Tag Archives: antique

Outlandish Jewelry Terminology

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Starting with “O”

Objets de Vertu – Here we step outside of the traditional definition of what constitutes jewelry (an object that is physically attached to you in some manner), to include Objets de Vertu.  These are any of the fancy, often gem encrusted and precious metal based items that people typically use to transport functional things.  Pearl inlaid cigarette cases, solid gold lighters, platinum cell phones cases with intaglios of Bernie Sanders, etc. 

Objets Trouvés – While their origins date back to neolithic times, Objets Trouvés are a favorite of environmentally conscious jewelry designers working today.  The term translates from French (which obviously Early Man spoke fluently) to “found objects.”  Ergo, before modern jewelry, which utilizes all manner of technology, had been invented, people made things out of whatever they could find; shells, bones, teeth, pebbles and AOL installation CDs.  

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Oiling – this is a process (which is true to its name) that was designed to improve the overall color and quality of gemstones (mostly emeralds) that have internal fractures that creep to the their surfaces.  By literally oiling them up with a specific lubricant, the cracks are filled and the stones look a little brighter.  Be weary of any oily jewelers trying to pass such slippery stones off on to you. 

Omega Back – while this sounds like the name of a hip, new British thriller on Netflix, it’s actually the back portion found on mostly vintage earrings.  It’s a little loop that holds the earrings in place.  In the shape of the Omega letter of the Greek alphabet (familiar to any of you collegiate toga donning folk), it works with pierced and non-pierced ear earrings; the hoop holds up the pointy part, or just acts as a clasp.

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Opaline Glass – a grand imitator of precious gemstones, Opaline Glass appears in a bluish, cloudy hue.  A metallic, foil backing to the faux fancy stone really makes its color “pop.”   A trendy item during the Georgian period (no, not when the state of Georgia was popular…nor the country…but when 4 consecutive King Georges reigned in England; 1714 through 1830).  It saw a brief rival during the second Georgian period (the two Bush presidencies).   

Opera Length Necklace – the name may be self evident, but the actual length is somewhat specific.  To qualify for this distinction, the necklace must be between 26 and 36 inches in length, and it has to be worn with a fancy dress out to actual operas, hip-hoperas or, in the very least, while watching you favorite soap opera.  

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Opus Interrasile – a golden hit during the Byzantine era, this is a process of puncturing metal with a sharp device in order to pepper it with a multitude of stylish holes.  This translates from Latin to “work openings,” which is exactly what Roman goldsmiths were always scouring Craigius’s List for.    

Oreide – or ‘oroide’ or “French Gold” – this is an alloy which winningly masquerades as gold, utilizing mostly copper, with a little molten zinc and tin thrown in there for seasoning.  

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Ouch – yes…this one is gonna hurt.  Ironically, this describes a piece of jewelry, usually a pendant or brooch, that doesn’t require a sharp pin to hold it in place; rather it is hand sewn onto one’s clothing.  Typically they would feature a central gem surrounded by a fine metal filigree.  Chaps frolicking around during Medieval times would use them as the fastening parts of their flowing cloaks (with a chain that connected them).  The gemstone component would make them valuable, naturally, so if one were to fall off, people would remark “…ouch.”

Ouroboros – one of the coolest ancient symbols found in jewelry.  It’s a snake or dragon that is biting its own tail, thus completing a perfect and eternal loop (great for necklaces, obviously).  It symbolizes the cyclical aspect of nature and self-reflexivity in beings with consciousness and also exemplifies really hungry snakes.  Folks in the 1840’s went mad for these things, sticking winking precious gemstones in the eye sockets and scaring children.     

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Overtone – a property that only certain pearls will exhibit, this describes a secondary, and sometimes even tertiary, hue that is visible over the pearl’s primary color.  These can manifest in light green, blue and pink…overtones.  

Oxide Finish – here we have metal that gets entirely dipped in a black finish, like taking an permanent bath in tar.  Usually strategic parts are buffed to allow for the underlying metal to shine through.  This is a great way to showcase the intricacies of a silver engagement ring with fine filigree or the dented fender of a Ford Pinto.  

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-Joe Leone 

Luscious Jewelry Terms

Starting with “L”

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Labradorescence – here we have an extraordinarily fancy way of saying that a stone looks blue (as in the color, not melancholic).  Specifically, this occurs with the gem labradorite, and in some very rare instances, in Labrador retrievers.

Lace Ring – this is a ring mounting type where the sides are constructed of an open webbing, which obviously resembles the material that fancy underwear is made out of.

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Lambrequin – while this sounds like it is the odd lovechild of a lamb and a mannequin, it actually refers to little ornamental pieces that look like woven fabric.  Worn by fancy soldiers of yesteryear, this arty thing was commonly found in one’s coat of arms.

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Lapidary – this is the name given to those who cut, polish, slice and dice gemstones and dense minerals (except diamonds, of course – those who deal solely with diamonds are called “diamantaires,” and wouldn’t sully their fastidious fingers with lesser gems).  Some lapidaries also can carve cameos, thereby making them mini sculptors (take that, diamond snobs!)

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Lathe – is something that modern jewelers thank the high heavens for each day.  It’s a sophisticated machine that basically does all of the essential jeweler tasks in one, such as grinding, milling, drilling, (thrilling!), and oh so much more.

Latten – this is a material that is comprised of copper and other, less expensive metals (it’s an alloy).  Highly popular throughout the entire Medieval period (5th through 15th centuries), latten could easily be shaped into words and symbols on jewelry, like latin phrases and ‘yo momma’ jokes.  Most signet rings created during this time were made of latten (those are the rings you would stick in wax to leave your seal on letters, like an ancient @handle.)

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Lava Jewelry – a very specific type of jewelry endemic to the ruins of Pompeii, Italy.  Travelers venturing to Pompeii during the 17th century, seeking to unearth more of the location’s petrified secrets, would return home with souvenir jewelry made out of the lava/mineral debris from the actual site.  These would often be in the form of dirt and clay-colored cameos, carved to resemble some of the lovely lost Roman souls.

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Lavallière – a delicate link chain that culminates in a hanging pendant (typically featuring a pearly pearl).  Turn of the 20th century kids couldn’t wait to get their hands on these.  The necklace type takes its nomenclature from the allegedly breathtaking Louise Françoise de La Baume Le Blanc, who not only possesses an insanely long name, but was the number one side chick of Louis XIV (hey, in 17th century France this was something to be proud of).  She was also the ‘Duchesse de La Vallière’ (hence the necklace name…finally).

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Lazo – no, not the term for a sloth-like person in Spanish, this actually means “bow” en Español, and is employed when describing earrings that have some sort of design at the top, a bow in the middle and then a ‘drop,’ or hanging, jewel or other metal piece.  The phrase eventually morphed to include brooches that have a ribbon motif.

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Leontine – pocket watches in Spain would simply crash to the floor (el piso) without the aid of a leontine, the chain that connects the watch to one’s pocket (via a little clasp).  Often constructed with a flourish (hanging gold tassels and the like), leontines were the bold precursor to wallet chains, donned primarily by mid-90’s posers.

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Limoges Enamel – this is a precise form of enameling that put Limoges, France on the map.  Conceived during the 1400’s, this enameling technique uses a metal material as the canvas to which a heavy enamel layer is applied, and then a clear one over that (really letting the colors ‘pop’).  This artistic practice is used today in nail salons around the world.

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Liquid Silver – much like the body of the ferociously undulating Terminator first introduced in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, liquid silver seductively flows like a shiny river of metal.  It’s the name given to sterling silver beads, which when polished to a fiery sheen and strung tightly together, simply ooze opulence and stream through the night.

Lobster Claw – many of you may have a lobster claw dangling from your body right at this moment and you don’t even know it.  Before you reach for the lemon and butter, this is just a kind of clasp that at lot of necklaces and bracelets use.  It’s fun to open it and pinch your friends with.

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Lorgnette – you’ve seen plenty of fancy ladies of the past using lorgnettes; they are those glasses that are held up to the face with a precious metal handle (not an adorably precocious one; ‘precious’ here meaning one that is made of gold or silver, etc.)  Lorgnette rose to prominence during the tail end of the 19th century and stayed in fashion throughout the daring Art Deco era.  Can be used today in lieu of Google glasses.

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Lost Wax Casting – in French it’s “cire perdue,” but in any language it means the same thing; you make a wax mold of some sort, pour hot liquid metal in there and then burn the wax away, leaving you with a newly cast metal, primed for a good ole polishin’.  And yes, it also sounds like the casting session to the mysterious, hit ABC series “Lost Wax.”

Lover’s Eye Miniature – let’s take a look see at this jewelry concept, which will undoubtedly go down as one of the creepiest in history.  It’s basically a little pin, pendant, brooch or ring encased painting that your lover gives to you.  Depicted there, is their very own eye, symbolically watching over (aka ‘stalking’) you at all times.  This trended briefly at the end of the 18th century, however the Lover’s Eyes soon lost favor as people started to accumulate various lovers, and therefore, more eyes to peer at them.  Presumably, they just got freaked out by all the incessant staring.

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Lover’s Knot – way less weird than the previous item, this refers to rings that were crafted to depict two pieces of rope that were tied in a symbolic union.  The ancient Romans used them as betrothal rings; contemporary grooms use them for the same thing…when they are trying to come up with clever ways to not have to buy a diamond.

Luckenbooth Brooch – you can take their land, but you can never take their brooches.  These charming Scottish pins are designed to look like a heart (or two hearts).  They were first made during the Middle Ages and became fashionable during the 1800s.  This term can also be applied when you happen to luck into a booth in a restaurant.

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Lunula – what’s not to love about the Bronze Age?  That’s where we got this moon-shaped necklace from, which can be made from any material but often shows up in gold or…bronze.  Lunulas are not just beautifully designed creations that evoke images of nighttime illumination and revelry, they also have a really fun name to say out loud.

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-Joe Leone