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Expert in vintage costume jewelry from the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s & 1950s

Jewelry Terminology

The jewelry terminology commonly used in product descriptions and throughout this website are defined here.


Articulation: Division of a piece of jewelry (usually a bracelet) into segments that give it flexibility.


Aurora Borealis: An iridescent coating on crystals that makes them “shimmer with the colors of the rainbow”. Invented in 1955 by Manfred Swarovski (the grandson of the founder of the Austrian firm that has produced superior imitation stones since 1895). Faceted stones and beads with this finish change color from different angles, creating a sense of movement.


Baguette: A rectangular-shaped stone.


Bakelite: A trademark for a type of plastic that can be molded or carved, invented in 1909 by Belgian chemist L.H. Baekeland.


Bangle: A non-flexible bracelet that must be slipped over the hand or has a hinge for opening.


Baroque pearl: An irregularly-shaped pearl.


Briolette: A faceted, teardrop-shaped stone.


Cabochon: A stone without facets, shaped like a dome.


Carnelian: A type of chalcedony (quartz) that is usually translucent red or reddish-brown in color. Also spelled cornelian.


Channel setting: Stones set in a row with the metal folded over the edges to hold them in place.


Chicklet: A modern name for a type of jewelry (usually a necklace) comprised of open-back, clear- or colored-glass stones set in/on metal mountings that are linked together.


Choker: A type of necklace designed to fit tightly around the neck.


Chrysoprase: A type of chalcedony (quartz) that is apple green.


Citrine: A type of quartz usually pale yellow but sometimes red-brown to red-orange in color.


Clip: A type of brooch with either a hinged, double-prong fastener with sharp tips to pass through fabric, or a hinged, triangular-shaped mechanism with teeth to grip fabric.


Clip-back earring: An earring held in place by a spring-clip mechanism.


Collet: A collar of metal that encloses a stone.


Costume jewelry: Adornments made from non-precious materials (e.g., glass, crystal and plastic) made into beads, or stones set in sterling silver or base metal. It is mass-produced to meet a fashion trend. Originally created to imitate fine jewelry. In the 1930s-1940s – the golden age – the availability of new materials and the acceptance of costume jewelry by women at every income level enabled designers to become more creative.


Crystal: High quality, man-made glass containing lead oxide, which was often used to make beads and stones for costume jewelry. Although all crystal is glass, not all glass is crystal.


Design patent: Government protection granted to an inventor for the way an article looks.


Diamanté: The French term for imitation diamond.


Double clip brooch: A pair of clips that can be worn separately or together as a brooch when nestled on a frame. Clip-Mates is Trifari’s term for a double clip brooch; Coro’s term is Duette.


Dress clip: See clip.


Duette: See double clip brooch.


Festoon: A type of necklace that drapes in the front.


Filigree: Thin metal wire that is twisted into delicate lacy patterns.


Findings: Functional jewelry parts such as clasps, links and settings.


Fine jewelry: Ornaments made from precious metals (gold, silver, platinum) and gemstones (e.g., diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, rubies, and pearls).


Foil: A thin sheet of metal placed on the back of a glass stone to reflect light or enhance its color.


French jet: Black glass or imitation jet.


Fruit Salads: Molded red, blue and green glass or plastic stones (to simulate carved rubies, sapphires and emeralds) in shapes such as leaves or fruits. Pastel shades were also produced to simulate moonstone, coral and turquoise. Tutti Frutti is another name for Fruit Salads.


Galalith: The European name for Casein, a milk-based type of plastic invented in 1897 by Adolph Spitteler. Galalith was very popular in the 1920s and 1930s because it resembles natural horn and tortoiseshell, physically and chemically. It can be turned, drilled, milled, stamped, soldered and then stained all colors and highly polished.


Gemstone: A mineral used in jewelry because of its beauty, durability and scarcity, which contribute to its value.


Gilding: The coating of metal with a layer of gold.


Inclusion: A foreign material (usually very small) that is enclosed within a natural mineral.


Invisible setting: A technique used to set stones from the back so that no metal mounting shows, giving the impression of a larger single stone. This technique was invented by Van Cleef & Arpels for precious gems.


Japanned: Metal treated with a black finish.


Jelly Belly: A figural with a clear Lucite stone to represent the animal’s belly or body center, created by Trifari in the 1940s but copied by Coro and others.


Jet: A variety of coal formed by pressure, heat and chemical action on ancient driftwood, which can be highly polished, carved, faceted and engraved. Used extensively for mourning jewelry in the 19th century. See also French jet.


Key stone: A stone that resembles the shape of a kite, i.e., a long, rectangular stone that is wider at one end. Also known as kite-shaped.


Lapis lazuli: A deep-blue opaque gemstone sometimes with white mottlings or brassy-colored inclusions.


Maker’s mark: The identifying mark stamped by the maker on a piece of jewelry. The mark may be a registered trademark. Costume jewelry from the early decades of the 20th century typically was unsigned.


Marcasite: Pyrite cut into small pointed or rounded facets to reflect light. Used as substitutes for diamonds as early as the 1700s. Popular in the 1920s and 1930s.


Marquise cut: An oval-shaped stone with pointed ends. Also known as a navette.


Navette: See marquise cut.


Onyx: A type of chalcedony (quartz) usually dyed black or green.


Parure: A matched set of jewelry, usually consisting of a necklace, bracelet, earrings and brooch.


Paste: See strass.


Pavé: Small stones set so closely together that almost no metal shows between them.


Porphyry glass: Glass with straight-line striations running through it.


Pot metal: A gray-colored alloy of tin and lead, used in early 20th century costume jewelry. During World War II, pot metal was not available for jewelry-making, as it was needed in the war effort.


Quartz: A mineral that can be colorless (Rock Crystal) but is also found in many colors. Amethyst and citrine are other examples of quartz.


Repoussé: A technique used to create a design with a raised surface by hammering and punching metal from the back.


Rhinestone: Originally rock crystal found along the banks of the Rhine River and used to imitate diamonds. A misnomer for faceted, colorless glass in costume jewelry.


Rhodium: A greyish-white metal (related to platinum) often used to plate silver or a base metal to give it a shiny, smooth finish and prevent tarnishing.


Rock crystal: Colorless natural quartz, which is a gemstone. It is not leaded glass (crystal), which is man-made.


Rondelle: A disc-shaped metal ornament placed between beads, often set with diamanté.


Rose montée: A faceted glass stone with a flat base and hole for sewing onto fabric or wiring onto a metal base.


Sautoir: A very long strand of beads or pearls, often ending in a tassel. Popular in the 1920s.


Screw-back earring: An earring held in place by an adjustable screw attachment.


Spacer: A decorative element placed between beads to enhance a piece.


Sterling: The highest standard of silver, i.e., 925 parts of silver to 75 parts of another metal. Some European-made jewelry is stamped 935, which is a higher silver content.


Strass: A form of lead glass that has been faceted to imitate gemstones. Named after Georges-Frédéric Strass (1701-1773). Also referred to as paste.


Striations: Parallel scratches, grooves or lines in a stone.


Tourmaline: A gemstone found in a wide range of colors, including blue, red, pink, green, brown and yellow, as well as pink and green in the same crystal (known as watermelon tourmaline).


Tutti Frutti: See Fruit Salads.


Utility patent: Government protection granted to an inventor for the way an article is used and works. In jewelry, utility patents pertain to mechanisms such as earring clips or brooch fasteners.


Vermeil: Gold-plated sterling silver. Also known as gilded silver.


Watermelon: A term used to describe a bi-color stone with the coloring of a watermelon, i.e., a fuchsia center and green outer edge.