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Jewelry Terminology Guide: Common Terms & Their Definitions

A

Abalone Shell
Abalone shell is the colorful iridescent mother-of-pearl lining of an abalone mollusk’s shell. Resembling a dark rainbow, abalone shell comes in various colors, including combinations of green, purple, black, white, brown and even pink and red. Abalone is rated a 2.5 to 4.5 on the Mohs Hardness scale, and its toughness is fair.

Adularescence
Adularescence is a phenomenon caused by scattering light commonly displayed in moonstones. Also known as “schiller,” this property produces the effect that the stone is glowing from below the surface.

Agate
Agate is a variety of chalcedony with a layered appearance consisting of curved or angular bands. Agates may be found in various colors and are used for jewelry and décor. Agate has a hardness of 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs Hardness Scale, making it a fairly durable gemstone.

Akoya Cultured Pearls
An Akoya cultured pearl is a high-quality saltwater cultured pearl grown in the Akoya oyster. Farmed off the coasts of Japan and, at times, China, Akoya cultured pearls are the classic pearl most used for the traditional cultured pearl strand necklace and cultured pearl earrings.

Alexandrite
Alexandrite is a rare mineral of the chrysoberyl variety, whose primary distinction is the change of color from bluish green in daylight to purplish red in incandescent light. This unusual light-absorbing gemstone is the modern gemstone of June and is relatively hard, with a hardness of 8.5 on the Mohs Hardness Scale.

Alternative Metal
Alternative metals are metals other than gold, silver and platinum that are used to make jewelry, primarily wedding bands. Alternative metals include palladium, titanium, tungsten carbide, stainless steel and cobalt.

Altimeter
Altimeter, also known as an altitude meter, is a device that measures the altitude of an object based on barometric pressure. This function is featured in some watches and used by pilots, skydivers, hikers and sailors.

Amethyst
Amethyst is a purple variety of the mineral quartz that ranges in hue from lilac to violet, with the deeper purple gemstones being more valuable. Amethyst is February’s birthstone and rates a 7 on the Mohs Hardness Scale.

Amulet
An amulet is a charm-type item worn close to the body, typically as a pendant, to bring good luck or ward off evil.

Analog
Analog is a type of watch that utilizes a traditional clock face with hour and minute hands as well as twelve-hour markers as opposed to a digital display.

Anniversary Band
An anniversary band is a ring that is gifted to commemorate a wedding anniversary. Anniversary bands generally feature diamonds and can be added to the wedding set or worn alone on the right hand.

Appraisal
An appraisal is a document created by a professional jewelry appraiser and used for jewelry owner’s insurance that describes a piece of jewelry’s detail and assesses its value.

Aquamarine
Aquamarine is an icy-blue semiprecious mineral from the beryl family. The gemstone ranges in hue from very pale blue to teal. Aquamarine is March’s birthstone and rates at a 7 to 8 on the Mohs Hardness Scale.

Asscher Cut
An Asscher cut is part of the “step-cut” family. An Asscher cut diamond or gemstone is a square emerald cut with deeply clipped corners.

Asterism
Asterism is a phenomenon displaying intersecting needles, typically creating a shape with 4 or 6 rays. Asterism is commonly seen in rubies and sapphires.

 

B

Baguette
A baguette is a long rectangular stone cut that is part of the “step cut” family. A popular side or accent stone, baguettes resemble the emerald cut but are more elongated and have only 14 facets.

Bangle Bracelet
A bangle is a type of bracelet style that characteristically is made of one or two pieces of rigid material with no clasps and is meant to slip over your hand. It is typically round or oval in shape.

Baroque Cultured Pearl
Baroque cultured pearls are irregular in shape from the traditional sphere.

Bead Setting
Bead setting is when diamonds or colored gemstones are set evenly with the surface of the metal and secured by bead-like prongs between the stones.

Beryl
Beryl is a mineral composed of beryllium aluminum cyclosilicate. Species of beryl include emerald, morganite and aquamarine.

Bezel (watch)
A bezel is a ring framing the crystal dial of a watch.

Bezel Setting
A bezel setting is where a metal frame wraps around the entire girdle of a stone. It is the most secure and protective type of setting for diamonds and gemstones.

Birthstone
Birthstones are gemstones that correspond with each month of the year.

Blemish
A blemish is an imperfection on the surface of a diamond.

Bolo Clasp
Used in bracelets and necklaces, a bolo clasp consists of an adjustable cord or chain and sliding clasp to ensure a secure fit and easy on-and-off capability.

Box Chain
A box chain is a strong, sturdy chain made of square links resembling connected boxes.

Brilliance
Brilliance refers to the effect of a gemstone’s internal and external reflections of white light.

Brilliant Cut
A brilliant cut is made to maximize light return through the top of a diamond or gemstone for added brilliance.

Briolette
A briolette is a pear-shaped gemstone cut with facets, used primarily as a bead.

 

C

Cable Chain
A cable chain is made of round or oval chain links that are the same size.

Cabochon
A cabochon is a polished gemstone without facets resembling an orb.

Carat
A carat is a measurement of weight for gemstones and diamonds. Abbreviated as “ct.” a carat is equal to approximately 1/5 of a gram.

Carnelian
Carnelian is a gemstone from the chalcedony family. Carnelian is orange to brownish red in color and is a 7 on the Mohs Hardness Scale.

Cat’s Eye
Cat’s eye gemstones display a phenomenon called chatoyancy, which are concentrated bands of light across their cabochon-cut tops. Many gems, such as garnet, corundum and chrysoberyl, have chatoyant varieties.

Cathedral Setting
A cathedral setting is a ring setting with arches that resemble a cathedral above the shank.

Chalcedony
Chalcedony is a microcrystalline form of quartz occurring in several states, including onyx, agate and jasper. It is rated as a 7 on the Mohs Hardness Scale.

Channel Setting
A channel setting is a type of ring setting that holds diamonds displayed down the side of the shank by a band of metal on either side, forming a row of stones.

Charm
A charm is a decorative object or ornament that hangs from a necklace, bracelet or anklet.

Chrysoberyl
Chrysoberyl is a gemstone or mineral made up of beryllium aluminum oxide. Types of chrysoberyl include the rare gemstones alexandrite and cat’s eye. Chrysoberyl has a rating of 8.5 on the Mohs Hardness Scale.

Citrine
Citrine is a transparent yellow form of quartz. Citrines range in color from pale to golden yellow, orange to brown. It is a 7 on the Mohs Hardness Scale.

Clarity
The clarity grade is the degree to which a gemstone or diamond is free of inclusions and blemishes.

Colorless
Colorless refers to the range on the diamond color scale where the stone has no color. The absolute finest white diamond carries a “D” color grade. These exceptionally white diamonds make up a small fraction of all mined diamonds.

Culet
A culet is a point or very small facet at the bottom of a diamond.

Cushion-cut
Cushion-cut is a brilliant cut diamond or gemstone which is square or rectangular in shape with rounded corners.

Cut
The term “cut” can mean many things. In the jewelry industry, it is used to describe a diamond’s shape, cutting style, proportions and finish. Diamonds can be cut into almost any shape.

 

D

Depth
Depth is the length from the table to the culet of a gemstone or diamond.

Dial
Also known as a watch or clock face, the dial displays the time on an analog watch.

Diamond
A diamond is a precious stone made of carbon. The hardest material on earth, diamonds are 58 times harder than any other material in nature.

Dispersion
Also known as fire, dispersion is an optical effect that occurs in all transparent gemstones and describes the spreading of white light that reflects out as all the spectral colors.

Doublet
Doublet is an assembled gemstone comprised of two materials, generally a natural gemstone and a less expensive material.

Dye Treatment
Dye treatment is a process used to enhance the color of low-quality cultured pearls and turquoise, onyx, lapis lazuli, emerald, ruby and other gemstones.

 

E

Emerald
An emerald is a green gemstone of the beryl variety. This precious stone is May’s birthstone and has a hardness rating of 7.5 – 8 on the Mohs Hardness Scale.

Emerald-cut
Part of the “step-cut” family, an emerald cut stone has facets cut parallel to the girdle (cut corners). This cut was specifically designed for emerald stones.

Eternity Band
An eternity band is a ring comprised of diamonds or gemstones that go entirely around the ring.

Extender
An extender is a short chain, typically two inches, meant to add length to necklaces, bracelets and anklets.

 

F

Facets
Facets are flat surfaces cut into a gemstone to reflect light better.

Fancy cut
A fancy cut is any cut of diamond other than a round brilliant.

Filigree
Filigree is delicate metalwork on silver or gold jewelry consisting of tiny beads, twisted threads, or both.

Findings
Findings are jewelry-making components used to assemble finished pieces like clasps, bails and connectors.

Flawless
Flawless is the highest and rarest clarity grade of diamonds, with no inclusions and no blemishes visible under 10x magnification.

Fluorescence
Fluorescence is the visible light some gemstones emit when they are exposed to UV rays. Only 25% to 35% of diamonds display fluoresce.

 

G

Gallery
Visible when looking at a ring from the side, the gallery is the open space below the center stone when mounted.

Gemstone
A gemstone is a mineral or stone that is precious or semi-precious and is used in jewelry when cut and polished.

Girdle
A girdle is the perimeter of a diamond that separates the top crown from the pavilion below and is where a diamond is set and held in a piece of jewelry.

Gold
Gold is a popular precious metal used in jewelry and coins.

 

H

Hallmark
Hallmarks are impressions in the jewelry metal to indicate their origin, purity, genuineness or designer.

Halo
A halo refers to diamonds or gemstones encompassing a center stone and/or side stone.

Hardness
Hardness is the ability of a gemstone to resist scratching. Hardness is most commonly measured by Mohs Hardness Scale, with 1 being the softest of stones and 10 being the hardest.

Head
The head is the part of a ring that holds the diamond. It consists of a prong, a base and a peg attached to the shank.

Heat Treatment
Heat treatment is a gemstone treatment that is applied to enhance color and/or clarity.

Hematite
Hematite is a mineral form of iron oxide that looks like black polished metal. Used most commonly in jewelry as a bead, hematite has a hardness rating of 5.5 – 6.5 on Mohs Hardness Scale.

 

I

Ideal-cut
An ideal-cut is a diamond cut to ideal proportions and angles with excellent polish and symmetry due to the alignment of its facets. Only round brilliant diamonds can earn an ideal grade.

Inclusion
Inclusions refers to the internal characteristics of a gemstone.

Iolite
Iolite is the gem-quality variety of the mineral cordierite. This violetish blue to indigo gemstone displays the phenomenon of pleochroism, appearing in three different colors as it’s turned in light: violet-blue, yellow gray and light blue.

Irradiation
Irradiation is a treatment using radiation to color enhance gemstones.

 

J

Jade
Jade is either of two durable minerals: jadeite and nephrite, that come in several different colors, most commonly green.

Jadeite
Jadeite is the rarer, more valuable type of the gemstone jade. Though the vibrant emerald green variety “Imperial Jade” is the most valuable, jadeite comes in various colors, including lavender, red, orange, yellow, brown, white, black and gray.

Jasper
Jasper is a variety of chalcedony. Typically red, it can also be found in green, black, yellow, brown and blue. Jasper has a rating of 6.5 -7 on the Mohs hardness scale.

Jump Ring
Jump rings are small metal rings that connect jewelry components, such as clasps on necklaces or bracelets and charms onto chains or earring pieces.

 

K

Karat
A karat is a unit of measurement of the purity of gold. Pure gold equals 24 karats.

 

L

Lariat
A lariat is a necklace style consisting of a long chain looped through a knot that controls the length without a clasp in the back.

Locket
A locket is a charm or ornament worn on a necklace or bracelet that opens to reveal a small photo or keepsake inside.

Loupe
A loupe is a small handheld magnifying glass jewelers and watchmakers use to view stones and small parts.

Lucite
Lucite is an acrylic resin resembling glass that can be dyed in various colors and used for bold modern and vintage accessories.

 

M

Melee
Melee are tiny diamonds smaller than .15 carats that are single or full-cut and sold in parcels.

Mohs Hardness Scale
Mohs Hardness Scale is a rating scale used for gems and minerals. It’s based on the relative ease or difficulty with which one mineral can be scratched by another.

 

N

Nacre
Nacre is the iridescent substance produced in mollusk shells that coats particles and other foreign objects. Over time, layers of nacre build up around the particles to form pearls.

 

O

Onyx
Onyx is a variety of the mineral chalcedony known for its parallel bands. Onyx comes in a variety of colors, most recognizably black. Onyx’s hardness rating is a 7 on the Mohs Hardness Scale.

Opal
Opal is a gemstone form of the hydrated mineral silica. Opal comes in multiple types and a variety of colors. Precious opals are known for their play of color, flashing numerous colors in a single stone. In contrast, common opals do not display this phenomenon but are available in a rainbow of colors. Opal is the birthstone for October and is rated 5.5 – 6.5 on the Mohs Hardness Scale.

 

P

Pavilion
A pavilion is the bottom section of a cut gemstone or diamond. The pavilion begins below the girdle and is typically cut with a culet facet.

Pearl
A pearl is an organic gemstone harvested from oysters, mollusks or clams. A pearl is developed as an irritant that makes its way into the shell of its host and is then built up over time from the fluid used to coat the irritant as a protection to the carrier. Pearls are June’s birthstone and have a hardness rating of 2.5 – 4.5 on the Mohs Hardness Scale.

Peridot
Peridot is a vibrant green to pale yellowish semi-precious gemstone variety of the mineral olivine. Peridot is the birthstone for August and a 6.5 – 7 on the Mohs Hardness Scale.

Platinum
Platinum is a silver-white colored heavy, strong metal. Platinum is hypoallergenic and scratch resistant, making it a popular choice for engagement and wedding rings.

Prong
Prongs are metal pieces used to secure gemstones and diamonds into their jewelry settings.

 

Q

Quartz
Quartz is the most abundant mineral on earth, with many variations being used for gemstones, including amethyst, citrine and smoky quartz.

Quartz Movement
A quartz movement within clocks and watches uses an electronic oscillator regulated by a quartz crystal to keep time. Quartz movements are found in many standard watches and use a battery as their power source.

 

R

Radiant-cut
A radiant-cut gemstone or diamond mixes an emerald cut and brilliant cut with clipped corners for eight sides.

Rhodolite
A rhodolite is part of the garnet family of gemstones with colors ranging from light pink to dark purple-red. Rhodolite garnet has a hardness rating of 7 – 7.5 on Mohs Hardness Scale.

Ruby
Ruby is a red gemstone variety of the mineral corundum. Ruby hues vary from pink to blood red, with the richest reds being the most valuable. Ruby is the birthstone for July and has a hardness rating of 9 on the Mohs Hardness Scale.

 

S

Sapphire
Sapphire is a gemstone variety of corundum, excluding rubies. Sapphire comes in various colors, including the most recognized blue hue as well as orange, pink and yellow. Sapphire is the birthstone for September and is rated a 9 on the Mohs Hardness Scale.

Scintillation
Scintillation is the sparkle or flash created by a diamond when it is moved in light.

Setting
A setting refers to the metal part of jewelry that holds a gem. The setting, also referred to as a mounting, typically refers to a ring’s style and includes the prong, basket, channel, bezel and peg head.

Solitaire
Solitaire refers to a single stone feature used in rings, pendants and earrings.

 

T

Tahitian Cultured Pearl
Tahitian cultured pearls are created by the black lip oyster (Pinctada margaritifera) off the islands of French Polynesia. Though called black, these cultured pearls vary in color from metallic silver to deep charcoal and can have blue, purple and green tones.

Table
A flat facet on the top of a gemstone, the table is the largest facet and the one you see when looking directly down through the stone.

Tanzanite
Tanzanite is a blue and violet gemstone variety of zoisite. Tanzanite is only found in Tanzania and is a pleochroic stone, displaying three different colors as it’s moved through light. Tanzanite is a December birthstone and has a hardness rating of 6 – 6.5 on Mohs Hardness Scale.

Two-tone
Two-tone refers to a piece of jewelry or a timepiece made of metals in differing colors.

 

U

Untreated
Untreated refers to gemstones that have not been subjected to any chemical or heat treatments in any way.

 

V

Vermeil
Vermeil is made of the base metal of genuine sterling silver and then gilded with a thin layer of gold.

 

W

Wheat Chain
Wheat Chains resemble the tips of wheat stalks, and are formed with four oval links braided together in the same direction.

White Gold
White gold is created from yellow gold alloyed with white metal. All white gold is Rhodium plated to create a bright white finish.

 

Y

Yellow Gold
A precious metal, yellow gold is pure gold combined with alloys such as copper and zinc and is closest to the natural color of gold.

 

Z

Zinc
Zinc is an alloy metal that’s used with gold in jewelry to prevent rust.

Zircon
Zircon is a mineral that, when treated, is used as a gemstone that comes in various colors but most notably blue. The brilliant blue color is a birthstone for December. Zircon has a hardness rating of 7.5 on Mohs Hardness Scale.