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Glossary of Commonly Used Terms and Techniques in Vintage Jewelry


Attributed - Not signed or marked but likely made by a specific designer or manufacturer. Attributions on this site are made from extensive experience, knowledge of circa dating, construction techniques, materials used and overal design
Aurora Borealis - Refective, iridescent coating on rhinestone or glass stones developed by the Swarovski Company in 1955 and became increasing popular in the late 1950's into the 1960's and used widely by many manufaturers.
Baguette - narrow rectangular faceted stone
Bail - hook at the top of or behind a pendant through which a chain can pass
Bakelite - Name of thermoset phenolic resin, or plastic developed by Leo. H. Bakeland in 1909.On this site, the term bakelite is used as a generic term for all bakelite and catlin plastics and is indentified by use of bakelite testing pads and smell.
Base Metal - Any no precious metal of unidentified alloy
Bezel - Metal band to hold stones in place
Bog Oak - Fossilized peat; found mostly in Victorian jewelry. A very dark brownish black color
Bookchain - Chain link made from folded over squares or rectangles
Briolette - 3-D pear shaped faceted stone cut with triangular facets
Bypass - Ring or bracelet in which the ends cross or bypass each other at the top
Cabochon - Unfaceted cut of stone with domed top and flat base. Sometimes refered to as a 'cab'. Bullet cab is a very highly domed unfaceted stone.
Cameo - Design carved in relief, generally from stone or shell. The term is also used to refer to molded plastic or resin designs that simulate carved shell or stone.
Cannetille - type of wire filigree using wires to design florets, rosettes and spiral designs
Celluloid - Trade name for early thermoplastic developed by John Wesley Hyatt in 1868.
Champleve - Type of enamelling technique where enamel fills recesses and depressions which are stamped or engraved into the groundplate.
Channel set - A row of sqaure or rectangular stone fit into a metal trough or channel

Chatelaine - Clip worn at the waist from which trinkets are suspended. Also can refer to a pair of coordinating brooch attached by a long chain, popular in the 1940's
Cloisonne- An enamelling technique where a pattern is formed of wire on to a goundplate, creating cells filled with enamel.
Collet - A setting made of a short tubular band of metal that encloses a stone.
Cushion Cut - Rounded corner square faceted stone.
Cut Steel - Small steel studs, riveted closely together on a metal backing.
Damascene - A decorative technique where gold, silver wire, or cutout sheet metal is embedded into blackened iron or steel base.
Depose - A registered trademark or design found on French items
Dress Clip - An ornament attached to clothing by a hinged clip with a flat back with prongs on the underside.
Embossing - A technique that creates a raised decoration on metal with hammers on the reverse side.
Emerald Cut - Square or rectangle cut stone with square chamfered corners and step cut sides.
Enamel - a) Powder pigmented glass fired onto a metel groundplate. b) Painted metal surface
Engraving - A decorative technique with the application of a design or pattern on the surface of metal or stone by removing surface material.
Etching
- The process that creates a design on metal or glass using an acid.
Facet
- Plane cut polished surface of a stone.
Faux
- French, meaning false or fake.
Filigree
- Metal decoration made with thin twisted wires.
Fob
- A decorative ornament or seal suspended from a watch chain.
French Jet
- black glass
Fur Clip - An brooch-like ornament with a hinged double-pronged mechanism to attach to clothing.
Gilding - A process where a base metal is plated or washed with a thin layer of gold.
Gold Filled - A process where heat and pressure is used to join a layer of gold to a base metal.
Gold Plated - A layer of gold of less than 1/20th of the total weight.
Gold Wash - A very thin coating of gold over base metal.
Guilloche - Machine-engraved metal decoration with a translucent enamel applied over it.
Hair Jewelry - Pieces made with or containing human hair.
Hallmark - The marks on gold, silver, or platinum that indicate fineness or karat.
Intaglio - Italian for an engraved stone, opposite of a cameo, with a recessed design carved into the surface.
Invisible Setting - A type of channel setting using specially cut square or rectangular colored gemstones that are notched to slide onto metal tracks to fit closely together in rows, this way no metal is visible from the front of the piece.
Jet - A type of fossilized coal, used primarily for mourning jewelry in the nineteenth century.
Karat - A measure of fineness that is 1/24th of the total weight in a gold alloy, 24 karats is pure gold.
Lavalier
- A chain suspending a gemstone or small pendant set sith gemstones.
Locket
- A two-part pendant or brooch with a hinge and cover containing a picture or other momento.
Lucite
- Du Pont tradename for acrylic thermoplastic.Frequently generically used for a variety of vintage plastic with similar characteristics.
Marcasite
- Faceed iron pyrite with a silver luster.
Marquise Cut
- An oval or elliptical cut gymstone with pointed ends, also called Navette.
Mosaic
- An object or jewel decorated with many small pieces of inlaid multicolored stone or glass and arranged into a design.
Mother of Pearl
- Iridescent inside lining of mollusks.
Mourning Jewelry
- Jewelry worn in memory of a deceased loved one.
Navette
- a gemstone cut that is oval or elliptical with pointed ends, also called Marquise.
Negligee
- A pendant or necklace with two suspended uneven drops.
Niello
- A form of enamelling with a powdered mixture of silver, copper, and lead, that is fused by heat into an engraved design in silver or gold, that creates a grayish-black metallic contrast with the metal background.
Parure
- A complete set of jewelry, three or more matching pieces.
Paste
- A high lead content glass that has been faceted to resemble a gemstone. 'Black dot' paste referse to faceted clear leaded glass stone with a black dot painted on the culet to imitate the look of a diamond,
Patina
- A color change on the surface of metal, a type of oxidation cause by age and/or wear.
Pave'
- Method of setting many small stones very close together, as in a paved road.
Pendant
- Decorative element suspended from a necklace or chain.
Plique a jour
- An enamelling process that resembles stained glass where the groundplate is removed after firing
Pot metal
- Base metal; tin and lead alloy used in early twentieth century costume jewelry.
Prong Set
- Stones held in place by metal claws or prongs.
Repousse
- A raised design in metal.
Rhinestone
- Faceted colorless or colored glass, cut like a gemstone.
Rondel, Rondelle
- A thin donut shaped metal ornament that is strung on anecklace between beads, typicallty set with rhinestone around the circunference
Scarab
- Egyptian symbol of immortality, carved or molded stone, clay, or glass wing bug-like creature.
Signed
- Marked with the initials, name, logo, or trademark of the designer, maker, or manufacturer.
Slide
- Movable decorative element of a chain or bracelet that adjusts its opening.
Sterling Silver
- An alloy that is 925 parts pure silver and 75 parts copper.
Strass
- A high lead content glass that has been faceted to resemble a gemstone, also called a paste.
Suite
- Several pieces of jewelry similarly designed to be worn together.
Taille d' Epargne
- An enameling technique that designs a partially filled engraving that is filled with opaque enamel.
Torsade
- A twisted multi-strand necklace usually made with beads or pearls.
Trombone Catch -
A two part sliding tubular closure for brooches.
Tube Hinge
- Brooch finding, an elongated tubular hinge to which pinstem is attached.
Vermeil
- Gold-plated or gold washed sterling silver.
Vulcanite
- Vulcanized rubber, used for mourning jewelry in the nineteenth century.
Watch Pin
- A small pin with a hook at the base of the reverse with its open end up, for suspending a small watch.
Wirework
- Twised wire decoration applied to metal ground.