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ANTI-CLASTIC RAISING: Hand hammering gold with wooden mallets which causes flat sheets of metal to curl and curve.

BASE METAL: A common metal such as copper or nickel.

BEZEL SETTING: A method of seating a stone within a circle of metal to hold it securely, to protect the GIRDLE of the stone, to enhance its appearance, and as part of a design.

BRILLIANT: A round diamond, the most popular cut for diamonds. It is based on a mathematical calculation in which 58 facets are placed on a diamond by polishing. There are many variations in the way cutters follow the formula and it has recently been acknowledged that there is no one “ideal” way to cut a round diamond.

CABOCHON: Polishing a gemstone to a smooth, rounded surface. Used only for colored gemstones in which the reflection of light is not crucial. The back of the stone is generally flat.

CARAT: Term describing the weight of a gemstone, not to be confused with KARAT. A carat is 1/140th of a ounce; each carat is further divided into POINTS.

CASTING: Making a model or mold of wax or metal and creating multiple copies of the same item by using the mold repeatedly.

CHASING: Decorating the front surface of a metal sheet by making tiny indentations with an incising tool.

CLOISONNÉ: A form of enameling in which colored glass powder is placed within tiny wire cells called cloisons. When the piece is fired in a kiln, the glass melts and becomes a hard surface. The terms, like most of the language of enameling, are taken from the French.

COLORED GEMSTONES: A term I prefer to use for all gemstones in place of the vague and somewhat negative term, “semi-precious.” These stones are precious in their own right, and may even be more valuable than ordinary specimens of those known as precious. Craft jewelers tend to use unusual colored stones, either clear, faceted stones such as amethyst, citrine, peridot, aquamarine, tourmaline or opaque stones such as turquoise, agate. These stones may be FACETED or CABOCHON cut, depending on the quality of the gemstone material as well as the design they are intended for.

COST: A selling term that refers to the actual costs incurred by the maker. This includes materials and labor, as well as overhead, but does not include profit.

CULTURED: Usually referring to pearls, but also now applied to certain colored gemstones. Cultured pearls are grown within the oyster, but are given a start by the insertion of a bit of shell or mollusk tissue. Cultured gemstones are grown in the laboratory using the same material as found in nature.

DIAMOND: The hardest material known, diamond is a highly compressed form of carbon. The stone must be polished to bring out its beauty. Diamonds, in spite of the popular slogan, are not always forever. A diamond, which has grain like wood, can split along a cleavage line, either by accident or by the hand of the cleaver.

EMERALD CUT: Also known as rectangular cut, a geometric shape in which two sides of a stone are shorter than the other two. The result, in diamonds, is an elegant but less brilliant stone. It demands a fine quality piece of ROUGH because there is little chance of hiding INCLUSIONS.

ENAMEL: A term that covers several methods of melting glass powders to form a colored surface. The most popular method in use today is CLOISONNÉ.

ENGRAVING: A method of decorating the surface of metal or a gemstone from the front by incising a design into the surface. Small amounts of metal or gemstone material are removed in the process.

FABRICATION: Term used by metalsmiths to indicate work made by hand. It differentiates work made by CASTING.

FACETING: The cutting of a stone in which tiny planes are polished onto the surface to reflect light. Placement of facets is crucial in diamond polishing because light plays such a large part in a diamond’s brilliance. In colored gemstones, placement of facets is done more for artistic reasons.

FANCY COLOR: A trade term for a diamond with sufficient body color to be considered desirable. Color is rated in intensity from Very Faint to Vivid. The most common natural color diamond is yellow. The rarest is green.

FANCY CUT: A trade term for any diamond cut other than the brilliant, round or solitaire.

FAUX: A French word meaning “fake” or “false.” It is often used to describe beads resembling pearls that have no actual pearl content but it is sometimes used in low-cost jewelry for glass stones emulating genuine COLORED GEMSTONES.

FINDING: The small connectors that allow jewelry to be put on, such as clasps, hooks, and clutches for earrings.

FORGING: A hammering process to shape gold.

GIRDLE: The widest circumference of a gemstone.

GOLD: Pure gold, 100% gold, 24 karat gold that is at least 99.5% pure as it comes from the refinery. See KARAT.

GOLD ALLOY: For use in jewelry, pure gold is usually alloyed with other metals such as nickel or copper to add strength. The metals used in the alloy also effect a change in the color. Gold can be alloyed to be white, pink or red, green, or pale yellow depending on the metals used. The purity of the resulting product is expressed in KARATS.

GOLD ELECTROPLATE: An electrolytic process in which fine gold is deposited onto a metal base.

GOLD FILLED: A misnomer since the gold isn’t filled, it forms the outer layers of a sandwich in which a base metal center is permanently bonded by heat and pressure to a layer of karat gold that must, by law, be at least 10k.


GOLD PLATE: Often confused with gold electroplate. It is another term for GOLD FILLED.

GRANULATION: An elaborate and ancient form of surface decoration, comprising tiny balls of pure gold individually applied to a high karat gold surface. The balls may be arranged in patterns or used in single rows to highlight a design. This technique was perfected by the Etruscans around the 7th century B.C.

GREEN GOLD: An alloy of gold and silver, copper and zinc that has a greenish cast; is used to complement certain gemstones.

HAMMERING: Small mallets are used to texture or shape gold by repeated blows. See also: ANTICLASTIC RAISING.

HIGH KARAT GOLD: An expression for gold of at least 20 karat purity. This term is common in contemporary goldsmithing in which goldsmiths want the rich color of high karat gold. The higher the karat, the more yellow the gold. Some designers alloy their own gold to achieve exactly the desired color, even matching the alloy to the gemstones being used. Gold in small quantities can be alloyed with the heat from a hand-held torch.

INCLUSION: A trade term for any foreign material found within a gemstone. In diamonds, inclusions dramatically affect the ability of the diamond to reflect and refract light. This has led to an elaborate rating system to describe the degree to which a diamond is “included.” Also known as flaws. In emeralds, which are rarely without inclusions, elegant language such as “silk” and “jardin” (meaning garden) is used to turn a drawback into a virtue.

KARAT: A measure of the purity of gold based on a total of 24 parts. Pure gold has 24 parts of gold and is called 24 karat or 24k. Fourteen karat gold is 58% gold and is usually marked 14k; 18k or 18 karat gold is 75% gold and 25% other metals. In the United States, an alloy must have at least ten parts of gold in order to be marked as gold. Not to be confused with CARAT.


MALLEABILITY: The ease with which a metal can be worked by stretching, rolling, or drawing it. Gold is a very malleable metal and can be worked with hand tools.

MARQUISE CUT: A slender gemstone cut in which both ends taper to a point.

MATTE FINISH: A muted surface finish achieved in a variety of ways such as sandblasting.

MOKUME: A Japanese word meaning “wood grained.” It is a sandwich of metals, often multi-colors of gold, that are then manipulated to form patterns.

OVAL CUT: An egg-shape cut in which both ends are gently rounded.

PATINA: A film, actually a form of discoloration, which occurs on the surface of metal after it has been exposed, either to the atmosphere or to chemical treatment. In the hands of an artist, the patina becomes an integral part of the surface decoration.

PAVE: A setting technique in which small diamonds are placed closely together within a metal surface. The appearance should be that of all stones making the surface looked paved.


PEAR SHAPE: A cut in which one end is rounded while the other ends in a point. Proportions can vary greatly and a pear cut should be well balanced. This is often the choice when a stone has inclusions at one end. By trimming the end to a taper, the inclusions are eliminated and the value of the stone is increased.

PINK GOLD: An alloy of gold that includes copper.

PLUMB GOLD: A trade term that means the item actually contains the amount of gold indicated such as 14k or 18k. It dates from an earlier period in which manufacturers had a leeway of one-half karat and gold marked 14k could contain as little as 13-1/2 parts of gold. Rarely used anymore.

POINTS: A measure of weight for gemstones. There are one hundred points in a CARAT.

PRECIOUS GEMSTONES: A term commonly applied to the “big three” of the colored gemstone world: ruby, sapphire and emerald. It is a misnomer, however, since any one of these three can be of very poor quality and of little value, whereas a colored gemstone of another type can have higher value.

PRECIOUS METALS: A term covering metals that are extremely resistant to corrosion by most means. The precious metals group includes gold, silver and platinum.

PRINCESS CUT: A square diamond that offers much of the brilliance of a round diamond but which is particularly suited to channel setting.

PRONG SETTING: A system of holding stones in place by means of small metal wires that allow the greatest part of the stone to be viewed.


REPOUSSÉ: A metalworking technique in which metal tools are used to create patterns on a sheet of metal. The work is done from the back, unlike ENGRAVING or CHASING which are done on the front of the metal.

RETAIL: The final selling price of an object. It includes the maker’s COST and profit as well as the store’s profit.

RETICULATION: Treating surface of metal with heat or chemicals to make it melt and bubble to form interesting textures.

ROLLER PRINTING: A technique in which sheets of metal are run through a small rolling mill along with another element such as fabric, mesh screen, leaves, anything that will be embossed into the metal.

ROUGH: A piece of gemstone material as it comes from the earth. As the rough is cut or polished, gemstone weight is sacrificed for symmetry and beauty. In the case of a diamond, generally at least half the weight of the rough is lost in the polishing.


SANDBLASTING: A method of surface treatment in which the metal is bombarded with tiny grains of sand that create texture.


SIMULATED: A substance meant to look like another; for example, cubic zirconia, which is meant to look like DIAMOND. It differs from CULTURED material in that it is a completely different material.

SOLID GOLD: A term meant to imply KARAT GOLD, rather than GOLD PLATE or

GOLD FILLED. It does not mean an object is solid through and through.


STERLING OR SILVER: Silver is measured on a scale of 1000 parts. Sterling is 925 parts silver, 75 parts of alloy. Most silver jewelry is sterling and the terms are used interchangeably.

SURFACE TREATMENT: Any of many methods used to enhance a metal surface such as SANDBLASTING.

SYNTHETIC: A gemstone made in a laboratory of the same ingredients as the gemstone it emulates. It has come to be confused with imitation, which is one material masquerading as another such as cubic zirconia posing as diamond.

TENSION SETTING: A ring setting in which a diamond solitaire is held in place by the pressure of the metal. It is a dramatic setting for a fine quality diamond and allows the most light to enter the stone.

TEXTURE: The surface of metal that has been enhanced through SANDBLASTING,

CHASING, ENGRAVING or other means.

VERMEIL: A frequently misused term. It applies only to a base of sterling silver plated with karat gold.

WHITE GOLD: An alloy of gold and “white” metal such as silver.

WHOLESALE: The price of an item paid by the store to the maker. To this price, the store adds its profit, resulting in the RETAIL selling price.

YELLOW GOLD: Any alloy of gold in which the color remains true to the original color of the metal. Yellow gold may be as high as 24k or as low as 10k. Below 10k, it may not be marked as gold in the United States.

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