Glossary of Jewelry Terms

  • a

    Applique

    Decorative silver cutouts, such as leaves or feathers, soldered to a silver jewelry item.
  • b

    Bail

    A loop or hook on the top of a piece of jewelry where a chain, cord, or string of beads fits through.

    Bezel Setting

    A method of setting gemstones in which the stone is held in the mounting by a narrow band of silver surrounding the girdle (outside perimeter) of the stone which is soldered to the silver base.

    Bolo Tie

    The Western “String Tie” made famous by cowboys. Generally made from a braided leather cord secured by a center ornament.
  • c

    Cabochon

    A stone with a rounded surface, rather than with facets. This style is commonly used with opaque to translucent stones such as opal, coral, onyx, moonstone, jade, turquoise, amethyst, garnet and topaz. The calibrated sizes are generally standard worldwide.

    Carat

    Abbreviated "ct." and spelled with a "c" is a measure of weight used for gemstones. One carat is equal to 1/5 of a gram (200 milligrams). Stones are measured to the nearest hundredth of a carat. A hundredth of a carat is also called a point. Note: karat with a "K" is a measure of the purity of a gold alloy.

    Casting

    Creating handmade silver jewelry using molten silver and a mold of tufa stone, sandstone or other material.

    Chasing

    A metal smithing term; the process of moving metal laterally to achieve line or form. A silversmith may have as many as 100 chasing tools, each to achieve a particular affect.

    Choker

    Short (generally 14-15 inch) necklace, usually of beads, pearls or chain.

    Clasp

    A hook or device used to hold the ends of a necklace or bracelet together.

    Cluster

    Zuni style grouping of stones in individual bezels.

    Coin Silver

    Original old silver coins melted to be cast as jewelry. The percentage of silver varies.

    Concha/Concho

    The Spanish term for shell; may be oval or round, frequently with scalloped edges, with or without stones; may appear in rings, pendants, bolos, buckles and belts.
  • e

    Embossing

    A process used in silverwork in which the piece is decorated or shaped in a raised design.

    Engrave

    To decorate metal by gouging a design with graver's tools; embellishing metal or other material with patterns using a stamping tool or drill. Stamped pieces can be designed to imitate hand engraving. Under magnification, the design is much sharper in a hand engraved piece, with subtle irregularities.
  • f

    Fetish

    An animal shape made by many Southwestern Indian tribes. Fetishes are objects that represent the spirits of animals or the forces of nature. Original fetishes were simple stones (shells, turquoise or bone) that seemed to resemble people or animals, sometimes made more realistic by a carver. The Zuni people have the reputation of being the most skilled at fetish carving.

    Filework

    Technique used in finishing silver jewelry...can also be used as a decorative tool.
  • g

    German Silver

    See Nickel Silver.
  • h

    Hallmark

    Native American Indians artist mark...stamped, cast or engraved initials, names or symbols usually on the back of the jewelry item.

    Heishi

    A Pueblo term literally meaning shell: discs or tubes with a hole in the center, usually of turquoise, coral, shell, or other materials, strung together to form a flexible strand, often of graduated size. The Santo Domingo Pueblo people of New Mexico are known for fine heishi beads.

    Host Rock/Mother Rock

    The host rock is the material at the site in which a gem is formed.
  • i

    Inlay/Inlaid

    Fine stones, shell and other materials are cut and fit into silverwork or on shell so that it is flush with the surface. Channel inlay has silver spacers between the stones. Cobblestone inlay has beveled edges on each stone and is set without silver spacers.
  • j

    Jet

    Jet is a black form of fossilized wood similar to coal, but harder. Jet and amber have a close relationship...they both come from trees, amber being fossilized tree resin and jet the fossilized wood.
  • l

    Liquid Silver

    Silver heishi...a type of necklace or bracelet constructed of very thin, fine, small silver cylinders originally strung on catgut, now strung on fine wire or floss.
  • m

    Matrix

    The matrix is the part of the turquoise host rock that can be seen in a stone between the turquoise vein formations. The color and distribution of the matrix varies widely due to the composition of the host rock and formation time of the turquoise. American turquoise is known for interesting matrix patterns and colors.

    Mosaic Inlay

    A technique where the cut stones are set side by side rather than with a metal spacer between the stones. Santa Domingo mosaic is some of the best.
  • n

    Naja

    The crescent shaped pendant that hangs from squash blossom necklaces and other jewelry items.

    Needlepoint

    Small stone cluster work using bezel set stones that are pointed at both ends. Zuni artists are famous for needlepoint.

    Nickel Silver

    A white metal mixture of copper, zinc, and nickel also known as German silver. It does not contain any silver. Many people are allergic to nickel. Sterling silver does not contain nickel.
  • o

    Overlay

    A technique of silver working where two sheets of silver are soldered together after first cutting out a design in the top layer. The bottom layer is usually textured and oxidized for contrast. It was made famous by the Hopi tribe of Arizona after WWII.

    Oxidize

    To use chemicals to blacken silver to create greater accents or contrast on a silver jewelry item or to give the silver an antique look.
  • p

    Pendant

    An ornament that can be suspended from a chain or necklace.

    Pettipoint

    Similar to needlepoint but typically round stone clusters versus needle shape. In practice, much needlepoint jewelry is referred to as pettipoint.

    Post

    A pin-like finding attached to an earring. It passes through the pierced earlobe and is usually secured by a clutch.

    Prong

    A claw or wire used to fasten and hold a stone in a setting.
  • r

    Repousse

    Hand wrought silver is hammered from the back to create embossed or raised designs.
  • s

    Sandcast

    Molten metal is poured into cavities in stone, sand or cuttlebone molds to form a shape.

    Shank

    In a ring, the shank is the part that surrounds the finger. In bracelets, it surrounds the wrist. Mountings holding stones are attached to the top of the shank.

    Snake Eyes

    Tiny, round domed pieces of stone set in bezels. Sometimes called pettitpoint.

    Solder

    A process in which two or more metal items are joined together by melting and flowing a fill metal into a joint.

    Spiderweb

    Spider web is a highly desired net looking matrix pattern seen in turquoise and other stones.

    Squash Blossom Necklace

    The Navajo word describing this type of necklace means "bead that spreads out." These necklaces have flared out silver strips resembling an actual flower of the squash plant on each side medallion of the necklace and a crescent shaped centerpiece.

    Stampwork

    Designs made by striking silver or gold with small metal punches to stamp designs, initials or hallmarks.

    Sterling Silver

    Metal containing silver of .925 and .075 copper to make it harder. Stamped 925, .925 or sterling.
  • t

    Turquoise

    The Skystone...a hydrous phosphate compound of aluminum and copper. The color and properties range slightly due to its formation processes and the host rock properties. Turquoise is fairly fragile and absorbent. It should not be soaked in water or exposed to oils, dirt or acids. The color of turquoise can vary from deep blue to deep green with every variation in between. Generally the more copper in the molecule, the bluer the turquoise (mines in Arizona). Iron in the stone makes it greener (mines in Nevada).