Dictionary of Costume Jewelry /

Views 57 Likes Comments Comment
Like if this Guide is helpful

Some Jewellery Terminology

Aurora borealis a rhinestone that has a metallic coating to produce sparkling colorful reflections

Baguette a stone in the shape of a narrow rectangle.

Bakelite Carbolic Acid and formaldehyde when heated, form a phenolic resin or phenol-formaldehyde which is a very early, very hard plastic discovered in 1908 by Dr. Leo Baekeland

Bangle A rigid bracelet often tubular and hinged

Basse-taille (bas TIE yuh) An enameling technique that applies translucent enameling over an engraved, or decorated metal base.

Bezel The metal around a stone that holds it in place.

Bezel set A stone is set by tightly wrapping metal around it to hold it in place without the use of prongs

Brilliant cut a cut that returns the greatest amount of white light to the eye. It usually has 57 or 58 facets. Used for diamonds and other transparent stones but rarely seen in rhinestones which are normally single cut

Brooch An ornamental piece of jewellery which has a pin back for affixing it to clothing or hats. Usually larger in scale than the ones referred to as "pins".

Bubble glass (my word) usually from Venice from the 1950s, blown glass spikey looking beads that have dripped on tiny glass balls sometimes white and sometimes in color.

Cabochon A stone cut in a round or oval shape in which the top is convex shaped (not faceted).

Chatelaine Originally this was a ring or hook attached at the waist or a fancy brooch, to which chains were attached, to carry useful things like keys, etc. Now, it also refers to 2 part brooches linked by a chain (such as a dog on a leash held by a lady) or to a brooch that has dangling items hung from chains.

Celluloid Invented in 1869, it is a very early plastic invented in the 1800s to mimic the look of glass, tortoise shell, coral, and other jewels. Quite flammable so don't lean over a candle.

Chaton a rhinestone or paste stone that has 8 cuts. Most rhinestones are chaton cut.

Demi Parure see Parure below

Duette A pin and plate mechanism that hold 2 brooches. Each brooch can be worn separately or they can be put on to the mechanism and worn as one larger brooch. Usually the brooches match each other.

End of Day Bakelite At the end of the day, since the hot Bakelite could not be stored overnight without hardening, several similar colors would be swirled together.

French jet Black glass that is made to look like Victorian jet which is black ignite (from the coal family). Victorian jet was used during mourning. Many antique dealers call all black glass "jet". But the real French jet is black glass set in metal backings.

Galalith A material first made in 1897 made of a combination of organic materials such as vegetable, milk products and natural protein.

Gauntlet A bracelet that is oval and rigid and has an opening at the back.

Girandole a piece of jewelry that has 3 dangling pear shaped pendants

Gutta-Percha A material first made in 1840 from the bark of a Malaysian tree.

Habillé A cameo that has jewelry incorporated into the design. Most often it is a diamond. You can think of it as jewelry wearing jewelry.

Haskellesque or Haskellish a necklace, bracelet, or brooch that looks like a Miriam Haskell piece but is actually done by a different designer who copied Haskell or who never became as famous as Haskell, or who happened to come up with similar looking designs. Some of the pieces may actually be Haskells but only because they lack certain minor criteria such as a specific type of spring ring, bead separator, hook, or earring back, it is not possible to identify them positively as such. They are still quite collectible because they look like Haskells and usually are quite beautiful.

Illusion heads Normally made from gold or platinum these are little points that look like extra diamonds. They are used to further enhance a diamond watch to make it look like it has more diamonds and a higher carat weight.

Intaglio A reverse carved piece. The cameo or picture is carved from behind the glass, lucite, or celluloid and shows through to the front.

Integrated band A watch band that is part of the permanent watch display. The band does not come off of the watch. It is all made as one piece.

Japanned metal Metal that has been treated to look black or gray usually used to give the stones a more defined and richer look.

Jewels Instead of using a metal ball bearing in the works of a watch, a semi precious jewel (usually a ruby) is used instead. This insures that the ball bearing can not rust.

Lavaliere, Lavalier, Lavalliere, or Lavalliere (4 spellings) Lavalliere should actually be the correct spelling (in my opinion) because the name of the mistress of Louis XIV was Louise de la valliere and she wore a single jewel (or gem stone) suspended or dropped from a chain and this is from where the name came.

Marcasites Crystalline pyrites cut to look like diamonds. Made through the 1700s and 1800s. Later 1900s marasites are made from cut metal or cut glass.

Millefiori Thin rods of colorful glass are heat fused and then cross sliced making cubes of intricate patterns and colors. The word literally means thousand flowers.

Mine cut diamond Early diamonds were cut and then the point at the bottom of the diamond was cut off so that you could see through the diamond and it would let light in. That open bottom is called a culet. Mainly 1800s through the early 1900s.

Niello A metal alloy made with sulphur to produce a black or very dark accent color.

Parure A set of jewelry including a necklace, bracelet, earrings, brooch, and ring. That's considered 5 items (earrings are 1). However, most people consider a parure everything except the ring. <b>Demi Parure</b> is 2 pieces of jewelry or more pieces but less than 4 pieces (again, earrings are 1). So, a bracelet and earrings, or a necklace and bracelet, or a necklace and earrings, or a brooch and earrings, or bracelet and brooch, etc. would be a demi parure.

Paste stones Even shinier than rhinestones, cut crystals with much higher lead content (leaded crystal) than rhinestones and can be open backed or foil backed. They are normally shinier, and glitzier than rhinestones because of their lead content and also, they are frequently brilliant cut. They look more like real gem stones. They were common during the Victorian age up through the 1930s and on occasion, in the early 1940s.

Paste stone rhondelles (see rhinestone rondelles and then see paste stones)

Paté-de-verre Glass paste stones that have a flat back and are mirror backed and they are usually sitting in wired on cups.

Pavé Rhinestones or paste stones that look like a paved diamond road. They are glued in, not prong set but are so close together that they give a continuous pavement of sparkle

Pinchbeck A metal (not found in today's jewelry) made from the combination of copper and zinc to look like gold. Wears very well. Often, mistaken for gold filled and gold plated items. When the jewelry has a particularly pinkish gold cast to it, the content of copper is higher. Very popular in the 1800s.

Piqué A process whereby authentic tortoise shell was heated, softened, and then a strip of sterling silver flowers or geometric patterns were inlaid into the shell. Popular in the 17th century and then again in the mid to late 1800s.

Pot metal Any alloys which do not have gold, silver or platinumb as a component. Also called white metal.

Repoussé Using a small hammer and pounding from the back of the metal, it is hand tooled to make the design.

Rhinestone rondelles Usually these are small showy spacers made out of 2 circular silvertone or goldtone rings with tiny rhinestones carefully placed between the 2 circles to look like a rhinestone wheel but the rhinestones are on the round outer edge, not on the flat part of the wheel. They usually separate either pearls or glass beads.

Rhodium plating Rhodium is one of 6 metals used to look like platinum

Russian gold plating A gold plating that was designed to not look too shiny under the cameras eye. Trifari and Joseff among other designers found it to look very rich but not gaudy. Sometimes, the designers would rename it with a variation of their own name.

Signed Indicates that a piece of jewelry has a tiny signature of 14K, Sterling, etc., or a designer's signature. It can be found with a magnifying glass on the clasp, on the back of a piece of jewelry, and sometimes even on the side of a pin or on top of the tiny clasp that goes over a cameo pin. Sometimes quite difficult to find the signature and not all designer pieces are signed... especially the wonderful early pieces.


  • 800 silver 800 out of 1000 parts pure silver
  • 925 silver sterling silver which is 925 parts out of 1000 parts pure silver
  • 980 silver The highest quality sterling silver with 980 parts out of 1000 parts pure silver (not used very often)

Synthetic Stone Certain hard minerals are found with beautiful colors and are cut into stones to mimic the real gems. They are not glass. They are a higher quality mineral.

Torsade Many strands of pearls, glass, or beads pulled together at a single clasp to form a very thick necklace; sometimes the strands are twisted and sometimes not.

Verdigris That nasty green stuff that represents rust! Never buy a Haskell with verdigris. When the gold gilt brass starts turning green, it means it is deteriorating!

Have something to share, create your own Guide... Write a Guide
Explore more Guides