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Intriguing facts, fictions, and terminology
Abalone is a mollusk, and a source of mother of pearl. It is the beautiful iridescent inside of the mollusk's shell that is called mother of pearl.
A type of thermoplastic, often used in jewelry.
Meaning to have a diamond-like luster.
Reference to stones that appear to be different colors depending on the light they are viewed under.
A homogeneous mixture or solid solution of two or more metals, the atoms of one replacing or occupying interstitial positions between the atoms of the other. Common jewelry allows include gold, sterling silver, brass, bronze, pewter, and alpaca (also spelled alpaca, not to be confused with alpaca wool). Brass, for example, is an alloy of zinc and copper.
Alpaca (aka alpacca)
Sometimes used in jewelry as a silver substitute, alpaca is an alloy of copper, nickel, and zinc.
A lightweight, silver-white metal, first discovered in the 18th century. At that time, aluminum was more expensive than gold!
A method of subjecting glass or metal to heating and slow cooling in order to toughen and reduce brittleness.
An electrochemical, acid-bath/electrical current treatment for metal that changes the molecules of the surface layer (controlled oxidization) into a thin, protective, lustrous, sometimes colorful film.
A translucent plastic the color of apple juice, used in jewelry.
A mixture of hydrochloric and nitric acids, used to test gold and platinum.
Arcade Setting (aka Coronet or Chaton Setting)
A setting of many metal claws holding the stone in place.
Actually rock crystal, not a real diamond.
An abrasive used to smooth metals, used in jewelry-making.
Art Deco (1925-1935)
Deriving its name from the 1925 Paris Exposition of Decorative Arts and Modern Manufactures, Art Deco was actually a largely North American style that influenced everything from jewelry to architecture. With an emphasis on symmetry and geometry, the Art Deco movement strove to soften the mass produced look with a somewhat more sensitive, artful purpose. In jewelry, platinum, and diamonds played a central role, often mixed with inexpensive crystal and even coral. From Art Deco, the introduction of new emerald, pear, and marquises cuts resulted, harmonious with the symmetrical themes of the Art Deco style.
Art Nouveau (1890-1912)
In jewelry, the Art Nouveau movement broke away from the solemn conventions of Victorian and Edwardian styling, a rebellion that unleashed a creative, inspired outpouring of phenomenally beautiful works of art, incorporating much of the natural world - elegant flowers, dragonflies, ferns, snakes, and lithe, sensual animal and human forms. Also with the advent of Art Nouveau came a mastery of new gold casting and carving techniques, and the widespread use of enameling.
Arts and Crafts
A late 1800s artistic movement, with items intentionally made to appear handmade, and with simple settings.
An assay is a test of the purity of an alloy.
A luminescent, star-like effect in some gemstones, reflecting light.
Aurora Borealis or AB
Often used in reference to glass rhinestones or beads coated with a thin layer of metals to achieve an iridescent sheen, named after the "Northern Lights." This process was jointly invented by the Swarovski and Christian Dior companies in 1955.
Japanese name for abalone pearls.
Thermoset plastic first produced in the 1920s, named after its creator, Leo Hendrick Baekeland. A dense, synthetic resin, Bakelite is difficult to melt and easily colored. It quickly became a popular material for jewelry, even fostering its own counterfeits. Bakelite was initially designed to imitate amber.
A stiff bracelet, solid or sometimes featuring a hinge closure.
Bar and Ring Clasp
A bar fastener, where the bar is inserted into a ring, to connect two ends of a bracelet or necklace.
A trade name for a colorless glass stone backed with foil.
Refers to irregularly shaped, natural or artificial pearls and stones.
Bar Pin (or Bar Brooch)
A long pin worn horizontally.
Jewelry closure where one end of the closure screws into the other, barrel-like end.
Non-precious metals, including copper, lead, tin, and zinc.
Translucent enameling of low relief metals to produce a sculpted surface.
A long, thin, rectangular stone cut, larger than a baguette.
A pearl necklace of strands that have been twisted together.
Glued onto a hole-less bead or stone to make threading possible.
The Edwardian period (1901 - 1910)
Bezel (aka Crown)
The top of a cut stone, protruding above the edge of the setting. A bezel setting, on the other hand, is a band of metal tightened around the outside of the stone to hold it in place.
Bib Necklace (aka Collarette)
A short necklace featuring flowing ornaments.
Diamond, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds are known as "The Big Four", the most desirable gemstones in the world today, in that order.
Irregularly shaped freshwater pearls from Lake Biwa, Japan, smoother and more lustrous than most freshwater pearls.
Removing or subduing a gemstone's color with a bleaching agent.
Slang term coined by rapper Cash Money Millionaires, describing ostentatious, usually diamond jewelry.
Blister Pearl (aka Bouton Pearl)
A pearl that attaches itself to a mollusk's shell, so that it must be cut from the shell during removal, resulting in a flattened backside.
A renaissance era hairpin, laden with many jewels.
In the Victorian Era, bog-oak was carved into inexpensive jewelry and other decorative objects. It is old oak, blackened in Irish and Scottish peat bogs.
Rock crystal (not an actual diamond)
Bolt Ring (aka Spring Ring)
Invented in the early 1900s, the bolt ring is a circular metal fastening with a spring opening, designed to attach two other links in a bracelet or necklace.
A coating of plastic or another colorless bonding agent onto a porous gemstone to make it harder and richer in color.
Minerals formed of plant material, including amber, coconut pearl, and pearl opal (found in damaged bamboo shoots).
Brazilian Chain (aka Snake Chain)
Link chain made of small cup-like links.
Soldering with high temperature alloys to join high temperature metals.
Stones cut with 56 facets, 32 above the girdle, 24 below, maximizing the amount of reflected light. The brilliant cut is the most popular diamond cut today, dating from the 1600s.
Bridging the gap between precious and costume jewelry, sterling silver is an example of bridge jewelry.
Briolette (aka Drop Cut)
A pear-shaped cut with triangular facets on the top surface.
Brooch (aka Pin)
An ornament of any material that can be pinned to a garment.
Brushed metal, with reduced reflectivity.
The shaping of the girdle of a diamond, the first step in the cutting process, determining the basic shape of the finished gem.
Bubbles of gas caught in glass or resins, and sometimes in minerals.
A long, thin, tube-shaped glass bead.
Butterfly Wing Jewelry
Made from real butterfly wings, often with a picture painted on the wings, enclosed in plastic or glass.
A cut with a rounded, domed surface, with no facets.
Small step-cut stones for inclusion in larger designs.
A relief carving on a shell or stone.
Cloudy white glass, popular mid-nineteenth century.
A unit of measurement introduced in 1907, .2 grams.
Melting and shaping metal through the use of molds. There are many methods of casting, including the lost wax process, centrifugal, and sand methods.
A simple setting, a band that arches upward.
A short necklace designed to rest close to the throat, usually 13-15" in length.
A simple spring clip mechanism to lock earrings in place, not requiring piercings.
A plant-derived plastic, invented in 1869 by John Wesley Hyatt.
Designed by the Celts in Brittany, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, using bronze, silver, and gold.
Cultured, freshwater pearls.
This "sunken enamel" style is achieved by first cutting designs into the surface of metal, then filling the grooves with enamel, firing it to a polished sheen. Similar, but not as delicate, as cloisonné.
Jewels resting in a metal channel, held by a slight rim.
Small, symbolic ornaments, usually worn on bracelets or necklaces.
Decorating metal by use of hammer strikes.
A stone backed with reflective foil.
The cat's eye effect found in some polished stones, including cat's eye, tiger's eye, and various other stones. The cabochon cut best shows off this trait.
An Irish ring, featuring two small hands clasped together.
The lack of internal flaws in a gemstone. In diamonds, clarity ranges from FL (flawless), to 13 (with many imperfections visible to the naked eye).
A metal prong positioned to hold a gemstone securely in its setting.
The way a mineral natural breaks.
A certain application of enamel to metal. First, a design is cut into the metal; then, the cuts are filled with enamel and fired to a polish.
A setting that completely encases the back of a stone.
Usually a cluster of tiny inclusions in a stone, making it appear milky, greatly reducing the stone's value.
A gemstone surrounded by small stones or pearls.
A thin, round band of metal encircling a stone, with one edge crimped over the top of the stone, and the other edge of the band soldered to the metal of the setting.
Jewelry that can be assembled into one piece or disassembled into two or more pieces, so that they can be worn as one item or separately.
A marine mollusk with a pearly, typically white or pink shell that is cut into beads for jewelry.
A soft metal bead that, when crimped, secures the loose ends of threading material.
The crown is the top part of a cut gem.
Glass made of a minimum of 10 percent lead oxide, producing very clear glass, a process discovered in 1676 by Englishman George Ravenscroft.
Cubic Zirconium (aka Cubic Zirconia)
Resembling diamond, cubic zirconium is an inexpensive, manufactured gemstone, created in 1977.
A rigid, wide bracelet.
Pearls produced by mollusks that have been purposefully injected with bits of shell. They shell serves as irritant, compelling the mollusk to begin coating the irritant with layer after layer of self-produced nacre, in an instinctive attempt to smooth and sooth the lodged irritation. This method of "farming" pearls was invented by Kokichi Mikimoto in 1893.
Stones cut into a square cushion-like shape, rounded on the edges, with facets typically similar to a brilliant cut.