A handy guide to some common antique jewelry and gemology terms.


Adularescence - An optical phenomenon that creates the appearance of a bluish glow beneath the surface of a gemstone. Adularescence is most often associated with moonstones, but can occur in other gems.

Aesthetic Period - Lasting from around 1885 – 1900, the Aesthetic movement took hold in England, and celebrated “Art for Art’s Sake.”  Far Eastern artwork was used as inspiration to create pieces that were a purposeful departure from the rigid, heavily symbolic jewelry of the Victorian Era.

Acrostic Ring - A ring with gemstones arranged in such a way that the first letter of their name spells out a word. For example: Ruby Emerald Garnet Amethyst Ruby Diamond spells out “REGARD.”

Agate - A variety of the chalcedony with different colored banding.

Aigrette - A jewel worn in the hair that resembles a feather.

Alexandrite - A gemstone coveted for its color-change phenomena. Fine alexandrites appear purplish-red under incandescent light and green under daylight or fluorescent light. The stone was discovered in Russia during the 1830s, and is named after the tsar, Alexander II.

Alloy - A mixture of two or more metals combined into a homogenous blend. Metals are usually alloyed to increase durability or change their color. 10k, 14k, 18k, and 22k gold, as well as .950 platinum and sterling silver are alloys commonly used in fine jewelry.

Almandine Garnet - A dark, purplish-red variety of garnet, often seen in Victorian jewelry.

Amazonite - An opaque gemstone with a pleasant jungle-green hue.

Amber - An organic gem composed of the fossilized tree resin from ancient pine trees. Amber ranges from translucent-transparent in opacity, and from dark-brown to light golden in color. It is possible to find ancient remains of small plants or animals inside pieces of amber.

Amethyst - A purple, transparent gemstone that belongs to the quartz family.  Once an incredibly rare and valuable stone, plentiful modern sources have put amethyst within reach of the masses. Amethyst can range from very light violet to incredibly saturated purple in color.

Ametrine - A transparent variety of quartz containing sections of both amethyst (purplish color) and citrine (yellow color) zoning.

Amulet - An object believed to possess magical properties that protect or bring some advantage to the owner. Gemstones and jewelry have been used as amulets since ancient times.

Antique - An object that was made at least 100 years ago.

Aquamarine - A light blue, transparent gemstone that is member of the beryl mineral species.

Archaeological Revival - Referring to jewelry made during the 18th and 19th century that was inspired by ancient artwork, costume and architecture. Archaeological excavations at classical sites in Italy, Greece and Egypt provided much of the source material for these designs.

Art Deco - A design movement that flourished between the First and Second World Wars (1918 – 1939). In contrast to the Art Nouveau style that preceded it, Deco design was a nod towards the mechanized future, and was characterized by bold, geometric shapes, blocks of color, and linear, stylized depictions of the natural world. Egyptian and oriental motifs were favorite inspirations of Art Deco designers. Art Deco jewelry tends to feature carefully arranged gemstones in white-metal settings.

Art Nouveau - A design movement most popular between 1890 -1910. Meant as a departure from the heavily structured aesthetic of the Victorian era, Art Nouveau design celebrated nature with soft, flowing, lines and idealized portrayals of plants, insects and especially the female figure. Art Nouveau jewelry makes great use of yellow gold, colored stones and enamels.

Arts & Crafts Movement - A design movement that was at its height from 1860 – 1910. Frustration with the mass-produced wears of the industrial revolution encouraged a return skilled handiwork, and artisans began to produce hand-made jewelry that often drew upon medieval and folk art for inspiration.

Assay - The process of testing the purity of a metal alloy to determine the percentage of precious metals contained in a certain object.

Asscher Cut - A proprietary diamond cut developed in 1902 by Joseph Asscher of Holland. The Asscher cut is a square step-cut with a special proportion and number of facets to help the diamond achieve a greater level of brilliance.


Baguette Cut - A long, thin, rectangular step-cut stone. Like a loaf of French bread!

Bail - A loop on a pendant that allows the pendant to hang from a chain.

Bangle - An inflexible hoop of material used as a bracelet. Bangles are either large enough to slide over the hand, or are hinged to open and close.

Barrette - A hair ornament, similar to a brooch, fitted with a bar & catch on the back to secure the item in place.

Base Metal - Non-precious metal.

Bead Setting - A style of setting a gemstone where a tiny ball of metal is raised and then pushed slightly over the edge of the stone.

Belcher Setting - A style of setting a gemstone where the gem is set flush with the surface of a domed ring, and held in place by prongs carved out of the ring itself.

Belle Époque - An era of French history dating from 1871 -1914. Belle Epoque jewelry is characterized by garlands, bows and filigree delicately rendered in platinum and diamonds. The last decade of the Belle Epoque is contemporary and aesthetically similar to the Edwardian era of England.

Berlin Iron - Cast iron jewelry popular in the late Georgian era, c.1800 – 1830. Berlin iron is black in color, and was usually cast in elaborate, open patterns with neo-classical or gothic influence. During the War of Liberation (1813-1815) Prussian citizens who donated their gold jewelry to the war effort were given iron jewelry in return as a symbol of their sacrifice. Although originally produced in Berlin, “Berlin Iron” was often produced in other western European countries.

Beryl - A species of gemstone that includes aquamarine and emerald. Beryls can also be pink, yellow or colorless.

Bezel Setting - A style of setting where a thin strip of metal completely surrounds the border of a gemstone and holds it in place. Bezel setting is the earliest known style of stone setting.

Birthstone - A gemstone that is traditionally associated with a particular month, and is commonly given as a gift for individuals with birthdays within that month. For a list of commonly accepted birthstones click HERE

Blackamoor - A jewel featuring the bust of an African man or woman, often wearing luxurious clothing decorated with gemstones and enamel.

Bloodstone - An opaque chalcedony that is forest green with red speckles.

Bloom Finish - A popular finishing technique for gold used during the late 19th century. A gold object was boiled in a chemical solution that dissolved alloy metals on the exterior, leaving an extremely thin layer of pure gold at the surface. The coating is filled with microscopic pits, creating a pleasant, velvety matte finish.

Bombe - A rounded, bulging or dome shape.

Book Chain - A style of chain popular during the Victorian era, with large, interlocking flat links.

BraceletJewelry worn around the wrist.

Brass - A gold-colored base metal alloy composed of copper and zinc.

Brilliant Cut - A style of gemstone faceting consisting of triangular and kite shaped facets surrounding a central top “table facet.” The round brilliant cut is an incredibly popular faceting style for diamonds today, and is what most people imagine when they think of diamonds. Earlier styles of brilliant cuts are referred to as “old mine cuts” and “old European cuts.”

Briolette Cut - A drop-shaped, faceted gemstone.

Bronze - A gold colored, base-metal alloy of copper and tin.

Brooch - A jewel that is attached to cloth with a pin fixture. Brooches can be functional (i.e. securing a cloak or shawl) or purely decorative.

Brush Finish - A style of matte finish on metal created with a wire brush.

Buckle - A clasp that attaches to one end of a strap and allows the other end to pass through, creating an adjustable closure. Buckle motifs commonly appear on Victorian jewelry as a symbol of eternal love.


Cable Chain - A simple chain of round, interlocking links.

Cabochon - A style of gemstone cutting where the stone is given a smooth, domed top and a flat bottom. It is usually employed for translucent or opaque gemstones.

Cairngorm - A dark yellowish-brown variety of citrine quartz, traditionally found in Scotland and used in local jewelry production there.

Cameo - A gemstone that has been carved in relief to depict a scene or portrait. Cameos are most commonly carved out of agates or shell, although technically any material can be carved into a cameo. Often the natural color zoning of the material is utilized to highlight the relief.

Cannetille - A decorative technique popular in the early 19th century, featuring delicate coils and beads of fine gold wire fused to the surface of jewelry.

Carat - A unit of weight measurement used for gemstones. It is equal to 0.20 grams. Not to be confused with karat.

Carnelian - A brownish-red, translucent/opaque variety of chalcedony.

Cast - The process of replicating an object by use of a mold.

Chalcedony - Cryptocrystaline quartz that is transparent – translucent, and comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns.

Channel Set - A method of stone setting where a row of gemstones are arranged in a groove in metal, and the edges of the groove are pressed down over the stones’ girdles to hold them in place.

Choker - A short necklace that sits directly on the neck.

Chatelaine - A piece of jewelry worn on the belt and used to suspend keys, toiletries, writing utensils and other necessary objects.

Citrine - A transparent, yellow – brownish orange variety of quartz.

Closed Back Setting - A style of setting a stone where the pavilion of the gem is completely enclosed within the setting.

Collet Setting - A style of setting, similar to bezel setting, where a strip of metal surrounding a gem is crimped over the gem to hold it in place. Imagine a pie crust!

Conch Pearl - A calcareous concretion that form in mollusks known as conchs. Conch pearls come in pleasant pastel pinks and yellows, and fine specimens will show a flame-like

Copal - Fossilized tree resin that is younger than amber.

Coral - An organic gemstone formed from the skeletons of sea creatures called polyps. Coral naturally grows in branch-like formations, and the most valuable varieties range from light pink to a dark red known as “ox blood.”

Costume Jewelry - Jewelry made of non-precious materials, such as glass or base metal. Good craftsmanship or a designer name can give certain pieces of costume jewelry a value well beyond the sum of their parts.

Cuff Links - A device used by gentlemen to fasten the cuffs of dress shirts. It is kind of like a removable button.

Cut Steel - Faceted beads of steel that are riveted onto a back plate in patterns meant to imitate sparkling brilliant-cut diamonds. Cut steel was popular throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.


Demantoid Garnet - A bright, slightly-yellowish green variety of garnet, originally discovered in Russia in the mid 19th century. Demantoids often contain characteristic “horsetail” inclusions.

Doublet - A composite of two different gemstones, or a gemstone and glass that have been fixed together so as to appear to be a single gemstone.

Dress Clips - A pair of matching brooches that attach with a clip mechanism, as opposed to a pin.

Dress Set - A matched set of gentlemens jewelry for formal occasions that includes buttons, cufflinks and collar studs.


Earring - Jewelry that is worn on the ear.

Edwardian Era - Named after the King Edward VII, who reigned from 1901 -1910, this era is contemporary and stylistically similar to the “belle époque” in France. Edwardian jewelry is lace-like, and prominently features platinum and diamonds arranged in patterns of garlands, ribbons, flowers and leaves.

Electroplate - An electrical process used to plate base metal with a thin coating of precious metal.

Emerald - A grass-green, transparent gemstone variety of the beryl species of mineral. Emerald has long been considered one of the most valuable colored stones.

Emerald Cut - A style of cutting gemstones, not necessarily used for an emerald. Emerald-cut stones are a rectangular step-cut with beveled corners.

En Tremblant - French, “to tremble.” The term refers to jewels with movable parts that appear to tremble as the wearer changes position.

Enamel - Colored glass that is applied to the surface of metal as a powder and forms a smooth, vitreous surface when fired at high temperatures. Enamels can be almost any color, and have been used to decorate jewelry surfaces since ancient times.

Engagement Ring - A ring given by one partner to the other as a symbol that the couple has agreed to be married. In the United States, engagement rings are typically worn on the ring finger of the left hand.

Engraving - A design cut into a surface using a sharp tool. Engraving can be done by hand, or by machine.

Estate Jewelry - Jewelry that has been previously owned. Estate jewelry is not necessarily antique or vintage.

Etching - A decorative technique where acid is selectively applied to a piece of metal, and certain portions are eaten away to create an image in relief.

Eternity Ring - A band with gemstones set completely around the circumference. Diamond eternity bands are a very popular choice for wedding bands.

Etruscan Revival Jewelry - Jewelry made during the 19th century, inspired by the gold work of the ancient Etruscan culture. Etruscan revival jewelry generally features high-carat gold with intricate wire work and granulation. Use of gemstones is minimal.


Facets - Flat surfaces cut into gemstones and arranged in patterns that maximize a gem’s ability to show its color and reflect light.

Fede Ring - A ring featuring two interlocked hands. “Fede” means “faith” in Italian, and the clasped hand motif has been used in lover’s rings since Roman times.

Festoon - A motif of draped garlands, flowers, fruit or ribbons popularly used in jewelry of the early 19th century.

Filigree - Designs created with thin wires, intricately arranged and soldered to form a lace-like pattern.

Findings - Small parts and mechanisms such as clasps, jump rings, pins etc. that help make a piece of jewelry functional.

Fluorescence - Light emitted by a diamond when viewed under ultra-violet light. Fluorescence occurs naturally in some diamonds and not in others.

Fob - Small charms or pendants that are attached to gentlemens watch chains.

Foilback - A style of closed-back gemstone setting in which a small piece of foil is inserted behind the gemstone to enhance its ability to reflect light.

French Cut - A style of square, brilliant cut gemstone that is the precursor to the modern “princess cut.” “French cut” refers to the style of the gemstone, and does not necessarily mean a gem was cut in France.

French Enamel - A very finely executed miniature scene of painted enamel.

French Jet - Imitation jet made of black glass. It was popularly used in Victorian mourning jewelry.


Garnet - A transparent gemstone that comes in a wide variety of reds, oranges, purples, browns and greens.

Gemology - The scientific study of gemstones and their properties.

Gemstone - A mineral valued for its combination of beauty, rarity and durability.

Georgian Era - Named after the sequential reigns of the English kings George I – George the III, running from 1714 -1830. Georgian jewelry often features elaborately worked gold, colorful pastes, topaz, garnet and brilliant-cut diamonds set in silver collet settings.

GIA - the Gemological Institute of America, a non-profit gemology laboratory that provides education and gemstone verification/quality assessment to the public.

Gilded - An item coated with an extremely thin layer of gold.

Gimmel Ring - From the Latin word for “twin,” a gimmel ring consists of two separate parts that can fit together to form a single ring. They often feature clasped hands, or a message that is only revealed when the rings are separated.

Girandole - A popular Georgian earring style featuring three drops suspended from a central bow shape.

Gold - An elemental metal prized by jewelers since ancient times for its color, malleability and resistance to tarnish.

Gold Filled - A heavy gold plating where, as defined by the United States FTC,  at least 5% of the total weight of the object is comprised of gold, with the plating being 12k or higher.

Gold Leaf - 24k gold pounded into extremely thin sheets. Gold leaf is often used to decorate wooden objects and paintings.

Gold Plated - An object that has been coated with a thin layer of gold.

Granulation - A decorative technique, perfected by the ancient Etruscans, where tiny gold beads are arranged in patterns and fused to another gold surface.

Guilloché - An enameling technique where an engraved pattern (often created with a machine lathe) is visible through a coating of transparent enamel.

Gunmetal - A dark gray alloy of copper and tin.

Gutta-Percha - A natural, rubber-like material derived from trees. Gutta-Percha was used extensively in 19th century mourning jewelry, due to its dark color.

Gypsy Setting - A style of setting where a gemstone is set flush within metal, so its table facet is level with the surface of the metal.


Hair Jewelry - Jewelry that incorporates, or is completely made of human hair.  Hair jewelry was very common in the 17th and 18th centuries, and was most often a sentimental keepsake made with the hair of a friend, family member or lover.

Hallmark - Government issued symbols that are stamped on a piece of jewelry to guarantee its metal content. Different countries used different hallmarks at different times, and they can provide clues as to the date and location of an antique jewel’s manufacture.

Hardstone - Any gemstone that has been carved. The term generally refers to agates used for the carving of cameos and intaglios.  

Heat Treatment - The process of applying heat to a gemstone to improve its color or clarity.

Hematite - A dark gray, metallic, opaque gemstone. Often used for beads or intaglios.

Holbeinesque - 19th century Renaissance revival jewelry made in the style of Hans Holbein, a jewelry designer active in the early 16th century.

Horn - Animal horn carved and used in jewelry. It is light weight, translucent and comes in a range of brownish tones.

HPHT - Stands for “High Pressure, High Temperature,” and refers to an artificial process that is used to improve the color and clarity of diamonds


Inclusion - Internal features in a gemstone such as cracks, pockets of gas or small crystals.

Inlay - A decorative technique where different colored pieces of stone, metal, wood etc. are set flush to create a pattern or scene.

Intaglio - A gemstone that has been carved in recess, often used in the past to imprint an image on a wax seal.

Iridium - A hard, white metal that is often used in platinum alloys.

Ivory - The material that Elephant tusks are made of. Commonly used in antique jewelry, ivory is a heavily restricted material today.  Ivory is a creamy white color and often shows a characteristic lathe-like pattern referred to as “engine turning.”


Jabot Pin - A brooch with decorative elements at either end of a long pin. The name refers to the fact that they were originally used to hold the fluffy, lacy ties – i.e. jabots – of 18th century gentlemen in place.

Jade - Refers to two gemstones, jadeite and nephrite. Both stones range from opaque – translucent. Nephrite jade comes in green, yellow black or white. Jadeite is far more valuable, and can be any combination white, lavender, orange, brown, black or green.

Jasper - A general term for spotted agates.

Jet - Fossilized wood that is black, lightweight and easy to carve. The most prized jet comes from the town of Whitby in the UK, and was mined extensively during the 19th century to be used in mourning jewelry.


Karat - The purity standard of gold that is commonly used today. 24 karat gold is 100% pure gold, with other karats being expressed as a ratio. For example, 14 karat gold = 14/24, which means that approx. 56% of the alloy is pure gold.

Kunzite - A light pink variety of spudomene named after the famous Tiffany gem hunter, George Frederick Kunz.


Laboratory Grown - A gemstone that is produced in an environment controlled by humans, also referred to as “synthetic gemstones.”

Lapidary - A person or workshop that specializes in cutting gemstones.

Lapis Lazuli - An opaque, blue gemstone often found with characteristic flecks of gold pyrite.

Lava Jewelry - Referring to jewelry (particularly cameos) carved from rock surrounding the ancient Roman ruins of Pompeii. “Lava” jewelry was a popular souvenir for 19th century tourists. It has a clay-like appearance, and can come in tones of white, gray, black and terra cotta. Lava jewelry is not technically made from lava rock.

Locket - A piece of jewelry, typically a pendant or brooch, that opens to reveal a compartment meant to hold small, sentimental tokens such as a photograph or lock of hair.

Lost Wax Casting - An ancient process used to create intricate metal objects. An object is first carved in wax, the wax model is used to make a mold, melted out of the hardened mold, and replace with molten metal. The mold is broken away, revealing a metal copy of the original wax model. Lost wax casting can be used to make everything from small pieces of jewelry to large statues.

Lover's Eye Miniature - A small, close-up portrait of someone’s eye, usually set into a brooch or ring. Popular in the late 18th century, the purpose of the eye-portrait was that only one’s lover could recognize to whom the painted eye truly belonged.

Lover's Knot - A figure-eight knot design, used in commitment jewelry since ancient times.


Marcasite - Pyrite that has been faceted to look like small, brilliant-cut diamonds.

Moss Agate - A variety of agate with dark green moss-like inclusions against a translucent, white background.

Mother-of-Pearl - The shiny, smooth material that coats the inside of many mollusks’ shells. Mother of pearl is made of nacre, the same substance that pearls are made of.

Mourning Jewelry - Jewelry worn in remembrance of one who has passed away. It often features photographs, hair or the engraved obituary date.  Queen Victoria made mourning jewelry extremely popular after the death of her husband, Prince Albert, in 1861.

Malachite - An opaque gemstone with swirling, green banding.

Marquise Cut - A gemstone cut in an oval shape that tapers to a point on either end.

Matte Finish - A non-reflective surface texture.

Micro-Mosaic - A miniature scene that is created out of tiny pieces of different colored glass, called tesserae.

Millegrain - Meaning “1000 grains” in French, millegrain is a decorative technique that creates a tiny, beaded, border around set-stones or the edges of a piece of jewelry.

Mizpah – Hebrew for “watchtower,” the word Mizpah is often inscribed on sentimental jewelry and represents a bond between people who are separated by distance or death. It is associated with the biblical verse Genesis 31:49 “The Lord watch between me and thee when we are absent from one another.”

Monogram - A design made up of of a person or organization’s initials.

Moonstone - A translucent gemstone known for its intriguing bluish, gray glow.


Navette - Another name for the “marquis” shape, an oval with pointed ends.

Nickel - A silver-colored base metal that is often alloyed with silver or gold.

Nickel Silver - An alloy of copper, nickel and zinc that is made to look like silver.

Niello - A decorative technique where engraved depressions are flooded with a black alloy, creating a striking contrast with the background metal. Niello is most commonly applied to silver.


Obsidian - Black glass formed during volcanic eruptions.

Old Mine Cut - An early style of brilliant cut diamond, most commonly used from the 18th century through the early 20th century. Old mine cuts tend to be a cushion shape with high crowns and large culets.

Onyx - A variety of chalcedony with black and white banding, prized as a material for carving cameos. Onyx can also refer to solid black chalcedony.

Opal - A gemstone that displays unique flashes of color as it is hit by light. Opals are translucent – opaque, have a black or white background color against which rainbow patches of color are shown.

Opaline Glass - A milky blue, translucent glass that was popularly used during the Georgian era to imitate opals.

Open Back Setting - A style of setting where no metal blocks light from passing through the back of a gemstone. Generally speaking, open back settings are not commonly seen prior to the Victorian era.

Ormolu - A base metal alloy of copper, tin and zinc, sometimes covered with a thin gold plating.

Ouroboros - Ancient symbol depicting a snake swallowing its own tail. The ouroboros represents rebirth and eternity.


Paste - A special type of leaded glass that is cut to imitate gemstones. Paste can be any color, but it was most notably used to imitate diamonds.

Patina - Discoloration that occurs when metal is exposed to the atmosphere. Patina can be desirable in antique jewelry, as it allows the piece to “show its age.”

Pavé - French, for “to pave,” referring to a stone setting technique where a piece of metal is literally paved with gemstones

Pear Shape - A drop shaped, faceted gemstone that tapers to a point on one end.

Pearl - Pearls form when an irritant finds its way into a mollusk such as an oyster or mussel. The mollusk then coats the irritant in layers of a shiny, smooth material called nacre, which forms the pearl. Natural pearls are formed by chance in wild mollusks. Cultured pearls form when humans purposefully insert an irritant, usually a shell bead, inside a mollusk in order to encourage pearl formation.

Pebble Jewelry - Jewelry made of agates and granite found in Scotland, popular in the mid-19th century.

Pendeloque - A popular Georgian earring style, where a single drop is suspended from a bow motif.

Pennyweight - A unit of measurement used to weigh precious metals, equal to 1/20th of a Troy Ounce. It is abbreviated DWT.

Peridot - A transparent gemstone that comes in a narrow range of yellowish green colors.

Piercing - A decorative technique utilizing saws and drills to cut an open pattern in a piece of metal.

Pietra Dura - A form of inlay where pieces of gemstones are cut and arranged to form a flat image. “Pietra dura” is Italian for “hard stone.”

Pinchbeck - A gold-toned base metal alloy of copper and zinc that is named after its inventor, Christopher Pinchbeck, who invented the alloy in the early 18th century.

Pique - Tortoise shell inlayed with metal or mother of pearl.

Platinum - An elemental, precious metal prized by jewelers for its pleasing, steely gray color and incredible strength. Platinum was not commonly used in jewelry until the late 19th century when technological advances made it possible for jewelers to attain the extremely high temperatures needed to work the metal.

Plique-à-Jour - Enamel that is suspended within a frame, as opposed to fused to a backing, to allow light to pass through. The effect is similar to that of a stained glass window.

Pocket Watch - A watch that goes in a pocket! Pocket watches preceded wrist watches, and are usually secured to one’s clothing with a chain of some sort.

Point Cut - A diamond crystal that has been left in its natural octahedral form.

Poissard Earrings - Hoop earrings with front-to-back closures and an enclosed, curved wire that resembles a fish hook. They were popular at the turn of the 19th century.

Posy Ring - A ring that is inscribed with a sentimental poem or verse.

Princess Cut - A square, brilliant cut stone with characteristic “chevron” facets on the pavilion.

Prong Setting - A method of stone setting where metal wires that are bent over a stone to hold it in place.


Quartz - A readily available gemstone that comes in many colors. Some of the most prized quartz varieties are amethyst, citrine and rose quartz.


Radiant Cut - A cut-corned, rectangular brilliant cut gemstone.

Refining - The process of removing impurities from metal.

Retro Jewelry - Refers to big, bold pieces of “cocktail jewelry” made in the 1930s and 1940s. Retro jewelry often features yellow gold and large colored stones.

Reverse Crystal Jewelry - Sometimes referred to as “Essex Crystal,” reverse crystal jewelry is made by carving out a design in the back of a clear crystal cabochon, and then painting the carved impressions to create a miniature three dimensional scene. The scene is viewed through the curved front surface of the cabochon.

Rhinestone - Rock crystal or glass that is carved to imitate a diamond.

Rivière - A gemstone necklace featuring matching stones of identical or graduating size, all set in the same manner.

Rock Crystal - Transparent, colorless quartz.

Rolled Gold – A thin layer of at least 10K gold, fused to a layer of base metal by means of a rolling mill. Gold makes up no more than five percent of the total weight of a rolled gold piece.

Rose Cut - A style of gemstone cutting. A rose cut has a flat pavilion (bottom) and a faceted dome top.

Rose Gold - Gold that has been alloyed with copper, giving it a pinkish hue.

Rose Quartz - A light pink variety of quartz.

Round Brilliant Cut - By far the most popular cut of diamond today. An octagonal table facet is surrounded by a radiating pattern of triangular and kite shaped facets, and has a circular outline. The round brilliant cut is the descendent of the old mine and old European cutting styles.

Ruby - A transparent, red gemstone, belonging to the corundum mineral species. Rubies have long been considered the most valuable colored stone.


Sapphire  - A transparent, blue gemstone, belonging to the corundum mineral species. Sapphires can come in any color of the rainbow besides blue, in which case they are referred to as “fancy colored” sapphires.

Sardonyx - Banded onyx with brown and white layers, a popular choice for carved cameos.

Seed Pearl - A small pearl; in antique pieces it was a popular option for bordering or decorating larger pieces of jewelry. Seed pearls can represent tears when used in mourning jewelry.

Semi-Precious - A class of gemstone that includes everything but diamond, emerald, ruby and sapphire.

Setting - The place on a piece of jewelry where a gemstone is fixed. In antique jewelry, the most common settings are bead set, bezel or collet set, and prong set.

Shank - The part of a ring that circles around the finger. Also called “band.”

Single Cut - A style of cutting diamonds that features nine facets on the table and pavilion of the stone. Often used to cut smaller diamond accent stones.

Solder - A technique that joins two pieces of metal by using a third with a lower melting point. The kind of solder, or alloy, used depends on the type of metal of the piece. In jewelry, solder is used to make and repair metal pieces.

Solitaire - A style of ring that features a single gemstone as the focus point.

Spinel - A gemstone that can occur in a variety of colors, with red and mauve considered the most valuable.

Spring Ring - A round clasp. As the name suggests, its opening is pressurized with a spring.

Sterling - An alloy made of 92.5% pure silver.

Stickpin - A small, long pin with a decorative top.

Stuart Crystals - Jewelry made of faceted quartz placed over initials made of gold wire. These crystals could be set into rings or worn as pins, earrings or cufflinks. They originally came into fashion after the execution of King Charles in 1649, whose tiny initials were placed under crystal jewelry as a semi-secret show of support for the Stuart monarchy. They are considered to be an ancestor to mourning and memento mori jewelry.

Studs - Small earring that sit on the earlobe, and are made on a post with a separate backing to secure them in place.

Suite - A jewelry suite features several matching pieces, which could include a pair of earrings, necklaces, bracelets, brooches, and pendant or dangle attachments. May also be called a “parure.”

Synthetic Gemstone - Gemstones that are artificially created by humans, as opposed to naturally occurring and mined. Synthetic gemstones are chemically identical to their natural counterparts.  Synthetic sapphires were patented in 1911 and were popular accents in Art Deco jewelry.


Table Cut - In antique jewelry, a table cut stone is one with a square facet on top and an overall shape that mimics the rough form of a diamond.

Tanzanite - Named for the country in which it was discovered in 1967, Tanzanite is a blue/ violet variety of the mineral zoisite. It currently considered a December birthstone.

Tarnish - A layer of corrosion that forms with age on metallic surfaces. Because it only affects the surface of the piece, it can be buffed or polished away.

Tiffany Setting - Now a classic, this style of ring was introduce by Tiffany & Co. in 1886.  It is a six prong, solitaire setting, and is meant to allow more light to pass through a diamond to increase its sparkle.

Tiger Eye - A member of the quartz family, Tiger Eye is a gemstone with gold to red-brown banding. It is usually cut en cabochon to display a bright band of light, an optical phenomenon known as chatoyancy.

Titanium - Titanium, a silver colored metal, is favored for its strength, light weight, and resistance to corrosion. It was discovered in England in 1791.

Topaz - A transparent gemstone that occurs in a variety of colors; pink and golden yellow are the most valuable varietals, while colorless topaz is often heat-treated to a light blue color. It is a November birthstone.

Tortoise Shell - A lightweight, mottled brown material taken from the shells of large turtles and tortoise, mainly the hawksbill turtle. Tortoise shell is translucent, and comes in golden and brown tones. See also, “pique.”

TourmalineA transparent gemstone that can be found in a wide variety of colors, sometimes within the same stone. One option for October’s birthstone, this gem has been mined all over the world.

Turquoise An opaque, bluish green gemstone first mined in present day Iran and Afghanistan. The robin’s egg blue variety often found in antique pieces is called “Persian turquoise.” It is one option for the December birthstone.


Vauxhall Glass - Named for its place of manufacture, London’s Vauxhall Glassworks, Vauxhall Glass was reflective and usually a burgundy color, though orange, green and blue could also be found. It was originally set into jewelry as a budget alternative to colored gemstones, though today its rarity makes Vauxhall Glass pieces valuable to collectors.

Vermeil - Materials made of sterling silver that has been plated with at least 10K, but usually 14K, gold. May also be called “silver-gilt.”

Vinaigrette - Miniature containers that were worn on a person, either from a necklace, tucked in a pocket or suspended from chatelaine.  These little containers were opened and held under the nose. They were filled with pleasant aromatic oils and spices designed to mask the less than fragrant odors of the time.

Vintage - Vintage means something old but not old enough to be considered antique.  There are no strict guidelines as to when we can define items as “vintage” but as a generalized rule, jewelry that is between 20 and 99 years of age is considered Vintage. So yes, 1994 is now vintage!

Vulcanite - Vulcanized or compressed rubber material that was used in Victorian jewelry as a cheap alternative to Jet. Often molded into cameos, crosses and lockets as mourning jewelry. Over time Vulcanite fades to a rich brown.


White Gold - Gold that has been mixed (alloyed) with other white metals such as nickel, palladium, zinc or platinum. In the early 20th century, white gold became commercially available and took off quickly as it was a less expensive alternative to platinum. White gold was invented in 1912 but we typically do not see white gold jewelry earlier than 1917. Often white gold is plated with another metal, rhodium, to make it look whiter.


Zircon -  Zircon is a semi-precious gemstone that is an option for December Birthstones. The most common varieties of Zircon include; colorless, brown, yellow and blue. Zircon is often heat treated and most Zircon comes from Thailand and Vietnam.

Zoisite - The most known and sought after form of Zoisite is Tanzanite. Named for the country it is mined, Tanzania, Tanzanite is a violet blue gemstone whose most coveted hues are often confused with fine sapphires.