Comprehensive jewellery glossary with definitions of jewellery terms.

Do you sometimes feel out of your depth when you encounter jewellery jargon online? Or are you not entirely clear on what a term you often come across really means? What is vermeil? Or a lariat? Or a bail? What's the difference between semi-precious and precious gemstones?

It can be easy for designers to forget that not all non-jewellers are familiar with the terms we use, so we're here to help with our comprehensive Jewellery Glossary filled with handy definitions of key jewellery terms.

Remember: knowledge is power! We strongly encourage you to understand what you're buying when shopping for jewellery, especially online.

The jewellery definitions below will cover the terms we use in relation to Simone Walsh Jewellery, but the list also includes terms you'll see elsewhere. We'll keep adding more, so bookmark this page so you can find it again later.

The list is in alphabetical order. You can use the find function in your browser to search for any specific term. Note that we're in Australia and we use regular English spellings rather than American spellings (so jewellery rather than jewelry, etc.).

Let's dive in ...

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Alloy

An alloy is a mixture of metals or a mixture of a metal and another element. All gold less than 24ct is an alloy of pure gold with one or more other metals. Sterling silver is an alloy of pure silver (92.5%) and copper (7.5%). Alloying is usually done to make an improved version of the main metal: it can make it harder, less prone to tarnish (or the opposite can be a downside), a different colour, lower cost or add other desirable features.

Amulet

An amulet or good luck charm is any object which is said to protect its holder from danger or to bring good luck. Sometimes in relation to jewellery the word amulet is incorrectly used to mean 'pendant', a purely decorative item attached to a necklace (see below). A pendant can be a type of amulet, but it's all about the intention of the piece. Check out the amulet jewellery designs we've created, which are full of meaning and sentiments of good luck, protection, guidance, love and more.

Assay

An assay is a process used to determine the purity of precious metals and to test that precious metals have been created to the specific purity they are stated to have.

Baguette

A faceted gemstone that has a rectangular-cut which is more complex than an emerald cut.

Bail

A finding component usually used to hang pendants or charms from a necklace. It can be as simple as a jump ring made of wire or a more complex and detailed design.

Baroque pearl

A pearl with an irregular shape is considered to be a baroque pearl. These pearls can be smooth egg or teardrop shapes, or they may be more lumpy and have complex shapes. Often baroque pearls used in jewellery are quite large. Both cultured and natural pearls can form to be baroque, but they are more common in cultured freshwater pearls.

Base metal

A common type of metal which is not considered precious, eg. copper, brass, tin, zinc or nickel. Cheap jewellery may be made from these sorts of metals. They may cause skin irritation or green or black skin discolouration and may also wear badly over time. We don’t recommend wearing base metals against your skin. We do recommend always checking the type of metal used to create a piece of jewellery before purchasing as it may not be clear. Simone Walsh Jewellery designs are all made of precious metals unless otherwise specified.

Beaded jewellery or beadwork

Beaded jewellery or beadwork jewellery is created by stringing, wrapping, stitching or otherwise joining beads together. At its simplest it can be single beads attached to earwires or beads strung together to form a necklace. More elaborate woven beading designs are also made. The beads used can be gemstones, pearls, glass, wood, bone, shell or even plastic. Check out our gemstone beaded necklaces.

Bezel setting

A type of gemstone setting which is usually used for cabochon gemstones, but a similar type of setting using a small tube can be used with facetted gemstones (this may be called a tube setting). For a bezel setting a rim of metal is pushed and/or rubbed over the edge of the gemstone to hold it in place. Usually these settings are made in silver or gold.

Birthstones

A birthstone is a specific gemstone (or sometimes more than one) which is linked to a month of birth. It's thought that people have been wearing birthstones in this way since around the 16th or 17th century, but the tradition really took off in more recent times. Various gemstone societies around the world have created more modern lists of birthstones, which don't always agree with one another, which is why you'll sometimes see your birth month has more than one stone associated with it. Check out our birthstones by month jewellery range, featuring at least one different gemstone for each month of the year.

Bolt clasp or bolt ring

A clasp which has a circular shape. It has a tiny spring inside which is connected to a bolt which you can operate with a fingernail or fingertip to open before it springs closed. These are the most common clasp types Simone Walsh Jewellery uses in our designs.

Blood diamonds or conflict diamonds

Diamonds which have been mined in a war zone and sold to finance aspects of the conflict are considered to be blood diamonds or conflict diamonds. The term has been used to highlight serious ethical problems with the diamond trade in some parts of the world. The Kimberley Process was set up to stop trade in such diamonds, but it has been seen as flawed, mostly due to corruption. Learn more. An increasing number of jewellers now create jewellery with lab grown diamonds or alternatives such as moissanite due to the ethical issues associated with real diamonds, along with their over-inflated cost.

Brass

A yellow coloured metal which is an alloy of copper and zinc. You may see cheaper jewellery which looks a bit like gold but is really made from brass. It can wear badly over time, may cause an allergic reaction and is quite likely to leave a green stain on your skin. We don’t recommend wearing brass against your skin. A low price is a clue that a piece of gold coloured jewellery is not real gold: gold is a very expensive metal.

Brilliant cut

A type of cut used for diamonds. Brilliant cut stones are usually round in shape and have 58 facets.

Briolette

A cut of gemstone which is pear shaped and usually faceted for extra sparkle. Briolette beads can have holes drilled through the sides at the top or all the way through the centre from top to bottom in order to be attached to jewellery.

Cabochon gemstone

A cabochon is a gemstone cut which has a flat back and rounded top. Most often cabochon gemstones have a smooth, highly polished surface, but they can also be faceted on top in what is known as a rose cut design (see below).

Cameo

Traditionally this refers to a method of carving an object so it features a raised (positive) relief image, usually with a contrasting colour to the background. Often gemstones, shell or bone were used to carve these designs. Today the term may be used very loosely for objects which are not carved and/or with no colour contrast. The term now often refers simply to the image of a head, often placed in an oval frame.

Carats and karats: gold

When used in relation to gold a carat is a measure of purity. The spelling is 'karat' in the USA and some other countries, but the meaning is exactly the same. The higher the number, the more pure the gold is, with the maximum being 24 (pure gold). For lower carats the gold is alloyed with other metals, making it more suitable for use in jewellery making. You'll see 'ct', 'kt' or 'K' used as shorthand or purity stamps by jewellers to refer to gold carats or karats.

Carats: gemstones

When the term carat is used in relation to diamonds and other gemstones, it is referring to the mass (or weight) of the stones: the higher the number, the greater the weight. In this case the spelling is the same worldwide.

Chain necklace

A chain necklace is simply a necklace which is just a chain: there is no pendant. Most often chain necklaces are made in a length of silver or gold chain with no other features, but the chain design itself might be quite complex. You can also find designs featuring more ornate pieces chained together.

Chandelier jewellery

Chandelier jewellery designs use a metal framework is used to suspend multiple beads or other findings – a bit like a chandelier light fitting uses crystals. This design element is most often seen in long and elaborate statement earrings, but it may also be used in pendants.

Channel setting

This is a form of gemstone setting that slots the stones into a channel to create a continuous strip. It's most often seen in rings.

Charm bracelet

A charm bracelet has charms attached to it, which are decorative pendants or trinkets which may signify important aspects of the wearer's life and have sentimental value. There are also charm necklaces. You might choose to wear charm jewellery which you add charms to over time for sentimental reasons or you may choose a finished piece with all charms in place because you like the overall look rather than it being sentimental. We make charm bracelets with meaningful designs.

Choker

A type of necklace which sits close against the base of the neck. It is usually 40cm (16.5”) long. Take a look at our necklace length guide for a handy size chart.

Clarity

Clarity is a term used to refer to the degree to which a gemstone has flaws in it. The greater the clarity, generally the higher the value of the stone. However, lab grown gemstones usually have perfect clarity, but are still relatively inexpensive (see below).

Cloisonné

This is a form of enamelling where the coloured enamel is put into cells surrounded by metal, so each cell is separate from the others. This allows very complex patterns to be made, with each piece of enamel separated by thin walls of metal, which are usually polished so they stand out.

Claw or prong setting

A gemstone setting which is used to set faceted stones. These settings have notched claws or prongs that are pushed over slightly to hold the edges of the gemstone in place.

Cluster setting

A type of design where smaller gemstones are set around a larger stone as a focal point. Most often seen on rings.

Cocktail ring

A cocktail ring usually has a relatively large focal point which sits on top of or at the centre of the band to make a statement. These rings are often large may not be suitable for everyday wear as they can get in the way of day-to-day work. But they sure are fun to wear when dressing up!

Copper

A base metal which is vibrant orange in colour and is very soft. It tarnishes very easily and can stain the skin green or black in its pure form, so is not often used in jewellery on its own. However, it is often alloyed with pure silver or gold: for instance, sterling silver is an alloy of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper, which forms a much stronger metal than either pure copper or silver (the copper content in sterling silver is not high enough to stain skin).

Costume jewellery or fashion jewellery

The general consensus is that costume jewellery (or fashion jewellery) is any jewellery not made with precious metals or gemstones. These terms date to the early 20th century. Costume jewellery was traditionally created with cheaper materials including rhinestones, nickel, brass or pewter. It was particularly popular during the Great Depression and World War II when materials were scarce or expensive. Modern costume jewellery features a wider array of materials and can include simulated gemstones, glass, plastic, shell, plated base metals and much more.

Crimp bead

A beading component most often used to secure the knotted ends of a necklace. Small crimp beads are usually flattened or tightened in place with pliers.

Cultured pearls

Pearls which are created under controlled conditions with the help of farmers. Cultured pearls can be created using either freshwater river molluscs or traditional saltwater pearl oysters.

Dangle earrings

Dangle earrings are similar to drop earrings, but hang below the earlobe and swing back and forth and/or side to side. They may be quite short or hang all the way down to graze your shoulders. Sometimes the terms 'dangle earrings' and 'drop earrings' are used interchangeably.

Drop earrings

Drop earrings are similar to dangle earrings, but have the main feature dropping slightly below the earlobe. They may or may not swing depending on the design, unlike dangle earrings which always swing. Sometimes the terms 'drop earrings' and 'dangle earrings' are used interchangeably.

Earring back, scroll or nut

The small component that attaches to the back of a post earring to hold it in place on your ear. The tension between the scrolled pieces of metal is what holds the earring in place. Check out our spare silver earring backs.

Earwire

An earring component made from wire which is used with pierced ears. A common style is the typical shepherds hook with the focal point of the design hanging from the front of the ear wire. These are also referred to as ear hooks and are most often seen in dangle or drop earrings.

Emerald cut

This relatively minimalist gemstone cut is square or rectangular and is generally used for large and transparent gemstones.

Enamelled jewellery

Jewellery items covered in a relatively thick decorative coating that is applied to a metal. Usually the enamel is coloured. Traditional enamel is made up of glass powder which is fused to the metal using high temperatures, usually in a kiln. Today cold enamel may be used, which is an epoxy based colouring solution which dries hard and sticks to the metal. When purchasing enamelled pieces you should be clear as to which type you are buying.

Engraving

In relation to jewellery, this is the process of cutting an often highly detailed design or text in the surface of metal using specialised tools known as gravers. It may also be done using power tools with tiny burs, but this has much poorer results. Proper engraving requires a very high degree of skill and is often done by a Master Engraver who specialises in this type of work. Simone Walsh Jewellery does not offer an engraving service, but you can ask a local manufacturing jeweller if they have an engraver who can engrave your jewellery for you.

Etching

This is the process of making designs on metal by using an acid to corrode away the part of the design you want removed. This results in a less crisp finish than engraving, but it has a beauty all of its own.

Facets

Facets are the flat surfaces which are created on a cut stone or glass. They can also form in nature.

Facetted gemstone

A facetted gemstone has cut surfaces to help it catch the light and sparkle. The most common cut is usually a classic diamond shape. The top of the gemstone has multiple facets and the back ends at a point in the centre. Is usually set in a claw or prong setting. Cabochon cut gemstones may also be faceted on top and flat on the back, which is usually called a rose cut (see below).

Filigree

A highly ornamental type of jewellery making where precious metal wire is twisted to form delicate tracework patterns.

Findings

Components which are used to connect or decorate in the construction of jewellery pieces. They are usually not the main focus of a design and can include components like clasps, jump rings, earring backs, earring wires or hook, brooch pins, etc.. Unless otherwise identified, all Simone Walsh Jewellery findings are sterling silver.

Fine jewellery

Fine jewellery is generally considered to be jewellery made with precious metals and gemstones, as opposed to costume or fashion jewellery (see above). There is a debate as to whether the term fine jewellery should only apply to pieces made with solid gold, platinum and precious stones, but these days the definition is generally accepted to mean jewellery made with any type of precious metal and any gemstones. Simone Walsh Jewellery makes fine jewellery in Australia.

Fine silver

Fine silver is basically pure silver. The technical definition of pure silver is that it has a silver content of at least 99.9%. Although it tarnishes far less than sterling silver, it has limited uses in jewellery making due to being very soft and pliable. Most jewellery is made in the alloy sterling silver (see below).

Flush setting

This style of setting sees the stone sitting flush (at the same level) with the metal it is set into. The gemstone is set into a hole and the metal around it is pushed over the widest part of the stone (the girdle) to hold it in place.

Freshwater pearls

Freshwater pearls are cultivated in molluscs which live in freshwater rather than oysters which live in saltwater. These pearls can be created in a wide array of shapes and are less expensive than saltwater pearls.

Fretwork

An ornamental design which is intricately cut into metal (or traditionally wood) with a fretsaw or jeweller's piercing saw so that parts of the design are removed.

Gemstone

The definition of a gemstone is: a mineral crystal which is cut and polished in order to be used in jewellery or other decorative items. However, some rocks (eg. lapis lazuli, opal, and jade) and organic materials (eg. pearl and amber) are also used in a similar way and are often also considered to be gemstones. Precious gemstones are diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires, while semi-precious gemstones are all other gemstones. Lab grown or simulated gemstones are manmade and generally not as costly as natural stones, although they may be more perfect. Pastes, glass beads or Swarovski type pieces are not gemstones.

Gilding

A number of decorative techniques which are used for applying fine gold leaf, foil or powder to a surface. In terms of jewellery making we occasionally use an ancient technique to bond gold foil to other metals, primarily sterling silver. Gilded finishes should be treated with care as they are delicate.

Gold

Gold is a precious metal which is found in nature. In its purest form it is a bright, slightly orange yellow which is quite soft and malleable. It is one of the least reactive chemical elements, making it highly prized in jewellery making as it will barely tarnish and isn’t affected by most chemicals. Solid gold is also very expensive: usually around 50 times more costly than silver by weight. For use in jewellery gold is usually alloyed with other metals to make it harder. The purity of the gold is indicated by its number of carats, with 24ct being pure gold and 9ct having minimal gold. Learn more about gold.

Gold filled or rolled gold

A layer of solid gold which is pressure bonded to other metals in order to produce very hard wearing but relatively low cost gold filled jewellery. The amount of gold used must be at least 1/20th by weight of the total product the caratage of the gold will be identified (we most often use 14ct gold filled). Gold filled jewellery wears very well with appropriate care. Learn about different types of gold.

Hallmarks or purity stamps

A mark or stamp usually indicating a standard of purity and sometimes the provenance of a piece which is used in marking gold and silver items, including jewellery. Hallmarks indicating purity are not required by law in Australia, but may be required for items made in other countries. In Europe particularly there are strong laws around the use of hallmarks and only certain stamps can be used in different countries. Simone Walsh Jewellery items often have purity stamps which are on the findings if not the main piece of the design. Examples of purity stamps you might commonly see are 18ct or 18K (for 14 carat/karat gold) and 925 or Sterling (for sterling silver, which is an alloy made of 92.5% pure silver - see below).

Inclusions

These are visible flaws which can be seen inside a gemstone. These can include foreign objects, fractures in the stone, abnormal crystals, etc.. Generally speaking the more included a gemstone is, the lower its value. However, inclusions can be quite beautiful and make each gemstone featuring them unique. Some gemstones, like moss agate, are valued because of their beautiful inclusions.

Hoop earrings

Earrings which are in a hoop form, with part of the earring going through an ear piercing to hold it in place. They can be very simple circles of wire or much more elaborate and bulky designs. Hoop earrings are an ancient style of earring.

Jump ring

This is a very simple and widely used jewellery component: it’s simply ring which is used as a connector for clasps, pendants, beads, ear wires, etc.. Usually jump rings are quite small and an incidental part of the design which exist for practical purposes.

Lab grown gemstones

Lab grown gemstones are made in laboratories rather than being found in nature and mined. Usually they are created in the same way as the natural variation, but in a way that is vastly quicker, less expensive and much less damaging. The outcome is a gemstone that is largely identical to the mined version, but lab created gemstones are usually perfect in terms of quality and clarity. The benefits of lab grown and simulated gems are that they are much more affordable and often more sustainable and ethical than high value mined gems. Simone Walsh Jewellery uses lab grown gems where possible for these reasons, particularly in place of high value natural stones.

Lapidary

The process of cutting and polishing gemstones which is done by specialist craftspeople.

Lariat necklace or lasso necklace

A lariat is a style of necklace which is worn like a lasso with one unclasped end threaded through a loop to secure it in place. Alternatively a lariat can mean a very long necklace that can be folded in half with both ends threaded through the loop at the centre. Some lariat necklaces may be quite a lot longer than other styles of necklaces, depending on how they are secured. You should always check the length details.

Layering necklace

Wearing layered necklaces simply means wearing more than one necklace to create a layered look. Most often the necklaces will have different lengths. You can choose different necklaces that compliment or contrast with each other to create your own look, which takes a bit of practice to do well. Alternatively you can purchase a single layered necklace. Check out our layering necklaces for examples of necklaces we think are good for being layered.

Lobster clasp

A sturdy type of clasp which has a lobster claw shape and features a tiny spring inside for its operation. Similar styles may also be referred to as parrot clasps or caribiner clasps. Some of our heavier Simone Walsh Jewellery necklace designs and many of our bracelets may feature this type of clasp.

Locket

A type of pendant which has separate front and back pieces and which opens to reveal a space between the two. Traditionally the space has been used for storing a photograph or other small item such as a curl of hair, meaning these pieces of jewellery have had a high sentimental value. Check out our locket necklace designs, which include our more modern open locket designs.

Marquise

A gemstone cut which has an oval shape with two pointed ends on its longest axis.

Matinee length

A length of necklace which is slightly longer than standard. It is usually 55-65cm (22-26”) long and for many women it will sit at the top of the cleavage.

Mohs scale

This scale of 1 to 10 which is used in relation to jewellery to measure the hardness of gemstones. Diamonds have a hardness of 10, making them one of the hardest materials.

Mother of pearl

An iridescent coating which is formed on the inside of oyster shells. It is used to create beads and pendants. Also known as nacre (see below).

Nacre

Nacre is also known as mother of pearl (see above). It is also the material that actual pearls are made of.

Nickel silver or German silver

Don't be fooled by the name: nickel silver or German silver does not contain any silver. Nickel silver is a copper and nickel alloy, while German silver may also contain zinc. Many people can develop nickel allergies, which can cause nasty skin rashes at any age. Once you develop a nickel allergy you will have it for life. There are other concerns about the toxicity of nickel and we really don't recommend you wear it. All of our silver jewellery is made with real sterling silver and all of our jewellery is nickel free.

Opera length

A length of necklace which is quite long. It is usually 70-85cm (28-34”) long and for many women it will sit at the breastbone.

Oxidised or blackened silver

Silver or sterling silver which has had a chemical applied to it in order to blacken it as a decorative element. It is a form of patination (see below). Most often you'll see a recessed pattern blackened, while the raised areas are shiny silver. The chemicals most often used for this process are liver of sulphur or a hydrochloric acid solution. The chemicals are entirely rinsed from the metal after they have created the blackened effect. The blackening is a thin surface finish and may wear away over time, particularly in exposed areas.

Paste jewellery

Pastes are gemstone simulations made with hand-cut glass. The glass is often coated or placed on metallic foil to create a sparkle that looks similar to a gemstone. Paste jewellery is considered to be costume jewellery, but it has its own appeal and generally gives a lot of sparkle for not a lot of money.

Patination

This is a thin layer on the surface of metal which changes its colour or finish in some way. Often it is a desirable finish applied by a jeweller. Often patinas are colourful and can be created using a recipe of chemicals applied in a very specific way. Patinas can also form naturally or accidentally, such as copper exposed to air turning green over time.

Pear cut

A gemstone which is cut into a teardrop shape.

Pendant necklace

In jewellery a necklace with pendant features a hanging ornament suspended from a necklace. The pendant is usually the main feature of the necklace design. Most often pendants are suspended from chains, but they may also be suspended from a beaded necklace. Not all necklace designs have pendants. Simone Walsh Jewellery pendants always come with necklaces attached, but some retailers may sell pendants on their own.

Plating

A surface covering in which a metal is deposited on a conductive surface: in jewellery this is most often another metal, for instance gold plating applied to brass or silver plating to nickel. Plating can be done in a variety of thicknesses and this will determine how hard wearing it is. Flash plating is very thin, while vermeil plating is usually quite thick (and it is applied to sterling silver rather than a base metal) - see below for more info about vermeil. All plating will wear through eventually, so care should be taken with such designs.

Platinum

A naturally occurring metal which is white in colour and very heavy. Like gold it is generally non-corroding. It is difficult to work and is more expensive than gold, making its use in jewellery relatively rare.

Plique-à-jour

This is a type cloisonné enamelling (see above) in which the cells of metal have no backing which allows light to shine through. This gives the enamel a look similar to stained glass.

Precious gemstones

The only gemstones classified as 'precious' are: diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds. Traditionally these 4 gemstones were the most highly sought after and expensive, but that's no longer the case. This is not a scientific definition and we think it's a very flawed way to distinguish between gemstone types, but it is still commonly used and you will encounter the term when shopping for jewellery. See more info in the 'semi-precious stones' definition below.

Princess cut

A faceted gemstone which has a square-cut. It may also be known as a quadrillion or squarillion.

Princess or standard length

A length of necklace which is the most commonly worn. It is usually 45-50cm (18-20”) long.

Ring shank or band

This is the part of a ring which goes around the finger, also known as a band.

Ring size

This is a letter or number giving the size of a ring which will fit your finger: the size determines the circumference or diameter of the inside of the ring. There are different ring sizing systems around the world, but the most commonly used are the American numbered size system and the British alphabetical (or wheatsheaf) system. We have a ring size conversion chart and a very handy ring size measuring guide to help you get it figured out.

Rondelle

A bead shape that is flatter on the top and bottom rather than being round, so it’s more of a doughnut shape. Rondelle beads can be faceted or smooth.

Rope length

The longest length of necklace, with the definition being that is longer than opera length, which is defined as 85cm (25.5”) long. Rope necklaces are usually long enough to wrap twice around your neck or to fold in half and wear as a lariat, with one end threaded through the folded loop (see above).

Rose cut gemstone

A variation of a cabochon gemstone cut which has a flat bottom and a dome-shaped top. Unlike a regular smooth cabochon, the top of a rose cut gem has a number of facets cut into it (anywhere from 3 to 24).

Rose gold

Rose gold jewellery is created with an alloy of gold and copper, with the copper content providing the altered colour to yellow gold. Rose gold is also known as pink gold and red gold, but the different names usually relate to the amount of copper used: the higher the copper content, the stronger the red colouration.

Seed beads

Seed beads are tiny glass beads usually in a tube shape. They are mass produced by creating very thin tubes of glass which are cut up into small slices. The beads come in a very wide array of colours and finishes and are often used together in large quantities.

Semi-precious gemstones

All natural gemstones that are not one of the 4 in the 'precious gemstones' category (see above) are considered to be semi-precious stones. This includes gemstones that are generally more valuable than the 4 precious stones and those gemstones that are in the same families as the precious stones (eg. emerald is a type of beryl, as is aquamarine, but only emeralds are considered precious). These designations are not scientific at all, but are still commonly used. We're not big fans of them!

Simulated gemstone

A simulated gemstone is manmade in a way that closely resembles the natural stone it is simulating. It may not resemble it at all in terms of its composition, unlike a lab grown gemstone which is largely identical to the natural version. The benefits of simulated and lab grown gems are that they are much more affordable and often more sustainable and ethical than high value mined gems.

Silver

A soft, white and lustrous precious metal which is found in nature. It has the highest reflectivity of any metal and is frequently used to make high value jewellery and other decorative items. Especially when making jewellery it’s usually alloyed with copper to make it stronger (sterling silver). Learn more about: what is sterling silver?

Solitaire

This is a ring which features a single diamond or other gemstone as the main feature. You may also see it used in relation to pendants with a single diamond.

Soldering

Although most jewellers talk about ‘soldering’ their designs to create joins, they are actually using the technique of brazing. This uses very high temperatures generated by a blow torch to create a very strong fused metal bond using specialised precious metal solders. Jewellers working with precious metals do not use a soldering iron in any of their work, which is a much lower temperature form of joining metals: it doesn’t have the same fused strength or generally invisible finish as brazing.

Stacking rings

Stacking rings can be stacked together on one finger in multiple combinations. If a stacking ring has a gemstone setting, it will either be set flush into the band or it will sit on top of the band, allowing other stacking rings to sit under the sides of the setting.

Stainless steel

A form of steel which contains a high percentage of chromium. Stainless steel is very hard and is resistant to corrosion by some acids and atmospheric oxidation, unlike most other forms of steel. It is used in some modern jewellery designs.

Stamping

A method of decorating metal jewellery which uses a punch or a die to create marks on the metal. Sometimes the stamps are simply letters which form words or names. Other times they are an array of complex shapes which are used to create complicated patterns and areas of shading by a skilled craftsperson.

Statement jewellery

Any jewellery which stands out by making a statement. Often these designs are quite large or bulky, but the main criteria is that they are bold and catch the eye. Necklaces are most often associated with making a statement in jewellery, but earrings, bracelets, rings and brooches do just fine as well.

Sterling silver or 925 silver

An alloy of 92.5% pure silver with 7.5% copper, which results in a much stronger and better wearing metal than pure silver. Sterling silver is very commonly used in jewellery making. The downside of sterling silver is that it will tarnish, but the upside is that it’s easy to remove. You might see the term 925 used in relation to sterling silver: this is the purity stamp indicating that a piece is 92.5% pure silver. Learn more about silver vs sterling silver. And, yes, sterling silver is real silver!

Stud earrings or post earrings

Stud earrings and post earrings are made for pierced ears. They are constructed with a metal post which is placed through the piercing and secured in place on the back of the ear with an earring back or scroll (see above). Stud earrings are usually fairly small with the main feature sitting directly on the post. Post earrings are secured to the ear in the same way, but may have a feature dropped or dangling from them.

Tarnish or oxidisation

This is a reaction that happens to the surface of some metals (including sterling silver) which will cause it to look dull, darker and possibly even stained. It’s most commonly caused by a reaction with oxygen and is exacerbated by moisture. But don’t panic: it's perfectly normal and it can be removed easily enough with silver dip or polishing cloths. To keep it at bay you should wear and store your jewellery correctly and have a routine for keeping your jewellery clean. Learn about caring for and cleaning jewellery in our comprehensive guide.

Titanium

A naturally occurring metal which is hard, very light weight and exhibits a wide array of beautiful colours when heated. It is used in some jewellery designs, mostly because of its colouring.

Toggle clasp

A jewellery clasp which has two components: most often a straight bar which hooks through a circle, using gravity and tension to keep the clasp in place.

Tumbling

A method of cleaning and polishing components (jewellery or gemstones) using a variety of media and either rolling in a barrel or vibrating, often for several hours at a time. For precious metal jewellery we use stainless steel shot in different shapes with a simple soap mixture: the result is a beautiful clean and polished finish on the surface of the metal.

Ultrasonic cleaning

This is a very effective method of cleaning intricate jewellery and gemstones. It removes embedded dirt and debris by way of ultrasonic waves through water with a mild detergent added. Note that it doesn't remove tarnish from metal. We use a professional ultrasonic cleaner in our workshop regularly to remove debris caused by the process of making jewellery. You can also get domestic versions for home use, which we highly recommend. However, we don't recommend you use this cleaning method for softer gemstones, such as pearls or opals, or for jewellery which has patination or oxidisation used to decorate it (see our definitions for these). Read our 10 quick jewellery cleaning tips to learn more.

Vermeil or gold vermeil

Gold vermeil jewellery findings and components are made of solid sterling silver which has been heavily plated in gold, including yellow gold or rose gold. This has the benefits of solid precious metal jewellery, along with hard wearing plating without the very high cost of solid gold. Gold vermeil may be hallmarked as sterling silver. Learn more about different types of gold, including gold vermeil.

White gold

This is gold which is alloyed with other metals to have a colour closer to silver than typical yellow gold. The other metals used may be manganese, nickel or palladium. Note that real white gold does not have the bright white finish you’ll see in many jewellery stores: it’s usually more of a warm grey colour. The bright white finish is most often achieved by plating the white gold with rhodium, which will wear off over time and need replacing. We generally don't make jewellery with white gold for this reason.

Wire wrapping

This is a simple technique of wrapping wire to secure stones or other components in place rather than soldering or using jump rings. You’ll most often see it in our designs for attaching small gemstone beads on a pin to a design or chain. Some jewellery makers specialise in wire wrapping to create very elaborate and complex designs.


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About the author:

Simone Walsh is an Australian jewellery designer and maker who has been creating unique jewellery in silver, gold and gemstones for over 25 years. She lives and works on the beautiful Fleurieu Peninsula outside Adelaide in South Australia, where she's lucky enough to walk on the beach and visit vineyards in her free time. Simone is the Founder & Creative Director of Simone Walsh Jewellery.