The Omnēque Glossary
The world of jewellery has an air of mystery around it, and it can seem daunting to get to the heart of it with its very particular and sometimes technical terminology. To help you decipher some of the jewellery jargon, our industry insiders have complied a glossary of commonly used – and some not so commonly used – terms to help you as you search for your perfect piece.
Come across something you don’t understand and we haven’t covered it here? Get in touch with our concierge at email@example.com and we can help.
/om-neek’/ • [derived from Latin omneque] (noun) precious thing; valuable
White (or colourless) diamonds are graded using a system of characteristics and comparison stones. The 4Cs is the popular name for four of the main grading characteristics: carat weight, cut, colour and clarity. See individual entries for more details.
A headpiece often containing a white aigrette feather, or a spray of gems.
A mix of two or more pure (elemental) metals. The two metals are chosen to bring specific characteristics to the alloy, including hardness, durability and colour. The carats of gold refer to its fineness (see Fineness) and are indicative of particular gold alloys.
|Annealing||Metal becomes stressed when worked; to reduce the hardening caused by this stress and to make metal more malleable, it is heated and allowed to cool. This process is known as annealing and is often repeated during the production of an item to reduce the risk of the metal breaking or cracking.|
|Art Deco||Art Deco is a term later applied to a style of angular and geometric design used in jewellery and other arts in the 1920s and 1930s. The term derived from the Exposition International des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, a fair held in Paris in 1925 at which many jewels of this new style were exhibited. Art Deco is linked to ideas of modernism and machines, despite many jewels still being handmade.|
|Art Nouveau||A late 19th and early 20th century European and North American art movement inspired by a combination of interest in Japan, whose government had recently permitted re-engagement in international export, and a dissatisfaction of Victorian mass production levels and fussy, ‘old’ design amongst designers and makers of the Arts and Crafts movement. Art Nouveau design motifs are known for their waved and sinuous shapes, often depicting long hair, women, peacocks and insects.|
|Articulated||The term used to describe a jewel that is made of connected components that allow it to move, either when wearing or as a design feature. Boivin’s bejewelled starfish brooches have fully articulated points, for example.|
|Asscher Cut||A square, step cut reinvented in 1902 by diamond cutter Joseph Asscher by adding two more rows of facets and clipping the corners of the square to make an octagon. It has 74 facets. It is a patented name.|
|Asterism||The name to describe the optical effect seen in star stones, like star sapphires. Very fine parallel inclusions in two or three directions perpendicularly reflect light rays incident upon them, so that this reflected light returns to the eye as intersecting lines, resembling a star shape, that appear to hover on a stone’s surface. It is the same effect as cat’s-eye (chatoyancy), but with inclusions in multiple directions.|
“A thing of beauty is a joy forever:
its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness”
|Baguette Cut||A rectangular cut with stepped crown and pavilion facets. The proportions of baguette-cut diamonds are not fixed – some will be more elongated than others. They are typically stylistically paired with larger diamonds, or in patterns of baguette lines.|
|Bail||The metal loop attached to a jewel, typically a pendant, through which the chain can be run. Bails may be plain or part of the design of the pendant.|
|Bar Brooch||A group name for long brooches with a pin set horizontally along the length of the brooch. A popular shape for Victorian and Edwardian brooches.|
|Basse-Taille||A technique used in enamelling processes. A design is engraved or stamped into metal and translucent enamel is used to cover the metal; enamel fills the grooves of the design and the different depths of enamel appear to have different tones.|
|Belle Époque||The early twentieth-century French style that incorporated delicate leaf, floral and lace motifs in diamonds and platinum. Similar Edwardian jewels in Great Britain are referred to as being of the garland style.|
|Bezel Setting||A stone setting that uses a rim of metal to wrap round the girdle of a stone. The metal is smoothed around the stone. Also known as a rubover setting.|
|Birthstones||A long tradition that pairs gemstones with each month of the calendar year. Some months have multiple stones associated with them and associations often change, while the colour of the stone linked to the month is generally consistent.
January – dark red – garnet
February – purple – amethyst
March – pale blue – aquamarine (also bloodstone)
April – white – diamond, rock crystal
May – green – emerald, chrysoprase
June – cream – pearl, moonstone
July – red – ruby, carnelian
August – pale green – peridot
September – blue – sapphire, lapis lazuli
October – mixed – opal
November – yellow – topaz, citrine
December – sky blue – turquoise (also tanzanite more recently)
|Biwa Pearl||A type of cultured pearl from a freshwater mussel specific to Lake Biwa, Japan, but largely no longer produced. They are non-nucleated pearls created from part of the mantle of one mussel inserted into a host mussel.|
|Bleach||White cultured pearls (particularly Akoya pearls) are often bleached to produce a more consistent colour. Type B jade is a term given to bleached and polymer resin-filled jadeite; the bleaching process changes the colour of dark inclusions and the polymer resin fills fractures to improve transparency, because fractures are less visible. Bleaching should be disclosed as a treatment.|
|Bombé||A rounded, plump shape often used to create dramatic domed, or bombé, rings.|
|Brilliance||Simply, the sparkle of a gemstone. This sparkle is created by a gem’s reflection and refraction of light incident on its facets, both internally and externally. The placement of facets, the angles between them, and the quality of the facets’ polish all affect light interacts with the stone and thus its brilliance.|
|Brilliant Cut||The brilliant cut has a long history. Today, it refers to a shape with a pavilion that meets in one point and a crown with a relatively large table facet. The proportions of the stone, angles and shapes of facets derive from Marcel Tolkowsky’s calculations of brilliance. The modern round brilliant diamond has 58 (or 57, if there is no culet facet at the bottom of the pavilion) facets, which helps a perfect example of the cut achieve nearly total internal reflection – meaning that all the light incident on the stone is reflected and refracted inside to return to the viewer’s eye, rather than being lost through areas with too many or too few facets. Variations of the brilliant cut include the oval brilliant, the square (princess) brilliant, the lozenge-shaped marquise brilliant, the pear-shaped brilliant and the rectangular radiant cut.|
“Better a diamond with a flaw
than a pebble without”
|Briolette Cut||A faceted stone that is in the shape of a drop. It does not have a girdle and so is often set pendent.|
|Brush Finish||A metal finish created by scratching the metal with a wire brush. This method leaves a matte surface.|
|Cabochon||A stone shape that has a polished domed surface and a flat reverse. A double cabochon has two domed surfaces meeting at the girdle; one side typically has a higher dome than the other. Deep cabochons help to concentrate the colour of a gemstone.|
|Calibré||A gemstone cut in a shape specific to the design of the jewel it is being used for. Each calibré-cut stone in a jewel could have a unique shape.|
|Cameo||A stone carved in bas-relief to depict a shape or image: the stone is cut away so that the image is raised above the background of the stone. Banded stones or shells are often used so that the layers produce different tones between the image and background.|
|Carat||A unit of mass used for weighing gem materials. 1 carat = 0.2 grammes. One carat is made up of 100 points and a stone’s weight is typically given to two decimal places, when known, e.g. 3.08 carats. Gem scales should weigh a stone to three decimal places.|
|Champlevé||An enamelling technique that translates as ‘raised field’. A design is etched onto a metal surface; shapes within the design are cut away to leave thin lines of metal that act as edges for the design, separating the enamel colours. The spaces are filled with enamel and smoothed to be at the same height as the metal edges.|
|Claw Setting||A stone setting technique that uses small prongs, of metal, known as claws, to secure a stone in place. The claws are part of, or soldered onto, the collet that holds the stone and the claws are then bent over the crown of the stone to secure it. Claw settings allow more light to enter around stones, so they are generally used for transparent and translucent stones.|
|Durability||The durability of a gemstone is derived from a stone’s hardness (how easy it is to scratch), toughness (how easy it is to break) and stability (resistance to chemical or light alteration). Understanding a stone’s durability is extremely important for knowing how best to set the stone, wear it in jewellery and care for it. Sometimes, stones are treated to improve their durability; nearly all treatments are expected to be disclosed to the customer.|
|En Tremblant||From the French, ‘to tremble’. Jewels that are said to have elements that are en tremblant when the element, maybe a jewelled flowerhead, is attached to the body of the jewel by a small wire or spring; when the wearer moves, this element trembles and catches the light, particularly candlelight.|
|Engine-Turned||A surface pattern applied to metal using a lathe. The pattern generally radiates from one point and looks like swirls or concentric circles. Translucent enamel is often used to decorate the metal and the engine-turned pattern becomes clearer where the enamel clings to the grooves produced by the lathe.|
“Shine like the
whole universe is yours"
|Fede Ring||A very traditional ring style with a long history. The band is shaped as two clasped hands and so the rings are associated with love. Fede derives from the Italian for trust and fidelity.|
|Fineness||A metal’s fineness is its proportion of its precious metal content, in parts per thousand. Pure gold is has a fineness of 1, or 1000, also known as 24 carat. Gold is alloyed with silver and copper to make it more durable and to change its colour. The 18-carat gold alloy has a fineness of 0.750, or 750 parts of the 1000, and is often stamped 750. Sterling silver is 925 parts silver and is often stamped 925 or .925.|
|Gypsy Setting||A gemstone is secured by placing it in a recess in the metal mount and pushing metal carefully around it. The metal should press smoothly around the stone. It has no claws. A setting generally used in rings.|
|Hallmarks||An official mark struck into the metal of jewellery; the mark records the result of testing the fineness of the precious metal used in the jewel. The testing process is called assaying and is carried out by official assay offices. Each assay office will have its own marks to show where the jewel has been tested. The term ‘hallmark’ comes from the first assay office in the Hall of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, where goldsmiths had to present their work for testing and marking. Hallmarks help protect sellers and consumers.|
|Inclusion||An internal feature within a gemstone. These features can be fractures, other crystals, liquids, gas bubbles and colour zoning, amongst many others. Some inclusions are eye-visible, whilst others may only be visible with a loupe or microscope and a trained eye. Nearly all gemstones have inclusions; they make the stone unique and can be a good indication that the stone is natural.|
|Jarretière||Whilst the French jarretière literally translates to English as ‘garter’, a jewelled jarretière is a wide bracelet or cuff made of articulated links that generally has a buckle of some form, whether functional or aesthetic. Actress Marlene Dietrich owned a fabulous diamond and ruby jarretière by Van Cleef & Arpels.|
|Lustre||The amount and quality of a gemstone’s reflection of light from its surface and the brightness and clarity of reflection from a pearl’s surface. Lustre is dependent on a gemstone’s hardness and refractive index (the degree to which light rays split and bend within a stone). You can compare gemstones’ lustres by holding each stone so that the light hits one facet; comparing the reflections of each stone, one may look glassier and one may look more metallic.
We use particular terms to describe stones’ lustre: Dull – Waxy – Greasy – Resinous – Subvitreous – Vitreous – Bright Vitreous – Adamantine – Metallic.
A pearl’s lustre can be described as: Poor – Fair – Good – Very Good – Excellent.
|A line of very small metal beads that edge a design, motif or gemstone setting on a jewel. Millgrain edges are typically seen on platinum jewellery and were a very popular decorative technique in the early 20th century, when platinum was beginning to be used in jewellery. It has been suggested that the texture created by the millgrain beads provides a softer return of light from the edge of a jewel than a polished platinum surface and, therefore, the setting does not compete with the stone itself.|
|Nacre||The outer layers of a pearl. Light reflecting and refracting through a pearl’s layers of nacre gives the pearl its iridescent tones. Different oyster species and varieties should be left to grow for different periods of time to allow specific nacre thicknesses to form.|
|Oiling||A common gemstone treatment particularly used on emeralds. An emerald is immersed in an oil that fills its surface-reaching fractures; the oil-filled fractures interact with light in a different way from air-filled fractures and the fractures become less visible to the naked eye. Oil can easily be removed, so extreme care must be taken when cleaning emerald jewellery, in particular.|
“Diamonds can be a girl’s best friend,
but pearls will make you shine like the moonlight”
|Pavé||A setting style, generally for smaller stones, that covers a jewel or section of a jewel. Pavé is closely translatable to ‘paving’ and this interpretation reflects the close nature of this setting. The stones are held in place by small beads or claws of metal.|
|Rose Cut||An early diamond cut that is still popular today. Rose cuts are characterised by their flat backs and domed top, with a surface of tessellating triangular facets. As cutting techniques developed, diamond cutters were able to add more triangular facets to the dome. A double rose cut is one stone with the shape of two rose cuts placed back to back.|
|Sautoir||A long necklace, typically of a beaded or chain design, often with a pendant or tassel. Sautoirs became popular in the early 20th century when changes in fashion brought in long front panels on dresses that screamed for decoration. Many sautoirs could be shortened to give a different look or could be transformed into multiple bracelets.|
|Seed Pearl||A very small pearl, less than 2mm in diameter, and generally not completely spherical. Some jewels show impressive stringing and weaving techniques to build patterns of seed pearls. In other jewels, seed pearls are used to decorate other motifs.|
|Table Facet||The large facet on top of a cut and polished gemstone’s crown – the upper section of the stone above the girdle (the widest point of the stone). The table facet lies horizontal to the setting when the gemstone is set in a jewel.|