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Glossary of Jewellery Terms, Part 2, F~Z

Continuing our Glossary of Jewellery Terms from Facet to Vintage, we bring you a quick easy reference guide to commonly used jewellery (or jewelry!) expressions. The first part of our glossary, A to E, can be found here.

Hint: Words in red are defined elsewhere in our glossary!

Zoomed in Image of Word Glossary in Dictionary

Facet A facet is a small flat polished surface cut into a gem to enhance its light refraction and add that dazzling element of sparkle.

Faceted Gem

A multi-faceted gem showing the sparkle from the carefully placed cuts.


This is a French word meaning imitation. Rhinestones and cubic zirconia are faux diamonds, and faux pearls may be made out of glass or mother-of-pearl. There are many other materials used to make faux gems, and some are so good they're difficult to differentiate from the real thing! Filigree Filigree, traditionally, is a way of working jewellery from fine wire thread and solder, creating delicate lacework patterns, but in modern costume jewellery terms filigree is often cast in a mould to give the same look.

Filigree Brooch

A modern brooch moulded in a filigree style, from Alyssum Jewellery.

Freshwater Pearl

Freshwater pearls are a natural organic gemstone produced in the shells of freshwater oysters and molluscs. They're slower growing than saltwater pearls but can grow much bigger, and often have irregular off-round shapes and grooves and whorls.

Freshwater Pearl Strand Showing Grooves and Whorls

This strand of freshwater pearls shows the naturally occurring whorls and grooves - every pearl is unique!

Gem / Gemstone A natural gemstone is a precious, or semi-precious mineral crystal stone which is cut and polished to form a jewel. Advances in science in the 19th Century developed ways to reproduce and artificially create faux gemstones for use in costume jewellery, making jewellery more affordable for all. To learn more about gemstones see our alphabetical series of Gemology articles.

Collection of Uncut Mineral Crystal Gemstones

The wonderful range of colours and textures are clear to see in this selection of different mineral and crystal gemstones.

Intaglio Intaglio refers to the art of engraving or carving an image into a gemstone, much like a cameo in reverse. The advantage of intaglio over cameo is that the image is below the level of the stone and so remains protected from chipping, abrasion or erosion. Karat Karat (not to be confused with the gemstone weight measure, carat) refers to the purity rating of gold: pure gold is 24 karat. Gold is a soft metal so sometimes it is mixed with an alloy to make it more durable. Gold labeled 18 karat is 18 parts pure gold to six parts alloy, and 14 karat gold is 14 parts gold to 10 parts alloy (it always adds up to 24!). You can find out more in our blog "About Platings, Your Jewellery's Finishing Touch".

14 Karat Gold Stamp on Earring Post

A somewhat out-of-focus image of a 14k stamp on earring post.

Lacquered A lacquer is a protective coating applied to jewellery to protect it from tarnish, or to protect the wearer from an allergic reaction. Jewellery that tarnishes easily, like silver, is often coated with a thin layer of lacquer to keep it bright and sparkly in the store, but the lacquer soon wears off with use. If you've ever bought a silver comb, or brooch and thought it felt a little like plastic this is because of the protective lacquer. Lapidary / Lapidarist Lapidary relates to the art of cutting or engraving a gemstone. A skilled gemstone cutter is also known as a lapidary, or more commonly now as a lapidarist to distinguish the art from the artist. Marquis / Marquise This is a method of cutting a gem into an oval with pointed ends, with an aspect ratio of 2:1 (length:width). The cut was first commissioned by King Louis XV of France who wanted a gemstone reminiscent of his mistress's (the Marchioness Madame De Pompadour) mouth! Also known as the Navette cut.

Marquise Cut Crystal Cluster Earrings from Alyssum Jewellery

These marquise cut cubic zirconia earrings are available from Alyssum Jewellery.

Mother-of-Pearl The mother of a pearl is the mollusc it grew within, and mother-of-pearl in jewellery terms relates to the colourful and lustrous nacre lining the shell. The lining can be flaked off in sheets and is often used to add shimmer to pendants and earrings.

Oyster Shell with Creamy Mother-Of-Pearl

The mother-of-pearl nacre has formed a thick cream and green layer in this shell, but different molluscs can produce mother-of-pearl in many different colours.

Nacre Nacre is a natural substance produced within oysters and molluscs. It forms the lining of the shell (mother-of-pearl), and is also what pearls are made of. When an irritant enters the shell of a mollusc, the mollusc immediately begins coating it in layer upon layer of nacre as a defence, and the result is a pearl! Pave Pave refers to a way of setting gems very close together and all at the same height, like cobblestones on a pavement. Their placement should be close enough together to make it hard to see the stone's mounting.

Pave Set Crystals in Alyssum Jewellery Earrings

The pave set crystals create a stunning frame for these larger single gems. Earrings available from Alyssum Jewellery.

Pear Cut A way of cutting gemstones into the shape of a pear, or teardrop, with one end wide and round and the other end pointed.

Pear Cut Gems in Alyssum Jewellery Clip On Earrings

Simple pear cut crystals are a classic and timeless look in jewellery, and these faceted pear cut clip-on earrings are available in many colours from Alyssum Jewellery.

Pearl A naturally occurring organic gemstone produced in the body of a mollusc, such as an oyster or mussel. Different molluscs can produce pearls of different colours and sizes, with some molluscs producing perfectly round pearls, and others producing pearls varying from off-round to puddle shaped. The main pearl varieties are Akoya (saltwater), Freshwater, South Sea and Tahitian, and they can be found in naturally fished molluscs and farmed molluscs (cultured pearls).

A Selection of Mixed Pearls

Pearls can be perfectly round or baroque (irregularly shaped), smooth or ridged and pitted, and come in several natural colours as seen in this picture.

Pendant A pendant is a ornament, decoration or charm that hangs from a chain around the neck, wrist or ankle. Pendant is from the Latin 'pendere', which means to hang down.

A 5 Carat Cubic Zirconia Pendant Hanging from a Silver Chain

A single solitaire makes a stunning pendant, as in this 5 carat cubic solitaire pendant from Alyssum Jewellery.

Plate / Plated / Plating A plating is a layer of precious metal applied to a base metal to give the look of expensive jewellery at a fraction of the cost. Plated jewellery protects the wearer from any allergic reaction to the cheaper metals used in the base alloy and provides a quality finish to costume jewellery. You can find out more about platings in our blog, "About Platings, Your Jewellery's Finishing Touch." Refraction You could call this a trick of the light! When light strikes the surface of a faceted gemstone part of it is reflected, and part of it refracted. Refracted light enters the stone and bounces around the internal surfaces before exiting and giving that all important sparkle. The better the quality of the cut and clarity of the gemstone the more light can be refracted, and the higher wattage the sparkle!

Diamond Gem Showing Light Refraction

The stunning sparkle in this diamond is a result of light refraction.


Short for 'retrospective', meaning to look back, Retro refers to anything imitating a style of the recent past, like the fashions of the 80s and 90s.

Model Rocking the Retro Hip Hop Fashion

Rocking the retro nineties styling!

Rhinestone A rhinestone is an imitation diamond originally cut from rock crystals found in the River Rhine - hence its name! In the 19th century scientific advances led to rhinestones being artificially produced from glass with a metal powder applied to the back to create sparkle, and later from lead crystal. The most famous early producer of rhinestones was Swarovski, whose crystals are now world famous for their exceptional quality, Nowadays rhinestones are cut from quartz - an abundant natural crystal - and glass, and are used in all kinds of jewellery, or 'hot-fixed' to clothing. Rhodium Rhodium is a precious white metal with the distinction of being the most expensive metal in the world - six times the price of gold! It's only found as a trace element in platinum and nickel ores from which it needs to be isolated and extracted before use. Because of its durability and highly reflective brilliant shine its a very popular choice for plating jewellery. A lot of the jewellery you'll find on this site is plated in rhodium! Screw Back

'Screw back' is a type of non-pierced earring fastener in which the earring is secured to the lobe by closing with a screw. They're the most easily adjusted form of clip-on earring for comfort. Some earrings for pierced ears can also be classed as screw back when they have a threaded post onto which you screw a tiny bolt.

Earrings With a Hinged Screw Back Fastening

These clip-on earrings from Alyssum Jewellery feature a screw back and a hinge clip for maximum adjustable comfort.

Solitaire A solitaire is a single stone set into jewellery with no other stones accompanying it. Engagement rings featuring a solitaire diamond are frequently popular, with solitaire clear and coloured gems commonly used in rings, pendants and earrings.

Solitaire Cubic Zirconia Stud Earrings

Solitaires are perfect for simple studs, and suitable for any occasion.

Swarovski A leading producer of high quality crystal rhinestones, Daniel Swarovski made costume jewellery affordable to all when he patented an electronic glass cutting machine in 1892. For the first time imitation diamonds, or 'paste' as they used to be called, could be mass produced, and the name 'Swarovski' remains synonymous with quality and clarity in the gemstone market.

Tarnish Tarnish naturally occurs as a chemical reaction when some metals are exposed to air or moisture. It's a form of corrosion affecting the surface layer of silver, copper, bronze, brass and other similar metals used in jewellery manufacture, but not in gold, platinum or rhodium. Unlike rust, which eats into iron and destroys it, tarnish is self-limiting, only forming on the very surface of the metal, and it can be fairly easily polished away. You can find some ways to remove tarnish in our blog, "Preserving Your Heirloom Jewellery". Vintage

In collectible terms, vintage refers to anything that is older than 20 years but younger than 100 years. Once an item reaches 100 years old it is classed as antique. If you're looking for something a little different, and possibly unique, we have a range of vintage clip-on earrings carefully sourced from local antique shops available on this site. Click here to view.

A selection of Vintage Earrings

These gorgeous earrings are likely to be vintage from the 1950s and 1960s.

Next week: "Ten Fun, Fascinating (and just plain weird!) Jewellery Facts" Which precious metal is rarer than gold? Which movie features the most expensive 'costume jewellery' ever made? Where did the missing engagement ring turn up after 16 years? All these answers and more can be found in next week's blog!


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