Guide to Jewellery Terminology

Published on January 13th, 2012

à Jour.

The incorporation of an opening in a gemstone setting to enable the passage of light through the stone from both sides.


A mixture of two or more metals.

Acid EtchingAcid Etching.

A substance usually metal or glass will be partially covered with an acid resistant substance such as wax forming a protective barrier known as a resist. The object will then be immersed in an acid bath which will eat into the unprotected surface areas of the item in order to create an image or pattern.


The fossilised resin of ancient pine trees. It takes several million years for the resin to “amberize”. Due to its original stickiness as a resin, occasionally the solidified amber will contain animal or plant matter as inclusions.

Base Metal.

A non-precious metal, often used in small amounts alloyed to a precious metal such as gold or silver. A base metal will be used to provide the substance of an item to be gold plated.


Is an asymmetrical rounded pearl or bead with an uneven shape.


Refers to decoration produced in raised relief often with layers of contrasting colour. Most commonly encountered as a form of carved decoration to sections of conch shells, usually depicting a female portrait in side profile.

Carat (Gold)

A measurement rated from 1 to 24 to represent the gold purity content of an item. The top grading, 24 carat represents a gold purity of 99.9% and above. 12 carat represents 12 parts gold for every 12 parts base metal, and so forth.


An ancient form of decoration whereby a metal object is formed with separate cellular compartments to the surface, which are then inlaid with vitreous enamel and occasionally with gemstones.


A tight fitting necklace or collar.


Is a glass paste applied to metal surface which is then fused to the object by firing at very high temperature.


The French word for “false”. It is generally applied to materials or finishes that have been manufactured to resemble imitated items. Faux pearls and precious stones are often a feature of costume jewellery.


Typically a brooch or a set of earrings incorporating three pear shaped pendants suspended from a central setting.

Gold Plating

Refers to the practise of applying a fine layer of gold onto a surface of a metal item to give a solid gold appearance. This practise is generally achieved today by a process known as electroplating.


A style of decoration produced by carving a concave image into the surface of a gemstone or precious material.

Acid EtchingMicro Mosaic

A minute mosaic comprised of miniscule coloured tessarae (tiny pieces of glass or hard stone) to depict an image or pattern.


An iridescence property of a material in the manner of an opal.

Parcel Gilt

Refers to an object that has been partly gilded.


Is a French expression which means “letting in daylight”, which refers to a form of vitreous enameling. The vitreous enamel is originally applied to a temporary backing which is usually dissolved with acid or destroyed during the firing process to produce a clear transparent panel not dissimilar in appearance to stained glass.

Posey Ring

Also known as “Love Rings” generally consist of gold bands with an engraved verse or sentiment, which can be to the interior or exterior. Many bear floral enamel decoration.


Translates literally from the French as “To Push Back”. It refers to a metal working technique whereby a malleable metal is hammered or pressed from the rear to produce a design in relief.


An engraving tool will be used to cut linear furrows into the surface of a material to produce incised decoration.


Published by antiquevault



How to get your online antique valuation in 2 simple steps:



1. Photograph your item

See our photographing antiques guide for tips





2. Complete our online form

See our detailing antiques guide for tips





You will receive your free valuation report within 1 week.

See example valuation report


Antique Vault © 2011 - The online valuation experts