Tag Archives: French terms

Comely Jewelry Terms

(starting with “C”)

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Here it is: Part III of our super informative and fun collection of fancy jewelry phrases.

Cabochon – (sounds like “Cabbage Shawn”) – stemming from the French word for “knob,” what this connotes is a gem that is ‘domed’ (not “doomed”), meaning the top is rounded and silky smooth.  Like a wondrously sleek egg, a cabochon formed stone holds unlimited potential, with nary a facet to hold it back.

Cairngorm – is a brownish citrine quartz that hails from the Cairngorm Mountains in the land of haggis and Ewan McGregor fans.  Found throughout history in typical Scottish jewelry, like kilt buckles, naturally.  You can take their land, but you can never take their Cairngorm.

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Calibré – yes, this is a highly popular font style, but it also refers to gemstones that are cut in a very deliberate way to fit into a particular mounting design.  For instance, if you wanted a Pikachu shaped engagement ring, you would need several calibré yellow diamonds to complete the elegant piece.

Cameo – in addition to being the type of appearance you make at less than desirable friends’ birthday parties, cameos are lovely and intricately carved works of art.  Dating back to the ancient times, before Instagram, cameos were used to depict scenes or selfies, by carving into gemstones or various other precious materials.  The technical term for jewelry with this type of design is “glyptograph,” but that just sounds like one of those excessively expensive calculators.

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Cannetille – What was the most desirable jewelry design style during 1827?  Well, cannetille. Obvi.  This is a highly sophisticated way of structuring settings, so that complicated and baroque patterns can be achieved (similar to filigreed).  Some such patterns include: curls, webs, snakes, floral shapes, seashell motifs, squiggly things and momma’s spaghetti and meatballs.

Carbuncle – no, this is not an avuncular person that loves ingesting carbohydrates.  This is a type of garnet, with a rich purple, red red wine color.  Highly sought after during the Victorian era, carbuncle themed jewelry goes best with mauve hued Gothic Princess Ball Gowns – so if you have one of those, march into a jewelry shop and demand to know “Dude, where’s my carbuncle?”

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Cartouche – is a fashion of framework that encircles a primary jewel.  Often features elaborate and labyrinthine patterns (like the cannetille style!) and glorious glyphs.  Tip: If someone tries to impress you with a beautifully byzantine piece of jewelry, simply retort “Car-touché.”

Cat’s Eye (aka “Chatoyancy”) – is one of the coolest jewel-based things known to humanity.  It’s the mystical effect that light has on certain gems, whereby it reflects out and produces a vertical slit that eerily resembles a feline’s contracted pupil.  In order for this to occur, the gem must be cut and polished “en cabochon.”  Hence, if you’re crazy cat-lady aunt loses one of her furry beloveds, a thoughtful present would be two rings that exhibit Chatoyancy – that she can stare at and pet.

Diamond-Lighthouse-selling-jewelry-cat's-eyeCave Pearls – these guys almost didn’t make the list, because they are hardly ever used in jewelry – but they are ultra fancy nonetheless.  The term refers to “pearls” that form in underground limestone caves.  Water flowing over them naturally polishes the stones to a lovely luster, but they are so porous that they could crumble upon a firm squeeze.  Would make a great center stone for an engagement ring being given to someone who is highly unstable.

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Champlevé – is as sultry as it sounds.  Translated from the French “raised field,” this is an enameling process where a surface area (metal, bone, Play-Doh) is dug or etched into to form a design, which is then covered in a nice, thick layer of enamel.  Then the material is often thinned out from the other side, so light can somewhat penetrate through, like a très fancy Lite Brite.

Chatham – is a super scientific method of creating synthetic gemstones utilizing a smoldering medley of mixed minerals and molten materials – and, it’s an exotic archipelago off the coast of New Zealand – AND, a super boring town in upstate New York.

Chenier – not as glamorous as it sounds, but definitely a very useful item in jewelry construction.  It refers to the ‘hollow tubing’ that is employed in hinges, such as the ones found in bracelets, watches, secret lockets and Gramma’s antique “snuff box.”  Like a bird’s brittle bones, chenier is essential for some jewelry to truly take flight.

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Chiaroscuro – finally, a non-French term!  This phrase, in the geological sense, refers to the reciprocity of light and dark areas in gemstones.  It is derived from the Italian word “chiaro,” which means “clear,” and “oscuro,” which means “dark” or “Momma Mia, you burn-a the pasta sauce!”

Chute – this is a pearl necklace where every one of the pearls featured is of the identical size (except the little baby ones near the clasp – which prompts people to exclaim “Isn’t that chute?” upon seeing them).

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Châtelaine – has very intriguing origins.  The 1600’s saw the first popular inception of a chatelaine – which means “Lady of the Castle” in, oui, you guessed it, French.  It was simply a hook that attached to one’s belt, which housed the entire key collection for said castle (making the Lady of the Castle look like a janitor).  Over time, it evolved into a jewelry piece that held several chains, each with a different adornment hanging from it.  Like a modern day, functional charm bracelet, you could attach all sorts of ostentatious/useful items, like combs, looking glassses, writing tools, watches, vials of arsenic for the lurking and lascivious, and other such fun trinkets.

Clawed Collet – no, no Collet.  This is a type of ring mounting, where the main jewel is bezel set amongst a vast array of prongs, that serve to hold the stone securely in place.  Like a cougar clutching a valuable stone (either an actual cougar or the euphemism-kind).

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Commesso – an elaborate form of cameo, where finely cut gems meld with enameled gold, producing a three-dimensional and dynamic jewelry piece (different from a regular cameo which is just cut from a solitary chunk of stone or other material…how droll).  When finished assembling such delicate and beatific pieces, jewelers often shout “Commesso and get it!”

Croix a la Jeanette – this is a lovely pendant which was at the height of fashion during the mid 1800’s.  It’s a heart with a little crucifix hanging from it, and was quite possibly named for Janet Jackson (Ms. Jackson…if you’re nasty).

-Joe Leone