Jewelry Terminology

Unless you’re a jeweler or a gemologist, you’ll probably come across some unfamiliar jewelry terminology as you shop for jewelry. If you need help decoding any of this jeweler jargon, this jewelry glossary is for you. Browse our alphabetized glossary below to get familiar with commonly used jewelry terms or use the find function in your browser to search for a specific jewelry term.

If you have any questions about these jewelry terms or if you need to learn more about something that isn’t in our glossary, please feel free to contact us. Our team would be happy to help you broaden your jewelry education.

An alloy is a blend of two or more metals that are created to add desirable characteristics to a certain metal.

Alternative Metal: The term alternative metal can be used to describe any metal that is less commonly used in jewelry compared to gold and platinum. Examples of alternative metals include stainless steel, palladium, cobalt, tungsten, and titanium.

Antique-Inspired: Antique-inspired jewelry is modern jewelry that features design elements from an antique era.

Antique: Antique jewelry is any piece of jewelry that is over 100 years old.

Art Deco Jewelry: Art Deco jewelry is vintage jewelry from the Art Deco era of the 1920s and 1930s. Art Deco jewelry is characterized by geometric shapes, a lack of free space, and white metals.

Bangle: A rigid type of bracelet that’s designed to slip easily over the wrist. Bangle bracelets can be made of a single piece of metal or may feature a hinged design.

Bezel Setting: A bezel setting is a gemstone setting that holds its enclosed gem in place using a solid piece of metal that completely surrounds the edges of the gem.

Blemish: A blemish is a flaw found on the exterior of a diamond or gemstone.

Bridal Set: A bridal set is a coordinated ring set made up of an engagement ring and a wedding band.

Brilliance: Brilliance is the illuminating light emitted from the crown, or top, of a gemstone.

Brilliant Cut: A brilliant cut is a gemstone cut that features numerous tiny facets designed to create exceptional brilliance. Notably, the most popular diamond shape, the round brilliant cut diamond, features a brilliant cut.

Briolette: Most commonly used during the Victorian era, a briolette is a faceted, teardrop shaped, elongated gemstone that is often drilled and hung as a bead.

Brooch: A brooch is a decorative pin that is designed to be attached to clothing.

Cabochon: A cabochon is a gemstone that has been shaped and polished instead of faceted. Generally, a cabochon features a highly polished surface, a rounded obverse (front), and a flat reverse.

Carat: Carat weight, also called simply carat or ct., is a weight measurement used to measure diamonds and other gemstones. One carat equals 0.200 grams.

Channel Setting: A channel setting is a highly secure type of gemstone setting that holds gemstones in place within a channel bordered by two strips of metal.

Choker: A choker is a short necklace that closely hugs the neck. Chokers are typically between 14 and 16 inches in length.

Clarity Grade: Clarity grade is a grading of how flawless a gemstone is, internally and externally.

Clasp: A clasp, also called a jewelry fastener, is a mechanism that attaches a piece of jewelry to itself. Commonly used on necklaces and bracelets, clasps allow the wearer to easily put on and take off their jewelry. Examples of jewelry fasteners that are often used in jewelry making include lobster clasps, spring ring clasps, fish hook clasps, and toggle clasps.

Color Grade: One of the 4Cs of diamonds, diamond color grade is a grading of how colorless a colorless diamond is.

Culet: A culet is a small facet on the bottom tip of a faceted diamond. The purpose of a culet is to prevent damage to this delicate part of a diamond.

Cultured Pearl: Cultured pearls are real pearls that are created by pearl farmers under controlled conditions. To create a cultured pearl, a pearl farmer places a tiny irritant inside a mollusk, which then forms a pearl around the irritant. Note that almost all pearls jewelry features cultured pearls, as natural pearls that form with no human intervention are exceedingly rare.

Cut Grade: Cut grade is a grading of how well a gemstone was cut into its shape. How well a gemstone has been cut has a dramatic effect on it’s beauty, since the cutting and polishing process creates a gem’s proportions, facet angles, light performance, and finish.

Demi-Fine Jewelry: Demi-fine jewelry features fine materials, yet isn’t entirely made of fine materials like fine jewelry is. Demi-fine jewelry is often primarily made of gold vermeil or gold-plated sterling silver.

Edwardian: Edwardian jewelry is antique jewelry from the Edwardian era (1901 - 1910). Edwardian jewelry is characterized by fluid, fine, and highly feminine design elements, as well as by the color white and heavy use of filigree and milgrain.

Facets: Facets are the flat surfaces on cut gemstones. Gemstones are strategically cut with certain facet arrangements in order to create different gemstone shapes and faceting patterns.

Fancy Shaped: Also called fancy cut, fancy shaped is a term used to describe any gemstone shape other than round. Examples of fancy shapes include marquise-cut, pear-shaped, baguette-cut, emerald-cut, oval-shaped, princess-cut, heart-shaped, and asscher-cut.

Fashion Jewelry: Fashion jewelry, also called costume jewelry, is a term that describes any piece of jewelry that isn’t made of precious metals. Fashion jewelry is often made of base metals such as aluminum, brass, and copper.

Fine Jewelry: Fine jewelry is jewelry that’s made of solid precious metals, such as yellow gold or platinum, and fine gemstones.

Fire: Fire is the rainbow-colored light that’s refracted from a gemstone’s facets.

French Wire: A French wire is a type of earring setting that’s popularly used for dangly earrings. French wire settings consist of a hooked wire that slips through the earlobe and holds the earring in place without the need for an earring backing.

Freshwater Pearls: A freshwater pearl is a natural or cultured pearl that is produced by a mollusk that lives in freshwater, rather than in saltwater.

Georgian Jewelry: Georgian jewelry is antique jewelry from the Georgian era (1714 - 1837). Georgian jewelry is handcrafted, heavily ornate, often colorful, and typically symmetrical. Ornate metal work is a hallmark characteristic of Georgian jewelry.

GIA: The Gemological Institute of America, or GIA, is a highly respected grading laboratory and gemological institute. Famously, the GIA created the 4Cs of diamond quality, which went on to set the standard for grading diamonds.

Inclusion: An inclusion is a flaw found on the interior of a diamond or gemstone.

Inlay: An inlay is a decorative element that is set flush within a piece of jewelry. There are many types of inlay, including mother-of-pearl inlay, wood inlay, coral inlay, onyx inlay, and turquoise inlay.

Karat: Karat (k) is a measurement that denotes the pure gold content of gold and gold alloys. Pure gold is 24 karat gold. An 18 karat yellow gold alloy features 18 parts pure gold and 6 parts other metals, making it 75% pure gold.

Locket: Usually worn on a necklace, a locket is a small ornamental charm that opens to store small objects. Lockets are typically used to hold sentimental objects, such as a picture of a loved one, a dried flower petal, or a lock of hair.

Mohs Hardness Scale: The Mohs hardness scale, also called the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, is a qualitative scale that measures the hardness of different minerals based on their ability to scratch other minerals or be scratched by other minerals. The Mohs scale measures hardness on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the hardest. Diamonds, the hardest naturally occurring substance on earth, are a 10 out 10 on the Mohs hardness sale.

Pavé Setting: Pavé settings are tiny pronged settings that hold multiple gemstones closely together to create a harmonious line or group of diamonds. Pavé settings get their name from the French word for “paved,” as can they make a piece of jewelry look like it has been paved in gemstones. Note that you may sometimes see diamonds described as pavé diamonds. This simply means the diamonds are enclosed in pavé settings.

Platinum: Platinum is a strong, hypoallergenic, expensive precious metal that is loved for its bright white color and its high durability.

Precious Gemstone: A precious gemstone is a gemstone that is prized for its rarity, beauty, and qualities. Traditionally, there are four precious gemstones: diamond, emerald, sapphire, and ruby.

Precious Metal: Precious metals are rare metals with a high value. Examples of precious metals that are commonly used in jewelry include yellow gold, white gold, rose gold, and platinum.

Prong Setting: A prong setting is a gemstone setting that holds faceted stones in place using tiny metal tines, or prongs, of metal.

Rhodium: Rhodium is a beautifully shiny, bright white metal. Due to its high price and its softness, rhodium is rarely used to craft an entire piece of jewelry. Instead, a jeweler may use a thin layer of rhodium plating to enhance the color and shine of other metals. Rhodium plating is commonly used on white gold jewelry.

Rose Gold: Also sometimes called pink gold, rose gold is a metal alloy made of pure gold and copper.

Saltwater Pearl: A saltwater pearl is a natural or cultured pearl that is produced by a mollusk that lives in saltwater, rather than in freshwater.

Scintillation: Scintillation is the flashing or sparkling light emitted from a gemstone.

Semi-Precious Gemstone: Semi-precious describes any gemstone that isn’t one of the four precious gemstones (diamond, emerald, sapphire, ruby). Examples of semi-precious gemstones include moonstone, amethyst, citrine, garnet, topaz, tourmaline, aquamarine, and onyx.

Shank: Shank is a jewelers term for a ring’s band.

Shape: Shape is the gemstone shape a diamond or gemstone has been cut into, such as round, princess cut, emerald cut, or pear shaped.

Solitaire: Solitaire is a descriptive term for a piece of jewelry that features only one gemstone. For example, a solitaire diamond engagement ring features only one diamond and no accent stones.

Split Shank: A split shank is a style of ring band that splits open on the upper band, creating two split pairs of metal pieces around the ring’s center stone.

Step Cut: Step cut describes a type of faceting that’s used on diamonds and gemstones. Step cut gemstones feature long, linear facets that are arranged in a step-style fashion. Examples of step cut gemstone shapes include emerald cut, asscher cut, and baguette cut.

Sterling Silver: Sterling silver is a metal that’s commonly used in fashion jewelry and demi-fine jewelry. This durable, tarnish-prone silver metal consists of at least 92.5% pure silver.

Tarnish: Some metals tarnish, which means they lose their luster over time. Tarnishing occurs due to a chemical reaction. Usually, tarnishing occurs when a metal oxide undergoes oxidation, but tarnishing can also occur due to moisture exposure. Unlike rusting, which is also caused by oxygen and moisture, tarnishing only creates a thin layer of self-limiting corrosion. This means that tarnishing does not damage lower layers of the metal. Tarnishing is generally a cosmetic issue that can be removed at home or by a professional jeweler.

Total Carat Weight: Total carat weight (tcw. or ctw.) is used to describe the sum total carat weight of the gemstones used in a piece of jewelry. For example, a pair of solitaire diamond stud earrings that features two 0.50 carat diamonds may be described as having a total carat weight of 1 carat.

Tremblant: Tremblant is a general type of jewelry that creates a trembling effect with the movement of the wearer.

Victorian Jewelry: Victorian jewelry is antique jewelry from the Victorian era (1837 - 1901). Victorian jewelry designs tend to be ornate and feminine. They often feature romantic motifs, such as hearts, birds, flowers, and bows.

Vintage-Inspired: Vintage-inspired jewelry is modern jewelry that features design elements from a vintage era.

Vintage: Vintage jewelry is any piece of jewelry that is at least 20 years old, but less than 100 years old.

White Gold: White gold is an alloyed metal made of pure gold and white metals such as nickel and zinc.

Yellow Gold: Yellow gold is an alloyed metal made of pure gold, silver, and copper.