A common number that represents the percentage of pure silver in a piece of jewelry made from sterling silver. The number 925 represents 92.5% pure silver, the legal minimum to be considered sterling silver. Quality sterling silver should have this number stamped somewhere on the piece.
Alexandrite is a unique type of gemstone that changes colors based on the surrounding light. It's a form of chrysoberyl mineral (unrelated to beryl). In natural sunlight, the stone appears bluish-green but appears as reddish-yellow under artificial light. Alexandrite, along with moonstone and pearl, is the birthstone of June.
An alloy is a combination of different types of metals.
Soft precious metals like silver and gold are usually alloyed with stronger metals.
Amber is an organic gemstone formed by fossilized tree resin.
It has a transparent, yellow-orange color that has been treasured for thousands of years.
Amethyst is a semi-precious gemstone with a bright violet color. It is a variety of quartz, valued in ancient times as much as a diamond. It was previously considered a precious stone until large deposits were discovered in Brazil in the 19th century. Amethyst is the birthstone of February.
A design style started in post-WWI France, after the Edwardian Era. Art Deco strongly influenced architecture, furniture, and jewelry in the 1920s and ‘30s and remains a popular antique style today. Art Deco jewelry rebelled against the elegant feminity of earlier styles, replacing intricate designs with bold lines and geometric shapes.
A ring style made of a solid piece of metal without gemstones or other decorations.
A type of bracelet that, instead of a flexible chain, is a solid piece of metal. When worn with other bangles pieces, they create a distinctive sound.
Barbell earrings consist of a straight or curved metal band with two metal balls on either end to secure the earring.
A pearl with an irregular, non-spherical shape. Baroque pearls are typically less valuable than more symmetrical pearls.
Jewelry from or inspired by the Baroque period, lasting from 1600 until 1775 A.D., tends to be ostentatious, elaborate, and regal. Fine jewelry at the time was worn almost exclusively by royalty, and pieces were designed for show and pomp.
For gold-plated or gold-filled jewelry, the base metal represents the primary type of metal used, which is then coated with gold. Base metals are typically not precious metals and instead typically include aluminum, copper, nickel, or zinc.
Beryl is a class of minerals with a large range of colors. The name comes from elements of beryllium in the mineral. The names of the gemstones derived from beryl are determined by its color, with the most well-known being emerald (green, and the most valuable variety), aquamarine (greenish-blue), morganite (pink or orange), and heliodor (green-yellow or yellow).
A bib necklace is a type of necklace with a large decorative section that extends from the front of the neck to the chest, similar to a bib.
Birthstones are specific gemstones assigned to the month of one's birthdate. The idea comes from the first-century historian Josephus. The official list of gemstones was codified in 1912 by the National Association of Jewelers, now known as Jewelers of America.
Bloodstone, also known as heliotrope, is a blend of different semi-precious minerals that usually have a marbled appearance of dark green and blood red. Bloodstone, along with aquamarine, is the birthstone of March.
A finish is popular in fashion jewelry that, unlike a polished surface, is designed to have a duller and weathered look.
A gemstone "cut" that is in fact not cut, but rather smoothly polished in any shape.
A type of dangerous metal known to cause health problems in the kidneys, bones, and lungs. Cadmium is illegal for use in jewelry but is sometimes included by low-quality manufacturers.
A type of bracelet with multiple attached ornaments.
A necklace length of 14 to 16 inches. A choker necklace is one worn tightly around the neck. The style has been around since at least Victorian times, peaked in popularity in the 1990s, and made a comeback in the 2010s.
Citrine is a transparent, orange-colored variety of the semi-precious gemstone quartz. Citrine, along with topaz, is the birthstone of November.
A fastener for jewelry, most commonly used in bracelets and necklaces.
A necklace length of 12 to 13 inches.
The current style of jewelry, as opposed to older vintage or antique styles.
A bright orange-reddish metal used as a base metal for fashion jewelry, as well as an alloy in a number of metals such as silver and gold. Copper’s distinctive color creates the faint pink shade in rose gold.
Coral is an organic gemstone formed from polished sea coral. Most coral used for gemstones has a red or pink color.
The process by which a metal or other element is broken down chemically. It can happen to common base metals like copper, silver, and brass. While gold and platinum do corrode, it requires special chemicals not found in the air to induce a reaction.
Another term for fashion jewelry, inspired by the use of non-precious jewelry on film sets during the Golden Age of film.
The qualities that go into a piece of jewelry. This includes the design of the piece, the alloying and shaping of the metals used, the cutting and polishing of the gemstone, and the placing of the gemstone in the final piece.
An artificial crystal that looks similar to a diamond. It is formed by heating zirconium dioxide, to which coloring may or may not be added. Not to be confused withzircon.
Real pearls created by manually adding a piece of mother of pearl to the inside of a mollusk. The mollusk is then raised on a farm as the pearl grows. The majority of pearls sold today are cultured pearls. Not to be confused with natural pearlsor fake pearls.
Abbreviation for cubic zirconia.
Earrings that fall below the earlobe and are designed to move.
Demi-fine jewelry sits between fine jewelry and fashion jewelry. It is typically made from a base metal like silver with gold vermeil gilt.
Diamonds are precious gemstones with a transparent or slightly yellow color. They're the most popular gemstone as well as the hardest substance known to man. Despite popular belief, diamonds are almost never formed from coal. Natural diamonds are mined from the earth, while lab-grown diamonds are produced by man (see lab-created diamond). Diamonds are the birthstone of April.
An earring that drops below the earlobe but remains mostly fixed in place, unlike the dangle earring.
Jewelry from the Edwardian era—from 1901–1915—kept much of the inspiration of the Victorian era that preceded it, with a few subtle changes. Jewelry was frequently created with intricate filigree and milgrain designs, creating an appearance of lace or beading. White hues, such as white gold, pearls, and diamonds, found their way to prominence during this era.
Emeralds are a precious gemstone with a bright green color. The term emerald refers to a green-colored beryl crystal, the rarest, and most valuable of the beryl stones. Emerald is the birthstone of May. See also
A ring symbolizing the intention to marry. Traditionally, an engagement ring has a large solitaire gemstone.
A ring symbolizing neverending love or an important milestone, typically once married. Traditionally, an eternity ring is a single band set with identically cut gemstones.
The flat surfaces of a cut gemstone. All gemstone cuts have facets, with the exception of the cabochon cut.
Imitation pearls made from glass, plastic, or other imitations. Not to be confused withcultured pearls.
Any type of jewelry not made from precious metals (gold, silver, and platinum) or precious gemstones (diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires). Demi-fine jewelry straddles the line between fine and fashion jewelry.
Not real; made from artificial materials.
Garnet is a class of minerals commonly used in semi-precious gemstones. The name comes from the most common color of the gemstone—a dark red—through the gem can also be orange, yellow, or even green. Garnet is the birthstone of January.
Glass is formed from melted sand. It can be used as a replacement for diamonds in fashion jewelry, though like windows and wine glasses, it is brittle and can break easily.
One of the most important precious metals. Gold does not tarnish or rust and has been valued for millennia. Because it is soft, gold is typically alloyed with another metal such as copper. The ratio of gold to alloy is measured in karats. Most gold jewelry is made of yellow gold, white gold, or rose gold.
Pronounced vur-MAY, a type of jewelry considered demi-fine. That is, between fine and fashion jewelry. Gold vermeil is .925 sterling silver plated with 10K or finer gold. The gold plating must be at least 2.5 microns thick—14 times the requirement for gold-plated pieces.
A type of jewelry which, like gold-plated pieces, is covered in a thin layer of gold. Gold-filled—despite the name—is not filled with gold. Instead, it is a higher standard of gold plating that must be 1/20th gold by weight.
A type of jewelry which is covered in a thin layer of gold. Typically, the piece is built with a common base metal like copper, then a thin layer of gold is applied via a process known as electroplating. Legally, this layer must be at least 0.175 microns thick, or approximately 0.000007 inches.
A common, durable metal. When used in jewelry, iron often has a weathered look that's common in pieces with a rustic or weathered look. Iron is often used in men's jewelry.
Jade is a semi-precious gemstone with a green color. The term "jade" actually refers to two types of minerals—jadeite and nephrite. While chemically different, the minerals were thought to be the same until the 19th century. Jade is commonly associated with Asia, and the Chinese have used jade in jewelry, tools, and sculptures for over 5,000 years.
The quantity of pure gold in the metal. Since gold is very soft, it's typically alloyed with another metal such as zinc, copper, or silver. Karat represents the amount of pure gold, measured in 24 parts. Thus, 24 karat gold is pure gold, 18 karat gold is 18/24ths pure gold (75%), and so forth. The lowest legal limit to be considered gold is typically 10 karats. Not to be confused with carat.
A type of diamond that, while chemically identical to a natural diamond, is produced in a lab that simulates the heat and pressure required to make a diamond. Nearly all industrial diamonds are lab-created. Also known as lab-grown diamonds. Not to be confused withcubic zirconia.
A lariat necklace is a type of necklace that, unlike the clasp connectors found on most pieces, uses an adjustable slipknot or looping. The name comes from another term for a lasso, used by cowboys in the American West.
A type of metal known to cause a number of health problems including birth defects, brain damage, and even death. While lead is prohibited in jewelry, some low-quality manufacturers add it to increase weight.
Material made from animal hide, most commonly cowhide. It is used in some pieces of fashion jewelry and often gives the piece a Western or rustic look.
A gemstone cut that resembles a pointed oval or American football.
A necklace length of 20 to 24 inches. This length is most common for men's necklaces.
A 1–10 scale of the hardness of a mineral. Invented in 1812 by German geologist Friedrich Mohs, minerals are compared by using a so-called scratch test to see which minerals scratch each other. Diamonds are the hardest substance at 10 and talc the softest at 1.
As its name suggests, moonstone is a type of gemstone with a pearly, moonlike luster. Moonstone, along with pearl and alexandrite, is the birthstone of June.
Pronounced NAY-kur or NAK-ruh, an organic semi-precious gemstone formed from the inside of mollusk shells. Nacre has an iridescent quality and is also known as the mother of pearl. Nacre is different than pearls as it is formed by part of the shell, not through protective fluid produced by the mollusk.
A pearl found in a mollusk in the wild. While all pearls were originally harvested this way, they are now prohibitively expensive and are almost exclusively collector's items. Nearly all jewelry today uses cultured pearls.
A piece of jewelry worn around the neck. Necklaces are typically made of chains, links, or strings of jewels. They may include an attached pendant.
A type of common metal used in many types of fashion jewelry. While nickel is mostly harmless, some people are allergic and can develop a rash to the metal. Others can develop a nickel allergy due to repeated skin contact.
Opal is a semi-precious gemstone with a multi-colored, iridescent color. Despite popular belief, opal is not a mineral but rather a mineraloid due to its molecular structure not forming crystals. Opals may be as much as 21% water by weight. Opal, along with tourmaline, is the birthstone of October.
Pearl is an organic gemstone formed by mollusks such as oysters and freshwater mussels. As a response to an irritant in the shell, these animals create coats of protective fluid that harden and create the brilliant luster we're familiar with. There are many varieties and colors of pearls. Pearl, along with moonstone and alexandrite, is the birthstone of June.
A decorative item, such as a gemstone, attached to a necklace. Seenecklace.
Peridot is an olive-green gemstone, though the color may vary. Unlike the vast majority of gemstones, peridot isn't found in the earth's crust but in lava and the upper mantle. In the Middle Ages, the gem was believed to have healing properties. Peridot, along with spinel and sardonyx, is the birthstone of August.
An alloy of 80–99% tin, mixed with another metal such as antimony, copper, or even silver. Pewter has a distinctive silver color, frequently with a rough surface. Worldwide, it's the fourth most common metal used in jewelry production.
There are four recognized precious gemstones: diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires. Amethyst was also considered a precious gem until the 19th century when new deposits proved the gem not as rare as previously thought.
A precious metal is a metal valued for its rarity and economic value. While commonly used in jewelry, precious metals are also valued as investments and a storage of wealth. Well over a dozen metals are traded, but the metals most commonly used in jewelry are gold, silver, and platinum.
A necklace length of 17 to 19 inches.
A gemstone cut in a square shape with sharp corners. The princess cut is one of the most popular and modern cuts, invented in 1980.
A ring symbolizing commitment. While this is most commonly a romantic gesture, it can form other types of commitment as well.
Quartz is a semi-precious gemstone that's most commonly transparent but can range from cream white to dark gray or beige. Due to its consistent oscillation when electrically charged, quartz is commonly used in timepieces.
Rhodium is one of the most precious and rare metals in the world, approximately four times as valuable as gold by weight. It is used to plate white gold to maintain a brilliant, silver-colored shine.
A necklace length of 45 inches or more.
Rose gold is real gold with a reddish or pink color. The color is achieved with a higher percentage of copper alloy. Seegold.
A gemstone cut with a round shape, one of the most common cuts for diamonds and the shape most of us picture when we think of a gem. This popular cut is also known as a round brilliant cut and American standard cut.
Rubies are precious gemstones with a pink or red color. They're formed by gem-quality corundum minerals. When corundum is red, it's called a ruby. When it's any other color, it's known as a sapphire. Rubies are one of the hardest substances known with a Mohs hardness of 9.0. Ruby is the birthstone of July. See alsosapphire.
Sapphires are precious gemstones, typically with a blue or violet color but with a broad range except for red. Sapphires come from the corundum mineral, which when red is known as a ruby. Sapphire is the birthstone of July. See also ruby.
Sardonyx is a gemstone and a type of onyx with a reddish-brown color. The gem has long been believed to hold mystical properties, from the ancient Romans and Persians to today's crystal healers. Sardonyx, along with spinel and peridot, is the birthstone of August.
Semi-precious gemstones are not as rare or valuable as the four precious stones (diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires). There are nearly 200 semi-precious gemstones, including amber, amethyst, coral, garnet, jade, onyx, opal, quartz, topaz, turquoise, and zircon.
A precious metal used in fine and fashion jewelry. Silver is soft and nearly always alloyed with another metal. See also sterling silver.
The chemical name for the dark gray coating that appears on tarnished silver. Seetarnish.
Another term for gold vermeil, primarily British. See gold vermeil.
Spinel is a naturally-occurring gemstone most commonly with a red or pink color. Its name comes from the same Latin root as the word "spine" due to its sharply-pointed crystals. Spinel, along with peridot and sardonyx, is the birthstone of August.
Earrings with bold or oversized designs, meant to draw attention to the pieces themselves. Popular in fashion jewelry in the 1980s, statement earrings have had a major comeback in the late 2010s and 2020s, influencing both fashion and fine jewelry design for both genders.
A blend of silver and other types of alloyed metals, typically copper. Sterling silver is measured by its percentage of pure silver, written as a three-digit number. Legally, sterling silver must contain at least 92.5% pure silver.
A small earring with a simple single gemstone in the front, frequently a diamond or pearl.
Sulfur is a naturally-occurring, nontoxic chemical element present in the air. When silver combines with sulfur elements, it creates silver sulfide, which we know as tarnish.
A gemstone created in a laboratory instead of mined from nature. They may include gems made from synthetic materials (such as cubic zirconia) or manmade gems that are chemically identical to a precious gemstone (like lab-created diamonds).
Tanzanite is a semi-precious gemstone with a deep blue or violet color. The name comes from Tanzania, the only area where Tanzanite can be found. Tanzanite, along with turquoise and zircon, is the birthstone of December.
Topaz is a semi-precious gemstone with a golden-yellow color, though different treatments or other trace minerals can give it a different appearance. Topaz, along with citrine, is the birthstone of November.
Also spelled torc or torq, a torque necklace is a type of necklace made of a solid piece of metal.
Tourmaline is a semi-precious gemstone that comes in more colors than any other stone. The large range of colors comes from the fact that tourmaline is actually not a single mineral but a group of minerals with different chemical compositions. Tourmaline, along with opal, is the birthstone of October.
Turquoise is an opaque semi-precious gemstone with a blue-green color. The gem is commonly associated with the U.S. Southwest, where there are large deposits of the minerals. The name comes from the French word for Turkey, from where traders originally brought the gem to Europe. Turquoise, along with tanzanite and zircon, is the birthstone of December.
Also spelled torc or torq, a torque necklace is a type of necklace made of a solid piece of metal.
A design style from the reign of Queen Victoria, from around the mid-1800s to the beginning of the 20th century. Victorian jewelry pieces have an intricate and delicate yet somber look.
A ring symbolizing marriage. Traditionally, a wedding ring is a single band, perhaps with aligned gemstones.
White gold is real gold alloyed with a white metal such as palladium, nickel, or silver. To maintain its bright white finish, white gold is nearly always coated with rhodium plate, which eventually wears off and needs to be replated. Seegold.
Made from a wide range of woods, wooden jewelry has a rustic and natural look popular in fashion jewelry for both men and women.
Zircon is a common gemstone that comes in a wide variety of colors. It is formed from zirconium silicate, and the name comes from the German adaptation of the Persian word zargun, which refers to its common golden color. Along with turquoise and tanzanite, zircon is the birthstone of December. Not to be confused with cubic zirconia.