Basic Jewelry Terms You Need to Know

Jewelry. We all love it, even if we are not able to indulge in it. Some show their love by buying and wearing, others make it. If you have decided to hop on board the jewelry business train (or even just the jewelry making train), there is so much to learn! But we’re going to learn some of the common terms you’re going to need to know. 

First of all, take a breath, there is an abundance of jewelry vocabulary terms to learn. But it’s okay. We’re going to talk about some of the common terms that you should know to help get you started. Some terms you may have heard before, others may be new. It’s all good, we’re here to gain some knowledge.

Some Terms Defined

Alloy

An alloy is a blending of two metals.

Alternative Metal

An alternative metal is a metal that is not gold, silver or platinum. These have excellent durability for wedding bands. Examples of an alternative metal include tungsten carbide, cobalt, stainless steel, and titanium.

Bridal Sets/Wedding Sets

Bridal sets are a set of rings that include an engagement band and a wedding band. This would leave the groom to pick out his own ring. A wedding set includes an engagement ring and matching wedding bands for both the bride and groom (three rings total). 

Casting

Casting is the process of shaping metal. The metal is melted and then poured into a mold.

Chakra Stones

Chakra is an Indian ideal that involves centering spiritual energy in the human body. There are seven chakras and certain colors and stones help focus energy to a certain point within the body. If you are interested in more specific details of the different stones for centering chakra, you can click here for more. Or if you are a more visual person like me you can watch my YouTube video here

Faux

Faux means imitation, fake, or not real or authentic.

Engraved Jewelry

Engraving jewelry is the process of marring the surface to create a design on the surface of the item. To do this, you need very sharp tools.

Etched Jewelry

Etching jewelry is a process if using chemicals to create a design on a metal surface.

Facet

Facet is defined as one side of something that is many-sided. 

Findings

Findings are referred to as the components in jewelry making that are not gems, beads, or stringing material. Findings are the odds and ends that help piece jewelry together. Some examples include clasps, jump rings, earring backs, brooch pins, and so on.

Guiding

This is a decorative technique. It’s when you apply a thin layer of gold, a gold leaf or gold foil to an object.

Gold Plated

Gold plated jewelry is made of a less expensive metal (like copper or silver) and then a thin layer of gold is applied to the exterior of the metal.

Jump Ring

Jump rings are a very simple and commonly used piece in jewelry making. It is just around or oval ring that is used as a connector for clasps, charms, pendants, or beads, etc.

Findings

Standard Necklace Lengths

Necklaces come in a variety of lengths. The collar is 12 to 14 inches long. A choker is 14 to 16 inches in length. Princess length is 16 to 18 inches. Matinee is 20 to 24 inches long. Opera length is 26 to 35 inches. Anything 36 inches and longer is considered to be rope length. 

Mohs Scale

This scale is used as a standard in the jewelry business to determine the hardness and scratch-resistance of a stone.

Oiling

Oiling is a temporary treatment for gemstones. This treatment is done to enhance the colors of gemstones.

Opaque

Gemstones that are described as opaque are not transparent or translucent. That means the light will not pass through it.

Posy Ring

This is a ring made with a verse on it.

Solitaire

This is a type of ring that only has only one gemstone or diamond.

Silver Plated

If something is silver plated it’s similar to gold plated jewelry. It is a cheaper metal dipped in silver. A lot of costume jewelry is made this way.

Tarnish 

This is a reaction that happens to certain metals, most known silver (especially if you are not wearing your jewelry). The surface of the metal begins to look dull and the color darkens and may even look stained. It loses its pretty shine. (Don’t worry, get some silver polish and keep your jewelry clean. Don’t forget to wear them!) Think of what a penny does after a while!

Wire Wrapping

This is a technique of wrapping wire to secure a stone or gem (or any other components) instead of soldering or using a jump ring. (I love wire wrapped jewelry! It’s so unique!)

Cutting Styles

Gems and stones are traditionally dug up from the ground and unfortunately, they do not come out perfect and ready to be set. We have to cut them to fit the piece of jewelry it’s needed for. Gem cutting, also known as lapidary, has been around for over a thousand years!

There are three basic gem cutting styles: brilliant cut, step cut, and mixed-cut. However, different styles and techniques are discovered all the time. Some people are so talented and creative, they are able to combine techniques! Let’s learn about some of these different cuts.

Brilliant Cut 

The brilliant-cut is a cut that has numerous facets that maximize the light return shown through the top of the stone. Its shape resembles a cone or triangle shape. This cut can really show off the beauty of a gem.

Step Cut

Step cut features square or rectangular facets. The facets are parallel to each other and appear larger than the facets of a brilliant-cut gem.

Mixed Cut

The mixed cut is a combination of brilliant cut and step cut. It shares both features. Part of the gem or diamond has multiple facets like a brilliant-cut and in a different part of the stone (like the bottom of it), it had the step (parallel styled) facets.

Rose Cut

Rose-cut has many triangular facets. Its shape is a multi-faceted base and a dome-shaped top. This type of cut is commonly used on small diamonds.

Briolette Cut

Briolette cut is a faceted stone that is pear-shaped. (Its shape also reminds me of a teardrop)

Princess-Cut

This cut is one of the most common and popular stone cuts to date. Princess cut when viewed from above it, has a square or rectangle shape and if you really look you can see the marking of an X on it. When it is viewed from the side it looks like an inverted pyramid (with four beveled sides). 

Emerald-Cut

An emerald cut is a type of step cut. Its shape is rectangular or square and has small rectangular facets.

Cabochon

A Cabochon is a stone that has been shaped and polished (opposite of its faceted counterparts).

Heart Cut

This cut is a modified brilliant-cut. It’s multi-faceted and expertly cut into the shape of a heart.

Ring Settings

When people talk about ring settings, they are often talking about the way the stone is secured and set (we don’t want that valuable beautiful stone falling out somewhere and getting lost). It really affects the overall appearance of the ring. Keep in mind some rings can have multiples of these settings, depending on the style you’re or your client is looking for.

Prong Setting 

This is one of the most common ring settings. It features three to six prongs (they look like a claw holding the gemstone) that secure the stone to the ring. There are different prong styles depending on the size and shape of the stone you choose. Round or square shaped gemstones may have four or six prongs (the more prongs the more secure). Other shapes, like hearts, may have three prongs or more, all depending on the size and placement of the stone.

Pave` Setting

Pave (pronounce paw-vay) has multiple small gemstones that are tightly clustered and adhered with beads of metal. The appearance of these small gems lined so close together creates a paved appearance. This setting has some extra sparkle and is really beautiful.

Halo Setting

This setting usually consists of a large center stone surrounded by a pave` or accent stones. Rings can have a small subtle single halo or it can have multiple halos in creative twisty designs.

Gypsy Setting

The gem is secured in a hole in the metal. When making it, the stone is set flush into a hole and then the ring’s metal is pressed and hammered to secure the stone. This type of setting does a great job of protecting the stone. (Note: this setting is not recommended for fragile stones)

Notice how all of the stones are embedded into the metal settings

Tension Setting

Tension setting can only be used for stronger stones like diamonds, sapphires, and rubies. With this setting, the stone is held in place by two ends of the band, giving the appearance the stone is floating. 

Bezel Setting

A bezel setting is when the perimeter of the stone or stones is made of metal. 

Earring Styles

I don’t know about you but I love earrings. There are so many beautiful earrings out there and different styles available. 

Hoops

Hoops circle from the front of the earlobe to the back. It legit makes a circle (like a hoop). They come in different sizes and colors and are made of different materials.

Studs or Post Earrings

Post earrings have a metal stem that goes through the hole and is secured in the back. These types of earrings are what is normally used for initial piercings. (You know when you go get your ears pierced for the first time and get your birthstone studs for your first pair. At least I did.) 

Drop Earrings

Drop earrings can “drop” just below the ear lobes. These are usually posts that just have a little extra that drop down but can also have a clasp in the back (like a hoop just not as circular). Click here to see a set of beautiful drop earrings with a post.

Dangle Earrings

Dangle earrings do just as described. They dangle. These hook through the ear and tend to be more free moving than drop earrings. These are a beautiful set of earrings. Dangle earrings can also be very long or shorter (still has to hang past the ear lobe). These can be very fun, but the bigger and longer they are typically the heavier they get as well. If one is not used to it, heavy earrings can be very uncomfortable.

Climbers

While dangle and drop earrings hang down, climbers do the exact opposite. It starts at the ear lobe and makes its way up the ear. The ear is hugged by a wire that helps create that “climbing” look. These are so cute and definitely change up a look!

The Breakdown on the Gold Karat

Did you know when making jewelry with gold, that the jewelry is not one hundred percent gold? It’s an alloy, a mixture of metals. Gold is mixed with silver, copper, zinc, palladium, and nickel. The way it’s mixed creates the different colors that gold can be. Gold is most commonly yellow, white, or rose. However, it can also be green, blue, purple and black!

You may have noticed on your necklace or the back of an earring some markings. These markings tell us about the gold that that piece of jewelry is made of. There are four different types of karats that gold can be. 10K, 14K, 18K, and 24K are the four types, but what are the differences? Let’s break it down.

  • 10K is the least expensive gold available but the most durable. However, it also has the least gold content. It’s made up of 41.7% of gold and the remaining is a mixture of other metals.
  • 14k is next in line for price and quality. It’s made up of 58.5% of gold. It’s also the most common mixture for gold in the U.S. 
  • 18k is made up of 75% of gold. Engagement and wedding rings are most commonly made of this gold.
  • 24k is 100% gold. It’s the purest gold. Jewelry made of this type is not as common because it’s soft and malleable (it can break easily).

Carat Versus Karat 

What is the difference between karat and carat?  We talked about karats being used to measure the purity of gold. Now, what is a carat? Carat is used to describe the size by weight of gem or diamond. If the piece of jewelry has multiple diamonds, the total carat weight is usually listed.

As you can see, two very different things. One is used for describing gold and the other is describing gems and diamonds. Though, bother can be used to describe one piece of jewelry. 

Living Jewelry (Pearls)

Living jewelry, while you can find jewelry made with succulents, we are talking about pearls. Pearls are an organic gem. They are made inside of a living shelled mollusks like oysters, muscles, clams and even snails! They are found in a variety of colors and sizes.

Just like with other gems, different pearls have different values. There are natural pearls, cultured pearls, imitation pearls, and freshwater pearls. There are also some fun pearl terms you may not have heard or no about like the mother of pearl and Mississippi pearls.

Natural Pearls

These are nearly one hundred percent calcium carbonate and conchiolin (these are complex proteins that mollusks secrete). It’s believed that these are created when the mollusk (the clam or oyster or whatever creature) goes through accidental conditions, like feeling threatened or irritated by an intruder.

Cultured Pearls 

These are made when a mollusk is artificially seeded with a tiny grain of sand. The mollusk then excretes a coating to protect itself from infection. After several coatings over the sand, it creates the pearl.  (Isn’t it amazing that a beautiful gem is created from a living creature trying to fend from infection?)

Imitation Pearls

Imitation pearls are man-made and can be made from mother of pearl or even items like glass or ceramic. They are often painted to match the color of a real pearl.

Freshwater Pearls

Freshwater pearls are made by mollusks that live in freshwater. These can even come in different shapes and are often less expensive than pearls from saltwater mollusks.

Mother of Pearl

This is the opalescent material on the inside of mollusk shells. This material can be scraped and used on other jewelry (including making imitation pearls).

Mississippi Pearls

These pearls have an irregular shape, usually very elongated.

Wrapping It Up

As you can see, there are a lot of fun and neat jewelry terms. The amazing thing is there are more terms you can learn. Once you pick your specialty or decide on what pieces of jewelry you want to create, you can use this glossary of jewelry terms to learn even more. 

There is always something to learn. Don’t be afraid to branch out and learn more about a specific gem or stone or new techniques. Keeping yourself interested will help you learn and help you increase your knowledge and expertise. Don’t stop learning! Happy crafting!

Be sure to check out some other nifty functional craft ideas through our other posts here on Craft-ILY as well as checking out some videos on DIY and How To’s over on YouTube. Look for “Crafting Unedited” to see!

Ci

Hi! I’m Cierra and I’m a craftaholic! I’ve been crafting for a few years now and it’s honestly become my zen. I love crafting, fitness, spending time with my family and friends doing whatever the day allows, peacocks (hence the logo), the beach and adrenaline - give me all the roller coasters and fast cars!

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