Getting to Know the Basics of Jewelry from an Expert.
Welcome to the John Atencio Glossary of Jewelry Terms. Here you'll find everything you need to know about stone cuts, jewelry terminology and design. Are you looking to understand something very specific? Or, perhaps you would simply like to broaden your jewelry knowledge? Either way, John Atencio is here to share his four decades of experience and expertise with you.
A type of quartz, agate is a semiprecious gemstone that typically features bands of color, varying from red to tan or green to brown. On the Mohs Hardness Scale, it has a hardness of 6.5 to 7, making it suitable for everyday wear in fine jewelry.
A gem material that's composed of small particles or crystals. Chalcedony, lapis lazuli, jade, turquoise and malachite are all types of aggregate.
These cultured saltwater pearls are harvested from Akoya mollusks off the coasts of China and Japan.
A blend of at least two metals created to increase the strength and/or enhance the appearance of a particular metal.
Also known as "Amazon stone," amazonite is a semi-opaque blue-green type of microcline feldspar.
The birthstone for February, amethyst is a purple form of quartz. It’s also the traditional gift for both the 6th and the 17th wedding anniversaries.
A kind of watch display featuring hands and a dial instead of a modern digital numeric display.
A ring that represents the renewal of a marriage or committed partnership. Often adorned with diamonds, anniversary bands can be worn as a complement to a wedding ring, and are typically given as an anniversary gift.
Valued for its affordability and easy availability, apatite is a beautiful gemstone available in a rainbow of colors.
An appraisal is a document that describes a gem or jewelry piece, assesses its quality and assigns a monetary value to it.
A mineral from the beryl family, this icy blue-green gem is the birthstone for March. It’s also the traditional gemstone choice for 19th wedding anniversaries.
A geometric, symmetrical style of jewelry dating from around the 1910s through to the late 1930s.
An assay is a procedure measuring the concentration or property of a precious metal.
Asscher gemstones and diamonds feature a square cut with corners that are deeply cropped. Cut with a series of parallel steps, the process creates a striking effect similar to a house of mirrors.
A baguette-cut diamond or gemstone is one cut into a small rectangular or tapered shape with stepped edges. Baguette-cut diamonds and gemstones are generally used as accents to larger stones.
Ball chains are composed of spheres of metal instead of open links. These balls or spheres can be solid or hollow to minimize weight.
Either hinged or solid, these rigid bracelets are designed to easily slip over the hand onto the wrist.
Bar chain is composed of jump rings or small links separated by metal bar links which can be decorative, curved, elongated, shaped, twisted, hollow, solid or a combination of these.
A bead set is composed of individual spheres of metal. They can be set at regular intervals with connector bars or placed immediately adjacent to one another.
A bezel setting uses a kind of elevated collar that wraps the rim of a gemstone or diamond with a complete metal edge. This type of setting protects a gem better than other kinds of settings. Metal is wrapped around the stone’s girdle, leaving only its table and crown visible. This setting is preferred for its security, protection and ability to minimize inclusions.
Traditionally believed to inspire good fortune, birthstones are precious or semiprecious stones associated with a particular month of the year or sign of the zodiac.
These popular gems are impure forms of polycrystalline diamond consisting of graphite, diamond, and amorphous carbon. However, there are several varieties available, including man-made black diamonds, treated black diamonds and natural black diamonds.
Available in a variety of colors and hues, blue topaz is the traditional birthstone for December.
Any adornment worn on nontraditional body parts, such as the nose, tongue, waist, toes or ankles.
Box chains are made up of small interconnected square links that create a smooth chain.
A coordinated ensemble, bridal sets include a wedding band and engagement ring.
A brilliant-cut gemstone is fashioned to create numerous facets to promote exceptional brilliance. The cone shape provides maximized light return through the top of the gem.
Popular during the Victorian times and often drilled to hang as a bead, a briolette is a pear-shaped, elongated gemstone cut with multiple facets.
Polished but not cut into facets, cabochons are precious stones of oval or convex hemispherical form. Traditionally used for opaque or translucent gems, cabochon brings out the extraordinary effects in gemstones such as cat’s eye and star sapphire.
The measurement for gemstone’s weight, a carat (ct.) amounts to 200 milligrams or a fifth of a gram. Diamonds and gemstones are available in small fractions of a carat up to several carats.
Carat weight is determined by the density of a gem. Gems of similar carat weights can have different sizes.
A certification refers to an unbiased description of the unique characteristics that determine a gemstone's value and quality according to expert gemologists.
Resembling the color of champagne, this term refers to brown diamond gems with secondary tones of yellow. The general intensity of the color (and intensity of the secondary yellow tone) can be weak or strong, and the gems themselves can be natural or enhanced.
With channel settings, gemstones and diamonds are set flush between two metal strips that hold them in place with no added prongs between the stones. This very secure setting protects the girdle, or edge, of the gemstone.
A deep, forest green gemstone, chrome diopside is similar in color to emerald or tsavorite.
A golden-yellow version of quartz, citrine is the traditional November birthstone.
Clarity refers to a gem's relative freedom from inclusions and blemishes.
A kind of enamelwork in which thin metallic strips are soldered to the base of the piece forming cloisons or cells to create the outlines of a design. Colored enamel is usually then placed within each cell.
A cluster or composite earrings include several gemstones grouped together to create a distinctive design or to promote the appearance of one larger stone.
The same material used to create jet aircraft engines, cobalt is a hypoallergenic metal that’s more durable than stainless steel. Although it isn’t 100% scratch-proof, cobalt chrome is even harder than titanium and all other precious metals including gold, platinum and silver.
The absence or presence of color determines both its value and grade. It also has a significant effect on its appearance.
Diamond color grade refers to the gemstone’s hue based on the GIA color scale, which grades a stone’s color on a spectrum of Z (light yellow hue) to D (colorless).
This kind of fitting refers to a ring with a domed interior where the ring touches the finger, as opposed to a flat, standard fit.
Conflict-free diamonds refer to stones that have not been used to finance civil wars.
An artificial crystal, cubic zirconia is made to resemble a diamond in dispersion, refraction, color and hardness.
Cultured pearls are created under controlled conditions on an oyster farm. They are created when very small irritants are implanted within a mollusk shell. Nacre eventually builds around the irritant over time, eventually creating a cultured pearl.
A curb chain includes oval-shaped links that interlock with when placed flat.
A cushion-cut gemstone or diamond is a type of brilliant cut in which the girdle is square-shaped with rounded corners.
One of the all-important 4Cs, diamond cut determines how light will travel through the gemstone. Cut refers to the proportions of a stone, finish, facet angles and shape.
A pavé setting refers to a band that seems to be paved with many tiny diamonds. This setting uses small beads or prongs to hold the gems in place, leaving only a tiny bit of metal exposed.
Diamond size chart is used to demonstrate how carat weight relates to a diamond’s size based on its style and cut.
This refers to the spreading of white light into spectral hues. A key element of a diamond's appeal, dispersion is caused by varying colors of light refracting differently.
Dog tags are jewelry pieces with rounded rectangle tags or oval-shaped discs on a ball chain.
Drusy refers to a mineral coating of tiny, tightly-packed crystals that look like glittering sugar granules.
Sustainable and ethical jewelry sourced by transparent and responsible means with minimal impact on the environment.
A member of the beryl family, emerald is found in varying shades of green. It is the May birthstone and traditional gem for the 20th, 35th and 55th wedding anniversaries.
An emerald-cut stone is rectangular with a step cut and beveled corners.
Typically given at the time of a proposal, an engagement ring symbolizes a couple's love, commitment and promise of marriage. It usually features diamonds or other types of precious gemstones.
Completely encircled with diamonds or gemstones, Eternity bands are given to express enduring love. They can also be used as an anniversary or wedding ring.
A facet is the flat surfaces on a cut gemstone. The placement of facets will ultimately determine how much light reflects throughout the stone.
Resembling lace, filigree is a delicately soldered work of twisted silver or gold which forms an open design used with fine jewelry.
The process of working metal to a desired shape for a jewelry piece.
Designed to resemble the fullness of a fox's tail, these chains are crafted by interweaving bent metal circles in a continuous pattern.
A freshwater pearl is cultivated in freshwater lakes, ponds and rivers instead of saltwater environments. Freshwater pearls are typically harvested in Japan, China and the United States.
The birthstone of January, garnet is the traditional gift for 18th wedding anniversaries. Typically reddish-brown, garnet is also available in all colors except blue.
Gold is a classic precious metal used in most types of fine jewelry. Since pure gold (24K) is much too soft for jewelry, it is blended with other metals to improve durability. For instance, 14K gold is only 14 parts gold and ten parts other metal.
Official marks struck on metal jewelry, mostly to certify the metal content, such as platinum, silver, gold and in some instances, palladium.
Often used in men's jewelry, steely-gray hematite is a crystal of iron oxide.
A style of small hoop earrings designed to hug the earlobe.
Ideal for people with sensitivities to certain materials, hypoallergenic metal, such as titanium or platinum, are the least likely to cause allergic reactions.
The natural birthmark within a stone, an inclusion adds uniqueness and character while also impacting the flow of light. Inclusions can vary in shape, size, position, quantity and color.
When polished gemstones are set within an unfilled space so they are level with the surface of the metal.
An invisible setting includes multiple diamonds mounted together by a piece of metal underneath the stones. The metal can't be seen from above, making the gemstones look as if they are free of any type of setting.
The common name for two mineral species, jade can refer to jadeite and nephrite.
Karat is the measurement of gold purity. Pure gold is referred to as 24 karat because the amount of gold within the alloy is based on 24 parts. On the other hand, 14K is 14 parts gold and ten parts other metal.
The Kimberley Process (KP) is an organized effort to remove conflict diamonds from the world’s supply chain.
A pinkish-lilac type of spodumene used as a gem in jewelry.
A lab-created diamonds are produced in a laboratory setting. They have the same physical, chemical and optical properties as natural diamonds.
Lapis lazuli is a royal blue with pure white specks of calcite and tiny golden flecks of pyrite.
A lariat is a style of open-ended necklace fastened together in front by an ornamental clasp.
A unique gemstone formed by heating yellow quartz, amethyst, and iron together at very high temperatures.
Also known as chain bracelets, link bracelets are made by connecting gold, sterling silver or other metal links together into a band.
A topaz gemstone with a specific medium blue color that’s darker than Swiss blue topaz and aquamarine. It is a fluorinated aluminum silicate with a Mohs hardness of 8.
Magnetic clasps include magnets on both ends of a chain, which are drawn together to hold a piece of jewelry in place.
Longer than it is wide, a marquise cut is a kind of cut in which an elongated gemstone is pointed at both ends.
The opposite of a glossy, finish, matte finishes are flat, grainy and non-reflective.
Melee refers to a kind of faceting in smaller round diamonds typically used in pave work.
Micro pavé refers to very tiny, uniformly sized diamonds (usually less than 0.01 carat) that are set using very small prongs.
A decorative detailing technique, milgrain involves a beaded design that is impressed into metal.
MM is the abbreviation for millimeter, a measure of size commonly used in the jewelry industry.
The Mohs Hardness Scale is used to assess the degree to which a mineral or gemstone is resistant to abrasion. Hardness is measured on a scale ranging from 1 to 10, with 1 being the softest and 10 (diamonds) being the hardest.
A diamond simulant made of silicon carbide, moissanite is a stone that looks similar to a diamond, but with even more fire and brilliance.
Another variety of beryl, morganite has a beautiful, peachy-pink, feminine color resulting from the presence of manganese.
Mounting refers to the ring setting that encompasses the shoulders and head of the ring, or the actual placement of the center gemstone.
Worn around the neck, a necklace can be a simple silver or gold chain, a length of gems or beads, or a pendant hanging from a cord.
A hard metal with a white or silver appearance, nickel is often combined with other metals to increase strength.
Popular among vintage jewelry collectors, old European was the standard round diamond cut between 1890 and 1930.
Usually found in black, onyx can occasionally be found in other colors. It is the traditional stone given for 7th wedding anniversaries.
The birthstone for October, opal is thought to reflect the colors of all other stones. It is the customary gift for 14th wedding anniversaries.
Oxidation in regard to jewelry refers to the addition of a black finish by immersing the metal in potassium sulfide or another oxidizing solution.
Palladium is a lustrous and rare silvery-white metal.
Commonly known as a teardrop-shaped cut, pear-shaped stones include a point on one end and a rounded edge on the other.
A popular type of jewelry that hangs around the neck from a chain.
The birthstone for August, peridot is known for its yellow-green color. Also known as olivine, it is the traditional gift for 16th wedding anniversaries.
Platinum is a durable, hypoallergenic precious metal, prized for its purity and lovely white color. To be called platinum, an alloy must contain a minimum of 90% pure platinum.
Prasiolite is a green to yellow-green variety of quartz that can be cut into faceted gemstones for jewelry.
Given to signify a promise or pledge between two people, promise rings are commonly used as pre-engagement rings. They are also often exchanged as a symbol of "going steady."
A claw-shaped type of binding, the prong setting is soldered or welded to a jewelry item to set (or mount) a gemstone in place.
The most abundant mineral types on the planet, quartz varieties include ametrine, amethyst, citrine, rose quartz, smoky quartz, rock crystal and tiger's eye.
This refers to a specific kind of mechanical movement that powers a watch.
Radiant-cut gemstones are eight-sided square-cut or rectangular stones with around 70 facets.
Rhodolite is a variety or garnet that's mainly a mixture of pyrope and almandite. Color ranges from dark purple-red to light pink.
Small strips of metal that stretch across the lower portion of ring shanks to hold a ring in place on the finger.
Small metal knobs placed on the inner shank of the ring to test a better fit without having to permanently alter a ring.
A short style of necklace with individually set stones linked in a row without any other ornamentation. The stones can all be the same size or graduate in size.
Rolo chains are made up of alternating round or oval links. They are usually flat on the inside, thicker in girth and smaller in length than cable chain links.
A bead shape that is flatter on the bottom and top instead of being round. Rondelle beads can be smooth or faceted.
Also called pink gold, rose gold is made by combining pure gold with significant amounts of copper.
The round brilliant cut is preferred for its ability to bring out a diamond's dispersion, brilliance and scintillation. The round brilliant cut includes 58 facets comprising 25 facets on the pavilion and 33 facets on the crown.
The birthstone for July, rubies are the red form of the rare mineral corundum. Along with sapphires, they are the second hardest minerals and the customary gift for both the 15th and 40th wedding anniversaries.
Sapphire is a kind of corundum available in every color except red. The birthstones for September, sapphires are also the traditional gift for the 5th, 23rd and 45th wedding anniversaries.
Satin-finishes provide texture in the metal's surface, adding an attractive soft sheen while reducing the metal's reflectivity.
This traditional classification includes every type of gem except for "precious" gems (diamond, ruby, emerald, pearl and sapphire).
A setting is the manner in which a diamond is held in place within a jewelry piece. Prong, channel and bezel are all types of diamond ring settings.
Used in jewelry boxes, shagreen is a leather created from various species of rays, sharks and dogfish.
Resembling the body of a snake, this type of chain features thin metal bands secured closely together.
Solitaires are earrings, rings or necklaces that showcase a single diamond gem.
Often resembling rubies, spinel is a kind of mineral made of magnesium oxides and aluminum.
Stackable rings are multiple slender bands worn on a single finger all at once.
Stainless steel is a very strong metal used for jewelry. It is more resistant to rust and corrosion than many other jewelry metals.
Step-cut gemstones feature rows of facets positioned in a step-style fashion. Most have four sides and a rectangular shape, such as baguette or emerald diamonds.
Commonly used in jewelry, sterling silver is a very durable metal consisting of a minimum of 92.5% pure silver.
Studs are a type of post earrings with either one single gem or small clusters of gems in simple settings.
Symmetry refers to the precision of a diamond's cut.
December's newest birthstone, tanzanite is prized for its bluish-purple hues. Only discovered in 1967, it has become a traditional gift for 24th wedding anniversaries.
A style of bracelet containing small diamonds connected by a delicate, precious metal chain.
Popular in watches and wedding bands, titanium is extremely strong but weighs a third less than gold.
The birthstone for November, Topaz occurs in many shades of yellow, blue, brown, red, orange and pink. Topaz is also the customary stone for 4th wedding anniversaries.
Sometimes called a trillian or trilliant, a trillion cut is a triangular kind of gemstone cut.
The traditional unit of gold weight.
Only recently discovered in 1975, tsavorite is a striking vibrant green kind of grossularite.
A relatively new metal in the jewelry industry, tungsten is commonly used for wedding bands. It is four times harder than titanium and highly resistant to corrosion.
One of the December birthstones. turquoise is a mineral species that's opaque and bluish green or light to medium-dark blue. It is also the 11th anniversary gem.
A device used to clean jewelry by sending sound waves through a liquid detergent solution. Ultrasonic cleaners can damage some softer gems.
A jewelry metal made of sterling silver plated or coated or with gold.
A written guarantee, issued to the purchaser of a jewelry piece, promising to replace or repair within a specified period of time.
Symbolic of enduring commitment and everlasting love, wedding bands are exchanged between the groom and bride during a wedding ceremony.
Made of intertwined oval- and twisted oval-shaped links, wheat chains are intricate jewelry pieces resembling grains of wheat.
White gold is a pale precious metal created by blending pure gold with an alloy of copper, zinc and nickel (or palladium).
A variety of topaz with very little or no color.
Rarer than traditional diamonds, yellow diamonds have a distinctive color resulting from a presence of nitrogen during the natural formation process.
By combining soft pure gold with copper and silver, yellow gold provides enhanced durability while retaining a rich yellow color.
One of the December birthstones, zircon is a mineral species occurring in green, blue, yellow, orange, pink, brown, red, and occasionally purple. It can also be colorless.