We sell a lot of different kinds of jewellery from all over the world. Sometimes, the materials or descriptions can be a bit confusing. We compiled this list of helpful jewellery terms we use here at Woodward and Fox Jewellery.
Term which refers to non-precious metals commonly used in costume jewellery. Such metals include materials such as copper, zinc, tin, nickel, lead, or iron.
Square or rectangular stones set in a row with the metal folded over the edges.
Refers to jewellery made of inexpensive materials and/or imitation gems. It gained its name as it was originally designed to be worn on stage as costume accessories.
A clear glass containing lead oxide. Considered to be very high quality.
A cultured pearl is a pearl created by a mussel or oyster farmed under controlled conditions. Almost all pearl jewellery on the market today is made using pearls that have been cultivated and farmed which is why Antique and Vintage pearls are so sought after.
Kokichi Mikimoto, the son of a Japanese noodle maker, created the world's first cultured pearl in 1893 by manually introducing an irritant into an oyster to stimulate it to form a pearl
Refers to a process in which one metal is coated with another metal using electricity. Gold - Gold plating, Rhodium - Rhodanizing, Chromium- Chromium Plating, Silver - Silver Plating.
Man made imitation pearls. Various methods have been used to try and recreate the beauty of natural pearls dating back hundreds of years. Imitations have been made from glass, plastic, wax and even fish scales! Many of the variations are coated with a pearlescent material to try and capture the natural iridescence of nacre and mother of pearl.
Fineness is the proportion of silver or gold in a metal alloy. Finesse is typically captured in “part per thousand”. For example, sterling silver has a fineness of 925.
Fool's gold is actually pyrite - a shiny, metallic mineral that looks like gold, but is actually a a form of iron. Marcasite stones are made of pyrite.
Is a coating of chemically or electrically bonded gold onto a base metal - a process referred to as guilding.
Jewellery which has a gold plating mechanically adhered onto another metal. The mechanical methods used in this process could be soldering or welding. For a piece of jewellery to be officially gold filled, the plating much be at least 5% of the total weight of the metal in the piece.
The colour of gold jewellery changes depending on the alloys used.
Arguably, the most popular gold alloy. Pure gold is soft and difficult for jeweller’s to work with so allows are added to enhance it’s colour and to create a harder and workable metal. Yellow gold alloys are typically a mixture of copper, zinc, silver and gold.
White gold was invented in the 1800s by mixing gold and palladium. It reached its height of popularity in the 1920s as a low cost substitute for platinum. Older white gold was a mixture of copper, zinc, nickel and gold. Modern alloys have replaced the nickel because of common alloys.
The reddish colour of rose gold comes from the copper mixture of the alloy.
The strength and durability of a piece of jewellery is always dependant on the mixture of the alloy. Different “carats” of gold can scratch each other, so it is best to try and wear rings of the same carat together, especially with engagement rings and wedding bands.
Material used as a substitute for diamonds dating back to the 1700s. Marcasites are actually pyrite which is expertly cut and polished to reflect light in the best possible way. Extremely popular in the 1920s and 1930s.
A mixture of two or more metals to create more desirable characteristics and/or added strength.
Refers to a technique used by expert jewellers in shaping the edges of jewellery pieces into fine beading.
Nacre is a usually whitish crystal-ey substance which oysters, mussels, snails, and other mollusks secrete around a foreign object (like a tiny stone) that has made its way into their shell. As layers of nacre coat the intruder, a pearl is formed over a period of many years.
Doublé D’or is the French term for rolled gold or Gold Filled jewellery. It can also be referred to as ‘Or Plaqué’ (although translated means plated which is a much lower quality). Dating to 1827 when the jeweller August Savard single handedly revolutionised the fashion industry making high quality jewellery affordable for everyone. Or Doublé was a thick gold plating mechanically “rolled” onto a base metal and stamped into shape. The quality of this plating process was so good that experts weren’t even able to tell the difference between “real” and “costume” pieces. This gold alloy’s thickness and purity was dictated by French law.
Palladium is related to the platinum family of metals but is much more affordable. It is hypoallergenic like platinum making it a good choice for those with sensitive skin or nickel allergies. It is hardwearing and also develops a lovely patina like platinum. Palladium is sometimes mixed with white gold (instead of the allergy inducing nickel) resulting in a grey hued white gold.
Palladium was first used in jewellery in 1939. Platinum was being used for the war and not available for the jewellery industry. Palladium was used as a temporary substitute for platinum.
Is a term used for glass that is cut and faceted to imitate a gem stone. It invention dates back to 18th century when French jeweller, George Frederic Stras, created a “paste” of leaded glass that could be cut and polished to resemble diamonds. The creation of these stones was an art form in it’s own right and was highly sought after by the Parisian elites. The craftsmanship required to cut paste is demanding and is thought to be more difficult than the art of cutting diamonds. Diamonds are harder thus easier to work with in many respects
Refers to a jewellery setting where small stones are set in such a close way that almost no metal can be seen between them.
Pinchbeck is a metal alloy of 83% copper and 17% zinc. Invented by Christopher Pinchbeck in 1720, it looked alot like gold but was much lighter making it the ideal material in chatelaines, jewellery and watch cases. Rolled and 9ct gold replaced it’s use in the 1800s.
Platinum is one of the rarest precious metals on the planet. It is very strong and doesn’t tarnish making the perfect metal for jewellery production. It’s strength makes it perfect for millegrained edges, stone setting and filigree metalwork.
Rhodium is also related to the platinum family of metals. It is often used as a plating on silver or base metal jewellery to give a shiny, smooth, tarnish free finish. Rhodium has a deep grey colour similar to gunmetal.
Rolled gold is created when a thin sheet of gold is laminated or mechanically bonded onto a base metal (usually brass or copper). The two layers of metal are heated under pressure to fuse them together. The sheet is then rolled into a thin sheet which was cut or stamped into jewellery pieces. The thickness of the gold layer can vary but is generally at least five percent of the total metal weight. Unlike other costume jewellery metals, rolled gold is hypoallergenic and should not cause a problem for anyone with skin sensitivities to other or mixed metals. Rolled gold pieces are often marked rolled gold plate, RGP, Rolled Gold, Or Plaqué or Or Plaqué Laminé.
This material was patented in England in 1817 and was used for high quality costume jewellery at the time. It allowed jewellers to design and manufacture beautiful pieces of jewellery without the hefty price tag of using solid gold.
Rolled gold is not be confused with gold plated jewellery. Plated jewellery is made by applying a very thin layer of gold over a base metal object. Gold plated jewellery is made by creating jewellery out of a base metal. It can be done via a chemical or electroplated process and uses very little solid gold. It is much cheaper and less durable than rolled gold as the plating can easily wear or flake off. It is also unsuitable for people with sensitive skin or nickel allergies. Comparatively, rolled gold has about 100 times more gold than gold plating. The manufacturing process and thickness of the rolled gold prevents it from wearing off.
Rolled gold has been made to such a high standard it can easily last another lifetime if properly cared for. Avoid wearing it in the shower or when swimming, and only clean with a soft cloth.
Silver Topped Gold
It was the English jeweller James Cox who came up with the idea of silver to be backed in gold in the 1700s. Georgian period jewellery stones were commonly set in silver, but silver was known to ruin fabrics from the metal tarnishing. Gold doesn’t tarnish, so this innovation saw jewellers be able to set their stones into the preferred silver yet avoid ruining fabrics by applying a gold backing.
Stainless steel is a popular choice of metal in jewellery design as it is strong, affordable, resistant to tarnish and rust. It is a good option for people who suffer from sensitive skin or nickel allergies.
A precious metal alloy of 92.5% silver and copper, or another material.
Gold plated Sterling silver