The use of jewelry plays a prominent role around the world. Not only is jewelry present in virtually every country as a form of decoration and beauty, but specific types of jewelry can be found within certain cultures, groups, and religious practices.
According to the Gem Society, jewelry first had its roots around 25,000 years ago. As far as researchers know, the first form of jewelry ever made was a necklace constructed out of fish bones, which was discovered in a cave in Monaco. The purpose or meaning behind this necklace, however, may always be a mystery to us.
Regardless of its ancient history, jewelry throughout the years has held some sort of meaning for the people who have worn it.
Whether you plan on purchasing jewelry to amp up a bland outfit or wish to wear it to serve a very specific, meaningful purpose, it’s important to inform yourself on the many jewelry vocabulary words out there. To get you started, here are 20 important jewelry terms:
One of the easiest vocabulary terms on this list is “karat.” Many people know that a karat has something to do with gold and that the more karats of gold a piece of jewelry has, the greater its value. However, not everyone knows exactly what a karat implies.
A karat is the unit that describes the fineness of gold to an alloy. For instance, a 14K gold ring would feature 14 parts gold and 10 parts of a base metal. Base metals are important in gold jewelry as gold is a soft metal; pure gold is typically not used in jewelry as it’s too malleable.
Cameos are oval pendants that feature a raised relief, usually of a silhouette of a woman’s side profile. Genuine cameos are typically made of glass, stone, lava, shell, or coral. These pendants are usually then added to a piece of jewelry like a bracelet or necklace.
Planishing is essentially another word for the hammering effect that’s sometimes made on jewelry. This metalworking method is often done on pieces of jewelry whose surface needs to be carefully shaped and smoothed out.
- Invisible setting
When gemstones like diamonds are placed directly next to each other within the same frame without metal separating them, this is called an invisible setting. As a result, this mounting process often gives the illusion that gemstones are bigger than they actually are from afar.
- Sterling silver
When a piece of jewelry is classified as being sterling silver, this means the jewelry features a silver alloy with at least 92.5% pure silver. The remainder of the metal is usually composed of copper. Sterling silver is not the same as fine silver. Rather, fine silver refers to 99.9% pure silver.
- Gypsy setting
Gypsy setting or flush mount setting is a setting where diamonds or other gemstones are placed where they are level along the surface of the metal surrounding it. Thus, this helps leave a smoother finish on the ring.
The process of antiquing in the world of jewelry doesn’t involve shopping around for antiques, but rather, intentionally darkening the recessed parts of silver or gold jewelry to make it appear aged. Not all metals, however, are capable of being antiqued (e.g., platinum).
Jewelry via this method is often distressed by scrubbing it with acetone, tapping it with a hammer, wiping it with apple cider vinegar multiple times, spraying saltwater solution on it daily, and rubbing ochre wax into the grooves of the metal to give the appearance of natural dirt buildup.
Continue this process until the results are desired, and then finish it off with a clear coat or wax to stop it from further weathering.
When talking about jewelry, a cut is the way in which a diamond or other gemstone is shaped. In fact, the cut of a gemstone not only impacts how it looks and how it reflects and refracts light but also helps indicate part of its value.
When someone wants a solitaire ring, they want a ring that contains only one single diamond or other gemstone with no additional stones on the band. Solitaire rings are very classic and make for one of the most popular engagement ring styles.
- Pot metal
Pot metal, also called white metal or monkey metal, are alloys that don’t contain silver, gold, or platinum. Jewelry made of pot metal is usually very inexpensive, has a low melting point, and is quick to make. Due to its lower quality, however, pot metal is prone to cracking, bending, and distortion.
The amount of luster a piece of jewelry has refers to how much its metal shines when light hits it. The level of luster jewelry has is also determined by the quality of light it reflects. The more luster a metal has, the more shine it possesses. The less luster a metal has, however, the more matte it is.
- Snake chain
Chains of a necklace or other piece of jewelry are usually made by linking several, small, metal rings together. In the case of a snake chain, however, metal rings are formed side by side like a smooth, flexible coil rather than intertwined in a linking fashion. When running your fingers down a snake chain, its scaly texture is similar to that of a snake.
- Cubic zirconia
For those who can’t afford diamonds or wish to wear jewelry of lesser value, cubic zirconia, which is a fabricated “diamond,” has a very similar look and feel as a genuine diamond only that it’s much more inexpensive, often mass-produced, and faster to create. The hardness of a cubic zirconia also differs from a real diamond.
To compare prices, a carat of cubic zirconia is typically about $20 whereas a carat of a real diamond usually costs approximately $1,500.
- Simulated stone
Simulated stones are the opposite of genuine stones. They are man-made gemstones that are created to look similar to an actual gemstone, often with a glass material. Due to its lesser value, purchasing jewelry with these stones is significantly cheaper. Cubic zirconia is an example of a simulated stone.
An inlay is a technique where part of a piece of jewelry’s surface is intentionally removed to allow hollow space for a gemstone or other object to be placed. Once the stone or object is embedded into the removed region, it will be flush with the surface of the surrounding metal.
- Synthetic gemstones
Like simulated gemstones, synthetic gemstones are not completely natural and are fabricated in a laboratory. However, what makes synthetic gemstones different is that they normally feature the exact elements and chemical composition as their genuine gemstone counterparts. However, they are force-created by man rather than found in nature.
- Rose finish
Rose gold contains real gold alloyed with copper, which gives it its significant rosy appearance. However, a rose finish, while it looks like rose gold, contains no real gold at all, making it a more affordable way to get metal jewelry with a pinkish, rose gold-like hue.
Baguette in jewelry terminology refers not to a long loaf of French bread, but rather, a gemstone that’s narrow, elongated, and rectangular. Baguette-cut gemstones can be placed horizontally, vertically, or diagonally on a ring or other piece of jewelry. These stones can be accompanied by other baguette or non-baguette gems, or they may appear alone.
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When something is translucent, it means it’s partially transparent. When speaking about jewelry, translucent is often used to describe a gemstone that appears semi-sheer. In other words, the stone lets some light in but not enough to where one can see clearly through it. This term can apply to both genuine, simulated, and synthetic stones.
- Seed pearl
Most everyone knows what a pearl is. However, the term “seed pearl” is not as common of a term. Simply put, seed pearls are miniature pearls that were popular in the Victorian era. During this time, seed pearls were often set in gold jewelry or woven in fringed necklaces. Seed pearls are still popular in jewelry today, especially in larger, more intricate pieces.
Jewelry is something that most of us wear every now and then. Some of us wear jewelry that reflects our culture or religion. Others of us primarily wear jewelry to take our outfit up a notch, draw attention to a certain part of our body, or express our prestige. Jewelry, especially when it is given to us by someone we love, can also be an item of comfort and joy.
Regardless of the reason(s) you purchase and/or wear jewelry, knowing the latter jewelry terms is important. Without knowing what these vocabulary words mean, it’s not only harder to find the exact piece of jewelry you’ve been looking for, but you may also end up with a product that doesn’t have the longevity or ease of maintenance you expected.