Isbell Jewelers’ Common Jewelry Terms Defined

Many love the beauty and elegance of jewelry but don’t understand the terms used in descriptions. The jewelers at Isbell have put together a list of the industry’s most common jewelry terms with simple definitions to help! This list is in categories based on metals, gemstones, setting and mechanics, and historical descriptions and jewelry styles defined. 


Jewelry Terms About Metals


Hallmark – A mark or stamp on jewelry indicating its metal purity or the manufacturer’s identity.


Karat (K) – A unit of measurement for gold purity. 24K gold is considered pure gold, while 18K gold contains 75% gold and 25% other metals. Note that karat spelled with a “k” is used only in reference to metals while carat with a “c” can refer to either metals or gemstone weight. 


Casting – The process of creating jewelry by pouring molten metal into a mold and letting it cool and solidify.


Enamel – A colored glass or ceramic coating applied to metal jewelry for decoration.


Patina– The surface color or texture of metal that develops over time due to oxidation or wear.


Filigree – Delicate, ornamental metalwork resembling lace.


Soldering – The process of fusing metal pieces together using heat and solder.


Jewelry Terms About Gemstones


Gemstone – A precious or semi-precious mineral or organic material used for adornment in jewelry.


Brilliance – The brightness and sparkle of a gemstone or diamond due to its ability to reflect light.


Luster – The shine and sheen of a gemstone or metal.


Facets – The geometrically arranged flat surfaces of a cut gemstone.


Carat (ct) – A unit of weight used to measure gemstones and diamonds. One carat is equivalent to 200 milligrams. Carats cannot always be used to estimate the size of a gemstone since some stones are heavier or lighter than other gemstones. 


Cut – Refers to the shape and style of a gemstone or diamond, as well as the quality of its facets and proportions.


Clarity – A measure of the internal and external flaws or inclusions in a gemstone or diamond.


Color – The perceived color of a gemstone or diamond, graded on a scale from D (colorless) to Z (light yellow or brown).


4 C’s of Diamonds – The combination of the Carat, Cut, Clarity, and Color mentioned above are factors in the overall quality of the diamond. For more information visit our blog post Isbell’s Diamond Guide: The 4 C’s of Diamonds


Mohs Scale – a scale that measures the hardness of a gemstone which indicates how durable the stone is or is likely to resist scratching and damage. To learn more: Mohs Scale of Hardness


Jewelry Terms About Gemstone Cuts


For detailed information about gemstone cuts visit our blog post: Fancy Cut Diamonds


Round Brilliant Cut -The most popular and classic cut for diamonds and many other gemstones. It has a round shape with numerous facets designed to maximize brilliance and sparkle.


Princess Cut – A square or rectangular cut with pointed corners. This cut also maximizes brilliance and is a popular choice for engagement rings.


Emerald Cut – A rectangular or square cut with beveled corners. This cut has larger, open facets that emphasize the gem’s clarity and color. Named after the Emerald because it is most often cut in this shape.


Oval Cut – An elongated, symmetrical oval shape with brilliant faceting. It creates a flattering and elegant look for various gemstones.


Marquise Cut – An elongated cut with pointed ends. It maximizes the perceived size of the gemstone and creates a unique and elongating effect.


Pear (or Teardrop) Cut – Resembles a tear shape, combining the features of both the round and marquise cuts. It is commonly used in pendants and earrings.


Cushion Cut – Also known as a pillow-cut, it has a square or rectangular shape with rounded corners. This cut offers a vintage and romantic appeal.


Radiant Cut – A rectangular or square cut with trimmed corners and brilliant faceting. It combines the elegance of the emerald cut with the sparkle of the round brilliant cut.


Asscher Cut – Similar to the emerald cut but square with cropped corners. It provides a distinctive and sophisticated look.


Heart Cut – A romantic cut in the shape of a heart. It requires skillful cutting to maintain symmetry and is often used in pendants and other sentimental jewelry.


Trilliant (or Triangle) Cut – A triangular-shaped cut with sharp corners. It is used for accent stones or as a unique center stone in some jewelry designs.


Baguette Cut – A small, rectangular step-cut with straight facets. It is often used as an accent stone in jewelry.


Cabochon Cut – A smooth, polished, and rounded cut with no facets. It highlights the gemstone’s color and unique characteristics.


Briolette Cut – A teardrop-shaped cut with facets all around, often used for gemstone beads or dangles in earrings and necklaces.


Jewelry Terms About Settings and Mechanics


Setting – The metal framework that holds gemstones in place in a piece of jewelry.


Prong – A small metal claw-like projection used to hold a gemstone securely in its setting. 


Prong Setting – A popular and classic setting where small metal claws (prongs) hold the gemstone in place. This setting allows maximum light to enter the stone, enhancing its brilliance and sparkle.


Bezel Setting – In this setting, the gemstone is surrounded by a metal rim (bezel) that holds it securely in place. It offers excellent protection to the gem and is a good choice for more delicate stones.


Channel Setting – Gemstones are set in a row between two parallel metal channels, creating a smooth and continuous surface. This setting is often used for accent stones or in wedding bands.


Pave Setting – Tiny gemstones are set close together and held in place with small prongs, giving the appearance of a “paved” surface of gems. This setting creates a dazzling and luxurious look.


Tension Setting – The gemstone appears to be suspended in the air, held in place by the pressure of the metal band that surrounds it. This setting showcases the gem’s brilliance and gives a modern, sleek appearance.


Cluster Setting – Multiple gemstones are arranged closely together to create the illusion of a larger, more intricate centerpiece. This setting is often used to enhance the overall visual impact of the jewelry piece.


Halo Setting – The center gemstone is encircled by a “halo” of smaller stones, adding extra sparkle and making the center stone appear larger. Halo settings are popular for engagement rings.


Flush Setting – The gemstone is set into a hole drilled into the metal, so it sits flush with the surface of the jewelry. This setting is ideal for a contemporary and low-profile look.


Gypsy Setting –  Also known as a “flush setting with a bead,” the gemstone is set into a hole and secured by a bead of metal over the stone, leaving the top of the gem exposed.


Illusion Setting – Metal is used to create an illusion around the gemstone, making it appear larger than its actual size.


Cabochon Setting – Suitable for cabochon-cut gemstones, this setting has a smooth and rounded surface that enhances the gem’s natural beauty.


Bead Setting – The gemstone is held in place by small metal beads that are pushed over its edge, securely gripping the stone.


Invisible Setting – This setting uses grooves in the gemstone’s pavilion to fit into a metal framework, giving the appearance of a continuous surface.


Pendant – A hanging ornament or charm on a necklace.


Bail – A loop or finding that attaches a pendant to a necklace or chain.


Chain – A series of interlocking links or loops worn around the neck or wrist.


Toggle Clasp – A type of jewelry clasp that uses a bar and ring to secure a necklace or bracelet.


Brooch – A decorative pin or clasp worn on clothing.


Cameo – A carved gemstone or shell with a raised relief image on a contrasting background.


Jewelry Styles and Historical Periods Defined


Below we have provided brief descriptions of jewelry styles and historical periods that influence jewelry design today. You may see mention of some of the historical periods when browsing our online gallery! 

Ancient and Classical Period Jewelry


Ancient Egyptian – Known for its use of gold, symbolism, and intricate beadwork, often featuring scarabs and other amulets.


Ancient Greek and Roman – Featured intricate metalwork, cameos, and intaglios. Gold and gemstones were commonly used in jewelry designs.


Medieval and Renaissance Periods


Gothic – Characterized by ornate and intricate designs, often featuring religious symbols, crosses, and gemstones.


Renaissance – Known for its revival of classical art and culture, jewelry from this period featured detailed enamel work, gemstones, and pearls.


Georgian and Victorian Eras


Georgian – Named after the British kings George I to IV, this era featured intricate metalwork, gemstone clusters, and nature-inspired designs.


Victorian – Spanning Queen Victoria’s reign, jewelry styles ranged from the Romantic Period to the Aesthetic Period, featuring sentimental symbols, lockets, and mourning jewelry.


Art Nouveau and Art Deco Periods


Art Nouveau – Characterized by flowing, organic forms inspired by nature. Jewelry featured curves, floral motifs, and opals, pearls, and colored gemstones.


Art Deco – Known for its geometric shapes, straight lines, and bold designs. Diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires were often used in symmetrical patterns.


Mid-20th Century to Contemporary


Retro or Retro Modern – From the 1940s, featured bold designs, oversized gemstones, and gold. Cocktail rings and statement pieces were popular.


Modern and Contemporary – A wide range of styles influenced by various art movements and individual designers. Minimalist, avant-garde, and eco-friendly designs are prominent.


These styles and periods represent just a snapshot of the rich history of jewelry design. Each era brought its own unique trends and continues to shape jewelry trends today. 


Learn something new and want to learn more? Interested in a term that you did not find listed? Contact our professionals at Isbell Jewelers. We have been serving Birmingham and surrounding areas for over 40 years and we would be happy to answer any questions or help you find a certain jewelry look or style!

Share Post: