Carat versus karat, filigree, inclusion, bezel, and more – understanding the terms used in jewelry provides a sense of power and pride when buying, selling, or simply admiring the beauty of each piece.
Whether you’re a seasoned collector or a budding enthusiast, it’s worth learning these common jewelry terminologies to deepen your knowledge and enhance your appreciation for the precious metals, gemstones, and designs that make each jewelry piece so special.
Here are the jewelry terms commonly mentioned in boutiques and product descriptions on websites.
10K: Gold jewelry containing 41.7% pure gold and 58.3% alloy.
14K: Gold jewelry containing 58.5% pure gold and 41.5% alloy.
18K: Gold jewelry containing 75% pure gold and 25% alloy.
24K: AGold jewelry containing over 99.95% pure gold.
Abrasion: A visible scratch or bruise on the surface of a stone.
AGS: American Gem Society: a non-profit organization of jewelers, gemologists, and other industry professionals dedicated to promoting high standards of ethics, education, and professionalism in the jewelry trade.
Alloy: A combination of two or more metallic elements. For example, brass is an alloy formed by mixing zinc and copper.
Anniversary gemstones: When a marriage reaches a milestone, couples exchange jewelry to commemorate the occasion. If you’re married and in love, review our list of Wedding Anniversary Gemstones for Years 1–10, 11–20, and 21–60.
Asscher Cut: A square-shaped stone with trimmed edges (octagonal).
Baguette: A rectangular-shaped stone, often reaching a ratio of 5:1 in length to width.
Baguette Cut: A diamond cut with four corners, creating a rectangle or four-sided polygon.
Baroque Pearl: A non-spherical, irregularly-shaped pearl.
Base Metal: Common, non-precious metals such as copper, tin, or zinc.
Brilliance: The amount of light reflecting from inside a diamond or stone.
Brilliant cut: The standard diamond cut style consisting 58 facets: one table, eight star facets, eight bezel facets, 16 upper-girdle facets on the crown, eight pavilion facets, 16 lower-girdle facets, and a culet on the pavilion or base.
Briolette: A faceted, oval or pear-shaped stone.
Cabochon: A dome-shaped stone without facets.
Carat: A unit of measurement for diamonds. One carat is equal to 0.2 grams.
Channel Setting: Involves arranging stones in a row and securing them by folding the metal over the edges.
Clarity: Pertains to the number and size of “blemishes” or inclusions in a diamond or stone. The fewer inclusions visible, the higher the clarity grade.
Crown: The top portion of faceted and cabochon stones.
Culet: The bottom tip of a diamond.
Cultured Pearl: A pearl from a mussel or oyster farmer, formed under controlled conditions.
Cut: Describes a stone’s cut (round, oval, heart, etc.), which affects its brilliance and overall appearance.
Dainty: A piece of jewelry considered delicate or diminutive.
Depth: The measured distance from a stone’s table (top) to its culet (bottom).
Depth Percentage: The exact measurement of a stone’s depth in relation to its diameter.
Electroplating: The process of transferring a thin layer of metal (usually gold) onto a jewelry surface using an electrical current.
Emerald Cut: A stone with an elongated rectangular shape and cut-off corners.
Etching: A decorative effect achieved by removing part of a metal surface using acid.
Eye-Clean: Gemstones with no flaws or imperfections to the naked eye. Read How to Check for Eye-Clean Diamonds for more details.
Facet: The flat, planar surface on a stone.
Fashion Jewelry: Jewelry made from synthetic stones and non-precious metals.
Filigree: Thin strands of wire intricately interlaced into spirals, rosettes, or vines.
Fine Jewelry: High-end jewelry made from the finest precious metals and gemstones.
Finish: Describes the polish or texture applied to a piece of jewelry.
Fire: Flashes of different colors in diamonds and other gems due to dispersion.
Fluorescence: A luminescence that becomes visible in certain diamonds, particularly when exposed to ultraviolet light.
Gemologist: A professional trained in identifying, grading, and appraising gemstones.
Gemstone Certificate: An official document verifying a stone’s specifications and value
Girdle: The outermost edge of a cut stone, serving as the dividing line between the crown and pavilion and usually held by the setting. It may also refer to the diamond’s rim or edge.
Gold-Washed: Refers to jewelry with a thin layer of gold, applied through dipping or burnishing the metal. Gold-washed jewelry is not the same as gold-plated jewelry.
Gold-Filled: Pertains to jewelry made from a base metal with a thick layer of at least 10K gold (1/20th of the piece’s weight) bonded to its surface.
Gold-Plated: Refers to jewelry consisting of a base metal coated with a thin layer of gold, which is less than 1/20th of the piece’s total weight.
Grading: The assessment and valuation of diamonds and gemstones by gemologists.
Hallmark: Special marks on a jewelry piece indicating the metal content, manufacturer (brand), and sometimes the year it was made.
Halo: A series of smaller diamonds or gemstones surrounding a larger center stone.
Inclusions: Natural imperfections or blemishes within a stone.
Inlay: A design technique that involves removing a portion of a jewelry’s surface before embedding a diamond, pearl, or any decorative element into the cavity.
Iridescence: A display of rainbow-like colors seen in pearls, fire agates, and rainbow obsidians.
Karat: A unit of measurement specific to the purity of gold.
Lab Diamond or Gemstone: “Gems” created in a controlled environment. Lab-grown diamonds and gemstones have the same chemical composition and hardness as their natural counterparts, making them visually appealing and durable. However, they are not as valuable as natural gems.
Luster: The overall quantity and quality of light reflected on a material’s surface.
Marquise: A diamond or gemstone cut featuring a point at both ends and a boat-like shape.
Opalescent: Describes a surface with a lustrous, cloudy, rainbow-like display of colors, as seen in an opal.
Oriental Pearl: A natural pearl with no human intervention.
Pavé: A popular setting referring to several tiny diamonds or gems set closely together, revealing a continuous line of shine and sparkle.
Pavilion: The portion of a stone located just below the girdle.
Precious Gemstone: Rare and valuable, there are only four precious gemstones: diamond, ruby, emerald, and sapphire. All other stones are semi-precious.
Precious Metal: A general term for the eight precious metals: platinum, gold, silver, palladium, rhodium, iridium, ruthenium, and osmium.
Princess Cut: A contemporary square cut with angular, strong lines and four beveled sides.
Prongs: Prongs are metal “claws” that extend upwards from the base of the gemstone and bend over the top edge to hold it in position.
Quartz: The family name for natural crystals composed of silicon dioxide. Popular examples include amethyst, citrine, rose quartz, and onyx.
Radiant Cut: A rectangular stone combining the sparkle of a brilliant cut and the shape of an emerald cut.
Setting: Refers to the way a gemstone is held together by or mounted onto a metal.
Shank: The portion of a ring that encircles the finger.
Solitaire: A ring containing a single diamond or stone.
Table: The large, flat facet on the topmost part of a stone.
Table Percentage: The exact diameter of a stone, divided by the size of the table.
Vermeil: Also called “silver gilt,” it refers to high-quality (pure or sterling) silver plated with a thin layer of gold.
By familiarizing yourself with the terms and definitions in this jewelry glossary, you can make more informed decisions when purchasing or selling jewelry. You may also gain a deeper appreciation for the artistry that goes into creating beautiful and unique pieces, better understanding the intricacies involved in producing quality, high-value jewelry.