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Glossary of Jewellery Terms, Part 1, A~E

Have you ever read a jewellery description and wondered what all those terms meant? Alloy, Art Deco, Bezel, Carat ...? The first part of our glossary will put you in the know! We've picked some of the terms you're likely to find on this site, but if we've missed any let us know in the comments.

Word Board with Tiles Spelling out Glossary and Jewellery Terms

Akoya Pearl

Akoya pearls are cultured saltwater pearls farmed in the waters of Japan. Akoya pearls generally grow to no bigger than 9mm and are prized for their near perfect roundness and quality lustre.

Akoya Pearls

Akoya Pearls (Attribution: By MASAYUKI KATO - MASAYUKI KATO's file, CC 表示-継承 3.0,

Alloy An alloy is a blend of metals of different properties to form one metal that has all the required properties. In jewellery alloys are commonly produced to form an affordable base metal that is workable, durable, and replicates the qualities of the more expensive fine metals like gold and platinum. You can learn more about alloys in our blog, What Metal Is That? Antique An antique is a collectible item that has reached the age of 100 years or more. At the time of writing, anything manufactured before 1917 is antique! Antiqued A finish applied to jewellery to give the appearance of age. (See our blog, About Platings, Your Jewellery's Finishing Touch to learn more).

Art Deco Art Deco, or Arts Décoratifs to give it its proper name, is the revolutionary style of the 1920s to 1930s. Art Deco is recognisable by its bold geometric shapes and strong lines, vivid colours set in white gold tones, and futuristic designs. Think flappers and The Great Gatsby and you've got it!

Art Deco Styled Modern Silver Cuff Bracelet

Art Deco Styled Bracelet Art Nouveau The Art Nouveau period preceded the Art Deco period, covering the 1890s to the 1910s. Art Nouveau was strongly influenced by the natural world with inspiration drawn from insects, birds, and the female form. The lines are softer and flowing.

Colourful Art Nouveau Dragonfly Pin

Female Form Dragonfly Brooch from the Art Nouveau Era Aurora Borealis Aurora Borealis, named after the Northern Lights natural phenomenon, is the reflective rainbow colours applied to crystal. The term is often applied to all glass crystal with a rainbow shimmer, but true Aurora Borealis crystal was developed by Manfred Swarovski working in collaboration with Christian Dior in the 1950s. Swarovski developed the technique of applying a thin coating of metal to a clear crystal to create a whole spectrum of colour in one gem. Aurora Borealis was immediately popular because these versatile gems looked fantastic with any gown, whatever the colour!

Fancy Drop Earrings with Aurora Borealis Crystals

Earrings Featuring Aurora Borealis Rhinestones from the Alyssum Jewellery Range Austrian Crystal Austria has long been renowned as the world leader in crystal manufacture, most notably lead by the instantly recognisable name of Swarovski. Austrian crystal is produced using quality glass with a high lead content (lead crystal), and is versatile enough to be cut into many gemstone shapes, coloured in many different hues, and formed into imitation diamonds. Bezel A method of setting a gem into a piece of jewellery (or a watch face into a watch) by way of a rim that surrounds the stone and extends very slightly over the edge. This method is very secure and a great choice for jewellery that's at risk of being knocked as the bezel edge protects the stone from chipping.

Vintage Gold Jewellery with Bezel Set Gemstones

Vintage Gold Bracelets Featuring Bezel Set Cabochon Stones Boho / Bohemian Boho is a fashion style centred around organic and folk-inspired (think Romany gypsy or hippie) trends. The look is natural, soft, flowing and arty, In jewellery terms you'll find it in beads and bangles, natural materials such as leather, wood and feathers, and a slightly ethnic look.

Examples of Boho Bracelets in Leather and Wood

Examples of Modern Bohemian Styled Jewellery Brooch A brooch is decorative jewelled pin designed to be worn on clothing. You might see it misspelled 'broach', which is certainly closer to the pronunciation! Brooches went out of fashion for a while from the 1960s, but they're finding their niche again thanks to their versatility. A brooch can still be worn on a gown or coat but the more adventurous are using them on ribbons around wedding cakes, in bridal bouquets, and also making a statement by pinning brooches in clusters on bridal skirts for a dazzling Hollywood sparkle!

A Selection of Colourful Brooches in a Heart Shape

Colourful Vintage Brooches

Cabochon Cabochon (or en cabochon to use the correct term) is a way of cutting a gemstone that results in a highly polished, smoothly rounded finish with no facets. It's most commonly used in oval stones, but also frequently seen in round stones.

Necklace Set with Colourful Round and Oval Cabochon Gemstones

This Necklace Set Features Colourful Round and Oval Cabochon Cut Gemstones

Cameo A cameo is a raised picture carved into jewellery, most often in the form of a portrait. The cameo is a centuries old tradition in jewellery possibly originating from Mediterranean Europe.

Vintage Pendant Necklace Featuring Quality Carved Cameo Portrait

The Carved Cameo Portrait in this Vintage Pendant is Exquisitely Detailed

Carat Carat (not to be confused with the gold purity measure Karat) is a unit of weight in the gemstone world equal to 200 milligrams, so if your fiancé presents you with a 40carat diamond ring (like the one Jacqueline Kennedy received from Aristotle Onassis) your total weight of diamond would be eight grams! Best get exercising those finger muscles, just in case!

The Famous 45.52 Blue 'Hope Diamond'

The Famous 45.52 Carat (9.1 gram) Blue Hope Diamond, Set in a Pendant (Image Attribution: By Diamondhistorygirl (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)

Choker Choker refers to a length of necklace approximately 40-45cm, that sits around the base of the throat. It's a very flattering length that suits most necklines.

Collar Length Necklace

​Collar Length Necklace

Claw Setting The claw setting is a way of fixing a stone into jewellery by way of tiny prongs that grip the stone in place. Also known as prong setting.

A Large Amethyst Stone Claw Set Into A Ring

Clip-On A style of earring fastener that doesn't require the ear to be pierced. Clip-on earrings have a tension spring paddle to clip the earring to the lobe, or a hinge. To find out more about different styles of clip-on earring we've listed all you need to know in our blog, The Different Types Of Clip-On Earring Fastener. Cluster A cluster is a setting of multiple smaller gemstones surrounding a larger gemstone, or a group of matching gemstones 'clustered' together.

Cluster Set Clip-On Earrings From Alyssum Jewellery

Marquis Cut Gems Cluster Set in Clip-On Earrings From Alyssum Jewellery

Collar ​A collar is a close fitting necklace that sits high on the neck. Chokers are typically defined as being between 35cm and 40cm in length and they can be made of many materials including ribbon, lace, pearls and gemstone jewellery. A choker works very well with any outfit that reveals the décolletage or shoulders

Model Wearing Rhinestone Choker Necklace

This Model Wears a Broad Rhinestone Collar Necklace

Costume Jewellery Costume jewellery is the term given to jewellery made from inexpensive materials such as alloys and artificially produced, or semi-precious, gemstones. Most modern costume jewellery is plated with precious metals and the processes for producing glass and crystal gemstones has greatly improved, meaning that today's costume jewellery can look very high-end indeed, but with an affordable price tag. Crystal This is a loose term that can define a naturally produced gemstone such as amethyst or quartz, or a man-made product like cubic zirconia. It also refers to a transparent glass gemstone or bead, and to sparkly artificial diamonds like rhinestones. You'll see the term 'crystal' all over our website and where possible we'll always try to tell you if it's glass crystal, Swarovski crystal, cubic zirconia or rhinestone.

Raw and Semi-Polished Amethyst Crystal

Cubic Zirconia Cubic Zirconia is an entirely man-made product renowned for its startling similarity to real diamond. It's almost as hard as diamond, brilliant in its radiance, can be cut to any shape like a diamond, and can even be produced in different diamond colours like pink, black, champagne etc. To the naked eye the cubic zirconia is indistinguishable from the real thing, making it a very popular choice for high-end fashion jewellery and costume jewellery. You can learn more about cubic zirconia and how it compares to real diamonds in our blog, Cubic Zirconia (CZ) versus Real Diamond, how do they compare? Enamel / Enamelled Enamelling is a way of adding colour to an item of jewellery, much like paint, by way of a process that fuses powdered glass to the metal surface when fired at high temperatures. You can get lots of colourful images using enamel, but enamel can also be colourless and used to add a gloss finish.

Enamelled Christmas Earrings from Alyssum Jewellery

Emerald Cut Emerald cut, not to be confused with the colour emerald or the emerald precious gem, simply means that a gemstone has been cut in a square or rectangular shape with stepped edges. The emerald cut was originally designed to highlight the colour of emeralds but later gained popularity as a cut for all gemstones.

Emerald Cut Emerald Gemstone in a Pendant

Etched Etching is a process of adding patterns or designs to jewellery by use of a chemical process, or by diamond cutting. Etched jewellery will have patterns or pictures cut into the metal to add an extra element of design.

Bracelets with Etched Designs Our glossary will continue with part two at a later date.

Next week we hope you enjoy "The Changing Earring Styles of the 1960s"

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