Glossary of Jewelry Terms

A metal made up of a mixture of two or more different metals. Common examples include:

  • Bronze: Copper and tin
  • Brass: Copper and zinc
  • Pewter: Tin with antimony, copper, and sometimes lead

Base Metal
Non-precious metals used as a core for plating and gold-filled items. Common base metals in jewelry include brass and nickel.

A gemstone cut and polished with one flat side (the back) and one smooth domed side (the front or face). A faceted cabochon features faceted surfaces around the edge.

Chatoyancy (Chatoyant)
A visual effect where a gemstone displays a changeable luster, similar to a cat’s eye.

A flat, polished surface cut into a stone or bead, enhancing its brilliance by reflecting light.

A general term for metal jewelry components, such as clasps, connecting rings, pins, ear wires, and posts.

A yellow-colored, soft, shiny metal commonly used in jewelry. The purity of gold is measured in karats:

  • 24 Karat (24k): Pure or fine gold
  • 12 Karat (12k): 50% gold
  • 14 Karat (14k): Approximately 58% gold
    Gold less than 24k is an alloy, with other metals such as copper, silver, and zinc.

A thin layer of gold bonded to a base metal core. The gold layer must be at least 1/20th (5%) of the overall product by weight. Common purities used in gold-filled products are 12k and 14k:

  • 14/20 Gold-Filled or 14k Gold-Filled: 14k gold bonded to the core
  • 12/20 Gold-Filled or 12k Gold-Filled: 12k gold bonded to the core

A very thin layer of gold bonded to a base metal core, with the gold layer only required to be seven-millionths of an inch thick. The gold layer in gold-filled products is about one hundred times thicker.

The quality of not allowing light to pass through, resulting in a solid appearance.

Not allowing light to pass through, making the material appear solid.

Sterling Silver
See Silver.

A white-colored, soft, shiny metal commonly used in jewelry. Silver is available in different levels of purity:

  • Fine Silver: 99.9% silver
  • Sterling Silver: 92.5% silver, with the remaining 7.5% usually being copper
  • Coin Silver: 90% silver with 10% copper
  • Nickel Silver: An alloy of copper (65%), nickel, and zinc, containing no actual silver

A very thin layer of silver bonded to a base metal core.

Allowing some light to pass through, but objects seen through it appear diffused or indistinct.

Easily seen through; allowing light to pass through clearly, so objects on the other side are not obscured.