Glossary of terms for Jewelry, Jewelry-making, Metals and Gemstones


Types of Jewelry:

Pendants: a single focal piece of jewelry (often with one or more stones) worn with a chain or cord as a necklace.

Necklace: often beaded or made of metal that has more than one component.

Bracelet: cuffs, bangles, clasped worn around the wrist. Made of metal, leather, cork, fabric. Often with stones.

Anklet: smaller version of a chain, leather or fibre bracelet worn around the ankle.

Earrings: dangles, studs, cuffs, jackets worn from pierced ears mostly. Some older earrings made with clasps for those who have difficulty wearing pierced earrings.

Body jewelry: rings or studs worn usually in the belly, nose, lips or eyebrows. Some wear them in more private areas of the body.

All piercing components of jewelry should be made of gold, Sterling or fine silver, titanium or niobium avoid serious reactions.


Mohs index: indicates the hardness of the particular type of stone. The degree of hardness will determine how the lapidarist finishes the stone and for the jeweller to know what type of setting to create to hold and protect the stone. For example, responsible jewellers will not use Opals in rings as they are expensive and very soft so they do not wear well and are at risk of damage in a ring. However, opal doublets or triplets have a quartz top that protects the opal and are safe to use in rings.

Stones can be transparent, translucent (partly transparent) and opaque depending on their structure. Good quality transparent stones are usually faceted to create a sparkling effect.

Categories of stones: individual stones belong in categories according to their properties of hardness, structure etc. For example, amethyst and citrine are just different colours of quartz, like rose and clear quartz (also called rock crystal).  There are many stones categorized as Feldspars, such as Labradorite, Perthite, Spectrolite, Amazonite, etc. but most are recognized by their schiller or irridescence. Perthite and Amazonite are found locally, particularly around Perth and Bancroft areas, whereas Labradorite is found and named after Labrador but is also available in other parts of the world. (Perthite has become quite rare because it is only found in the Perth Ontario area, so named, but there is very little left. There are so many different categories and types of gemstones and minerals It is best to have a resource to look up when working with gemstones in jewelry making.

When each individual stone has distinct and unique properties they are called phenomenon stones. Opals are phenomenon stones because each one has it’s own flash and colours. Stones that change colour in different light, or are fluorescent in ultra-violet light are also referred to as phenomenon stones.

Ethical mining: Some stones, blood diamonds are an example, are mined in ways that are considered unethical. Mining is dangerous and often exploitive of developing countries. “Ethically sourced” gemstones can be purchased from individual hand-miners, gem shows and certain companies. Before purchasing gemstones, it is important to find ethical sources that you can rely on and develop a relationship with so your stones are humanely mined and of good quality.

Collect your own stones: many beautiful stones can be found locally if you know what you are looking for. If you are interested in finding your own stones, join a lapidary club that offers field trips. Experienced local prospectors will show you where and how to obtain stones suitable for jewelry making.

Faceted – cut in many sides to reflect and refract light which gives it a sparkle: like a diamond. Faceting takes a lot of experience, time and talent so is usually used only for transparent valuable gemstones such as the corundums (sapphires, emeralds, rubies, diamonds) but some less expensive good quality stones such as quartz (amethyst and citrine) can be found in a faceted form.

4 Cs: The value of gemstones, particularly faceted ones, are judged by the 4 Cs: clarity, colour, carat, and cut.

Colour: the more saturated the colour of the gemstone, the more valuable. Even coloured diamonds are now popular.

Carat: the size of the stone is given in carat weight and dimensions, usually metric. The larger the carat size, usually the more valuable it is. Some stones are naturally very small so the expecations for carat size are less than for other stones which are usually cut to be consistent throughout in terms of quality, colour, clarity and inclusions.

Clarity: determined by how clear the stone is. Usually, the less inclusions the better the clarity and value.

Cut: determined by the quality of the cut and the type of cut. There are many different types of cuts and often the type of cut will also indicate the shape. For example, the emerald cut looks at first like a rectangle but is in fact an octagon because the corners have small diagonal cuts to prevent the sharp edges of a rectangle cutting the wearer or being easily damaged. Some of the best cutters in the world are in Thailand, India and Israel.

Rarity: The rarity of a stone is a strong determinant of value

Calibrated: standard sizes in ovals, rounds, rectangles, pear, square shapes. Can purchase pre-made setttings for more common shapes and sizes of calibrated stones.

Freeform: stones that are cut, either faceted or cabochons, in non-calibrated sizes and shapes. Freeform stones require custom-made settings.

Cabochon: smooth cut stone, domed (rounded) on top and flat on back. All stones can be made into cabochons but particularly the opaque stones which are not suitable for faceting.

Tumbled: stones that are smoothed by tumbler but still basic shape

Doublet: a cabochon which is not all gemstone. A slice of gemstone is covered in a clear quartz top, or, the gemstone has a black stabilizing bottom usually made of onyx. Often used for fragile stones such as opals and ammolites.

Triplet: same as a doublet but with three layers: the onyx bottom, the gemstone middle slice and a clear quartz top.


Forms and techniques used with manufactured metal:,

Metal comes in the forms of sheet, wire, metal clay, rods, granules, ingots, and components.

Sheet metal: can be bought from jewelry suppliers. Copper, brass, bronze, aluminum, stainless steel can be bought in larger amounts from metal suppliers for construction etc. For example, copper and brass plumbing pipes and components (washers, joints, nuts and bolts,) and roofing copper can be used to make jewelry.

Sheet and wire metal is fabricated or cast into jewelry with specialized tools. Fabricating a design usually occurs by creating the various components such as the setting, backplate, ear wires, bail, chain, and then soldering and assembling them into a unique jewelry design. Some designs or components (parts) of the design are cast where metal is melted in molds through an involved process. Casting can be done by jewellers or manufacturers to produce many copies of a particular piece.

Jewelry components are either hand-made or manufactured pieces used in jewelry making. Can be purchased from jewelry making suppliers. (Beware of toxic materials, stick to those made in regulated countries such as the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Europe and Israel). For example, Sterling silver chains from China and India often are inexpensive, poorly made, break easily and tarnish quickly and extensively, indicatiang lower silver content. The best Sterling chains for quality and content are from Italy and the United States.

Settings: A component of the jewelry piece that holds the stone. Common forms are bezels, prong, tab, tube, and handmade creations such as polymer clay, epoxy clay, etc.

 Metal clay: created using similar techniques for clay. Baked in kiln, cleaned and then treated like regular metal (soldered, patina, tumbled, stone set, polished, etc). Better than fabrication when creating three dimensional designs.After cleaning, piece has all the same properties as metal. Comes in silver, gold, bronze, copper, brass. 

 Types of metals:

Sterling Silver: very common and easy to fabricate and solder with flux. Expensive. Indicated by 925 which means that silver is made from 92.5%  fine silver and 7.5% copper. Oxidizes due to copper content. Few people react with allergies or skin may turn green due to copper content.

Fine silver: very soft so used in some components and bezels. 99.99% silver. Can fuse fine silver to fine silver without solder or flux. Does not tarnish. Too soft for fabrication or metal clay. Expensive.

Gold: Very very expensive. Hundreds of dollars for just a ring. Can add small gold or gold-filled components to silver jewelry. Good for sensitive people who cannot wear silver, particularly for ear wires.

German silver or nickel silver (Mexican silver): copper, from 50% to 61.6%; zinc, from 19% to 17.2%; nickel, from 30% to 21.1%. Not recommended for jewelry making. Tarnishes badly and often causes sensitivity or allergic skin reactions. Not recommended to solder. Inexpensive.

Copper: Pinkish colour. Very difficult to fabricate and solder. Good for making strong large jewelry pieces because is inexpensive. Oxidizes quickly. Great for patina.  May turn skin black if not sealed.

Brass: Red or yellow. Large copper content so very similar properties to copper. May turn pink in pickle if too much copper in old pickle.

Bronze:  made primarily of copper, commonly with about 12% tin and often with the addition of other metals (such as aluminium, manganese, nickel or zinc). Not often available in sheets or wire, but inexpensive. Similar properties to copper. Easily found in metal clay.

Aluminum: light grey metal. Inexpensive. Cannot be soldered. Can be anodized to create all colours of spectrum. Light weight.

Titanium and niobium: New metals. Expensive. Do not react with skin so good for ear wires to match non-silver metals. Comes in different colours when anodized.

Stainless steel: Due to the high price of silver, many are making affordable jewelry from stainless steel. It does not oxidize, cannot be soldered, but can be welded. Often worn by people with metal sensitivities/allergies looking for less expensive jewelry.

Alloys: mixing metals to combine their individual properties: strength, ability to solder, colour, electrical conductivity, etc.

Cadmium: Often used in alloys to make cheap jewelry, beads and jewelry components, particularly from China.  Toxic to skin and if ingested (children often suck on their jewelry which can be dangerous if it contains cadmium). Cadmium is banned for jewelry use in Canada but is not well monitored and often found in cheap jewelry.

Other materials used in jewelry making:

Leather, ceramics and pottery, fabric, cork, and wood. Plastic, glass and wood often used for beads. Nylon used for beading wire.


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