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Jewelry-Making Glossary

Jewelry Making Terms Glossary
Agate is a banded multicolor form of chalcedony. There are many different varieties of agates, depending on the coloring and pattern displayed by the material. Unpolished, agate is usually rather ugly, but once cut and polished, the extraordinary beauty of the stone can be found.
Amber is the sap of ancient trees which has become hardened and fossilised. Sometimes it may have insects locked inside which were trapped in the sap, or have other interesting bubbles and inclusions which create beautiful patterns in the material. Much of the Amber on the market today comes from the Baltic region.
A beautiful purple variety of Quartz which often comes from Brazil or Africa. Considered a semi-precious stone, Amethyst is the modern February birthstone.
A gemstone that is composed of part Amethyst and part Citrine. Natural Ametrine usually occurs where Amethyst has come in contact with heat, which changes the color from purple to golden yellow, but may also be created in a lab.
Attractive and durable stone composed of quartz. Aventurine often has tiny particles of mica mixed into the quartz, which gives it a subtle sparkle. Aventurine comes in several colors, though the most common is green. Aventurine has an approximate hardness of 7.
A soft mineral that gets it's color from copper and often can be found in association with another copper mineral, malachite. Azurite ranges from pale to deep blue and sometimes almost black where it's color is especially concentrated.
Blister Pearl
Occasionally when a pearl is being cultured, it becomes stuck to the side of the shell. When this happens the side of the shell with the pearl is taken and cut into a cab shape that includes the pearl or pearls.
A yellowish alloy of copper and zinc, sometimes including small amounts of other metals, but usually made up of 67 percent copper and 33 percent zinc. Brass is generally harder to work with than gold fill or silver, but provides an inexpensive alternative to gold in the yellow metals. Jewelry brass is usually the 230 alloy, otherwise known as rich low brass.
A stone that has been cut into a domed shape without facetting. Many times these are round, or oval in shape, but other shapes are common.
Cameos are small carved relief images. The image is usually cut through the layers of a multicolored material such as the Sardonyx shell, or agate. The side profile of a woman's head and bust is the best known cameo pattern, but there are many others including birds, animals, warriors, and flowers. The most expensive cameos are hand carved, but there are many inexpensive glass and acrylic cameos on the market today.
A unit of weight for precious stones. One carat equals 200 milligrams. There are 5000 carats in a kilogram.
A class of microcrystalline quartz that includes agate, jaspers, tiger eye, bloodstone, sardonyx, chrysoprase and others. Petrified wood is also sometimes composed of chalcedony that has replaced the original organic material.
The yellow variety of Quartz, Citrine is closely related to Amethyst as it often results naturally from Amethyst coming in contact with heat in the earth's crust. Citrine is also often created by heating natural amethyst or even smokey quartz in a lab to create it's golden yellow color. Citrine is used as the November birthstone.
A ductile, malleable, reddish-brown metal. It's softness makes copper easy to work with and shape. Believed by many to have health enhancing properties. Tarnishes easily, and is easily cleaned with common acidic household items such as ketchup, and worchesteshire sauce. Also present in the alloy of sterling silver to give the silver a little more resistance to re-softening.
Dead Soft
Metal that has been annealed in such a way as to make it very soft and malleable. Wire workers often use dead soft wire because it can be bent and shaped easily with the hands and makes very smooth flowing curves. Dead soft wire is sometimes also referred to as #0 hardness.
Designer Cabochons
Individually artisan-crafted cabochons that are made with special attention to selecting a desired pattern from a slab of rough and cutting the cabochon to take the best visual advantage of the pattern. Designer cabochons can be very expensive, but always are very unique and special stones.
Small parts used in the manufacture and creation of jewelry.
Fine Silver
Silver that is .999 percent pure.
A relatively soft stone with a hardness of only 4, Fluorite is easily chipped or scratched. Fluorite comes in many different translucent colors including yellow, purple, green, clear, and blue, and often can be found with these colors laid down in wonderful rainbow-like stripes.
The thickness or diameter of sheet metal or wire. The smaller the number, the larger the wire. (12 ga is larger than 20ga)
Gold fill
A metal product where a layer of gold has been bonded over the top of a base metal like brass. The layer of gold in gold fill is much thicker than that of gold plate. Legally, to be called gold fill, there must be at least 1/20 of the weight of the metal in gold. Gold fill will not rub off like gold plating.
Gold Plated
An item where the center is generally made of base metal and a very thin layer of gold has been applied, often by electroplating. Gold plating is not very durable, but it is much less expensive than gold filled items.
A sparkly glittering manmade stone that was originally created according to some sources by alchemists in their search to turn base metals into gold. Goldstone is composed of glass mixed with copper flakes, and is most often a copper brown color, but is also available in blue, and sometimes green.
Half Hard
Metal that has been partially hardened in it's manufacture. Half hard wire is often used where a little more durability is required, such as in ring shanks. Half hard wire does not twist as well or as evenly as dead soft. Half Hard wire is also sometimes referred to as #2 Hard, as it has been annealed two drawings before the final wire size.
A common mineral composed of iron oxide. Often grey or silver grey, Hematite takes a nice mirror polish and makes attractive cabochons and beads.
A white or grey mineral composed of Calcium Boro-silicate Hydroxide. Howlite is easily dyed various colors and with its attractive grey matrix, is often dyed azure blue and used as a turquoise look-alike. Howlite has a hardness of 3.5.
Sometimes called 'Water Sapphire' because of it's pretty blue violet color which is similar to light blue sapphires, Iolite is a gemstone variety of cordierite. Pleochroism (color changes visible depending on the direction of the light) is very strongly evident in Iolite, and because of this quality, it has been said to be used by the seafaring Vikings for navigation even under cloudy skies. Because of this Iolite is also sometimes known as the Viking's Compass.
A unit of measure for the purity of gold, equal to 1/24 part. Pure gold is 24 karat; gold that is 50 percent pure is 12 karat.
Short for Kilogram.
A base unit of weight in the International or Metric system. Equal to 1000 grams or 2.2046 pounds.
A form of feldspar that displays brilliant and colorful shimmers and flashes of light when viewed in the right direction. First discovered in Labrador, Canada. Can be light grey or nearly black. The light grey material is harder, but usually has less light play. Darker material may display more flash, but usually containes more seams and crevices.
Lapis Lazuli
Deep blue gemstone mineral which is often speckled with sparkling pyrite inclusions. Lapis Lazuli has been used for jewelry for thousands of years with many ancient cultures treasuring it. Currently, much of the Lapis Lazuli on the market is mined in Afghanistan.
Lapis Nevada
A pink and green semi-precious gemstone material composed of eleven other minerals. Mined in Nevada. Somewhat limited in supply.
Mahogany Obsidian
A variety of natural volcanic glass which is mottled with deep brownish red and black splotches. Often found in Mexico.
A green mineral which derives it's color from copper. Malachite is a very soft stone, and often displays lighter and darker green banding. Often found mixed with Azurite, another copper related mineral.
A beautiful variety of feldspar which come primarily from Sri Lanka, but is also found in the USA, Brazil and Madegascar. Moonstones have a magical soft pearly reflective appearance to them called adularescence. Commonly available in white, moonstones are also available in peach, green, or grey varieties.
Nickle Silver
A commonly used alloy of nickle that is often used in costume quality jewelry. In general appearance it looks like sterling silver, but does not tarnish and is much less expensive, but there are many people who are sensitive to nickle silver and cannot wear jewelry made from it.
Obsidian is a natural volcanic glass that is often formed when lava comes in contact with water and is quickly cooled. It can be dark green or black depending on the trace minerals present, and may have inclusions (See Snowflake Obsidian). Obsidian is similar to quartz chemically, but is lacking a crystalline structure and some of the electrical properties of quartz.
A variety of chalcedony or microcrystalline quartz with a hardness rating of 7. Very similar to agate, and treated agate is often sold as black onyx. Onyx may be brown, white, grey, or black.
Opal is primarily composed of silicon and water, and unlike many other gemstone materials, is not considered a true mineral because it lacks crystalline structure. The water content of opal contributes to it's wonderful play of light. Several large concentrations of opal are found in Australia. Opal is often found filling cracks and crevices in other stones, or the interior of geodes.
Osmena Pearl
Osmena pearls are made from the curved shell of the nautilus, and then backed with mother of pearl. They make nice pearly cabochons for pendants, rings, and earrings.
Pattern Wire
Heavy guage wire that has been embossed with a pattern. Usually wide and flat, and used for making bracelets.
Rolled Gold
A confusing term that sometimes may be used to mean the same thing as gold fill, but also can mean a similar product that has a much lower gold content than the 1/20 required to be referred to as gold filled.
Rose Quartz
Another quartz semi-precious variety. Rose Quartz comes in various shades of pink, from extremely pale to medium pink. Sometimes the darker varieties are dyed. Even undyed Rose Quartz may fade over time with exposure to light.
The red variety of corundum. Long cherished for their deep passionate color, rubies are available as natural gemstones, but also are widely available as lab created gemstones. Rubies are also sometimes cut into cabochons. Ruby is the July birthstone.
Blue is the color most often thought of when the word 'Sapphire' is mentioned, but is not the only color this wonderful traditional gemstone can be found in. Sapphires are also available in 'fancy' colors such as pink, orange, purple, green, yellow, and white. Composed of the mineral corundum which is second in hardness only to diamonds, sapphires are durable, and easy to care for, contributing to their popularity. In popular culture, blue sapphires especially are associated with harmony, friendship, loyalty, trust, and permanence.
Silver Plated
An item where the center is generally made of base metal and a very thin layer of silver has been applied, often by electroplating. Silver plating is not very durable, but it is much less expensive than solid sterling silver or fine silver items.
Smokey Topaz
The commonly used but incorrect name for Smokey Quartz. This gemstone is not composed of Topaz and should not be sold as Topaz. Quartz, from which this gemstone is made, is a durable and beautiful mineral in it's own right. Some of the other semi-precious varieties of quartz with which you may be familiar include Amethyst and Citrine.
Snap Setting
A fabricated setting made to hold a faceted stone. The gem is 'snapped' into place without the need to bend the prongs over.
Snowflake Obsidian
A form of black volcanic glass which features inclusions of white radial clusters of cristobalite that often take on the appearance of delicate snowflakes.
Sodalite is a blue mineral composed of sodium, aluminum, silica and choride. It has only been found in limited locations where quartz is absent and has a hardness of 5.5-6. An attractive mineral, sometimes solid blue or with calcite veins running through it, sodalite is commonly used for jewelry.
Spring Hard
Temper of wire that is extremely resistant to losing it's shape. Spring hard wire is often used for brooch pins, or other items where the wire needs to be able to keep and spring back to it's shape again and again.
Sterling silver
Silver that is .925 percent pure. The standard alloy of sterling silver also includes about 7.75 percent copper, which is included to give the silver more hardness and prevent softening. Silver in it's pure form will quickly re-soften, even at room temperatures, becoming vulnerable to gouging and damage to the piece.
A gem variety of the mineral Zoisite, Tanzanite comes from a small area in Tanzania. Nearly all tanzanite on the market has been heat treated to generate it's lovely blue violet color. When first mined, tanzanite is usually a muted green color. Tanzanite is similar in final color to iolite, though iolite is usually of weaker intensity and has less fire.
A very hard and lovely mineral that has been known and valued both in ancient and modern times. Topaz naturally comes in yellow, brown, red, pink, and colorless varieties, but is also available in modern times in several shades of blue through treatment with irradiation. Ancient legends associated topaz with several different 'sungods', dispelling of enchantments, and improving eyesight, as well as crediting it with the ability to change colors in the presence of poisons.
A family of aluminum and boro silicate minerals that comes in a wide variety of colors depending what other trace minerals are present. Can be found in pinks, greens, blues, yellows and oranges, as well as black. Often bi-colored or tricolored. Sometimes displays plieochroism or chatoyancy. Tourmaline has a hardness of 7-7.5.
Troy Ounce
The unit of measurement used in apothecary and in precious metal markets. A troy ounce is different from the avoirdupois ounce used customarily in the United States as 1/16th of a pound or 437 grains. A troy ounce is 1/12 of a troy pound or 480 grains.
A small machine used for polishing rocks or jewelry. Tumbling jewelry pieces polishes and hardens the metal. There are vibratory tumblers and rotary tumblers. Caution should be exercised in tumbling soft minerals as it may marr the polish of the stone.
An azure or greenish soft mineral that derives it's color from copper. Turquoise is very soft and porous, and it's high water content makes it vulnerable to destruction by drying, and absorbing impurities. Turquoise is often stabilized with a resin to preserve it's color, protect it from environmental pollutants and drying.
Unakite is a mottled stone that is composed of several minerals including pink feldspar, green epidote and quartz.
Silver covered with a very thin plating of gold.