Jewellery Terms Explained
While we try to keep jargon to minimum, lots of terms unique to jewellery and watches inevitably creep into our descriptions of items and on other pages of our web site. That's why we've produced this section to explain any terms you might not understand.
We're adding words all the time, but if there are any other terms or expressions that you don't recognise, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to explain them - and probably add them to this glossary list too!
Jewellery Terms Glossary
A chain with a T-bar fitting. These were originally attached to a pocket (or fob) watch, frequently with a decorative medallion or other ornament attached to one end. Both the ornament and the whole ensemble were also sometime called a fob. Due to the decrease in waistcoat wearing, ladies borrowed their husband's or father's chains and wore these as fashionable necklets. As a result, new Albert style chains fastened with bolt rings instead of the traditional but heavy "swivel" fitting are now very popular. T-bars can also be bought separately to convert a standard chain into an Albert style necklet.
Alloy An alloy is a combination of two or more metals. Common alloys used in jewellery and giftware in the UK are:
Gold 9ct (37.5% gold with varying amounts of other metals such as silver depending on colour and other characteristics wanted), 18ct (75% gold), 22ct (91.6% and very soft);
Platinum (95% platinum);
Silver Sterling (92.5% silver); and
Pewter (92% tin with lead, antimony and a bit of silver or copper)
The time on a watch or clock is indicated by means of traditional hour and second hands.
See Fastenings - Earrings.
See Fastenings - Earrings.
An assay is a test of the purity of an alloy. A tiny piece of metal is scraped from the piece and the percentage of gold, platinum or silver is determined. Official assay offices in London, Birmingham, Sheffield and Edinburgh determine whether a piece qualifies for an appropriate hallmark.
See Water Resistance.
A type of mechanical watch movement that is wound merely by the movement of the wearer's wrist. So long as the watch is worn daily, there is no need to wind it up.
Baroque is a term that refers to irregularly shaped stones or pearls.
The metal part of a watchcase that surrounds the glass face. Can be rotating, especially in divers' watches. Also the word for the removable surround that holds a coin or medallion in a ring, pendant or other mount and which enables the coin to be held securely without being damaged but also taken out if required.
Conventionally used to describe jewellery for pierced parts of the body other than the ears as well as new fashionable items such as toe rings.
A brooch (also called a pin) is an ornament that can be pinned to a garment.
The system that is used to measure the purity of gold.
Pure gold is 24 carat and all other standards are fractions of this; for example, 18 carat is 18 parts gold out of 24, or 75%. This is also commonly shown as 750 (750 parts per 1000). Click here for more details in our hallmarks section.
Carat (usually abbreviated ct or K) is a measure of the fineness of gold, where 24ct gold is pure gold (although this is not a fineness that you can buy as it is too soft for jewellery). 9ct gold is 9/24 gold (about 37.5% or 3/8 gold) and 18ct gold is 18/24 gold (about 75% or Â¾ gold). The other standards in the UK are 22ct gold, which is 22/24 gold (about 91% gold) and 14ct gold, which is 14/24 gold (about 58% gold), but these are much less commonly used.
Confusingly the word Carat is also used as the scale to measure the weight of a diamond! 1 metric carat is equal to 0.2 grams. Click here for a fuller explanation in our Diamond section.
A feature of many multi-function watches, sometimes with two or more dials, that can be used as a stopwatch, lap recorder, etc.
The "Claddagh" symbol (usually in the form of a ring) belongs to a group of finger rings called Fede or "Faith rings" which date from Roman times. Fede rings have the form of two clasped hands, symbolising faith, trust or "plighted troth". This general form of ring was popular in the Middle Ages throughout Europe, and there are examples in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.
More specifically, about four hundred years ago in the fishing village of Claddagh, which is just outside the walls of Galway City in the west of Ireland, there was a goldsmith called Richard Joyce. Legend has it that he crafted the famous form of faith ring now known by the name of his home village and which today is one of the most familiar forms of Celtic jewellery. The Claddagh ring (or other piece of jewellery bearing the symbol) is particularly distinctive; two hands clasp a heart surmounted by a crown. The three elements symbolise:
Heart - Love Faith in Friendship - the Hands Loyalty - the Crown
The way in which a Claddagh ring is worn is important. Traditionally, when placed on the right hand with the heart facing out (i.e. with the crown facing in), the wearer's heart is still searching. When placed on the right hand with the heart facing in, there are possibilities. And when worn on the left hand with the heart facing in, your heart is truly spoken for.
See Fastenings - Earrings. Also refers to the typical fitting on bars for holding neckties in place.
A coronet setting (also called chÃ¢ton or arcade setting) is one in which the stone is held in by many metal claws around a metal ring.
The cross is among the oldest and most universal symbols, and is particularly popular for jewellery. Fashion has favoured large crosses set with a variety of gemstones; a gold cross on a gold necklace is frequently given as a bridesmaid's present, and of course a cross is an ideal gift for confirmations or baptisms. Click here for a fuller explanation.
Cufflinks are jewellery (usually men's) that connect the buttonholes of the cuff of a shirt. Some cufflinks are two button-like objects connected by a chain; the buttons go through the cuff's buttonholes. Another type of cufflink has a decorative button attached to a bar whose end swivels out to form a T-shape that goes through the buttonhole. Cufflinks were first worn in the 1800s.
Cuts (for gemstones)
A diamond cut, usually rectangular, but can also be tapered. Click here for a fuller explanation in our Diamond section.
A 58 facet cut diamond. One of the most popular cuts today.
A cabochon is a stone that has a rounded, domed surface with no facets.
A rectangular cut often used for emeralds (hence the name) but also for diamonds and other stones.
A fancy "boat shaped" diamond cut.
An oval diamond cut.
A square-cut diamond equivalent to a brilliant cut. Also called a Quadrillion or Squarillion cut.
A triangular version of a brilliant cut with truncated corners.
DiamantÃ© stones (or Rhinestones) are highly reflective glass made to imitate gemstones. The originals were colourless quartz obtained from the River Rhine, which were cut in an attempt to resemble diamonds. The finest diamantÃ© today is made of highly reflective lead glass, which is facetted and polished. Click here to see our range of diamante jewellery
Has two meanings! Either:
a) Embellishing a plain piece of metal, commonly gold or silver, with a brightly cut, engraved pattern using a diamond tipped tool, or
b) Cutting a larger diamond into smaller ones suitable for setting in jewellery. Click here for a fuller explanation in our Diamond section.
Numerals are used to display the time on a watch or a clock rather than traditional hour and second hands
Duo (or dual) display
A watch dial with both analogue and digital displays. This means that you can have a conventional dial with hands to show the time and also extra features such as an alarm or stopwatch.
A stamping technique in which a pattern (for example a scroll pattern similar to an engraved effect) is pressed onto a plain area of metal to leave the pattern in relief, i.e. standing proud above the plain background rather than cut in as in the case of engraving.
Enamel is a glassy substance made from powdered glass with colourants, which is heated until molten, and then fused onto metal to form a decorative finish. This might be a simple lined border or could consist of a complicated multicolour pattern resembling a stained glass window. Varieties include cloisonnÃ© and champlevÃ©.
Commonly used for decoration and inscriptions on trophies or presentation plaques. The recipient's name, date and further details are engraved onto the surface. The technique can be used to create intricate design motifs as well as inscriptions.
Another engraving technique that can be applied to plain metal, and is frequently used on powder compacts, cigarette lighters and larger pieces. Geometric, criss-cross designs are generally favoured.
An eternity ring is a narrow ring with a line of diamonds or other gemstones running all the way round. It is very symbolic romantically as the gift of an eternity ring symbolises a commitment for the rest of one's life (and beyond!) A husband often gives it to his wife after a number of years of marriage or the birth of a child to show that the commitment made at their wedding is as strong as ever. The most popular form of eternity ring today is called a half eternity - this has gemstones running around half the ring and a plain shank at the back, which enables alterations to be made easily over the following years. See our range of Full Eternity Rings/Half Eternity Rings
A facet is one of the flat surfaces of a cut stone or glass. Faceting is the cutting and polishing of the surface of a stone
Fastenings - Bracelets & Necklaces
There are a wide variety of necklace and bracelet fastenings all with their own special names, selected for quality of appearance, weight and balance of the jewellery: -
The basic type of fastening for a necklace or bracelet consisting of a hollow loop with an internal spring operated catch, which is retracted then released when attached to a link at the other end of the chain.
This is a fixed ring used to connect components in a finished article, or at the end of items such as necklets and to which bolt rings may be attached.
Looking just like a traditional padlock (but without a key), this fastening clicks into place and is commonly used on gate bracelets.
Pearl Fastener (Barrel)
Pearls are traditionally fastened by means of a clasp, one side of which screws into the barrel of the other.
Also known as a karab or lobster claw clasp (one look at it shows why!), this is related to a bolt ring as it has a trigger which lifts a bar, allowing a jump ring or other loop to be inserted. It operates like a mountaineer's karabiner. This is a popular fastening for heavier chains. A Squared lobster claw clasp is similar but with parallel side edges.
Other, more obscure, fastenings include the Box and the Ladder.
Fastenings - Earrings
There is a wide variety of earring fittings: -
A patented pierced earring fitting with a hinge half way along the earring stem. After inserting the stem, the hinged section drops down behind your ear to hold the earring in place. This system is only available from selected jewellers such as F Hinds.
A patented earring fitting for un-pierced ears. A U-shaped spring fits under the ear lobe and round the back of the ear to hold the earring in place. Claimed to be more comfortable than traditional clips as it does not grip so tightly, is lighter and not so bulky on the ear. Like "Andralok", this system is only available from selected jewellers.
A traditional hinged earring fitting for un-pierced ears.
See Lever back.
Usually for drop earrings and also called a hook wire or safety wire fitting, these earring fittings hook through the ear and hang down behind the lobe. They have the advantage of not requiring butterflies, which can be fiddly or easy to lose, but are usually larger and more expensive. Safety wire fittings also have a snap shut closure for extra security.
Usually for drop earrings, this is a type of hook fastening for pierced ears that utilises a hinged "lever" on the main part of the earring to close the gap to the end of the hook. Also called "Continental" due to its popularity in Europe.
Post and Butterfly
For stud or drop earrings and occasionally also called a "French Fitting", this is the commonest form of earring fastening for pierced ears using a 'post' attached to the earring, which connects with a separate scroll shaped device (butterfly) to hold the earring in place. Replacement gold and silver butterflies are readily available from all F Hinds stores. We also offer safety plastic earring backs with all earrings purchased for children - please ask for a free pair when you purchase. Butterflies that â€˜screw' onto the ear for extra security are sometimes found on diamond earrings.
A term meaning imitation. For example, "faux pearls" is often used to describe simulated pearls.
Not a jewellery term as such, but an increasingly popular inspiration for designers. Feng Shui literally means "wind and water". The ancient Chinese believed that, by balancing these two forces of nature, they could create harmony in their environment. From this would flow good luck, happiness, peace, wealth and wisdom.
In recent years, such ancient, mystic beliefs have come to the fore again as people have searched for a meaning beyond their day-to-day lives and traditional religions. Others just like the fashionable styles!
Filigree is gold or silver wire that have been twisted into patterns and soldered into place. Openwork filigree is not soldered onto a sheet of metal and is difficult to make. Imitation filigree is made of stamped metal.
Fineness is the proportion of silver or gold in a metal alloy. Fineness is usually expressed in parts per thousand. For example, the fineness of sterling silver is 925.
An attribute of many diamonds.
A gipsy (or gypsy) style ring is one with a recessed stone or stones. Also known as a star setting.
The girdle is the widest perimeter of a gemstone.
Grandfather & Grandmother clocks
See longcase clocks.
A mark, or series of marks, on a piece of gold, silver or platinum jewellery to guarantee the purity of the metal. In the UK this is applied by an Assay office and is a legally required mark for precious metal items over a specific weight. As the oldest form of quality marking in the world dating back to the 13th century, the hallmark can be considered as the very first example of consumer protection. It also provides information such as the year of manufacture and the maker. Click here for more detailed information on hallmarks.
The top part of a ring visible on top of the finger. This might be the gemstones and their setting in a lady's ring or the flat gold area of a man's signet ring. See also shank and shoulders.
See Fastenings - Earrings.
Intaglio is a method of decoration in which a design is cut into the surface. Signet rings are frequently decorated with intaglio, as are seals.
The description is given to a gem that displays a spectrum of colours that shimmers and changes as it is moved. These changes in colour occur due to optical properties of the gemstone that reflect and scatter the light. Opal is the most famous example of an iridescent gemstone (its milky white iridescence is called opalescence).
See Fastenings - Trigger Clasp.
See Carat scale.
A keeper ring is a ring that is used alongside another, more valuable ring to keep it securely on the finger. One classic design for a keeper ring is a shot ring.
A type of self-charging quartz movement. This acts in an equivalent way to an automatic movement in that the movement of the wearer's wrist charges the battery but has the added benefit of quartz precision timing.
Liquid crystal display - the way that the numbers are displayed on a digital watch or clock.
A locket is a pendant that can open up. Lockets have been used to hold pictures or locks of hair for centuries, and can also be used to keep a charm or other small, precious object. Oval, heart and book shapes have always been popular.
Diamonds - All total weights of 10 points or over that we quote are guaranteed minimum weights. This ensures that you know what you are getting from us. Due to the importance of matching stone sizes, weights under 10 points are approximate, but even then, we ensure that the average weight of the items we sell is at least as much as we quote and frequently it will weigh a little more than this. Gold Jewellery - because of manufacturing processes, gold chains of similar length vary slightly in weight. This is particularly true of chains with fancy links, which are often hand finished.
Mourning jewellery is a type of jewellery worn when one is mourning the loss of a loved one. It is often black, subdued jewellery (often made of jet or black glass and metal with a japanned finish) that commemorates the dead (sometimes cameos). After Queen Victoria's beloved husband Albert died in 1861, she went into an extended period of mourning. During these years, she wore black clothing and mourning jewellery. English fashion was greatly influenced by this, and mourning jewellery, especially jet, became quite fashionable for a considerable period.
A metal that was frequently used in fashion jewellery and occasionally as an alloy in gold jewellery. However, some people have an allergy or skin reaction to nickel which results in a rash, particularly if worn as pierced jewellery such as earrings. Recent European legislation - the "Nickel Directive" - strictly defines the amount of nickel that jewellery can contain, to ensure that it remains far below the level at which such skin reactions could become likely.
All the precious and fashion jewellery sold by TreasureBox.co.uk naturally complies with this legislation, and nickel content is usually far lower than the legal requirement. It can therefore all be described as "nickel safe". In fact, much is completely nickel free.
The pavilion is the top section of a gemstone above its widest point (the girdle).
Post and Butterfly
See Fastenings - Earrings.
Pearlescent A word that describes the appearance of a gemstone or a finish e.g. a knife handle that reflects light in a pearl-like way, but which is not necessarily a pearl. A pearlescent look generally has an illusory depth to it, seemingly of different layers of semi-transparent white and off-white coatings. The appearance of Mother of Pearl is also described as pearlescent.
The controlling mechanism used in most modern watches to govern the movement that enables the watch to keep time. This movement keeps extremely accurate time and helps to extend the life of the battery.
Rhodium is a transition element, belonging to the platinum group of metals. Rhodium plating is silvery-white in colour and used to both harden the surface it covers, and to create a brighter, more polished look to gold, especially white gold. Gemstones then show to their best effect and the claws holding the gems are firmer and less likely to damage. Rhodium plated jewellery is extremely hard wearing, tarnish resistant and will not be affected by body enzymes, perfumes and hair sprays, helping it to look good for years to come.
This is a traditional process invented in the 19th century in which a sheet of gold is laminated to a base metal (usually brass). The two layers of metal are heated under pressure to fuse them together. This is then rolled to make a thinner sheet, which can be used to make jewellery or other objects. Although not solid gold, this method produces items that wear well over time. Rolled gold pieces are often marked rolled gold plate, "RG" or "RGP". The proportion of gold is identified by weight in terms of total metal content (e.g. 1/20).
Rolled gold is most often used today to manufacture heavy items that will receive a lot of wear, such as bangles, and which would be very expensive if made from solid gold.
Safety Wire fitting
See Fastenings - Earrings.
A medallion, usually gold or silver, representing St. Christopher, the patron saint of travellers carrying a weary traveller across a river. It is supposed to give the wearer protection against the risks encountered when travelling and is sometimes decorated on the reverse with images of popular forms of land, sea and air transport. Usually worn as a pendant, but increasingly popular as a small charm on a bracelet.
A setting is a method of securing a stone in a piece of jewellery. There are many different types of setting, some of the most popular being:
A cathedral ring setting is a simple band with arcs like the arches of a cathedral nave when seen from the side.
A setting in which several stones are held in by two parallel gold or other precious metal borders and in which there is no metal between the individual stones, giving the appearance that they are floating within the setting. This is a popular modern style setting for eternity rings.
A claw setting is one in which a series of metal prongs (called claws) holds a stone securely in a setting (the claws grips the stone just above the girdle of the stone), with no metal directly under the stone (it is an open setting). This setting lets light in under the stone, so this type of setting is usually used for transparent, faceted stones. The modern-day claw setting became popular in the 1800s.
A crown shaped claw setting, the classic setting for solitaire diamond rings.
A setting with a recessed stone, also known as a star setting.
Millegrain ("thousand grains")
A setting in which the stone is secured by many tiny beads (hence "mille grains") of metal. It also refers to a band of metal that is decorated with tiny beads of metal.
Stones set close together, showing no metal between them
A stylish setting for gemstones in which the gold or other precious metal is formed into a rim that surrounds the stone and holds it in.
The Tiffany setting is a claw set ring with a high, six-pronged solitaire diamond on a simple circular band. Tiffany & Co. introduced this design in the 19th century.
Some settings are closed (there is metal behind the stone), while others are open (there is no metal behind the stone), letting light shine through the stone.
The shank is the part of a ring that encircles the finger, usually a plain band. See also shoulders and head.
A traditional style of metal ring (i.e. not set with stones) with one or more parallel rows of â€˜blobs' resembling shotgun "shot". These are worn by both sexes, although men's shot rings are often very heavy.
The part of a ring connecting the band encircling the finger to the setting at the top. Often decorated or stone set to complement the main part of the ring. See also shank and head.
A ring that was used as a means of identification, usually for rich or important people. The plain gold head or flat gemstone (such as onyx, cornelian or bloodstone) was engraved with a symbol identifying the individual. This would usually be a coat of arms or initials. Some signet rings also had intaglio-carved seals, so that a relief impression could be made in hot sealing wax, for example to seal an envelope. The earliest known signet rings date from ancient Egypt. Today signet rings are often decorated with engraving and maybe the wearer's initials.
Used more and more for watch casings and bracelets. Due to the latest developments in casting methods, stainless steel watches have a finer finish, are more durable, stronger, less likely to tarnish or dent.
A tennis bracelet is a simple, flexible, in-line diamond or other stone set (e.g. cubic zirconia) bracelet. The name was coined in the 1980s when the tennis player Chris Evert-Lloyd dropped her diamond bracelet at the US Open Tournament. She had to stop the match until she found it. Tennis bracelets have also been described as looking like a row of tennis balls!
A dark grey metal best known for its use in the aerospace industry but which is also used in the manufacture of watch cases and bracelets. It is both functional (being light and strong), and fashionable.
Titanium in its natural form is also used in jewellery as a metal for ear piercing studs for those who prefer a silver look or who may be sensitive to nickel, and when anodised (producing colourful surface swirl patterns) in fashion jewellery.
Torc (or Torque)
This style of bangle or necklace has a history that can be traced all the way back to Roman times; currently the bangles are very fashionable. Unlike bangles with hinges and fastenings, these bracelets are sufficiently pliable to be wound round your wrist, with a small gap between one end and the other. The bracelet ends are finished with a ball, which can be plain or embellished with gemstones, whist boxing gloves or hands, similar in design to Celtic Claddagh rings, are also available.
Partially transparent - translucent materials allow light to pass through them, but the light is diffused (scattered). Translucent gemstones include opal, amber and moonstone.
Trilogy rings are set with three diamonds to symbolise the three stages of a relationship, your past, your present and your future. As a result, they are very popular as anniversary rings.
Atmospheres (ATM) are the standard that water-resistant watches are measured against. One atmosphere is the air pressure at sea level and is equivalent to 10m of water.
3ATM (30 metres water resistant) - suitable for everyday use when in contact with water
5ATM (50 metres water resistant) - a watch that would come to no harm if worn in the shower or for recreational swimming
10ATM (100 metres water resistant) - a watch that could be worn for rigorous swimming, in the sea, diving and snorkelling
20ATM (200 metres water-resistant) - a watch that could be worn for scuba diving.
Please note that a depth such as "30M" is NOT the depth to which a watch may be taken - click here to learn why and for a fuller explanation of Water Resistance.
No longer used as a term as nothing can guarantee to be completely waterproof in all situations. See Water Resistance, above, for an explanation of more accurate terms.
For neck-chains or bangles, the wearable length is the length of that part of the item actually around the neck or wrist and so excludes, for example, the "Y" part of a "Y" necklet.