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Costume Jewelry Glossary

This Costume Jewelry Glossary is designed to assist visitors to this site and other costume jewelry sites in understanding terms used in the descriptions. The glossary strives to deliver clear and simplified explanations without over indulging in technical terms.

Short for "Aurora Boreal" (Northern lights), a term that denotes iridescence, especially in crystals, rhinestone, or synthetic stones used in making costume jewelry. The ability of AB stones to pick up color makes it popular in rhinestone and bridal jewelry.

An iridescent shell that is characterized by dark swirling colors including purple, green, and blue. Abalone, paua, and mother of pearl are all in the same shell family, but in fashion jewelry the iridescent white shell is referred to as mother of pearl, the dark shell as abalone, and the bluish shell as paua.

A glassy thermoplastic used in making costume jewelry that can be opaque or transparent, such as synthetic crystals, and characterized by a greater density and weight than plastic and with a smoother finish.

A variety of hard stones in the quartz family that comes in a wide range of colors and are popular in making fashion jewelry. Most of the items under gemstone jewelry on this site are agate.

A fashion jewelry item that is like a bracelet, but designed to go around the ankle. The common length of a bracelet is 7 inches and the normal length of an anklet is 9 inches.

Antique plating
A processes that darkens the recesses of jewelry to give an antique appearance. Sterling silver is antiqued with an oxidizing agent and costume jewelry is often antiqued with a thinned paint. The high points are polished to contrast with the dark recesses.

Art Deco
A popular style in jewelry history from around 1915 to 1925 that is recognized by its combination of geometric designs and straight lines. The look is popularly reproduced in costume jewelry today.

Art Nouveau
A style of jewelry popular from the 1890s to around 1915 that was characterized by smooth flowing lines, natural colors, and depictions of sensuous women, flowers, and nature. Art Nouveau themes are popular with current fashion jewelry designers.

Aurora Borealis
A Latin term that refers to the northern lights and denotes iridescence in costume jewelry. The term is most commonly used in reference to crystals, rhinestone, or synthetic stones that are iridescent.

Austrian crystals
Lead crystals that are faceted with a glass cutting machine and renowned for their sparkle. The process was invented by Swarovski in Austria.

A translucent quartz that is found in different colors, but is especially popular in fashion jewelry in green because of its resemblance to jade.

A rhinestone or crystal with a narrow rectangle shape. Baguettes are commonly used in fashion rings and rhinestone and crystal jewelry.

A finding used to attach pendants to a chain or necklace.

Bar pin
A horizontal pin or brooch often worn near the neck

A free form bead, pearl, or stone, often created synthetically in costume jewelry

Baroque pearls
Pearls that have an irregular shape.

Barrel clasp
A closure popular on necklaces that has a barrel shape and screws together.

Bling Bling
Outlandishly ostentatious jewelry that usually depicts diamonds and fine jewelry.

A dark green semiprecious stone with natural red spotting.

Blue lace agate
A light blue or white agate with darker blue banding.

Brushed finish
A metal finish with fine brush marks.

A dark metallic finish with a deep bronze, copper, or brass color popular in vintage inspired costume jewelry

A smooth domed stone with a flat back used to set in rings or jewelry.

A short term for cabachons

A semiprecious stone that varies from translucent to opaque and has color from yellow to reddish brown.

Metal designs that are formed with a mold, generally using the lost wax method. Castings are used extensively in costume jewelry because they can be mass produced much cheaper than stampings.

Cat eye
A term used for fiber optics and gemstone jewelry that have a changeable luster and a band that seems to move resembling a cat’s eye. Fiber optic beads used in costume jewelry are often referred to as cat eyes.

Chandelier earrings
Dangling earrings characterized by numerous small pieces that can freely move, much like a chandelier. This style is enjoying popularity in fashion jewelry.

Channel set
Rhinestones or crystals set in trough like finding and held in place by a rim at the top of the trough.

Conch shell
A large spiny shell that ranges from pink to white and is often used in costume jewelry to make necklaces and chokers with chips of the shell.

Round or oval metal pieces that are often embossed with western designs. Conchos are popular in creating costume jewelry with a western motif, as well as hat and belt decorations.

Cowrie shell
A speckled shell that is often used as chips for stringing or beads in costume jewelry

Cubic zirconia
A synthetic stone that resembles a diamond and has properties very close to the properties of diamonds. Cubic zirconia is very popular for creating costume jewelry that can pass for fine jewelry.

A short term for cubic zirconia.

Diamond cutting
A method of scoring metal to give it sparkle with movement. Diamond cutting is used in costume jewelry to give the appearance of fine jewelry.

Dog collar
A choker, usually consisting of beaded rows, that is worn snug on the neck like the collar on a dog.

Door-knocker earrings
Hinged earrings, generally gold or silver plated, that resemble the door knocker on a house. This style of fashion earrings seems to be timeless in costume jewelry

An era in jewelry associated with the reign of King Edward VII of England (1901-1910). Delicate jewelry, with filigree work, bows, swags, and garlands characterize the period as well as dog collars that were popularized because of the long attractive neck of Queen Alexandra.

A process for plating costume jewelry with a more expensive metal by using electric current, which enables the plating to accumulate a greater thickness than can be accomplished by acid or chemical plating.

Emerald cut
A term that refers to the rectangular cut of faceted stones.

A coloring agent used in costume jewelry that is thicker and harder than paint and can only be applied by hand.

A stone that has been cut with flat surfaces that are usually symmetrical. In costume jewelry faceted stones can range from high quality, such as Austrian crystal, to inexpensive, such as acrylic stones.

A term that indicates an imitation or synthetic components. For example, the synthetic pearls used in bridal jewelry can be referred to as faux pearls.

Fiber optic beads
Glass beads made by any of three processes that results in a changing luster and apparent moving line similar to the chatoyancy of a natural cat eye stone like tiger’s eye. Fiber optics have been used extensively in costume jewelry in recent years.

Originally, fine wire designs that interlaced leaving small openings. In costume jewelry today, filigree refers to delicate lace like castings that have numerous fine openings.

A term that includes a wide range of components used in jewelry making, such as clasps, earring posts, and jump rings.

Fish wires
A wire used for pierced drop earrings that has the shape of a fish hook, especially popular in costume jewelry.

The same as fish wires.

Fleur de lis
A symmetrical symbol that was originally French and means "flower of the lily". The symbol is popularly used in fashion jewelry designs and in the US is adopted by Louisiana and the city of New Orleans.

Foilback stones
Crystals, rhinestones, or acrylic stones that are coated on the back to increase the brilliance. The foilback can be damaged by glues that heat up, such as epoxies, so when repairing costume jewelry that has foilbacks, use white glues.

Foldover clasp
A popular closure in costume jewelry, especially for bracelets, that has a hinged piece that passes through an opening on the other end of the costume jewelry and folds back and snaps.

French clip
The finding on an earring that is shaped similar to a fishhook and has a spring loaded closure that prevents an earring from being lost while being worn.

Freshwater pearl
A pearl that is harvested from a fresh water mussel rather than an oyster and has a long irregular shape.

A mineral or organic material that has the beauty conducive to ornamentation and jewelry crafting. Costume jewelry makes use of semiprecious stones and inexpensive organic materials.

Generally, a plain looking stone that has a cannonball shape with a crystal lined center that is often hallow.

Gold filled
Jewelry that is plated to a thickness that results in at least 1/20th of the weight being gold.

Greek key
An ancient Greek design that has repeated interlocking rectangular shapes.

A dark metallic finish on costume jewelry that is usually a deep steel grey.

Jewelry, usually necklaces, that are constructed of discs that have a uniform size, creating a rope like consistency.

A mineral (iron oxide) that has a dark steel grey color and a high luster. Hematite is a popular component of fashion jewelry and has a hardness of 5 ˝ to 6 ˝ on the mohs scale.

Hopi overlay
A Hopi Indian technique of sweating together 2 pieces of silver, the top piece with cut outs and the bottom piece oxidized to contrast with the bright silver of the top piece.

Illusion necklace
A popular technique in costume jewelry, and even bridal jewelry, of spacing components on nearly invisible monofilament line so the components seem to be suspended without support.

A term usually applied to crystals or rhinestones that sparkle with a rainbow of colors. Pearls, shells, and other components can also have this changing luster, similar to the changing color seen on an oil slick.
Iridescent stones are popular in bridal, crystal, and rhinestone jewelry because they pick up a variety of colors, enabling them to match with different colored apparel.

A family of semiprecious stones that are found in various opaque colors and are relatively hard. Jasper can be solid in color or spotted and banded. Red jasper and picture jasper seem to have a great popularity in fashion jewelry.

A type of coal that can be polished, resulting in a pitch black stone. The term is often used in costume jewelry to denote synthetic black stones.

Jewel tone epoxy
A coloring agent that is hand applied and harder than paint. Jeweltone epoxy has a translucence that allows the color to be seen through like the coating on a candy apple. Costume jewelry makes extensive use of jewel tone and opaque epoxies.

Jump ring
Small round wire rings with a split in them used to attach clasps, pendants, charms, and other jewelry components.

An art form started by Rene Lalique in the early 1900s and characterized by the use of frosted glass. The costume jewelry industry refers to creations with a frosted glass look as lalique.

Lamp work beads
A name that originally came from artisans heating glass on an oil lamp to make beads. Glass rod is used in making lamp work beads that have designs in different colors and shapes, often with colored glass designs adhering to the smooth body of the bead. The popularity of glass work beads grew immensely with the craze for beaded jewelry and stretch bracelets.

A necklace in which one end passes through a loop on the other end and can slide freely, like a lasso, and does not need a clasp.

Liquid silver
Tubular silver beads that are strung continuously, giving the appearance of a fluid string of silver.

Lobster claw
A very popular clasp used in costume jewelry as well as fine jewelry, which has a teardrop shape. A small flap on one side is spring loaded and can be pushed in to hook a necklace or bracelet. The moving piece can be compared to the short side of a lobster claw, thereby getting its name.

A synthetic material that is denser and heavier than plastic and is usually finished no seams or knobs that are tell tale signs of injection or molding. Lucite is used extensively in costume jewelry because it can be colored and textured to resemble costly components.

A dark green semiprecious stone that has banding of lighter green. Malachite is found near copper and some believe smelting copper could have been discovered when a malachite amulet fell into a fire.

Maltese cross
A design frequently used in fashion jewelry that dates back to the Crusades and has two lines intersecting exactly in the middle, creating four equal arms. The arms widen as they extend outward and the ends have an inverted V, giving the end appearance of four arrowheads pointing towards the middle.

A stone shape that is elongated and comes to a point at each end. Marquise shapes are popular in rhinestone and crystal jewelry.

The veins that are seen in semiprecious gemstones, for example, the black or copper veins that run through turquoise. Synthetic stones in costume jewelry mimic the matrix of genuine stones.

Matte finish
A satin finish on plated jewelry that does not have the reflective quality of bright plated goods.

Memory wire
A springy wire that is mainly used for chokers and bracelets that is spread when jewelry is put on and then springs back to shape, enabling the items to stay on without the use of a clasp.

A term that means "a thousand flowers" in Italian and refers to an art form of fusing glass rods together and cross cutting them to get designs that depict numerous flowers. The process has become affordable enough at the present time to be used in making attractive costume jewelry.

Mohs scale
A measurement of the hardness of gemstones invented by Friedrich Mohs, which rates stones from 1 to 10, based of their ability to be scratched. Diamonds are rated the highest at 10.

An iridescent white shell that offers natural beauty to fashion jewelry creations.

Omega chain
A popular chain used for chokers that has a convex shape (bows outward) and has rectangular links that show parallel lines all along the chain. Omega is an attractive chain used for chokers with slides, but is not very flexible.

A quality that describes gemstones, synthetic jewelry, or painted surfaces that denotes an inability for light to pass through the surface. The opposite quality is translucence. Turquoise or solid paint would be considered opaque. Crystal quartz or jewel-tone epoxy would be considered translucent.

A term applied to jewelry or accessories that denotes a longer than normal length. Opera length necklaces are generally over 48 inches long and opera length gloves go all the way up the arm (also referred to as 16 button).

A process of gluing stones to cover a surface, like a "pavement". Pave’ stones are popular in rhinestone, crystal, and bridal jewelry.

Pear shape
A term that is interchanged with tear drop and refers to a stone or object that is pointed at one end and round at the other. Exciting designs can be created with pear shapes in tiaras, rhinestone jewelry, and costume jewelry in general.

Pearl clasp
A marquise shaped clasp that is usually filigree and has one end hook in the other and then is pushed in to lock. The clasp is often used on real pearls so that if the strand accidentally unlocks, the hook will keep the pearls from being lost. Costume jewelry imitates this clasp to add realism and value to the design.

An alloy that is 90% tin and mixed with other metals to create a malleable medium for the creation of jewelry and gifts. Modern pewter normally does not contain lead, which was a component in earlier history.
The finished product has a silverfish grey color.

A coating that can apply to numerous materials used in costume jewelry, but most frequently applies to metals. Plating is a method of adhering more expensive metals to the exterior of less expensive metals to give the color and appearance of the higher quality metal, for example, gold plating over pot metal.

Pot metal
A composite of cheap metals used for casting costume jewelry. Pot metal is also called white metal and is generally brittle, like metals used in a toy cap gun.

Prayer box
Tiny boxes with scrollwork designs or filigree work that were generally unheard of until they became popular in costume jewelry in the last few years. Many cultures used similar boxes and lockets, but the origin is most likely Buddhist.

Prong set
A method of setting crystals, rhinestones, and other stones that uses tiny prongs that are bent over the edge of the stone to hold it in place. Prong set has a greater perceived value than glued in stones and the process is frequently used in tiaras, rings, crystal jewelry, and rhinestone jewelry.

The name is derived from a Slavic word meaning hard and applies to a family of semiprecious stones that are characterized by translucence. Crystal quartz, rose quartz, amethyst, aventurine, and cat’s-eye are part of this family.

A raised, three dimensional effect that is usually achieved by stamping or carving (as in a cameo).

A family of synthetic or organic products that have dense weight and no definite melting point, most commonly used for molding costume jewelry and figurines. Seasonal jewelry makes a high use of resins in pins and earrings. In recent years, resins have been interspersed in Mardi Gras beads to add themes.

The name comes from the Rhine river, which was the source of quartz crystals that were originally used in making rhinestones. Today rhinestones are made from cut lead glass and are usually foil backed to improve the reflective quality.

Rhodium plating
A plating that gives metals a silver tone finish. A rhodium finish is darker than a silver plated finish and darkens with time rather than tarnishing like silver plate. Fashion rings and brooches are often rhodium plated.

Rose quartz
A semiprecious stone in the quartz family that is characterized by a soft pink color and a high translucence (ability to see through or pass light through).

Satin finish
A flat or matte finish that is usually used on metals, but can be applied to other mediums in costume jewelry. The opposite would be a shiny or bright smooth finish that has a high reflective quality. Interesting brooches, bracelets, and necklaces are created by combining satin and bright finishes.

The mounting or base in which crystals, rhinestones, or other jewelry components are set.

The part of a ring excluding the setting on top, that goes around the finger. Shanks can be molded together with the top setting or created separately with half round wire and soldered to the back of the setting.

Silver tone
A term that generally denotes silver or rhodium plating that gives a silver color.

Simulated stone
Synthetic stones that resemble genuine stones or semiprecious components. Lucite and acrylic are frequently used in fashion jewelry to create simulated stones and pearlized glass or acrylic is used to create faux pearls.

A pendant with a bail or loops on the back that allows the fashion jewelry to slide on a choker, chain, or cord. Slide and pendant are generally interchangeable, but the term, slide, seems to be more prevalent on the East Coast.

Snowflake obsidian
A black or nearly black volcanic rock that has flake like grayish white patterns.

A medium to dark blue semiprecious stone that contains patches and veins of white (white calcite) and copper. While sodalite can also be found in grey and white, blue is generally used to produce jewelry.

Split ring
A small ring with a cut that allows the ring to be spread to connect jewelry components and then closed again. The piece is also referred to as a jump ring.

Spring ring clasp
A round tubular closure used for necklaces and bracelets. A spring loaded pin is pulled back with a tiny lever, allowing an opening to hook the loop on the other end of the jewelry, after which the pin springs back into place.

Designs created in costume jewelry by using a press and molds. Stampings can be flat and have cutouts or can be embossed with three dimensional relief. Thin sheets of brass are often used for this process and the stamped item is plated and polished, then in some cases epoxied, creating some of the highest quality fashion jewelry. "Best Brand" is the leading manufacturer using this technique.

A name that applies to rhinestones and crystals produced by an Austrian firm that is the world’s most renowned for these products and the first to produce faceted glass crystals and iridescent crystals.

Teardrop shape
A shape that is pointed on one end and round on the other. Teardrop and pear shape are interchangeable and generally apply to rhinestone, crystal, or other stones. Costume jewelry makes wide use of this shape in earrings, pendants, and drops on necklaces.

Tennis bracelet
Originally a bracelet made of a row of uniform sized diamonds. Costume jewelry attributes the name to single line rhinestone bracelets and cast bracelets with a row of crystals. The name originated when a tennis match was stopped to find a bracelet dropped by Chris Everet.

A crown like ornament for the hair that is especially popular for pageants, bridal, and queens of special events. Tiaras are generally constructed of rhinestones, crystals, or pearls and are most commonly mounted on a horseshoe shaped base and held in place with combs, pins, a spring wire base, or by bending. Tiaras do not form a full circle like crowns do.

Tiara comb
Generally a smaller version of a tiara that is held in place by one comb in the center. These hair ornaments are crafted from rhinestone, pearl, or crystals and are popular for bridal, flower girls, First Communion, pageants, and balls.

Tiffany setting
A six prong setting that is generally used for round solitaire stones. Costume jewelry refers to most prong set solitaires as Tiffany settings.

Tiger’s eye
A semiprecious stone that is brown to golden yellow in color and has the appearance of a moving eye. Tiger’s eye is one of the most popular semiprecious components used for costume jewelry and one of the most recognized.

Toggle clasp
A closure that is used for bracelets and necklaces consisting of a ring on one end and bar on the other. The bar slides through the ring vertically and then lays on the ring horizontally to keep it from coming back through. Toggle clasps are usually bulky and are much easier to fasten than smaller clasps.

Tortoise shell
A term used in costume jewelry to denote lucite that has a honey to brown color with black spotting, imitating the look of thinly sliced tortoise shell in antique jewelry. Tortoises used for this jewelry are a protected species and real tortoise shell jewelry is no longer produced.

The most popular and recognized semiprecious stone in America. Turquoise ranges in color from sky blue to bluish green and can be clear blue or with black or copper matrix. Costume jewelry uses genuine turquoise, reconstituted turquoise, turquoise chip, treated stones, and synthetic stones. Genuine stones can be identified by their cool feel.

Twisted cable
A Southwestern technique for creating bracelets and chokers in which strands of cable are tightly twisted and sweat together with solder. The jewelry is generally antiqued to darken the recesses and the high points are polished. This process is imitated in costume jewelry, creating beautiful designs in a Southwest motif.

A style of jewelry popularized during the reign of Queen Victoria of England (1837-1901). The long period included a number of trends that were influenced by events of the time, the life of the Queen, and the taste of the English. Filigree and thin gold stampings produced large pieces with minimal gold in the early era because of a gold shortage. Hidden message wee popular, resulting in multicolor bracelets that spelled words with the first letter of each gemstone. In mid-reign, architectural discoveries inspired designs based on antiquities. British presence in India and Egypt inspired designs in these motifs and the death of Prince Albert resulted in somber designs with dark stones. The late reign saw a trend of jewelry produced as art rather than for intrinsic value.

Y necklace
A necklace with a long row dropping in the center, forming a Y shape, that became popular when the style was worn on a weekly TV show.

A Southwest Indian tribe that is famous for creating intricate designs in turquoise jewelry, especially designs that consist of a multitude of tiny stones, creating a needlepoint like look.

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Costume Jewelry Glossary
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