fingernail or fingertip to open before it springs closed. These are the most common clasp types Simone Walsh Jewelry uses in our designs.

Brass

A yellow colored metal which is an alloy of copper and zinc. You may see cheaper jewelry which looks a bit like gold but is really made from brass. It may wear badly over time, may cause an allergic reaction and is likely to leave a green stain on your skin. We don’t recommend wearing brass against your skin. A low price is a clue that a piece of jewelry is not solid gold: gold is a very expensive metal.

Brilliant cut

A type of cut used for diamonds. Brilliant cut stones are usually round in shape and have 58 facets.

Briolette

A cut of gemstone which is pear shaped and usually faceted for extra sparkle. Briolette beads can have holes drilled through the sides at the top or all the way through the centre from top to bottom in order to be attached to jewelry.

Cabochon

cabochon gemstone is a cut which has a flat back and rounded top. Most often cabochon gemstones have a smooth, highly polished surface, but they can also be faceted on top in what is known as a rose cut design.

Cameo

Traditionally this refers to a method of carving an object so it features a raised (positive) relief image, usually with a contrasting color to the background. Often gemstones, shell or bone were used to carve these designs. Today the term may be used very loosely for objects which are not carved and/or with no color contrast. The term now often refers simply to the image of a head, often placed in an oval frame.

Chandelier

Chandelier jewelry designs use a metal framework is used to suspend multiple beads or other findings – a bit like a chandelier light fitting uses crystals. This design element is most often seen in long and elaborate statement earrings, but it may also be used in pendants.

Charm jewelry

A charm bracelet has charms attached to it, which are decorative pendants or trinkets which may signify important aspects of the wearer's life and have sentimental value. There are also charm necklaces. You might choose to wear charm jewelry which you add charms to over time for sentimental reasons or you may choose a finished piece with all charms in place because you like the overall look rather than it being sentimental.

Choker

A type of necklace which sits close against the base of the neck. It is usually 40cm (16.5”) long.

Claw or prong setting

A gemstone setting which is used to set faceted stones. These settings have notched claws or prongs that are pushed over slightly to hold the edges of the gemstone in place.

Cluster setting

A type of design where smaller gemstones are set around a larger stone as a focal point. Most often seen on rings.

Cocktail ring

A cocktail ring usually has a relatively large focal point which sits on top of or at the centre of the band to make a statement. These rings are often large may not be suitable for everyday wear as they can get in the way of day-to-day work.

Copper

A base metal which is vibrant orange in color and is very soft. It tarnishes very easily and can stain the skin green or black in its pure form, so is not often used in jewelry on its own. However, it is often alloyed with pure silver or gold: for instance, sterling silver is an alloy of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper, which forms a much stronger metal than either pure copper or silver (the copper content in sterling silver is not high enough to stain skin).

Crimp bead

A beading component most often used to secure the knotted ends of a necklace. Small crimp beads are usually flattened or tightened in place with pliers.

Cultured pearls

Pearls which are created under controlled conditions with the help of farmers. Cultured pearls can be created using either freshwater river molluscs or traditional saltwater pearl oysters.

Dangle earrings

Dangle earring designs hang below the earlobe and swing back and forth and/or side to side. They may be quite short or hang all the way down to graze your shoulders.

Drop earrings

Drop earring designs where the main feature drops slightly below the earlobe. They may or may not swing depending on the design, unlike dangle earrings.

Earring back, scroll or nut

The small component that attaches to the back of a post earring to hold it in place on your ear.

Earwire

An earring component made from wire which is used with pierced ears. A common style is the typical shepherds hook with the focal point of the design hanging from the front of the ear wire. These are also referred to as ear hooks.

Emerald cut

This relatively minimalist gemstone cut is square or rectangular and is generally used for large and transparent gemstones.

Enamelled jewelry

Jewelry items covered in a decorative coating that is applied to a metal. Usually the enamel is coloured. Traditional enamel is made up of glass powder which is fused to the metal using high temperatures, usually in a kiln. Today cold enamel may be used, which is an epoxy based colouring solution which dries hard and sticks to the metal. When purchasing enamelled pieces you should be clear as to which type you are buying.

Engraving

In relation to jewelry, this is the process of cutting an often highly detailed design or text in the surface of metal using specialized tools known as gravers. It may also be done using power tools with tiny burs, but this has much poorer results. Proper engraving requires a very high degree of skill and is often done by a Master Engraver who specializes in this type of work. Simone Walsh Jewelry does not offer an engraving service, but you can ask a local manufacturing jeweller if they have an engraver who can engrave your jewelry for you.

Etching

This is the process of making designs on metal by using an acid to corrode away the part of the design you want removed. This results in a less crisp finish than engraving, but it has a beauty all of its own.

Faceted gemstone

A faceted gemstone cut that is usually a classic diamond shape. The top of the gemstone has multiple facets and the back ends at a point in the centre. Is usually set in a claw or prong setting. Cabochon cut gemstones may also be faceted on top and flat on the back (usually called rose cut).

Facets

Facets are the flat surfaces which are created on cut gemstones or glass. They can also form in nature.

Filigree

A highly ornamental type of jewelry making where precious metal wire is twisted to form delicate tracework patterns.

Findings

Components which are used to connect or decorate in the construction of jewelry pieces. They are usually not the main focus of a design and can include components like clasps, jump rings, earring backs, earring wires or hook, brooch pins, etc.. Unless otherwise identified, all Simone Walsh Jewelry findings are sterling silver.

Fine silver

Silver which is very close to being pure. The technical definition of pure silver is that it has a silver content of 99.9%. Although it tarnishes less than sterling silver, it has limited uses in jewelry making due to being very soft and bendable.

Freshwater pearls

Freshwater pearls are cultivated in molluscs which live in freshwater rather than oysters which live in saltwater. These pearls can be created in a wide array of shapes and are less expensive than saltwater pearls.

Fretwork

An ornamental design which is intricately cut into metal (or traditionally wood) with a fretsaw or jeweler's piercing saw so that parts of the design are removed.

Gemstone

The true definition of a gemstone is a mineral crystal which is cut and polished in order to be used in jewelry or other decorative items. However, some rocks (eg. lapis lazuli, opal, and jade) and organic materials (eg. pearl and amber) are also used in a similar way and are often also considered to be gemstones. Precious gemstones are diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires, while semi-precious gemstones are all other gemstones. Lab grown or simulated gemstones are manmade and generally not as costly as natural stones, although they may be more perfect. Pastes, glass beads or Swarovski type pieces are not gemstones.

Gilding

A number of decorative techniques which are used for applying fine gold leaf, foil or powder to a surface. In terms of jewelry making we occasionally use an ancient technique to bond gold foil to other metals, primarily sterling silver. Gilded finishes should be treated with care as they are delicate.

Gold

Gold is a precious metal which is found in nature. In its purest form it is a bright, slightly orange yellow which is quite soft and malleable. It is one of the least reactive chemical elements, making it highly prized in jewelry making as it will barely tarnish and isn’t affected by most chemicals. Solid gold is also very expensive: usually around 50 times more costly than silver by weight. For use in jewelry gold is usually alloyed with other metals to make it harder. The purity of the gold is indicated by its number of carats, with 24ct being pure gold and 9ct having minimal gold.

Gold filled

A layer of solid gold which is pressure bonded to other metals in order to produce very hard wearing but relatively low cost gold filled jewelry. The amount of gold used must be at least 1/20th by weight of the total product the caratage of the gold will be identified (we most often use 14ct gold filled). Gold filled jewelry wears very well and should last a lifetime with appropriate care.

Hallmarks or purity stamps

A mark or stamp indicating a standard of purity, used in marking gold and silver articles, including jewelry. Hallmarks or purity stamps are not required by law in Australia, but may be required for items made in other countries. Simone Walsh Jewelry items often have purity stamps which are on the findings if not the main piece of the design. We don't stamp small or delicate designs if we feel it may negatively impact the piece.

Hoop earrings

Earrings which are in a hoop form, with part of the earring going through an ear piercing to hold it in place. They can be very simple circles of wire or much more elaborate and bulky designs. Hoop earrings are an ancient style of earring.

Jump ring

This is a very simple and widely used jewelry component: it’s simply ring which is used as a connector for clasps, pendants, beads, ear wires, etc.. Usually jump rings are quite small and an incidental part of the design which exist for practical purposes.

Lab grown gemstones

Lab grown gemstones are made in laboratories rather than being found in nature and mined. Usually they are created in the same way as the natural variation, but in a way that is vastly quicker, less expensive and much less damaging. The outcome is a gemstone that is largely identical to the mined version, but lab created gemstones are usually perfect in terms of quality and clarity. The benefits of lab grown and simulated gems are that they are much more affordable and often more sustainable and ethical than high value mined gems. Simone Walsh Jewelry uses lab grown gems where possible for these reasons, particularly in place of high value natural stones.

Karats and carats

When used in relation to gold in the USA a 'karat' is a measure of purity, while in other countries using British English the spelling is 'carat' instead: the higher the number, the more pure it is, with the maximum being 24. When the term 'carat' is used in relation to gemstones it is referring to mass rather than purity - in this case the spelling is the same worldwide. You'll see 'ct', 'kt' or 'k' used as shorthand by jewelrs to refer to carats or karats.

Lapidary

The process of cutting and polishing gemstones which is done by specialist craftspeople.

Lariat necklace

A lariat is a style of necklace which is worn like a lasso with one unclasped end threaded through a loop to secure it in place. Alternatively a very long necklace can be folded in half with both ends threaded through the loop at the centre. Lariat necklaces may be quite a lot longer than other styles of necklaces, depending on how they are secured.

Lobster clasp

A sturdy type of clasp which has a lobster claw shape and features a tiny spring inside for its operation. Similar styles may also be referred to as parrot clasps or caribiner clasps. Some of our heavier Simone Walsh Jewelry necklace designs and many of our bracelets may feature this type of clasp.

Locket

A type of pendant which has separate front and back pieces and which opens to reveal a space between the two. Traditionally the space has been used for storing a photograph or other small item such as a curl of hair, meaning these pieces of jewelry have had a high sentimental value. Simone Walsh has developed an open locket design where the lockets are not intended to be used for storage, but the interior is decorative and may hold a partially obscured gemstone or pattern.

Marquise

A gemstone cut which has an oval shape with two pointed ends on its longest axis.

Matinee length

A length of necklace which is slightly longer than standard. It is usually 55-65cm (21.5-25.5”) long and for many women it will sit at the top of the cleavage.

Mohs scale

This scale of 1 to 10 which is used in relation to jewelry to measure the hardness of gemstones. Diamonds have a hardness of 10, making them one of the hardest materials.

Mother of pearl

An iridescent coating which is formed on the inside of oyster shells. It is used to create beads and pendants.

Opera length

A length of necklace which is quite long. It is usually 70-85cm (27.5-33.5”) long and for many women it will sit at the breastbone.

Paste jewelry

Pastes are gemstone simulations made with hand-cut glass. The glass is often coated or placed on metallic foil to create a sparkle that looks similar to a gemstone. Paste jewelry is considered to be costume jewelry, but it has its own appeal and generally gives a lot of sparkle for not a lot of money.

Patination

A thin layer on the surface of metal which usually changes its colour or finish in some way. A desirable change which a jeweller will use is selective blackening or colouring created by a chemical process on precious metal. Less desirable is simple tarnish which appears on most metals as a result of oxidisation.

Pear cut

A gemstone which is cut into a teardrop shape.

Pendant

In jewelry this is a hanging ornament suspended from a necklace which is usually the main feature of the necklace design. Most often pendants are suspended from chains, but they may also be suspended from a beaded necklace. Not all necklace designs have pendants. Simone Walsh Jewelry pendants always come with necklaces attached, but some retailers may sell pendants on their own.

Plating

A surface covering in which a metal is deposited on a conductive surface: in jewelry this is most often another metal, for instance gold plating applied to brass or silver plating to nickel. Plating can be done in a variety of thicknesses and this will determine how hard wearing it is. Flash plating is very thin, while vermeil plating is usually quite thick (and it is applied to sterling silver rather than a base metal). All plating will wear through eventually, so care should be taken with such designs.

Platinum

A naturally occurring metal which is white in colour and very heavy. Like gold it is generally non-corroding. It is more expensive than gold, making its use in jewelry relatively rare.

Post or stud earrings

Post or stud earring designs are made for pierced ears. They are constructed with a metal post which is placed through the piercing and secured in place on the back of the ear. Post earrings may be small simple studs or they may have a feature dropped or dangling from them.

Princess cut

A faceted gemstone which has a square-cut. It may also be known as a quadrillion or squarillion.

Princess or standard length

A length of necklace which is the most commonly worn. It is usually 45-50cm (17.5-19.5”) long.

Rondelle

A bead shape that is flatter on the top and bottom rather than being round, so it’s more of a doughnut shape. Rondelle beads can be faceted or smooth.

Rope length

The longest length of necklace, with the definition being that is longer than opera length, defined as 85cm (25.5”) long. Rope necklaces are usually long enough to wrap twice around your neck or to fold in half and wear as a lariat, with one end threaded through the folded loop.

Rose cut gemstone

A variation of a cabochon gemstone cut which has a flat bottom and a dome-shaped top. Unlike a regular cabochon, the top of a rose cut gem has a number of facets on it (anywhere from 3 to 24).

Rose gold

Rose gold jewelry is created with an alloy of gold and copper, with the copper content providing the altered colour to yellow gold. Rose gold is also known as pink gold and red gold, but the different names usually relate to the amount of copper used: the higher the copper content, the stronger the red coloration.

Simulated gemstone

A simulated gemstone is manmade in a way that closely resembles the natural stone it is simulating. It may not resemble it at all in terms of its composition, unlike a lab grown gemstone which is largely identical to the natural version. The benefits of simulated and lab grown gems are that they are much more affordable and often more sustainable and ethical than high value mined gems.

Silver

A soft, white and lustrous precious metal which is found in nature. It has the highest reflectivity of any metal and is frequently used to make high value jewelry and other decorative items. Especially when making jewelry it’s usually alloyed with copper to make it stronger (sterling silver).

Soldering

Although jewellers almost always talk about ‘soldering’ their designs to create joins, they are actually using the technique of brazing. This uses very high temperatures generated by a blow torch to create a very strong metal bond. Jewellers working with precious metals are highly unlikely to use a soldering iron in any of their work, which is a much lower temperature and strength form of joining metals which also doesn’t have the same almost invisible finish as brazing.

Stacking rings

Stacking rings can be stacked together on one finger in multiple combinations. If a stacking ring has a gemstone setting, it will either be set flush into the band or it will sit on top of the band, allowing other stacking rings to sit under the sides of the setting.

Stainless steel

A form of steel which contains a high percentage of chromium. Stainless steel is very hard and is resistant to corrosion by some acids and atmospheric oxidation, unlike most other forms of steel. It is used in some jewelry designs.

Statement jewelry

Any jewelry which stands out by making a statement. Often these designs are quite large or bulky, but the main criteria is that they are bold and catch the eye. Necklaces are most often associated with making a statement in jewelry, but earrings, bracelets, rings and brooches do just fine as well.

Sterling silver

An alloy of 92.5% pure silver with 7.5% copper, which results in a much stronger and better wearing metal than pure silver. Sterling silver is very commonly used in jewelry making. The downside of sterling silver is that it will tarnish, but the upside is that it’s easy to remove.

Tarnish or oxidisation

This is a reaction that happens to the surface of some metals (including sterling silver) which will cause it to look dull, darker and possibly even stained. It’s most commonly caused by a reaction with oxygen and is exacerbated by moisture. But don’t panic: it can be removed easily enough with silver dip or polishing cloths. To keep it at bay you should wear and store your jewelry correctly and have a routine for keeping your jewelry clean. Learn about how to clean and care for your jewelry.

Titanium

A naturally occurring metal which is hard, very light weight and exhibits a wide array of beautiful colours when heated. It is used in some jewelry designs, mostly because of its coloring.

Toggle clasp

A jewelry clasp which has two components: most often a straight bar which hooks through a circle, using gravity and tension to keep the clasp in place.

Tumbling

A method of cleaning and polishing components (jewelry or gemstones) using a variety of media and either rolling in a barrel or vibrating, often for several hours at a time. For precious metal jewelry we use stainless steel shot in different shapes with a simple soap mixture: the result is a beautiful clean and polished finish on the surface of the metal.

Vermeil or gold vermeil

Gold vermeil jewelry findings and components are made of solid sterling silver which has been heavily plated in gold. This has the benefits of solid precious metal jewelry, along with hard wearing plating without the very high cost of solid gold. Gold vermeil may be hallmarked as sterling silver.

White gold

This is gold which is alloyed with other metals to have a colour closer to silver than typical yellow gold. The other metals used may be manganese, nickel or palladium. Note that real white gold does not have the bright white finish you’ll see in many jewelry stores: it’s usually more of a warm grey colour. The bright white finish is most often achieved by plating the white gold with rhodium, which will wear off over time and need replacing.

Wire wrapping

This is a simple technique of wrapping wire to secure stones or other components in place rather than soldering or using jump rings. You’ll most often see it in our designs for attaching small gemstone beads on a pin to a design or chain. Some jewelry makers specialize in wire wrapping to create very elaborate and complex designs.


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