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Jewelry Terms

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C

"C" catch: The most common means of securing a brooch before 1900 or so when "safety catches" were invented. The pin connected to one side of the brooch is threaded through a layer of the garment and rests in a "C" shaped catch on the other side of the brooch. The "C" had no mechanism to hold the pin in place and so the pins were usually designed to be long enough to extend far enough beyond the end of the brooch to weave back into the garment for security.

C-OX: A green cubic zirconia (CZ) stone.

Cable Chain: A chain made of round linked rings of uniform size. This tends to be what most people think of when they think of the word "chain". It is the same style of chain as the cable used to anchor large ships to a dock.

Cabochon: From the French "caboche", meaning "knob/small dome", a cabochon is a stone cut into the shape of a small dome in a round, oval, rectangle, triangle, or teardrop shape without any facets. This style is commonly used with opaque to translucent stones such as opal, moonstone, jade and turquoise. Some transparent stones such as emeralds, amethyst and garnet, are also sometimes fashioned as cabochons. An almandine (garnet) cabochon is called a "carbuncle".

Calcentine: See Ammolite.

Calcium: A silvery-white, moderately hard metallic element which is the fifth most abundant element comprising approximately 3% of the earth's crust, and is a basic component of most animals and plants. It burns with a brilliant light and occurs naturally in limestone, gypsum, and fluorite.

Calibré Cut: Small stones cut in an oblong shape and set close together.

Cameo: A type of jewelry in which the stone around a design is cut away leaving the design in relief, typically against a contrasting background. Cameos are often made of shell and coral, although hard stone cameos such as agate, onyx, and sardonyx are more valuable. Cameos have been carved from the Hellenistic period, and ancient motifs such as the goddess Athena or a Baccante, (follower of Bacchus), were popular cameo subjects in Victorian times through the 1930's. The opposite of a cameo is called "Intaglio".

Cameo habille: A cameo in which a miniature diamond pendant, or some other adornment, is attached to the carving.

Cannetille: A wirework decoration which uses coiled and twisted gold wire to achieve a delicate scrolling effect.

Cape Amethyst: A form of Amethyst layered or striped with milky quartz.

Carat: One of the 4 C's of diamond grading. Abbreviated "ct." and spelled with a "c" is a measure of weight used for gemstones, (as opposed to karat with a "K", which is a measure of the purity of a gold alloy). 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. Thus a .10 carat stone can be called either 10 points, or 1/10 of a carat. Small stones like .05, and .10ct are most often referred to by point designations. A one carat round diamond of average proportions is approximately 6.5mm in diameter. Note that this relationship of weight and size is different for each family of stones. For example ruby and sapphire are both heavier than diamond (technically, they have a higher specific gravity, so a 1 carat ruby or sapphire is smaller in size than a one carat diamond.)

Carbon: A non-metallic element that occurs in all organic compounds and many inorganic compounds. Carbon is combustible and has the interesting ability to bond with itself, as well as with many other elements.

Carbon Spots: Diamonds are carbon that has been compressed over time. Carbon spots are a kind of flaw, or "inclusion", found in diamonds showing as black spots inside the clear diamond.

Carbonate: A substance treated with carbon dioxide, such as limestone.

Carbuncle: An almandine (garnet) cabochon.

Carnelian: A translucent red or orange variety of chalcedony, sometimes banded red and orange like an agate. Once believed to benefit the wearer's health and love life. Most carnelian comes from Brazil, India, Siberia, and Germany.

Casting: A means of reproducing an object by making a mold of it and pouring metal, plaster, or some other material that sets over time into the mold. See Centrifugal casting, Electrotype, Lost wax process, and sand casting.

Catalin: See Bakelite.

Cat's eye: Any of a variety of gems, such as chrysoberyl and some forms of chalcedony, that are chatoyant when cut in a rounded shape.

CE: Common Era, or in the Christian calendar, AD, anno domini, meaning "in the year of our Lord".

Cell Enameling: See Cloisonné.

Celluloid: A plastic derived from cellulose, a natural plant fiber, first synthesized around 1870 as a synthetic ivory. It can be cut, rolled, folded, perforated, ironed, turned, or embossed when heated, but cannot be injected. Celluloid is flammable and deteriorates easily if exposed to moisture. jewelry made of celluloid was often set with rhinestones. Hair combs and other dresser articles are still often made of celluloid today. Also called French ivory, Ivoride, Ivorine, Ivorite, and Pyralin

Celtic Revival: Jewelry made during the mid-nineteenth century reflective of the styles of jewelry used in early Ireland based on archaeological artifacts.

Center Stone: Usually a diamond, (or other gemstone), that is the prominent center piece in a ring setting.

Centrifugal Casting: A method of casting jewelry in which molds are attached to the outside edge of hollow tube. Metal is poured into the tube and as the tube is spun at high speed centrifugal force pulls the molten metal into the molds.

Certification: A grading report given to a precious stone by a reputable and recognized laboratory that defines the physical characteristics and quality rating of a gem. See Assay and IGI

Chain: A strand of linked loops, rings, or beads used for bracelets or necklaces. Popular types of chain include: Book chain, Box, Butterfly, Byzantine, Cable, Cuban, Curb, Figaro, Figogucci, Foxtail, Herringbone, Marina, Mariner, Mesh, Omega, Panther link, Rolo, Rope, San Marco, Serpentine, Singapore, and Snake. (See individual listings.)

Chalcedony: A family of colored quartz stones including agate, onyx, carnelian, cat's eye, and jasper that commonly have a milky or waxlike luster. When chalcedony is variegated with with spots or figures, or arranged in differently colored layers, it is called agate; and if by reason of the thickness, color, and arrangement of the layers it is suitable for being carved into cameos, it is called onyx.

Champlevé: A type of enameling in which powdered glass is placed in areas of a piece of jewelry that have been carved away specifically for this purpose before firing. The glass powder melts filling the carved areas with solid glass.

Chandelier Earring: An earring with a drop suspended like a chandelier. Also called a "Drop Earring" or "Dangle Earring".

Channel Inlay: A design similar to enameling in which stones, rather than melted plastic or glass, are cut to shape and set into the recesses of a piece of jewelry. Commonly seen with jewelry using mother of pearl and turquoise.

Channel Set: A style of setting in which a number of uniformly sized small stones, usually of the round cut, princess cut or baguette shapes, are set side by side in a grooved channel. Unlike most setting methods the stones are not secured individually with prongs and there is no metal visible between the stones.

Chaplet: A garland, wreath, or ornamented band worn around the head. Chaplets are made of metal with repoussé decoration or embellished with gemstones and pearls.

Charm: A pendant or trinket worn on a bracelet, earring or necklace.

 

Charm Bracelet: A chain link bracelet with charms attached to it. (It's not a charm bracelet until it has charms attached.)

Charm Ring: A ring with a charm attached to the ring band.

Chasing: A method of decorating the front, (or outside), of metal objects by making indentations using shaped punches and a chasing hammer. The opposite of chasing is repoussé.

Chatelaine: French for "Lady of the House", a chatelaine is an ornamental chain or pin worn at a woman's waist from which dangle keys, trinkets, scissors, needle cases, pencils, purse, etc. Chatelaines may be utilitarian or beautifully decorated and made from precious materials like silver.

Chaton: A cone shaped rhinestone or crystal.

Chaton setting: See Arcade setting.

Chatoyant: A stone having a changeable luster due to the way it reflects light, such as the cat's-eye or tiger's eye gemstones. From the French "chatoyer", meaning to shimmer like cats' eyes, from the French "chat" meaning "cat".

Chevron setting: A chevron is a design found in heraldry resembling a shallow inverted "V". In jewelry design, a "chevron setting" is reflective of the heraldic chevron in that it is made up of lines in a shallow inverted "V" pattern.

Chloride: Any compound containing a chlorine atom.

Chlorine: An abundant element which, when isolated, appears as a poisonous, greenish-yellow gas with a disagreeable odor. It occurs naturally only as a salt, as in sea-water. Chlorine is used widely to purify water, as a disinfectant and bleaching agent, and in the manufacture of many important compounds including chloroform and carbon tetrachloride.

Choker: A close fitting necklace worn tight around the neck like a collar.

Chrome: A hard, brittle, grayish white metal, fusible with difficulty and resistant to corrosion. Its chief commercial importance is for its compounds, as potassium chromate, lead chromate, etc., which are brilliantly colored and are used dyeing and calico printing. The common modern usage is for very shiny metal objects like chrome bumpers, etc.

Chromium: A lustrous, hard brittle, steel-blue metallic element, resistant to corrosion and tarnishing. It is used in the hardening of steel alloys and the production of stainless steels, in corrosion-resistant decorative platings, and as a pigment in glass.

Chrysoberyl: (also called "cat's eye") A rare, hard, yellow-green mineral consisting of alumina and glucina, (beryllium aluminate), in crystal form. It is popular as a gemstone for its chatoyant qualities.

Chrysolite: (Also called "olivine" and "peridot") A mineral composed of silica, magnesia, and iron sometimes used as a gem. Chrysolite ranges in color from a light pea green to a deep olive green and an oily shine. It is common in certain volcanic rocks and meteorites. Mystics have claimed that this lustrous green stone drives away evil and has special healing properties. The name chrysolite has been used in the past for yellow varieties of tourmaline and topaz.

Chrysoprase: An apple-green colored variety of chalcedony.

Cigar band: A very wide band-style ring.

Cinnamon stone: A brown or yellowish-brown variety of garnet more properly called "essonite".

Cire-perdue: see Lost wax.

Citrine: Named after the French word for lemon, "citron". Citrine is often incorrectly called quartz topaz or citrine topaz. A variety of quartz, citrine is found in light yellow, amber-brown, and a brilliant orange that may be confused with fine imperial topaz. Most citrine comes from South America. In ancient times, citrine was revered as a gift of the sun and believed to be a powerful antidote to a viper's venom. Citrine is the birthstone for November.

Claddagh Ring: First crafted by Master Goldsmith Richard Joyce in 1689, it is named after Claddagh, the fishing village he lived in at the time, which overlooks Galway Bay. The ring belongs to a class of rings called "Fede" or "Faith rings", which date from Roman times and were popular in the Middle Ages throughout Europe. Whereas "Fede" rings have only two clasped hands, symbolizing faith, trust, or "plighted troth", Claddagh rings have two hands clasping a heart, symbolizing love, surmounted by a crown, symbolizing loyalty. The ring worn on the right hand with the heart turned outward indicates that your heart is yet unoccupied. a Claddagh Ring Worn on the right hand with the heart turned inward indicates that love is being considered. Worn on the left hand the with the heart turned inward shows everyone that your heart is truly spoken for.

Clarity: One of the 4 C's of diamond grading. Gemstones with the highest clarity contain few or no inclusions (imperfections) in the stone's crystalline structure. Clarity is graded with a 10x magnifier. The clarity rating of a diamond ranges from FL (flawless) to I (inclusions visible to the naked eye).

Clasp: A device used to connect two ends of a necklace, bracelet or watch strap. Popular types of clasps include: Barrel, box, Lobster claw, and Spring ring clasps. (See individual listings).

Class Ring: A ring that commemorates graduating from high school. It is usually engraved with the name of the school, the year of graduation, and a gem featuring one of the school's colors.

Claw Setting: A way of securing a stone in its mount using small prongs that surround it.

Cleaning Jewelry: The safest and easiest way to clean most jewelry is with a detergent bath. Swish together warm water and any mild liquid detergent. Clean the jewelry with a soft brush while it's in the suds, then rinse it under warm running water. Pat it dry with a soft, lint-free cloth. Avoid using brushes, which can scratch gold. Never boil gold, and avoid using ammonia, toothpaste, a powder cleanser or scouring pads. Keep gold away from chlorine, lotions, cosmetics and perm solutions, since these products may discolor or dissolve gold alloys. gemstones rarely need cleaning unless they become dirty from hand lotion, hairspray or other products. They can be cleaned using a soft cloth with mild soap and water, but rinse well. If you are using a silver or gold jewelry dip solution, most are safe for gemstones, but read the label to make sure. Do not boil gemstones. Do not wear pearls while applying cosmetics, hair sprays or perfume. It's best not to wear pearl strands while bathing, because water can weaken the string. Wipe pearl strands with a damp cloth after each use. Do not clean cultured pearls with chemicals, abrasives or jewelry cleaner.

Clear Quartz: (More commonly called "Rock Crystal"). A colorless transparent mineral consisting of silicon dioxide in crystal form. See Quartz.

Cleavage: Cleavage is the tendency which a stone has to fracture along its crystal structure.

Clip-on: A piece of jewelry designed to be attached by means of a clip, such as a clip-back earring.

Clip-back Earring: A hinged ring with a pad, called a "comfort back", at one end to secure the earring to the earlobe without requiring that the ear be pierced.

Cloisonné: Occasionally called "cell enameling", it is a type of enameling in which compartments made of thin strips of metal soldered onto a metal plate are filled with powdered glass prior to firing. The glass powder melts filling the compartments with solid glass.

Cloud: A form of inclusion, “clouds” are white milky areas that can found in the diamond.

Cluster: Several stones grouped together in a jewelry setting.

Cluster Brooch: A brooch developed in the 14th century in which a large central gemstone is surrounded by a cluster of smaller gemstones and pearls.

Cluster Earring: A decorative earring made up of a cluster of glass and/or metal beads and stones

Cluster Ring: A ring featuring a central gemstone surrounded by a number of smaller stones.

Clutch: A device that is slid along a post to secure a piece of jewelry, such as the earring back of a stud for pierced ears.

Cocktail Ring: A large oversized ring set with precious or semiprecious stones popular during the 1940s and 1950s.

Coiffe: A net made of gold or silver threads, decorated with gems or pearls worn on the head.

Coin Silver: A silver alloy that is 80% silver and 20% copper. Many European silver pieces are coin silver and are marked "800", indicating that 800 parts out of 1000 are silver.

Coin-style edge: see Milgrain edge.

Collar: A necklace worn close around the neck. See also "choker".

Collet: The ring of metal that surrounds and secures the stone in a bezel setting.

Color: One of the 4 C s of diamond grading, the term "color" actually refers to the absence of color in a diamond. A diamond acts like a prism letting light pass through, refracting back to the human eye, into a rainbow of color. The color scale breaks up the subtlety and various grades of a diamond’s color from purest white to yellow and brown. The letters D through Z are used to designate a diamonds color with D being colorless and Z-graded stones having a lot of color.

Colored Diamond: Diamonds can be found in a full spectrum of colors. Colored or “Fancy” diamonds are simply referring to diamonds that are not white.

Colored Gold: An alloy of gold and other metals producing rose, yellow, white, and green shades.

Comfort back: A rubber or plastic pad that goes over the clip end of a clip-on earring to cushion the earlobe.

Comfort Fit: A ring that adds to the comfort of the wearer by being curved on the inside of the shank.

Compass Ring: A rotating ring that can be used to determine compass direction by using the position of the sun and the time of day.

Commemorative Wares: Items used to commemorate an important or historical event, such as a battle, coronation, or wedding.

Concave: Concave simply means "curving inward", like the inside of an egg shell. The opposite of Convex.

Concha: One of the ovals of a segmented silver belt or bridle. Also a reference to the belt itself. Now commonly called a "Concho Belt." From the Spanish word "concha", meaning "shell".

Concho: See Concha.

Condition, Excellent: A piece of jewelry in Excellent Condition will show reasonable evidence of wear, and have a fine patina.

Condition, Fine: A piece of jewelry in Fine Condition may show slight wear, but not enough to have developed a patina.

Condition, Good: A piece of jewelry in Good Condition will show substantial evidence of wear. It will have a noticeable patina which may include numerous very fine pits or lines. It will not have cracks, chips, obviously discolored or poorly replaced stones, evidence of glue or other repairs, or other evidence of hard wear considered to be damage. Damage of any kind is separately detailed in the item description, and generally items with damage appear at very reduced prices in the Bargain section.

Condition, Mint: A piece of jewelry having no signs of wear whatsoever, including no discolored stones. A piece that is in Mint Condition is in virtually the same condition as it was when it left the manufacturer. Considering that vintage jewelry is usually 50 or more years old, and that it likely has been worn, it is obviously quite rare to find a piece that is truly in Mint Condition.

Convex: Simply means "curving outward", like the surface of a ball. The opposite of Concave.

Copper: A common reddish-brown metallic element, copper is the only metal which occurs abundantly in large masses as opposed to small veins or nuggets that must be mined out of other rocks. It is also found in various ores such as chalcopyrite, chalcocite, cuprite, and malachite. When alloyed with tin it forms bronze, and when alloyed with zinc it forms brass. Copper is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity and is widely used for electrical wiring, as well as water piping and corrosion-resistant parts. When in moist conditions, a greenish layer forms on the outside. It has been extracted and used for thousands of years. The name is derived from the Greek "kupros" (the island of Cyprus), called "Cyprian brass", and known by the Romans as 'cuprum.'

Coral: Coral is a form of calcium carbonate, (like aragonite or marble), secreted in long chains by coral polyps, who live in colonies under the ocean. Coral can be found all over the world, but the bulk of coral used in jewelry making has always come from the waters off Sardinia and the coast of Sicily, in the Mediterranean. Coral comes in colors from vivid orange, red, and white, to salmon and pale pink (called angelskin coral). In jewelry making, coral is either carved into beads, cameos, and other forms, or is left in its natural branch-like form and just polished. During the mid-Victorian era large cameo brooches of coral finely carved in high-relief floral sprays or faces were popular. It used to be thought that coral protected the wearer, so it was a traditional gift to children. Since it is composed of calcium carbonate, real coral will effervesce if touched with acid. Imitation coral is made from glass, porcelain, or plastic and will not effervesce when touched with acid.

Corallium rubrum: A valuable red coral introduced to the Indians by the Spanish.

Cord belt: A thick belt worn on the waist, usually with a caftan.

Coronet: A small or inferior type of crown worn by a person of high rank but lower than a sovereign.

Coronet setting: See Arcade Setting.

Corundum: The name of a family of stones composed of crystallized aluminum and oxygen that includes rubies and sapphires. The color of these stones depends on the oxides present in their composition. Corundum is one of the hardest minerals second only to diamonds rating a 9 on the Mohs scale. See alumina.

Cowrie Shell: The highly polished and brightly marked shells of tropical marine gastropods of the genus Cypraea, some of which are used as currency in the South Pacific and Africa. Small cowrie shells are commonly used as beads in jewelry.

Crimp Bead: Small soft metal beads that are squeezed shut to secure clasps onto the ends of cords or chains.

Crown: The upper part of a cut diamond or stone above the girdle.

Crown Height: A measurement of the distance from the girdle to the table on a diamond or other cut stone.

Crystal: A fine, high-quality glass invented in 17th century England. In order to be considered crystal rather than simple glass, the product must contain at least 10% lead oxide. The lead oxide is attributed to providing the glass with extraordinary qualities of brilliance, sound and a suitable texture for cutting or engraving. Some of the finest crystal ever made is from Baccarat in France (est. 1816) and Waterford in Ireland (est. 1729).

Crystalline: A substance composed of crystals or resembling crystal in transparency, structure and outline.

Crystallize: To cause a material to form crystals or to assume both the internal structure and external form of a crystal.

Cuban Link Chain: A standard cable chain with oval shaped links that are each decorated with a twisting pattern resembling rope.

Cubic Zirconia: (CZ) A clear, hard, mass-produced gemstone cut to resemble a diamond. The mineral baddeleyite has the same chemical composition, but to become a CZ the mineral must be heated to almost 5000 degrees Fahrenheit and have an oxide stabilizer such as yttrium or calcium added to keep it from reverting back to its original form when cooled. Almost all the rough CZ's in the market are composed of zirconium oxide and yttrium oxide, both of which are naturally white but combine to form a brilliant clear crystal. Like diamonds, the best cubic zirconia gems are colorless but colored forms are also manufactured. Vivid green CZ is sometimes referred to as C-OX, and CZ in numerous colors is frequently sold under various tradenames, such as the yellow CZ from Ceylon called "jargon". Cubic zirconia gemstones are cut in the same fashion as diamonds, and like diamonds the size of the gemstone is usually indicated by its weight in carats. The stone can also be measured in millimeter diameter size. Because the cubic zirconia stone is so dense and solid, it outweighs a diamond of the same millimeter size, weighing 1.7 times more than a diamond of the same millimeter diameter. It is also not as hard as a diamond rating only an 8 on the Mohs scale. Natural skin oils, soap, and dirt cause a film that dulls the beauty and luster of the cubic zirconia, just as it dulls real diamonds. The best cleaning agent for cubic zirconia is liquid dishwashing detergent, but other gem and jewelry cleaners can also be used.

 

Cuff Bracelet: A wide rigid bangle with a narrow opening on one side to allow the the wrist to pass through.

Cuff link: A decorative fastener worn to close the cuff of a shirt that provides holes on the cuff for the cufflink rather than closing with buttons.

Culet: The tiny flat facet on the tip of the pavilion of a cut gemstone.

Cultured Pearl: A means of duplicating the organic process of natural pearl creation invented by Kokichi Mikimoto circa 1893. A tiny irritant like a bead, grain of sand, or a piece of mother of pearl from another mollusk can be inserted into the opening of an oyster or mollusk. This irritant becomes the nucleus of a pearl once that mollusk secretes a lustrous substance (nacre) to cover the foreign body. An oyster or mollusk can take between five to seven years to secrete enough nacre to produce a jewelry quality pearl.

Curb Link Chain: A chain composed of oval-shaped links that are twisted and often diamond-cut so they lie flat.

Cushion Cut: A stone that is cut to look like a square or rectangle with rounded edges. The cut is usually multi-faceted to give the highest possible light refraction.

 

Cut: One of the 4 C's of diamond grading, "cut" refers to the shape and style of a polished gem. How a diamond is cut has a lot to do with the stone's fire and brilliance. A diamond that is cut either too shallow or too deep will not be as brilliant as a properly cut diamond.

Cut glass: Any glass whose surface has been cut into facets, grooves and depressions by a large, rotating wheel. Wheel cutting glass was developed in the 8th century BC, but the technique of faceting wasn't perfected until the 18th century in England. Although cutting glass is a costly and difficult process, the brilliant effects are extraordinary!

CZ: See cubic zirconia.

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