Jewelry Vocabulary 101
August 9, 2023

A Glossary for Beginners

If you’ve ever gone jewelry shopping, you probably ran into some terms you weren’t familiar with. Jewelry is such a vast topic even folks who know about it come across vocabulary they don’t always understand. So, it’s ok not to know much when you start looking for an engagement ring, for instance. At Jewel-Craft, we’re passionate about jewelry. We adore everything from engraving to stone-setting and beyond. So, the last thing we’d want is for you to feel lost when you set foot in a jewelry store. With that in mind, we’ve thrown together a glossary of jewelry vocabulary for beginners so you can learn some of the basics. So, read on and get yourself acquainted with some jewelry 101 terms.

4 C’s

You might have already heard of the 4 C’s. These are basically the four qualities by which a diamond is evaluated, including carat weight, clarity, color and cut. Carat weight is how much a diamond actually weighs, versus its size. Clarity refers to how many imperfections or blemishes a stone may have which can make it appear hazy or fuzzy. Color is graded from colorless (which is most desirable) to having a pale yellow hue. Cut is by far the most important factor when it comes to evaluating a diamond, because it is what determines the stone’s ultimate sparkle and shine.

Alloy

A combination of metals, often mixed together to make a stronger composite. The gold you see in jewelry is usually an alloy because gold on its own is too soft to create the fine pieces we enjoy. Instead it is commonly blended with metals like silver, copper, nickel, iron, zinc, tin, manganese, cadmium and titanium to make it durable enough to shape into wearable jewelry.

CAD

Short for “Computer Aided Design”.  This sophisticated technology is used to create 3-D renderings of fine jewelry for custom design. CAD allows jewelers to see a piece from all angles and easily make adjustments to a design. See Custom Design below for more information.

Carat

A unit of weight used for gemstones, especially diamonds. The word “carat” derives from an ancient Greek word for “carob seed”. This is the original measure that people used to weigh diamonds beginning in the 16th century. A single carat weighs 200 milligrams or about as much as one paperclip.

CMW21/CW21

You’ll see both of these terms in reference to watchmaking. A CMW21 is a Certified Master Watchmaker of the 21st Century and a CW21 is a Certified Watchmaker of the 21st Century. Both of these designations are earned through extremely rigorous training and testing and authorized by the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute. At Jewel-Craft, our watchmaker Tom Schomaker is a CMW21, with decades of extensive experience under his belt, including specialization with Swiss timepieces.

Custom Design

Exactly what it says on the tin, as the saying goes. When you can’t find exactly what you want in the store cases, many jewelers offer custom design where you can have a piece made especially for you. All you have to do is bring your ideas and a trained designer will help you put together an initial sketch based on your original vision. Then, using CAD (computer-aided design) a 3-D rendering of your piece will be created. From there you can easily make revisions. Once a CAD is approved, a wax model can be created, which is further refined according to your specifications. When the wax model is accepted, a final piece will be crafted, polished to perfection and then presented to you.

Cut

Describes how a gemstone is faceted to generate the maximum amount of radiance. The cut is one of the most important characteristics of any given gem and plays a large part in determining the stone’s overall value. The right cut in a diamond, for instance, can be the difference between the stone appearing flat and dull or sparkling and brilliant.

Engraving

Engraving is the art of carving patterns, designs or unique messages onto the metal surface of a piece of jewelry. Inscribing a short quote, names or a date are all common ways to lend a personal touch to your jewelry. At Jewel-Craft, we specialize in state-of-the-art laser engraving and can help you add significance to a piece through a special inscription.

Gemologist

A gemologist is an expert in the study, evaluation and identification of gemstones. Jewelry stores often have trained gemologists on staff because they know all about gemstones. Let’s say an opal necklace catches your eye. A gemologist will be able to tell you about the overall value of the stone as well as its properties. As a result, you’ll understand the stone’s worth and how to best care for the gem, so you’ll be able to enjoy it for years to come.

GIA

Short for Gemological Institute of America, the GIA is an independent nonprofit that is the world’s leading authority on diamonds, colored stones and pearls. Since 1931, the GIA has been at the forefront of gemstone research. They even developed the 4 C’s to standardize the way diamonds are evaluated, a method which is now used by jewelers all over the globe. When you look for a diamond or a gemstone, it’s a great idea to make sure it has a GIA grading report backing it to ensure its quality.

Karat

Karat comes from the same Greek root word as carat, but that’s where the similarities between these two terms ends. Karat with a “k” refers to the purity of gold in a gold alloy. It is measured in 24 parts, so 24-Karat gold is considered “pure” gold. 14-Karat gold, which is a very common alloy used in fine jewelry, is 14 parts gold. The other 10 parts are made of other metals.

Ring Setting

A ring setting refers to the framework which is used to mount a diamond or gemstone. The setting plays an important role in showcasing and protecting the stone, as well as enhancing its beauty. Settings come in many different styles and designs which each work in their own specific way to spotlight the gem. The classic solitaire setting uses prongs to display a single stone with maximum luminance. In a bezel setting the gemstone is held in place by a thin metal rim, creating a sleek, modern appearance. In a halo ring, the larger center-stone is circled by smaller diamonds, creating an eye-popping effect. With the pavé setting, small diamonds are nestled close together, creating a shimmering “paved” road of stones. A three-stone engagement ring symbolically has three stones, representing the couple’s past, present and future.

Shape

Gemstone shape is the outside appearance of a cut and polished stone. This is not the same as gem’s cut, which describes how a stone is faceted to create the maximum amount of radiance. The shape is more about the external characteristics of the gemstone. Common shapes include round, oval, pear, marquise and emerald.

Jewel-Craft Is Here for You

Now that you’ve become acquainted with jewelry vocabulary 101, you’re better prepared for your next jewelry shopping trip. So, whether you’re on the market for a diamond engagement ring or looking to treat yourself, you can explore jewelry stores with more confidence. Remember, if you have any questions you can always reach out to your friends at Jewel-Craft. Since we know all about the art and craft of jewelry, we’ll be happy to help in any way we can.

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