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Dictionary of Jewelry Terms:




Text Box: The Jewelry Doctor
Iris Rocker, AJP, (GIA)

Anchor chain …

A chain made of round, linked links of uniform size.  This tends to be what most people think of when they think of the word “chain”.  It is the same style chain as the cable used to anchor large ships to dock.

Baguette …

A gemstone cut in a narrow, rectangular shape reminiscent of a loaf of French bread, from which it draws its name.  Small diamonds cut this way are often used as accents for rings and necklaces.

Bombe ...

This simply means “curving or bulging outward”.  It refers to a dome-shaped setting often seen in rings and earrings from the 1940s and 1950s.

Box chain …

A chain in which each link is wide and square so that it resembles a box.

Bridal set …

An engagement and wedding ring that come in a set and usually match or compliment each other.

Butterfly clutch …

A fitting that slides onto the back of an earring post to secure it in place.

Byzantine Chain …

An intricately designed chain. Two pairs of oval-shaped links are linked together.  Each pair is then parted to allow a large, tick oval link to be attached to the other pair.

Cable chain …

A chain made of round linked rings of uniform size.  This tends to be what most people think of when they think of the word “chain” .   Same as Anchor chain. It is the same style chain as the cable used to anchor large ships to dock.

Channel set …

A style of setting in which  a number of uniformly sized small stones, usually of the round cut, princess cut or baguette shapes, are set side by side in a grooved channel.  Unlike most setting methods, the stones are not secured individually with prongs and there is no metal visible between the stones.

Choker …

A close fitting necklace worn tight around the neck like a collar.

Cigar band …

A very wide band-style ring

Claddagh Ring

The Iris Claddagh symbol is named for the coastal town of Claddagh (pronounced clah)– where legend attributes the rings design.  The now famous tale about a townsman kidnapped into slavery, who returns to present a ring to his true love is one of the most popular romantic tales of Ireland.  Claddagh rings are a traditional token of friendship, loyalty and romantic love. The hands in the design represent friendship, the heart, love and the crown, loyalty.

The ring was first crafted by Master Goldsmith Richard Joyce in 1689, it is named after Claddagh, the fishing village he lived in at the time, which overlooks Galway Bay.  The ring belongs to a class of rings called “Fede” or “Faith Rings” which date back from Roman times and were popular in the Middle Ages throughout Europe.  Whereas “Fede” rings have only two clasped hands symbolizing faith, trust or “plighted troth”, Claddagh rings have two hands clasping a heart, symbolizing love surrounded by a crown, symbolizing loyalty..  The ring worn on the right hand with the heart turned outward indicates that your heart is yet unoccupied.  Worn on the left hand with the heart turned inward shows everyone that your heart is truly spoken for.

Clip-back earring

A hinged ring with a pad called a “comfort back”, at one end to secure the earring to the earlobe without requiring that the ear be pierced.


Several stones grouped together in a jewelry setting

Cocktail ring

A large, oversized ring set with precious or semiprecious stones popular during the 1940s and 1950s

Cuban link chain

A standard cable chain with oval shaped links that are each decorated with a twisting pattern resembling a rope.

Cuff bracelet

A wide, rigid bangle with a narrow opening on one side to allow the wrist to pass through.

Cuff link

A decorative fastener worn to close the cuff of a shirt that provides holes on the cuff for the cufflink rather than closing with buttons.

Cultured pearl

A means of duplicating the organic process of natural pearl creation by Kokichi Mikimoto circa 1893.  A tiny irritant like a bead, grain of sand or a piece of mother of pearl from another mollusk can be inserted into the opening of an oyster or mollusk.  This irritant becomes the nucleus of a pearl once that mollusk secretes a lustrous substance (nacre) to cover the foreign body.  An oyster or mollusk can take between five to seven years to secrete enough nacre to produce a jewelry quality pearl.

Curb link chain

A chain composed of oval-shaped links that are twisted and often diamond cut so they lie flat.

Cushion cut

A stone that is cut to look like a square or rectangle with round edges.  The cut is usually multi-faceted to give the highest possible light refraction.

Diamond accent

Jewelry that has one or more diamonds with a combined carat weight of less than one fourth of a carat.

Diamond cut

In the context of gemstones, it means the same as “Brilliant cut”.  In the context of diamond cut objects, (usually metal objects), it means that part of the object has been cut into a flat diamond shape.

Diamond-cut rope chain

A chain in which a portion of the chain link is cut into a flat diamond-shaped face and polished to a high shine.

Ear Cuff

A wide, decorative ring with a gap designed to be pinched onto the ear without need for piercing.  Ear cuffs may be pinched onto any part of the ear, not just the earlobe.

Earring jacket

A small piece of jewelry with a hold pierced in the center designed to be held onto the ear with a stud earring.

Emerald cut

Also referred to as “table-cut” or “step-cut”. A rectangular or square shaped cut with chamfered corners and stepped facets, typically parallel to the girdle.  This cut is also used for precious stones other than emeralds.


A decorative technique in which enamel (a vitreous pigment of metallic oxide mixed with a finely powdered glass) is applied to the surface of a metal-normally bronze, copper, silver or gold.  This glass composition adheres to the metal through fusion under very high temperatures.  The color of the enamel and its degree of transparency depend on the metal oxides that exist in the glass and the temperature at which the glass melts and coheres to the surface.  Popular during the mid-Victorian period was a solid black, blue or white enamel used to fill engraved designs.


Nearly all gemstones available today have been enhanced to bring out their best color or to strengthen them.  For example, an accepted industry practice in the polishing process for sapphires involves heating the stones to bring out their color.  This process simply extends what nature began, since it is heat and pressure that give gemstones their color in the first place.


Very faintly carved decoration scratched onto the surface of a piece.

European cut

A style of diamond cutting popular from approximately 1890 to the 1930s typified by a round girdle, a smaller table in relation to the diameter of the stone, and a large culet.  The large culet appears to create a hole at the bottom of the diamond when viewed from the top, since the large culet lets light escape instead of reflecting it back to the viewer.


Facets are small flat surfaces of a polished diamond or gemstone.  These polished, flat planes are a major determining factor in enhancing the diamond’s ability to sparkle or reflect light.  A gemstone carved with a regular pattern of many planes or facets are said to be faceted.






Filigree Enamel

A design made with thin wire intricately interlaced or bent into rosettes, spirals or vines.  The wire is typically gold or silver and may be plain, twisted or plaited.  There are two major styles of filigree.  The first is to solder the wire to a metal base.  This style was used in Byzantine, Carolingian, Ottonian, Roman, Anglo-Saxon and 13th century German and Italian jewelry.  The second style is to leave the wire as an openwork design without a metal backing, which is characteristic of European jewelry until the 15th century.  Filigree was used on Jewish marriage rings as well as Spanish and Portuguese peasant jewelry.  In England it is found on some mourning rings.

A type of decoration similar to cloisonné enameling but having the cloisons made of twisted wire rather than flat strips of metal), soldered to the base and filled with an opaque enamel.  After the powdered enamel in the spaces is fused out, upon cooling, has contracted, the wire shows above the surface.

Figaro chain

Similar in style to a curb link chain, but the links alternate between a long one and three round ones, instead of uniform links.

Figogucci chain

A mariner link chain where the links are twisted and diamond-cut so they lie flat line a curb link chain

Figure 8 safety catch

A type of safety catch in which a hinged wire in the shape of a figure 8 snaps over a pin.


A surface in which parallel lines are engraved in one direction, then crossed with lighter  perpendicular lines resembling brush marks.  Also called a brushed finish.


A long, usually rounded groove incised as a decorative motif.  Commonly seen on Greek and Roman columns.

Fold-over clasp

A clasp used on a necklace or bracelet with a box on one end and a V-shaped tongue on the other.  The lid of the box opens to reveal a small hook.  The tongue slips over the hook and then the lid of the box is snapped closed to secure the tongue in place.

Freshwater pearl

A pearl produced by a mollusk that inhabits fresh water, such as a lake or river, as opposed to sea water.  These pearls are usually shaped like an uneven grain of rice and unlike the saltwater oyster, which normally produces only one or two pearls, each mussel can simultaneously produce many.  Freshwater pearls are grown in many countries such as the United States, Japan, China and Ireland.  Natural freshwater pearls are found in a variety of colors, including blue, lavender, violet, rose and gray.  They can also be dyed to enhance or change their color.  Freshwater pearls are much cheaper than their seawater cousins since they produce several pearls at once and do not require an irritant to be inserted to produce the pearl.

Genuine pearl

A smooth, round growth used as a gem, a “genuine” pearl is one that formed naturally within the shell of a mollusk due to an irritant rather than having the irritant placed into the mollusk by hand or being made out of plastic.

Gold filled:





Gold plated:



Abbreviated in the industry as g.f.  A piece of jewelry with a layer of gold mechanically applied to the surface of a base metal, (like brass or copper), can be called gold filled if the amount of gold equals one-twentieth of the total weight of the piece.  VIctorian pieces are likely to be unmarked, but later pieces are marked with the fineness of the gold layer, and the part by weight of the gold.  For example,  a piece marked “1/10 12K G.F.”  is composed of at least 1/10 12K gold based on the weight of the finished piece.  An older unmarked gold piece may often be identified by wear through to base metal, especially when viewing corners or edges under magnification.  Look for a change to a darker, brassy colored material at these spots.

A piece of jewelry with a wafer-thin coating of gold electroplated or mechanically plated onto a base metal.


Jewelry finished with a gold color with almost NO appreciable measurement of weight in actual gold.


Half-hoop design:

A bangle, bracelet or ring in which only half of the circumference of the piece is set with stones.

An earring which resembles a ring but does not form a complete circle.


A form of consumer protection against fraud, hallmarks are simply marks stamped onto precious metal by a legally appointed official after assaying to denote the amount of precious metal contained in a piece.  European hallmarks are legally required and date back to the early middle ages.  Marks are not officially required in the U.S. but are carried by custom and practice.  Marks may indicate the purity of the metal, the maker, the country of manufacture and or the date that the piece was assayed or had its design registered.


A texture applied to the surface of an object with a  hammer to give it a dimpled look.

Heart cut:

A “fancy-cut” diamond or stone in the shape of a heart.

Herringbone chain:

A chain made up of short, fat, slanted parallel links with the direction of the slant altering row by row resembling the spine of the herring.

Hidden Box Clasp:

A box clasp hidden under the last link of chain so that when the chain is closed it looks uniform, except fo rthe release lever.

High polish:

A piece of jewelry that has been polished to a mirror-like finish.


A decorative technique in which part of the surface of a piece of jewelry, furniture or ceramic is cut away and stone, mother of pearl, opal or some other substance is imbedded into the hollowed-out area so that it is level with the surface of the piece.  Al


A hoop earring in which the hoop is elongated into a shape resembling the letter “J” rather than being circular.

Lever back:

A means of attaching an earring to a pierced ear with a hook that goes through the ear and is then secured by a hinged lever attached to the back of the piece.

Maltese Cross:

Named for the Knights of Malta, a group of knights who bore this symbol on their tabards during the Crusades.  A Maltese cross has four broad arms of equal length with a V-shaped notch cut out of the ends.

Marina chain:

Mariner or Marine link:

A chain composed of small, round diamond-cut links that are designed to lie flat like a curb link chain, but are set very close together.

A chain link resembling a flat oval with a flat bar in the middle of the ring.  A Figogucci chain is a variant form.


Pronounced mar KEYS, also called navette.  An oval shape gemstone which tapers to a point at both ends. This cut was named for the Marquis de Pompadour, Mistress of King Louis XV.


With jewelry which has a matte finish the designer uses either a chemical process or an abrasive material to scratch the top layers of the piece creating a dull and non-reflective surface.  Also referred to as having a “brushed finish”.


Milgrain Setting:

A raised, beaded edge on a ring done with a special engraver’s tool;  resembling the edge of a coin.

A milgrain design engraved into the edge of the metal securing a stone in place.

Mother of Pearl:

The pearlescent material on the inside of mollusk shells like abalone, oysters and mussels.  This material can be scraped off, sliced thin and used as inlay on a variety of jewelry, furniture, etc.

Omega chain:

Unlike most chains which are a series of linked rings, an Omega chain is made up of rectangular, smooth, rounded metal plates set side by side and crimped along the ends onto a strip of metal mesh.  The end result is a fairly stiff, yet flexible, circle which needs to be worn high around the neck since it is not nearly as attractive when viewed from the edges.

Omega back:

These work a bit like lever back earrings, in that they have a hinged lever on the back of the earring near the bottom, but in this case, the lever ends in an O-shape that closes over a post in place of a clutch to secure the earring to a pierced ear.

Panther link:

A flat chain in which each resembles three bricks stacked on top of each other with the center brick offset one half step to the side.  The offset brick is then connected to the space left by the offset brick on the next link in the chain by means of a pin.  These bricks are commonly rectangular, but may also be shaped like the diamond in a deck of cards.


Pronounced pah-VAY.  This is a kind of setting in which small gemstones are set very close together resembling the paving done with bricks.

Pear cut:

A fancy shape of gem cutting which somewhat resembles a teardrop;  rounded on one end and pointed on the other.


An organic gem grown within oysters and other mollusks when they produce nacre as a reaction to the irritant.  A good sized pearl can take between five to eight years to form, which is usually the entire life of the oyster or mollusk.  Pearls are most valuable when they are perfectly round.  Fine natural pearls are much more expensive and rare to find than cultured pearls.  Never dip jewelry with pearls into a jewelry cleaning solution unless it specifically says that it is safe for pearls.  If the solution is not intended for pearls, it will dull the luster of the pearl and causes them to look cloudy.  Pearl is the birthstone for June.


An ornament or charm that hangs from a cord or chain and is worn around the neck.

Pierced earrings:

Earrings that are attached to an ear by means of a wire or post that is inserted through a hole pierced in the ear.


The pin that sticks out the back of a stud earring.  The post goes through the pierced ear and is secured in place with a catch that slides onto it behind the earlobe.

Rolo chain:

A Rolo style chain is composed of individually linked round or oval rings resembling a standard cable chain, but with thicker rings.

Rope chain:

A series of small oval-shaped links that are arranged in such a way that they make a spiral design resembling a woven rope.


A metal that is part of the platinum family but is liquid in its raw natural state and  not solid like platinum.  Rhodium can be applied to base metals, gold, sterling silver, or some other alloy, to give it a shiny white surface like platinum.  This process was popular in the 1930s and 1940s, is very durable and VERY expensive.


A kind of decoration that protrudes from the surface, like a cameo.

Safety catch:

One of several means of securing a brooch to a garment.  Before the invention of safety catches, the most common means of securing a brooch was a simple “C” catch with no locking mechanism.  A safety catch is simply a way to secure the pin to the “C” catch so that it doesn’t come undone and does not need to extend beyond the edge of the brooch.

San Marco chain:

A unique kind of chain wherein each link is long and rounded, resembling a puffed grain of rice with a flat bottom.  The links are arranged next to each other at a 45 degree angle and attached to each other on the bottom by sturdy flat pins set at an opposite angle.

Satin finish:

A series of tiny parallel lines scratched onto a surface with a wire brush or polishing tool to produce texture.

Screw back:

A type of earring attachment for non-pierced ears where the earring is tightened against the earlobe by means of a screw with a flat, padded end.


Any gemstone valued for their beauty but which are not one of the four “precious stones” (emerald, diamond, sapphire and ruby).  Some examples of semiprecious stones are amethyst, aventurine, garnet, opal, peridot, rose quartz, etc.

Serpentine chain:

A series of small, flat s-shaped links set very closely together and held in place by a second set of small, flat s-shaped links set very closely together underneath them.


The part of the jewelry into which stones are set.  Also refers to the mechanism used to hold the stones in place, such as a bezel, pave, channel and prong setting.


The part of a ring that encircles the finger, does not include the setting.

Singapore chain:

A style chain wherein each link is composed of a series of flat, diamond-cut, interwoven concentric loops.


An ornament with a tube on the back.  A necklace can then be threaded through the tube allowing the ornament to slide along the length of the necklace.


A single, (solitary), gemstone mounted in a simple setting, often found in a ring or pendant.

Spring Ring clasp:

A very common kind of clasp used for joining two ends of a necklace.  The clasp itself consists of a hollow metal tube in a circle shape with a gap in the side.  The hollow tube contains a small wire held in place by a spring inside the tube behind the wire.  The wire can be pulled back my means of a small knob which slides along the outer edge of the circular tube.  Releasing the knob allows the spring to push the wire forward closing the gap.  The other end of the necklace terminates in a small ring.  By using the knob on the spring ring to open the gap in the hollow circular tube, one can then place the small ring through the gap and close the wire through the ring securing it in place and closing the necklace.

Square cut:

A style of gem cutting resembling the emerald cut.


A simple style of earring for pierced ears that has a single stone (such as a diamond or pearl) ormetal ball on a straight post with no dangling parts.


A dulled luster or finish caused by a thin deposit of a dirt which discolors the surface of metal and is easily removed.  Also a reaction between metals and other chemicals which discolors the surface, particularly silver which reacts with sulfur.  The silver sulfide can be removed with a proprietary cleaning product and gentle abrasion.

Tiffany setting:

A generally round, high, six prong setting with long, slender prongs that flare out from the base introduced by Tiffany & Co. in 1886.  It is most commonly used today for large stones such as a diamond solitaire.


A metallic element used in some jewelry because of the range of colors it produces when heated.

Toggle clasp:

A means of fastening two ends of a chain together consisting of a ring on one end and a short bar on the other.  The bar is slid through the ring and sits across it so it does not slide or pull.

Trillion cut:

A brilliant-cut gemstone that is triangular in shape rather than round with 44 facets.

Ultrasonic cleaner:

A machine that cleans jewelry by using a fluid that is vibrated at 20,000 cycles per second.  When the vibration speed rises above the ultrasonic frequency level, bubbles explode and generate strong power, cleaning the surfaces and cavities of hard-to-clean objects.  Ultrasonic cleaning does not scratch the surface or harm objects like many chemical or abrasive cleaners.