Pearl Education
Jewelry Glossary

Jewelry Glossary

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  • 0.925
    Describes the purity of sterling silver. .925 indicates that the silver is 92.5% pure silver. The remaining 7.5% is usually copper, and is added to make the silver stronger.
  • 10K Gold
    Pure gold is very soft and rarely used to make jewelry. Instead, jewelers use alloys known collectively as karat gold. Karat (K) indicates the number of parts by weight of gold in 24 parts of an alloy. Pure gold is 24K. 10K is 42% gold. The rest may be silver, brass, bronze or other base metals.
  • 14K Gold Plate
    A thin layer of karat gold applied over another metal. Also called gold electroplate.
  • 18K Gold Over Silver
    A plating of karat gold over sterling silver jewelry. Also called vermeil.
  • 24K Gold
    Pure gold.
  • Abalone
    The mother of pearl lining of a mollusk shell. Comes in many color combinations, including black, white, brown, green, purple and pink.
  • Abalone Blister Pearl
    Natural half-pearl that forms on the inside of an abalone oyster shell rather than within its tissue. Once it is reworked, it is known as a Mabe pearl.
  • Abalone Pearl
    Natural whole pearl formed in the body of an abalone, a univalve mollusk known for its iridescent pearls.
  • Adductor
    Muscle responsible for opening and closing a mollusk shell. Sometimes eaten as a delicacy.
  • Adjustable band
    A style of ring that is flexible so the size can be altered.
  • Agate
    A type of chalcedony quartz with a hard outer shell and a colorful banded center. Prone to scratches and chips, agate must be handled carefully.
  • AGS
    The American Gem Society. One of the world’s top diamond grading laboratories.
  • Akoya Cultured
    A high-quality cultured pearl used in premier women’s jewelry. Akoya pearls are grown in the saltwater Akoya oyster and are known for their luster, large size, smoothness and round shape. Farmed in Japan and sometimes China.
  • Akoya Cultured Pearl
    A pearl produced by inserting a seed into a Pinctada fucata martensi mollusk.
  • Alloy
    A mixture of metals used to make jewelry. Soft metals like gold and silver are mixed with other metals to increase strength.
  • Ama
    Historical female pearl divers of Japan. There are 2 kinds: kachido worked alone while the funado worked with a partner, usually the husband.
  • Amethyst
    A semi-precious gemstone that ranges in color from delicate lilac to intense violet. The traditional birthstone for February.
  • Anniversary Band
    A ring including 3 or more diamonds or other gemstones in a prong or channel setting.
  • Aquamarine
    A blue variety of beryl. Most aquamarines are treated to improve color, but the color can quickly fade when exposed to sunlight. The traditional birthstone for March.
  • Aragonite
    Calcium carbonate crystals that are stacked in a brick pattern. Aragonite is a component of mother-of-pearl and nacre.
  • Asscher
    Similar to a square emerald cut but with a higher crown, larger step facets and a smaller table.
  • Asterism
    An optical phenomenon that occurs in certain gemstones reflecting a star-like shape on the surface of a smooth (cabochon) cut. The star may have 4, 6 or 8 rays.
  • Atoll
    A ring of coral that encircles a lagoon. Atolls are considered to be the best place to farm the Pinctada margaritifera mollusk.
  • Baguette
    A popular choice for accent stones in jewelry, baguettes are long and rectangular.
  • Bangle
    A non-flexible bracelet that is slipped onto the wrist. May also have a hinge.
  • Bar Setting
    A ring setting in which gems are held in place and separated by a shared bar.
  • Baroque
    An irregular or asymmetrical pearl. Freshwater pearls are commonly baroque in shape because they are seeded with tissue rather than a bead.
  • Baroque
    A term used to describe free-form shaped gems such as pearls, irregular cuts in gemstones, or tumble-polished stones.
  • Barrel
    A cabochon or faceted gemstone cut in a rectangle with wide sides, resembling a barrel. Popular for men’s jewelry.
  • Barrel Clasp
    A jewelry fastener that resembles two halves of a barrel that screw together.
  • Basra Pearl
    Name given by Indian pearl dealers to freshly harvested natural pearls from the town of Basra, Iraq.
  • Bead-Cultured Pearl
    A pearl grown in freshwater or saltwater that has been started by implanting a bead into a mollusk.
  • Bib
    A statement necklace that drapes onto the chest.
  • Bivalve
    A mollusk with a two-part shell attached by a hinge. Some but not all bivalve mollusks produce pearls.
  • Biwa Pearl
    A freshwater pearl grown in a Hyriopsis schlegeli mussel in Lake Biwa, Japan. Sometimes used incorrectly to describe any freshwater pearl.
  • Black-Lipped Pearl Oyster
    A pearl-producing mollusk that is either a Pinctada margaritifera or a Pinctada margaritifera cumingi.
  • Black Pearl
    A pearl that is naturally dark in color produced by any of the following mollusks: Pinctada margaritifera, Pinctada mazatlanica, or Pteria sterna.
  • Bleaching
    Common whitening treatment applied to most freshwater and cultured Akoya pearls, and sometimes to Tahitian or South Sea pearls.
  • Blemish
    A flaw on the surface of a pearl, including pits and/or humps. Blemishes may be difficult to detect with the naked eye.
  • Blister Pearl
    A pearl that is attached to the shell of the mollusk. It may occur naturally or be done intentionally.
  • Box Clasp
    A fastening mechanism in which a tab is inserted into a decorative box. Frequently has an additional safety feature to secure the closure. Traditionally used for tennis bracelets.
  • Bracelet Set
    A set including multiple bracelets, or bracelets paired with other types of jewelry.
  • Bridal Set
    A set of rings including the engagement ring and wedding band(s).
  • Brilliant Cut
    A cutting style that improves the optical effect and maximizes brilliance, particularly with diamonds.
  • Briolette
    A gemstone cut polished to resemble a bullet.
  • Bu
    Historical Japanese linear measurement that is still used today to describe the diameter of a bead nucleus. One bu = 3.03 millimeters.
  • Buddha Pearl
    The first cultured pearl produced by the Chinese in the 1200s. A Buddha-shaped nucleus was implanted to spur the growth of the pearl.
  • Buffing
    A method of removing organic residue from the surface of a pearl to improve its appearance.
  • Button Pearl
    A dome-shaped pearl with one flat side. Classified as ‘high’ or ‘low’ based on height of dome.
  • Bypass Shank
    A ring mounting in which the two sides of the band overlap or crisscross one another but do not meet.
  • Byssus
    Thread-like tissue secreted by bivalve mollusks to attach themselves to a solid surface.
  • Cable Chain
    A chain with oval or round metal links that alternate with matching links.
  • Cabochon
    A polished gemstone without facets.
  • Calcareous Concretion
    Many types of mollusks including oysters and conches produce these stone-like growths. All pearls are calcareous concretions, nacreous or otherwise.
  • Calcite
    A natural crystalline form of calcium carbonate. When combined with conchiolin and aragonite, they make up nacre.
  • Cameo
    An engraving method used to produce a raised effect on a soft gemstone, often onyx or agate.
  • Candling
    Examining a pearl in front of a focused light source to determine whether it contains a bead nucleus.
  • Carat
    A weight measure sometimes used for natural pearls. A carat = 4 grain, 200 milligrams and 0.007054 ounces.
  • Carat
    A weight measure for gems. For pearls, a carat is 4 grains, 200 mg or 0.007054 oz.
  • Carre
    French for ‘square.’ A carre watch case may have blunted or round corners.
  • Cat’s Eye
    A polished gemstone that displays a glowing band of light down the center (chatoyancy), similar to a cat’s eye.
  • Certified
    A certified gem has been inspected by a reputable gemological lab and issued a certificate.
  • Chain Bracelet/Necklace
    A bracelet or necklace made with matching round or oval links.
  • Chain Style
    One of several styles of metal links. The links can match or alternate in size.
  • Channel Setting
    Rectangular stones set in a row with metal folded over the edges. Offering protection from falling out, chips and scratches, channel settings are a popular choice for engagement and wedding rings.
  • Charm
    A molded or engraved figure that can be made from a variety of materials including glass, plastic, gold, and other metals. Charms are meant to represent passions, special events, or hobbies that are important to the wearer.
  • Chatoyancy
    A single streak of light usually associated with a cabochon cut similar to a cat’s eye.
  • Chevron Style
    A V or upside-down V pattern used in both men’s and women’s jewelry.
  • Chocolate Plated
    A type of metal plating made from a mix of 14K gold and oxidized copper.
  • Choker
    A pearl necklace that lies above the collar bone and measures 14-16-inch (35-41 cm) in length.
  • Choker
    A type of necklace that fits snugly around the neck.
  • Circled Pearl
    A pearl with raised, concentric rings on its surface, likely due to the pearl rotating during growth.
  • Citrine
    A clear yellow type of quartz mixed with iron. Commonly mined in Brazil.
  • Clam Pearls
    Non-nacreous pearls sometimes found in clams. They are generally low in value.
  • Clarity
    An industry term describing the number of blemishes and inclusions in a gemstone.
  • Clasp Style
    Jewelry fasteners come in a variety of styles, such as spring, barrel, box and hook.
  • Classic
    A standard of excellence. A style or pattern that is fashionable for any age or era.
  • Classic Band
    Usually made from gold, silver, or platinum, classic bands may feature diamonds, but tend to be plain in style.
  • Clean
    The best way to clean pearls is by wiping them with a soft cloth after each wear. Use a damp cloth and mild dish soap only when needed. Let dry before storing.
  • Coating
    A natural or artificial layer applied to pearls to enhance surface quality, luster or other optical effects.
  • Cobalt
    A silvery-white metal that is both strong and malleable. Durable and resistant to scratches, it makes an excellent material for wedding bands.
  • Cocktail Ring
    An oversize ring often set with a combination of gemstones positioned at various heights. Also called a dinner ring, cocktail rings may be fine jewelry or costume, and are worn on the middle or index finger.
  • Coin Pearl
    A cultured pearl shaped like a coin.
  • Collar
    A pearl necklace measuring 10-13-inch (25-33 cm) in length, slightly longer than a choker.
  • Collar
    A necklace or strand of pearls that measures 10-13 inches in length.
  • Color
    Pearls come in a rainbow of colors, from classic white to exotic black and every shade in between. Pearls frequently have overtones or a secondary color, including rose, silver, gold, and peacock (a mix of rose, gold, and green).
  • Color
    An industry measurement of color or tinting in a gemstone.
  • Color-Enhanced
    A treatment that alters a gem’s color that may include heat, dye, bleaching, irradiation and oiling.
  • Comfort Fit
    Rounding the inside (shank) of a ring to create a more comfortable fit.
  • Composite Pearls
    Two conjoined pearls that give the appearance of a single pearl.
  • Conch Pearl
    A non-nacreous pearl produced by a conch shell. Rare and valuable, pink is the most desired color.
  • Conchiolin
    An organic glue-like substance that bonds aragonite and calcite crystals in a mollusk’s shell and creates the iridescent layer of mother-of-pearl.
  • Cone
    A gem shape with a flat, round base that narrows to a point.
  • Conflict-Free Diamond
    A diamond that is sourced, produced and traded without abusing human rights or the environment. May be labeled as Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS). The term is not all-inclusive and cannot guarantee certain parts of the production process, such as cutting, which may involve(...)
  • Contemporary
    A jewelry style that incorporates more than one metal or color and has more designs than a classic.
  • Coral
    Found in the tropics and usually protected, fossilized coral is sometimes used in jewelry. May also refer to a pinkish-orange color.
  • Cortez Pearls
    Pearls cultured in Pteria sterna mollusks in the Sea of Cortez, aka the Gulf of California.
  • Costume Jewelry
    Jewelry made from non-precious materials to copy fashion trends of precious jewels.
  • Crown
    The part of the gemstone that lies above the maximum diameter (girdle) and below the flat surface at the top (table).
  • Crystal
    Transparent form of crystallized quartz used in jewelry. Very durable as jewelry, crystal is used in stemware and figurines.
  • Cubic Zirconia (CZ)
    A synthetic crystal that is an affordable alternative to diamonds or other gemstones. Cubic zirconia is not a mineral.
  • Cultured Freshwater
    Freshwater pearls are grown on farms in ponds, rivers, or lakes. The process is still usually carried out by hand. The largest producers of freshwater pearls are the US and China.
  • Cultured Pearl
    A pearl produced by inserting a bead or tissue graft into a mussel or mollusk. The main difference between cultured pearls and natural pearls is cost, cultured being more affordable.
  • Cultured Pearl
    A pearl created by inserting a bead or tissue graft into a mollusk.
  • Curb Chain
    A style in which matching oval links are twisted and flattened. Popular with both men and women for its strength, flexibility and ease of repair.
  • Cushion Cut
    A square cut with rounded corners, similar to a cushion.
  • Cut
    The quality produced by cutting a stone in a specific manner to enhance a gem’s natural beauty. There are numerous types of cuts, including brilliant, step, and mixed.
  • Dentelle
    Rhinestones that have been faceted to create an 8-pointed star design.
  • Diamanté
    The French word for rhinestone.
  • Diamond
    A transparent carbon crystal, diamonds are the hardest known material. The word ‘diamond’ comes from the Greek ‘adamas’ meaning ‘invincibile.’ Highly prized for their ability to split light into rainbow colors.
  • Diffraction
    One way nacre layers split light into rainbow colors, sometimes displayed as an overtone.
  • Dispersion
    The separation of white light into rainbow colors. Gemstones which have been well cut maximize this effect.
  • Dome
    A rounded, convex shape with a flat back that is thickest in the middle and tapers toward the edges.
  • Drop Earring
    An earring style which hangs down from the earlobe.
  • Duotone
    Two different color and metal types, such as yellow gold and sterling silver.
  • Dyed Cultured Freshwater
    Cultivated pearls that are made colorful by immersion in dye.
  • Dyeing
    Artificial coloring of pearls to enhance hue, or to create pearls in colors not found in nature. Pearls are usually dyed after drilling to improve color absorption.
  • Eight-Cut
    A cut with 8 upper and 8 lower cuts plus a table, resulting in 17 facets. Used when a diamond is too small for full cuts.
  • Emerald
    One of the most valuable gems, emeralds can range from medium to dark green. Inclusions are common and considered part of the stone’s character. The traditional birthstone for May.
  • Emerald Cut
    Shaped like a rectangle with trimmed corners. The shape was originally developed for cutting emeralds.
  • Enamel
    A glassy, usually opaque, decorative substance that is baked onto metal, ceramic or glass.
  • Engagement Ring
    A ring that indicates the person wearing it is engaged to be married.
  • Engraving
    The art of cutting decorative lines into metal or other materials.
  • Eternity Band
    A type of anniversary ring in which a continuous row of gemstones, often diamonds, encircle the entire band.
  • Ethical
    Guided by principles that promote human and environmental well-being, and avoiding those that do harm.
  • Exotic Freshwater Pearls
    Cultured freshwater pearls that exhibit unusual colors, such as blue, orange, green or gold.
  • Eye Loupe
    A hand-held magnifying glass used by jewelers to examine gems.
  • Facet
    A cut in a gemstone that catches and reflects light.
  • Fair Trade
    A general term that does not have any single standard or protocol to be measured against. Fair trade may mean that the goods help producers in developing nations improve human health, socioeconomic and/or environmental conditions.
  • Fairmined
    A label given to gold and silver that is sourced only from small-scale and artisan mining organizations. The mines must meet the requirements of the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM).
  • Fancy Cut
    A gemstone cut into a popular shape, such as a heart or flower.
  • Fashion Necklace/Bracelet/Ring
    Jewelry that contains decorative elements including gemstones and crystals.
  • Faux Pearl
    Any imitation pearl manufactured by coating a glass or plastic sphere with a pearlescent coating that is sometimes pearl powder.
  • Feather Pearl
    A cultured pearl grown in the fancy shape of a bird feather.
  • Filigree
    Thin metal wire that has been twisted into delicate patterns.
  • Finding
    A jewelry component such as a clasp, setting head or bail.
  • Flaw
    A general term to indicate an imperfection which negatively impacts the physical or optical nature of a gemstone. Flaws include feathers, stains, clouds, internal crystals, and mistakes in cutting or polishing.
  • Florescence
    A reaction of trace minerals within a diamond that causes it to glow when exposed to UV light.
  • Fluorescence
    A common diagnostic tool used to determine whether a pearl has been dyed.
  • Four Cs
    An industry term that includes the 4 values used to rate diamond quality: cut, color, clarity and carat.
  • French Jet
    Black glass which is an imitation of jet.
  • French Set
    Diamonds set snugly but with the sides visible to allow more light to enter, adding extra sparkle and brilliance.
  • Fresh Water Cultured
    Pearls that have been farmed in lakes, ponds or rivers. Freshwater pearls are not perfectly round and offer a wider range of colors. They tend to be less expensive than saltwater pearls.
  • Freshwater Cultured Pearl
    A pearl produced by inserting a bead or tissue graft into a mussel that lives in non-saline water.
  • Freshwater Pearl
    A pearl grown in a mussel that lives in non-saline water. Freshwater pearls tend to have a more freeform shape than saltwater pearls.
  • Gajamukta
    Pearls said to come from the tusk sockets of elephants.
  • Garnet
    A gem in colors that can range from pale rose to a deep red-black. Garnets can be found in larger cut sizes, generally have good clarity, and are relatively hard, making them a good choice for jewelry. The traditional birthstone for January.
  • Gastropod
    A type of univalve mollusk with a head and eyes, including land and sea snails.
  • Gemstone
    A precious or semi-precious mineral used as jewelry when cut and polished.
  • Genuine
    A genuine gemstone comes from nature and is not man-made.
  • GIA
    The Gemological Institute of America is a not-for-profit, independent authority on gemology.
  • Gilding
    A decorative technique in which gold is applied to a solid surface, such as metal, porcelain or stone.
  • Girdle
    The widest section of a cut gem where the pavilion and crown meet.
  • Glass
    Made from sand, glass can be dyed any color and is often used in costume jewelry.
  • Gold
    A precious metal and a top choice for jewelry. Because gold is very soft, it is usually alloyed (mixed) with other metals such as copper or silver to make it stronger. The amount of gold is represented by karats (K). Pure gold is 24K.
  • Gold Filled
    A type of metal made by bonding a layer of gold with a second, less expensive metal using heat and pressure. The FTC requires the weight of gold to be at least 1/20 of the total weight, and must achieve a minimum classification of 10K. Gold-filled jewelry has a much thicker layer than gold-plated.
  • Gold-Lip Oyster
    The Pinctada maxima mollusk that produces gold South Sea pearls. The edges of the shell’s interior are golden in color.
  • Gold Plated
    A thin layer of metal deposited onto a less expensive metal using electrolysis or chemicals.
  • Gold-Tone
    Gold tone jewelry has been electroplated. It provides a rich look at a fraction of the cost of real gold.
  • Gonad
    The reproductive organ of pearl-producing mollusks where the bead or tissue graft is implanted to produce cultured pearls.
  • Graduated Strand
    A strand of pearls in which the pearls increase in size a minimum of 3 mm from end to middle, with the largest at the center.
  • Graft
    The insertion of tissue into a mollusk to produce a cultured pearl.
  • Grain
    A unit of weight used with natural pearls. One grain = 0.25 carat.
  • Greffon
    French Polynesian term to describe the grafting process.
  • Guard
    A type of ring worn with and encompassed by an engagement ring. It may be the wedding band or worn in addition to the band, creating a coordinated wedding ring set.
  • Half Bezel Setting
    To protect a gem from scratches and chips, the stone is set flush with or slightly below a protective metal band on 2 sides.
  • Half-Drilled
    A pearl that has been drilled to 2/3 or 3/4 of its diameter in order to be set in a piece of jewelry.
  • Half Moon
    Frequently used as an accent stone around a larger, central stone, a half moon gem has a straight edge on one side and a curved arc on the other.
  • Haliotis
    The type of gastropod more commonly known as abalone. The shell is extremely strong with tiny tiles of calcium carbonate stacked like bricks.
  • Halo
    A style of engagement ring featuring smaller diamonds encircling a central stone.
  • Hanadama Certification
    A minimum pearl quality standard set by The Pearl Science Lab in Japan.
  • Hankei
    The Japanese term for a cultured blister pearl, which is a pearl attached to the inner surface of a mollusk shell.
  • Hardness
    A gem’s ability to resist scratches. The Mohs Scale rates hardness from 1 to 10, with 10 being the hardest.
  • Hematite
    An iron oxide that is opaque and usually a deep gray-black with a metallic luster. Often cut into beads.
  • Hue
    The first impression of gem’s color.
  • Hyriopsis Schlegeli
    The pearl mussel native to Japan used to produce cultured freshwater pearls in Lake Biwa. Also cultivated in China.
  • Imitation Pearl
    Any artificial pearl created by coating a glass or plastic sphere with a pearlescent coating that is sometimes pearl powder.
  • Inclusion
    A foreign material, usually small, in a mineral.
  • Interference
    Interference of light by nacre creates a variety of colors on a pearl’s surface.
  • Invisible Setting
    A technique invented by Van Cleef & Arpels to set stones from the back so that no metal mounting shows, creating the impression of a single large stone.
  • Ion Plated
    An advanced surface finishing process that involves adding a titanium nitride layer in vapor form to a base metal. Ion plating creates a harder, more durable surface and an improved brightness and sheen than other plating methods. Also called IP Plating.
  • IRE
    Insurance Replacement Estimate. An estimate of jewelry value used by insurance companies.
  • Iridescence
    Color play on the surface of a pearl caused by light being split into its component colors.
  • Iridescent
    A rainbow-like effect or feature of jewelry that shows different colors when viewed from different angles.
  • Irradiation
    A process in which a cultured pearl is exposed to gamma rays to darken the nacre.
  • Ivory
    An organic gem formed in the tusks or teeth of certain mammals including elephants, narwhals and wild boars. Ivory is very soft and most often used for carving and engraving. Due to the decimation of certain species caused by the collection of ivory, importing ivory into the US is illegal.
  • J-Hoop
    A type of earring that loops through the earlobe and resembles the letter J.
  • Jade
    Both nephrite and jadeite can be made into jade. Jadeite is considered more valuable due to the intensity of its color, translucency and rarity. Jade ranges in color from emerald to mottled green, and also black, white, pink and yellow.
  • Japanned
    Metal treated with a black lacquer.
  • Jet
    A type of coal formed by heat, pressure and chemical reactions on ancient driftwood that can be carved, polished, faceted and engraved. Commonly used in the 19th century as mourning jewelry.
  • Jewelry Gift Sets
    A type of gift set featuring matching earrings and a necklace.
  • Journey
    A jewelry style containing at least 4 stones of different sizes, arranged in order from smallest to largest. The design is meant to signify the growth of love over time, and also important turning points or steps along one’s life path.
  • Kan
    Historical Japanese unit used to weigh pearls. One kan = 1,000 momme, 3.75 kilograms or 8.26 pounds.
  • Karat
    A measurement of the amount of pure gold in an alloy. The amount of gold can be calculated by diving the karat number by 24.
  • Keishi
    A small, round pearl. Also referred to as seed pearls.
  • Keshi Pearl
    A small natural or cultured pearl. The term comes from the Japanese word for ‘poppyseed.’
  • Kite
    A gem carved into the shape of a kite. Five matching kites are sometimes used to create a star pattern. Also called a diamond cut.
  • La Paz Pearl Oyster
    Before culturing black-lip pearl oysters in French Polynesia became popular, most black pearls came from La Paz Pearl Oysters in Panama or Baja California.
  • La Peregrina
    A natural drop-shaped pearl found in 1513 in the Gulf of Panama by the Spanish explorer Balboa and given to King Philip II of Spain.
  • Lab Grown
    A manmade diamond. Lab grown diamonds have the same physical, chemical and optical characteristics as natural diamonds and are nearly impossible to differentiate from mined diamonds.
  • Lapis Lazuli
    A deep blue gemstone that sometimes has white or brass-colored inclusions.
  • Leverback
    A curved wire used as an earring mount that resembles a fish hook. Often used with dangle-style earrings.
  • Linné, Carl Von
    Carolus Linnaeus was the first person to culture whole pearls. He also created the classification system of plants and animals used today.
  • Lobster Clasp
    A fastener held closed by a spring, named for its pinching mechanism. Frequently used on necklaces and bracelets, lobster clasps are easier to open than some other types of fasteners.
  • Locket
    A necklace that opens to reveal a small personal memento, such as a photograph or engraving. Usually heart-shaped or oval.
  • Longline Systems
    Part of the pearl farming process. Lines are stretched between buoys and anchored to the bottom at both ends. Vertical lines (chaplets) with baskets of mollusks are suspended from the longlines.
  • Luminous
    Markers or numbers that glow in the dark.
  • Luster
    The quality and quantity of light reflected from the surface of a pearl. High-quality pearls appear to be illuminated from within. Thicker nacre usually results in better luster.
  • Luster/Lustre
    The quantity and quality of light reflected from the surface of a pearl.
  • Mabe
    A blister pearl grown in Pteria penguin mollusk, then hollowed out and filled with a substance and backing.
  • Mabe Pearl
    A pearl shape in which one side is rounded while the other is flat. Naturally occurring mabe pearls are extremely rare.
  • Madrel
    A device used by jewelers to measure ring size.
  • Maeshori Treatment
    A deep-cleaning process used in Japan before bleaching Akoya cultured pearls. Also used to describe several processes used to enhance the luster of most Chinese Freshwater and some South Sea pearls.
  • Malachite
    A gem with attractive swirling green hues ranging from forest to light green. Named for its resemblance to the leaves of the mallow plant.
  • Mantle
    The organ that lines the shell of bivalve mollusks and secretes nacre.
  • Margaritifera / margaritifera
    With a capital ‘M’, a genus of freshwater mussels. With a lowercase ‘m’ (Pinctada margaritifera), a species of black-lip mollusk.
  • Marquise Cut
    A modified brilliant-cut resembling a football. The marquise cut highlights the perceived size of the gemstone.
  • Master Set
    A group of pearls used for comparison to assess the quality of cultured pearls submitted for grading.
  • Matching
    Refers to a strand in which the pearls are uniform, either in graduated size or all the same size.
  • Matching Set
    An engagement ring, and wedding bands for the bride and groom in a matching style.
  • Matinee
    A pearl necklace measuring 20-24 inches (50-60 cm) in length. Matinees have a slimming effect. It is the classic length for an Akoya pearl necklace.
  • Matinee Length
    A necklace or strand of pearls that measure between 20-24 inches in length.
  • Mature Pearl
    A natural pearl that is extremely beautiful.
  • Melo Melo
    Marine gastropod that produces the non-nacreous Melo pearl. Rare and very valuable.
  • Mikimoto, Kichimatsu
    First person to commercially produce round cultured pearls using the Mise-Nishikawa method.
  • Milgrain
    Rows of tiny raised metal beads along the edge of a piece of jewelry, usually in a ring.
  • Mollusk
    A large and diverse category of invertebrates, some of which produce pearls.
  • Momme
    A Japanese unit of weight for cultured pearls. One momme = 3.75 grams.
  • Mother-of-Pearl
    The iridescent lining of the inner shell of some mollusks. When it coats a bead to form a cultured pearl, it is called nacre.
  • Mother’s Ring
    A custom ring set with birthstones representing each of the wearer’s children or grandchildren. Traditionally set in a row, mother’s rings are now also available in cluster settings.
  • Mounting
    A term for an engagement ring setting. The mounting includes the head and shoulders of the ring. May also refer to the placement of the central stone and the surrounding details.
  • Multi-Stone
    A type of ring for women in which multiple gemstones are clustered together, creating the illusion of a single, large stone.
  • Nacre
    The lovely iridescent substance that forms inside a mollusk and is commonly called mother-of-pearl. Made of aragonite, calcite and conchiolin.
  • Natural
    A gemstone created by nature that has not been treated or enhanced in any way.
  • Natural Pearl
    A pearl that has formed in a mollusk without human intervention. Very rare and thus valuable.
  • Nautilus Pearl
    Extremely rare pearl from the Nautilus pompilius. Imitation Osmenda pearls are sometimes incorrectly named nautilus pearls.
  • Nishikawa, Tokichi
    Credited, possibly by mistake, with discovering the bead-and-tissue method of pearl culture.
  • Non-Nacreous Pearl
    A natural pearl lacking a nacreous surface. Non-nacreous pearls appear to be denser and more like porcelain.
  • Nucleation
    The process of implanting a bead in a mollusk to become the core of a cultured pearl.
  • Nucleus
    The bead implanted into a mollusk to form the core of a cultured pearl. The most common nucleus is a mother-of-pearl bead.
  • Nucleus
    A bead implanted in a mollusk to become the core of a cultured pearl.
  • Nugget
    A gemstone shape inspired by the rugged look of a nugget of gold.
  • Obsidian
    A glassy volcanic stone. Normally black, obsidian can also be brown, gold or even white. Used in ancient times to make weapons and mirrors.
  • Ocean Cut
    A shape unique to Swarovski with multiple facets to catch light.
  • Octagon
    Gem shape with 8 equal sides.
  • Omega Back
    Earring back shaped like the Greek letter Omega. Usually used with hoop earrings.
  • Onyx
    A type of quartz or chalcedony. Opaque black with crisp lines that give each piece a unique appearance, onyx has a striking appearance that makes it very popular for jewelry. Usually smooth-cut into cabochon.
  • Opal
    A beautiful iridescent stone with shifting colors due to tiny internal structures that reflect the light and create a shimmering effect called ‘fire.’
  • Opera
    A pearl necklace measuring 28-35 inches (70-90 cm) in length. Dramatic and meant for glamorous evening events, opera length necklaces can be worn as a long single strand or doubled.
  • Opera Length
    A necklace or strand of pearls that measures 28-30 inches in length.
  • Organic Dyes
    Used to alter the color of cultured and natural pearls. Organic dyes may produce a more original effect, but can be difficult to replicate.
  • Organic Dyes
    Sometimes used to change the color of pearls and other gems.
  • Orient
    An optical phenomenon producing iridescence in some pearls. Diffraction, refraction, reflection and thin-film interference may all cause orient.
  • Oriental Pearl
    Historical term for natural pearls from the Red Sea and Persian Gulf.
  • Oval
    An elliptical shape, it can be considered midway between round and marquise. An oval cut creates the illusion of a larger stone.
  • Overlay Vermeil
    Gold plate applied over a silver base.
  • Overtone
    Secondary color on the surface of a pearl created by the nacre splitting light into component colors.
  • Oxidation
    A reaction with the environment leading to tarnish on a metal. Sometimes done intentionally to achieve a certain effect.
  • Oxidized Silver
    A process of controlled oxidation to cause silver to tarnish.
  • Oyster
    Common name for some bivalve mollusks. True oysters do not create nacreous pearls.
  • Oyster Pearls
    Chalk-like natural pearls produced by edible oysters that have a low commercial value.
  • Palladium Plate
    A lustrous silver-white metal that is 15 times rarer than platinum. Palladium plate is palladium that has been applied over another base metal, such as silver.
  • Parure
    A matching set of jewels meant to be worn together.
  • Paste
    A term used for glass that has been cut and faceted to look like a precious gem.
  • Pavé
    Small stones set close together so that very little metal shows between them.
  • Pavillion
    The section of a gemstone below the widest section (girdle) and above the bottom facet (culet).
  • Peacock
    Hue commonly associated with black pearls. Colors range from dark green-gray to blue-gray with rose and purple overtones.
  • Pear Cut
    A hybrid between an oval cut and a marquise cut, a pear cut is tapered at one end.
  • Pearl
    A smooth, lustrous mass formed in certain bivalve mollusks and valued as a gem.
  • Pearl Sac
    Grown to contain an intruder or implanted bead, it deposits nacre to form a pearl.
  • Peeling
    Removing the outer nacre layers of a cultured pearl to improve quality.
  • Pelegrina, La
    A pair of natural pearls with the same name. The first is round and weighs 111.5 grains; the second is drop-shaped and weighs 133.2 grains.
  • Pendant
    A decorative ornament that hangs from a necklace, earring, or pin.
  • Peridot
    Sometimes called chrysolite or olivine, its color is its most important quality. Hues can range from yellow-green to brilliant chartreuse. The traditional birthstone for August.
  • Personalized
    Customization of jewelry through a variety of methods including engraving, gem selection, and other specifications.
  • Pewter
    A silver-gray alloy of tin and copper.
  • Pinctada Fucata Martensi
    Mollusk which produces Akoya pearls. Akoyas were the first pearls to be cultured, which took place in Japan in the 1920s.
  • Pinctada Imbricata
    A general term that encompasses all Akoya mollusks regardless of where they grow.
  • Pinctada Margaritifera
    Black-lip mollusk that produces Tahitian and Cook Island cultured pearls.
  • Pinctada Martensi
    Synonym for Pinctada fucata martensi, a mollusk that produces Akoya pearls.
  • Pinctada Maxima
    The silver- or gold-lip pearl mollusk used to produce South Sea cultured pearls.
  • Pinctada Mazatlanica
    Mollusk native to the Gulf of California and the Pacific Ocean in Mexico and Central America.
  • Pinctada Radiata
    Pearl-producing mollusk with a wide distribution, living in both hemispheres and most oceans and seas around the world.
  • Plated
    The process of coating a surface of a less valuable metal with a thin layer of a precious metal to improve durability and resist corrosion.
  • Platinum
    The heaviest of the precious metals. A very strong, silver-white metal, platinum resists scratching and fading. Popular for engagement rings and wedding bands, platinum is also hypoallergenic and never needs replating.
  • Point
    A unit of weight in the gem industry. One point equals 1/100 of a carat.
  • Post-Consumer Recycled
    Any material including gemstones and metals recovered from used consumer goods and reused for new products.
  • Potato
    A pearl shape that is oblong and irregular, like a potato.
  • Pre-Consumer Recycled
    Material recovered from the manufacturing process, or uncirculated goods that are reclaimed to make new products.
  • Precious Gemstone
    Gems which are considered to be rare and have a remarkable color and brilliance. Diamonds, sapphires, emeralds and rubies are all considered precious.
  • Princess
    A pearl necklace measuring 17-19 inches (43-48 cm) in length. A modern classic, princess length necklaces are extremely versatile and elegant as they go effortlessly from day to evening.
  • Princess Cut
    A square, stepped shape. The second most popular shape for a gemstone, behind the round brilliant cut.
  • Promise Ring
    A ring that pledges a commitment, also called a pre-engagement ring. Generally less expensive than an engagement ring.
  • Prong
    A narrow metal strip folded over the girdle of a gemstone to attach it to its setting. A common setting for engagement rings.
  • Proportion
    The relationship between the facet angles and other sections and how they impact brilliance and the gem’s profile.
  • Quality Assurance Tag
    A voluntary quality-control system introduced in 1999. The tag indicates that a strand of cultured pearls meets minimum quality standards.
  • Quartz
    One of the most common minerals on Earth. Quartz offers a wide variety of stones used for jewelry. Types include amethyst, bloodstone, agate, jasper, citrine, smoky quartz and rose quartz.
  • Queen’s Necklace
    A necklace or pearl strand measuring 31.5 inches (80 cm) in length.
  • Radiant Cut
    A square or octagon gem that has its corners cut in a straight line rather than rounding them off. A combination of a princess cut and a cushion cut.
  • Rainbow Pearl
    Pearl from the Pinctada mazatlanica exhibiting colors like those from the black-lip mollusk, Pinctada margaritifera.
  • Rectangle Cut
    Cut in the form of a rectangle with trimmed corners.
  • Recycled
    Gemstones and/or metals that have been purchased or used by consumers (post-consumer), or are a byproduct of manufacturing (pre-consumer), or a finished good that never entered circulation (pre-consumer) and is reused in the production of new products.
  • Red Tide
    Overproduction of algae, also called algal bloom, that can weaken or kill mollusks by consuming all the oxygen in the water and/or poisoning them when the algae die. Red tide is not a true tide, nor is it always red.
  • Refractive Index
    A measurement of how light is bent as it passes through a gemstone. Refractive measurements are unique to each individual mineral and can be used as an identifying characteristic.
  • Refractive Index (RI)
    The measurement of light as it bends from one substance to another, such as from air into nacre. The refractive index of natural and cultured pearls is 1.51-1.66.
  • Rhinestone
    A colorless glass or crystal stone that is cut and faceted to look like a diamond.
  • Rice
    A small oval or egg-shaped pearl with a crinkled surface.
  • Rice Pearl
    A small, oblong pearl that resembles a grain of rice. Rice pearls are often strung together in multiple strands.
  • Rondelle
    A disc-shaped metal ornament placed between beads and often set with rhinestones.
  • Rope
    A pearl strand measuring more than 45 inches (115 cm) in length. A luxurious length that offers multiple options including looping and knotting.
  • Rose Gold
    A pink-tinted gold obtained by alloying gold with copper and silver.
  • Round Cut
    The most popular cut for gemstones. Usually faceted to catch and reflect light.
  • Round Pearl
    A perfectly round pearl, or one whose diameter does not vary by more than 2%.
  • Ruby
    The red variety of corundum; all others are sapphires. One of the most highly-prized colored gemstones. Colors range from pink to orange to purple to brownish-red; mid- to deep red is often the most valuable. Corundum is very hard, making it an excellent choice for jewelry. The traditional(...)
  • Safety Chain
    An extra chain used as a security measure in the event the clasp opens.
  • Safety Clasp
    A second fastener used as security measure in the event the primary clasp fails.
  • Saltwater Cultured
    Pearls that have been farmed in saltwater. They tend to be rounder and more regular in shape than freshwater pearls. Types include Akoya, Tahitian, and South Sea.
  • Saltwater Pearl
    A natural or cultured pearl produced by a mollusk living in saltwater. Usually round, saltwater pearls often have a thinner nacre coating than freshwater pearls, which are almost entirely nacre.
  • Sapphire
    The only stone harder than a sapphire is a diamond. Renown as a brilliant, rich blue, sapphires actually come in a variety of colors, including white, yellow, green and pink. The traditional birthstone for September.
  • Satin Finish
    Metal finish used to blunt the shine and produce a softer luster.
  • Sautoir
    A pearl strand measuring more than 36 inches (90 cm) in length. A sautoir is also sometimes called a rope.
  • Scallop Pearl
    A non-nacreous pearl produced by a mollusk of the Pectinidae family. Scallops can swim and are the only migratory bivalve.
  • Scintillation
    The flashes and sparkles produced when a translucent gem is struck by light.
  • Screw Back
    An earring held in place by an adjustable screw.
  • Seed Pearl
    A tiny natural pearl weighing less than 1/4 grain and usually measuring less than 2 mm in diameter.
  • Seed Pearl
    A natural pearl measuring smaller than 2mm in diameter.
  • Semi-Precious Gemstone
    Any gemstone that is not a diamond, emerald, sapphire or ruby. It is misleading to consider semi-precious gems to be less valuable, as they can be rarer, more valuable, and of finer quality than precious gems.
  • Set
    Two or more rings of a similar style or theme that are sold together. Rings sets can be stackable or multiple sizes.
  • Setting
    Describes the overall ring design including engravings, accents, side stones or other work on the band. Usually used in reference to engagement rings.
  • Shank
    The part of the ring that goes around the finger. The setting is attached to the shank.
  • Shape
    Pearls come in a wide variety of shapes, including round, ringed, button, drop and baroque.
  • Shape
    Describes the basic form of a gem, such as round, square, pear, etc.
  • Shell
    Shells come from sea creatures such as mollusks. Shell jewelry can be delicate and needs careful handling.
  • Shell Pearl
    Imitation pearl made from a mollusk shell, aka mother-of-pearl. The nacre is pulverized and mixed with other materials to form a pearl.
  • Shinju
    Japanese word for pearl. The method for culturing pearls was developed in Japan in the 1920s.
  • Silver
    Sterling silver is 92.5% silver alloyed with 7.5% other metals.
  • Silver Plate
    A layer of silver applied to a base metal. Plating will wear away over time.
  • Simulated Pearl
    An imitation pearl often made of shell, glass, ceramic or plastic.
  • Size
    Describes the diameter of a pearl. Anything below 7 millimeters is called ‘dainty’; 7 to 8 millimeters is a classic ‘wear anywhere’ size; while those greater than 8 millimeters are considered to be ‘luxury.’
  • Solid Metal
    A piece of jewelry made entirely of one metal, or the least amount of other metals needed to ensure sufficient durability.
  • Solitaire Engagement Ring
    An elegant, classic style designed to let a single gemstone shine.
  • South Sea
    Pearls from the South Sea are usually larger than average, and are a brilliant, shiny white. Cultivation is difficult, making this type of pearl rare and more expensive.
  • South Sea Cultured
    A premier saltwater pearl that is famous for its large size, rich luster and delicate hues ranging from white to cream, silver, pink and gold. South Sea Cultured pearls are grown by the Pinctada maxima oyster in the area stretching from China to Australia.
  • South Sea Pearl
    Pearl produced by the Pinctada maxima mollusk. Usually larger than the average pearl, South Sea pearls tend to be exceptionally smooth and round, making them highly desirable.
  • Spat
    Saltwater mollusk larva that is old enough to attach itself to a fixed surface but does not yet have a shell.
  • Spinel
    Known as ‘the great imposter’ of ruby. Spinels come in a wide array of colors, including any combination of white, blue, pink, purple and orange.
  • Square Cut
    A square, stepped shape. The second most popular cut behind round brilliant.
  • Stainless Steel
    Durable, lightweight and resistant to corrosion, stainless steel is an alloy of iron-carbon mixed with chromium and nickel. More affordable than many other metals.
  • Sterling Silver
    A precious metal that is less expensive and more widely available than gold.
  • Strombus Gigas
    Also called the queen conch, a large mollusk that lives in the Caribbean. Pearls correspond to the color of the inner surface of the shell and are very rare.
  • Stud
    Pierced style of earring with a single gem or precious metal that is often round.
  • Surface
    One of the factors considered when determining the quality of a pearl. A strand of pearls without blemishes is very rare.
  • Surface
    One of the quality factors considered when grading a pearl.
  • Sustainability
    Actions including sourcing, production, sale and distribution that protect the environment and the well-being of humans.
  • Swarovski Crystals
    A type of leaded glass that has been cut to catch the light. Used in jewelry and figurines.
  • Symmetrical Pearl
    A pearl that is exactly the same shape on both sides of the central axis.
  • Synthetic Gemstone
    Manmade gem that has been created in a lab. Synthetic gems have the same chemical, physical and optical qualities as natural gems.
  • Table
    The large, flat facet on the top of a gem.
  • Table Cut
    A simple cut with a very large, flat area. Often used for men’s rings or seals.
  • Tahitian Cultured
    A type of pearl known for its large size and dark colors. Usually black, Tahitian Cultured pearls can also be gray or green. Despite its name, Tahiti does not have any pearl farms. The pearls are cultivated around French Polynesia.
  • Tahitian Cultured Pearl
    Produced in French Polynesia by the black-lip (Pinctada margaritifera) mollusk.
  • Tapered Baguette
    A long, thin gem that is smaller at one end so it fits snugly with other baguettes.
  • Te Ufi
    Term used by the original inhabitants of French Polynesia for the local black-lipped pearl oyster.
  • Teardrop Cut
    A hybrid between an oval cut and a marquise cut, with a tapered point at one end.
  • Tennis
    A thin, flexible bracelet with diamonds or other gemstones stretching the entire length.
  • Tension Setting
    Opposite ends of the setting hold the gemstone in place by tension, creating the effect of a floating gem.
  • Three-Stone Necklace/Ring
    A type of jewelry that represents the past, present and future of a relationship.
  • Tinting
    Diluted dye that produces a slight change in a pearl’s color, often pink.
  • Titanium
    As strong as steel but about half the weight, silvery-white platinum resists tarnishing, making it an ideal choice for jewelry worn daily.
  • Toggle Clasp
    A fastener style with a bar on one end that is inserted into a ring on the opposite end.
  • Tone
    A synonym for color, meaning the main color of a pearl. Overtones are secondary colors seen in a pearl.
  • Topaz
    A hard gemstone found in a range of colors including pink, red, blue, yellow, orange, clear, and brown.
  • Total Carat Weight (CT. T.W.)
    Carats indicate the weight of a gemstone. The standard unit is 200 milligrams and is made in 1/8 increments. In jewelry with more than one gemstone, the carats may be described with a total combined carat weight of all the stones in the piece.
  • Total Gem Weight
    The sum of the weight of all gems in a piece of jewelry.
  • Tourmaline
    A richly-hued mineral available in an array of colors. Single color tourmaline is rare. Can be dichroic, meaning the stone appears to change color when angled into different lighting. Pink or red tourmaline is an alternative birthstone for October.
  • Treatment
    Any action other than polishing that alters a pearl’s appearance, including bleaching, heating, waxing, irradiation, drilling, working and cutting.
  • Tri-Tone
    Jewelry made with 3 different colored metals, such as gold, rose gold and silver.
  • Trio Set
    A matched set including the engagement ring and wedding bands for the bride and groom.
  • Triplet
    A way to improve durability or enhancing visual impact of a gem by sandwiching it between glass or less valuable stones. A thin layer of glass is applied to the gemstone and a more durable stone is adhered to the bottom, providing necessary heft underneath.
  • Turquoise
    Valued for thousands of years for its sky-blue color. Blue shades are due to the presence of copper while green shades come from iron or chromium. A cousin to lapis lazuli.
  • Two-Tone
    A piece of jewelry with two different metal shades.
  • Unio
    A species of freshwater mussel, many of which produce small, irregular pearls with good luster.
  • Vermeil
    A combination of sterling silver, gold and other precious metals. To be considered vermeil, the gold must be at least 10K and 2.5 micrometers in thickness. Gold vermeil is considered the best of all gold-plated jewelry.
  • Waxing
    A type of treatment used to enhance a pearl’s luster. Sometimes called ‘maeshori.’
  • Wedding Band
    Ring worn to indicate that the wearer is married. A symbol of commitment.
  • White Gold
    Usually created by alloying yellow gold, copper, nickel and zinc, and then plating with rhodium.
  • Working
    The removal of nacre layers from a pearl to improve its appearance. Luster treatments such as working can be difficult to detect with the naked eye.
  • Wrap
    A type of ring worn with an engagement ring. It may be the wedding band or another band, creating a coordinated wedding ring set.
  • X-Ray Testing
    Used to determine whether a pearl is natural, cultured, or imitation.
  • Yellow Gold
    An alloy of gold, copper and silver.
  • Zircon
    Brilliant gem with an intense ‘fire.’ A classic gemstone, zircons are available in a range of colors.
  • Zirconium
    The metal zircon is treated with a heating process that makes the outer layer of the metal extremely durable. Gray and white before treatment, zirconium turns black when heat is applied.

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