Know Your Stuff: Glossary Of Jewellery Terms
Shopping for jewellery online can feel overwhelming. With all the different styles, materials, cuts and karats it’s easy to sometimes feel out of depth. We strongly encourage you to understand what you’re buying online, so you can make the most conscious and informed decisions.
We’re here to help with that! We have curated this Jewellery Glossary, which contains definitions of frequently used jewellery terms.
An alloy refers to a combination of two or metals or a mixture of metal and other elements. Alloys are created to improve the qualities of the main metal in the mixture. For example, durability, strength, colour, and resistance to corrosion.
A bail is a component that is part of a pendant or charm that allows it to be hung from a chain for cord. They come in variety of styles, ranging from a simple jump ring to more intricate designs.
A baroque pearl is a type of pearl that is irregularly shaped and often has a highly lustrous surface. These types of pearls are prized for their unique, organic shapes and individual character. Baroque pearls used in jewellery tend to be quite large.
A base metal is a common type of metal. Copper, brass, zinc, and nickel are some of the most commonly used. These metals can cause skin irritation or discolouration if worn directly against the skin, so we don’t recommend purchasing jewellery which only uses base metals. Base metals however can be plated or filled with precious metals, such as gold or sterling silver.
A bezel setting is a type of setting in which a metal frame encircles and secures gemstones, usually cabochons, in place. It can be made from various metals and helps provide extra protection as the frame prevents any gemstones from chipping or breaking.
A blood diamond, also known as a conflict diamond, is a diamond that is mined in a war zone or other conflict areas and is sold to finance aspects of the conflict. The term “blood diamond” was popularized in the late 1990s by human rights groups who were trying to draw attention to the trade of diamonds that were being used to fund brutal civil wars in African countries like Sierra Leone, Angolo and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Over the years, a large number of organisations have been set up and standards have been put in place across the jewellery industry in response to these serious ethical problems, as a way to regulate the diamond trade and prevent the sale of conflict diamonds.
A cabochon is a specific cut of gemstone which has a rounded top and flat back. The top is usually highly polished and smooth, which is great for showcasing the colour and texture of the gemstone.
Carats are the measure of purity of gold. The higher the number the higher percentage of pure gold is used, with 24ct being the maximum (pure gold). With lower carats, a higher content of other metals is mixed with pure gold. This can affect the qualities and colour of the gold.
Clarity refers to the degree to which a gemstone is free from blemishes or other imperfections that could affect its appearance and value. Gemstone clarity used a scale that ranges from “flawless” (no visible inclusions under 10x magnification) to “included” (inclusions that are visible to the naked eye).
The clarity of a gemstone can have a significant impact on its value, with higher clarity stones being more valuable.
Costume Jewellery/Fashion Jewellery
Costume jewellery, also know as fashion jewellery, is a type of jewellery that is made of inexpensive materials such as rhinestones, nickel, pewter or brass. It’s typically mass-produced and sold at a lower price point.
Enamelled jewellery refers to jewellery pieces that have been coated in a decorative, usually colourful, layer. Enamel is created by melting a powdered glass mixture onto the metal and then firing it in a kiln. This process results in a smooth, durable and colourful surface.
Cold enamelling may also be used, which involves using a two-part epoxy resin. The mixture is applied to a metal surface and allowed to dry and cure. Cold enamelling is lower in cost but isn’t as durable or long-lasting as traditional enamelling.
Jewellery engraving is the process of cutting a design, pattern or inscription into the surface of a piece of jewellery. Engraving can be done with modern techniques such as lasers or done by a Master engraver who would do it my hand using specialised tools and techniques.
Facets are the flat surfaces which are cut into the surface of a gemstone to help it catch the light.
Filigree jewellery is a type of intricate jewellery that is made by weaving or twisting together fine, delicate metal wire to create ornamental designs.
Fine jewellery refers to high quality jewellery which is made from precious metals and gemstones. These metals include gold, silver and platinum, and the gemstones include diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds.
Freshwater pearls are a type of pearl that are formed in freshwater mussels rather than saltwater oysters. They come in a variety of colours and shapes, including white, pink and black, and from round to oval. They are often less expensive than saltwater pearls because they are easier to cultivate.
Filled jewellery is a type of jewellery that is made by bonding a layer of gold or silver to a base metal. Base metals include brass or copper, which the layer of precious metal is bonded to through a process called electroplating.
To be considered filled jewellery, the thickness of the layer of precious metal must be at least 5% of the total weight of the item.
Lab Grown Gemstones
Lab grown gemstones, also known as synthetic or cultured gemstones, are man-made gems that have the same chemical and physical properties as natural gemstones. They are created in a laboratory, with a process that involves creating a seed crystal that is placed in a high-pressure, high-temperature environment and left to grow over time.
Lab grown gemstones offer a more sustainable, affordable and ethical alternative to mined mines.
The Mohs Scale is the scale used to measure the hardness of gemstones. This scale is from 1 to 10, with 10 being the hardest (diamonds have a hardness of 10).
Oxidised silver is the decorative effect that is achieved when a chemical is applied to the surface of silver. The chemicals most often used in the oxidisation process are liver of sulphur or a hydrochloric acid solution.
A pendant necklace is a necklace with a hanging ornament suspended from a chain or cord.
Plated jewellery refers to jewellery that has a thin layer of precious metal over the surface of a base metal. The precious metal is either is gold, silver or platinum, and the base metal is usually brass, copper or nickel.
The thickness of the precious metal layer can vary anywhere between 0.5 to 2.5 microns.
Statement jewellery is any jewellery which stands out by adding drama and flair. These designs can be large, chunky, colourful, or a mixture of all three.
Vermeil is the process of heavily plating sterling silver with gold or rose gold. To be considered a vermeil piece, the jewellery must have a base metal of sterling silver and the gold used for the plating must be at least 10 carats and be a minimum of 2.5 microns thick.
Vermeil is an excellent balance between luxury and affordability, still providing quality and the look of gold without the high price tag.