Tag Archives: opal

Beautiful Jewelry Terms

(starting with “B”)

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Bail – yes, this is indeed what you had to lay out for your incorrigible grandpa that time he got caught shoplifting at K-Mart, but it’s also a glorious jewelry-related homonym.  The bail is that little loop that gets fastened to the top of a gemstone or pendant or Olympic Gold Medal that enables it to hang (or “chill”) from a chain.

Bakelite – there won’t be a ton of plastic-based things on this list, but the once highly sought after Bakelite is definitely one of them.  While it sounds like it gets its name from being baked in an oven (with less calories than usual!), its nomenclature stems from its creator, Leo Bakeland (and yes, his name clearly sounds like a dough-based amusement park).  Bakelite was conceived by this fellow in 1909 and peaked in desirability during the not-so-roaring ’30’s (mostly for its affordability and highly durable nature), as it was used in a wide gamut of jewelry items.

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Bandeau – is a headband, but in French; hence it is fancy.  They first rose to popularity during the Middle Ages in Europe, where they were simply constructed of jewels strung together with ribbons, which were tightly yanked and secured on to these Middled Aged ladies’ foreheads.  Later they were crafted out of various metals and took on a more tiara-esque look.  They saw a significant surge during the 1920’s Art Deco era (the flappers sure loved them some bandeaus), and fairly recently as well, as poet laureate Paris Hilton has been frequently sighted donning one.

Basket Mount – why, this is one fancy gemstone setting that creates the illusion that the stone is set in a woven, wait for it…basket.  Guess an explanation of that wasn’t really necessary.

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Basse-Taille – those who are in favor of the process of “translucent enameling” are typically said to be ‘All about that Basse-Taille.’  This term, in French, means “shallow cut,” and this is a reference to how the metal here is treated.  The metal is etched into very deeply, so that when a nice shellack of enamel is applied, it dries in various hues.  These different colors draw attention to the minute contours of the overall design.  This technique can often been seen in jewelry items that feature intricate shapes, such as leaves, butterfly wings, flower petals and replicas of Donald Trump’s hair.

Bavette – Is this from Bavaria?  No, no Bavette.  Here’s another phrase from the land of fine wine and stinky cheese.  Bavette in French means “bib,” and is used to describe necklaces that are constructed of numerous strands of beads (usually pearls), of various lengths.  They form a beautiful bib-shape, and can be used to showcase your opulence out on the town – or simply as a way to keep bar-b-que sauce off your camisole.

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Bayadére – this is just twisted.  It’s a necklace formed from a multitude of strands of “seed” (aka: tiny) pearls.  The strands are twisted around and around, like a pair of earphones in bottom of the jostled purse of someone desperately running to catch a bus.

Belcher Ring – is not necessarily named after those with audible indigestion symptoms.  Legend has it that this style of ring was christened after infamous English bare-knuckle boxer, Jem Belcher, at the turn of the 19th century; whether he was gassy or not remains a mystery.  The ring features a stone that is set in place with prongs that are fashioned out of the original, core metal of the band.  Also of note, is the fact that the guy’s name was Jem.

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Belle Époque – the “beautiful era” in France (1901-1915).  This was known as the Edwardian period in nearby, contentious England; for the contemporary king, Edward (aka “Fast Eddie”).  The designs of this stylish epoch are quite flowery and flowing, consisting of many floral patterns, intertwined lace and billowing bows (just like Belle’s outfits in “Beauty and the Beast”).

Benoiton – surprisingly, this is not the precursor to the Benetton line of clothing.  It’s a weird thing that women put in their hair during the 1860’s.  It’s made up of a bunch of chains that come out of the hair (reminiscent of a lovely octopus or spider) and then clamp down into one’s dress.  These non-functional hair clips first came into the public eye onstage, in a play written by satirist Victorien Sardou: the farce “La Famille Benoiton.”  They fell out of favor when scores of people began injuring themselves while brushing their hair.

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Billet-Doux – this one is a touch scandalous.  A French expression connoting a “love letter,” the jewelry manifestation of this took its form in flower based pieces – that were given to clandestine lovers.  The type of flower used would indicate a specific message, for instance:  roses symbolized true love, daisies conveyed purity, gardenias meant secret love.  Taking things to a Da Vinci Code level of crypticness, certain gemstones would be used in pieces, and the first letter of each stone (ie – “C” in crystal) would be used to spell out a covert message.  For example, Labradorite, Opal and Lazulite (“LOL”).

Biscuit – a) the most delicious item on the menu at KFC, b) what you call your sweetie, c) the name given to the sumptuous ceramic, porcelain, when it has not yet been glazed.

Bloom Finish – this is a complicated process that utilizes a vast array of deadly chemicals (the charming hydrochloric acid, to name one) to remove the shiny surface from gold and essentially leave it looking softer and “pitted,” like a morose teenager’s face.

Diamond-Lighthouse-selling-gold-braceletBluite – now here’s some good marketing in action.  Manhattan based jewelry company Goldfarb & Friedberg conceived this term around 1922 to describe an 18k white gold compound they sold which, they purported, was the closest approximation to platinum ever created.  They found that “Bluite” sold far better than their previous product “Greenish Gold.”

Bombé – looking exactly how they sound, these jewelry pieces are the bomb.  They exhibit a curved, bulbous shape, like that of a little explosive device.  Most common in ring and earring design, these were a ‘hit’ during the greater part of the 20th century.

via Queensbee.ru
via Queensbee.ru

Brown Émail – before your imagination begins to run wild, know that “émail” is the French word for “enamel.”  So this simply refers to enamel that has that particular, earth toned hue.  Interesting to think that the French have been using email for hundreds of years (…don’t be jaloux, England.)

-Joe Leone

Alluring Jewelry Terms

(Starting with “A”)

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This is the first installment of a multi part series on the etymology of some of the more esoteric, unconventional and ancient phrases in the wondrous world of precious metal and gemstone-based jewelry.

À jour – much like ‘soup du jour,’ this term is extra fancy, and extra French; it means “to the day,” and is as delicious as a lobster bisque.  À jour is a type of jewelry setting that became intensely popular in the 1800’s (just like the sexy steam locomotive and the scintillating stereoscope) where the back of the piece is left open.  This is so the sun can hit it with luscious light and BAM: instant solar style, as the jewel shimmers with glowing glee and bright alacrity.

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À la mercure – Ok, this one can be mercurial (and lethal).  Like the name suggests, we’re dealing with actual mercury here.  It’s a type of ‘gilding’ where you meld gold and mercury into a deadly stew and then gently apply it to a jewelry piece (like you would with White-Out to a sensitive document).  Then you burn the heck out of it with a torch or, in a pinch, a lighter with a saucy burlesque dancer etched on to it.  The heat from the fire sizzles the mercury away, leaving behind a smooth golden finish (just don’t breathe while doing this, kids!)

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Aiguilettes – now commonly known as the name given to Christina Aguilera’s children, aiguilettes originally referred to thin little strips of material that held ribbons in place on women’s dresses in the 1400’s.  These stylishly ‘sharp’ items (derived from the French word for needle, “aguille”), became more and more fashionable and were eventually constructed from gold and featured various glittering gems.  They usually appeared in pairs, forming a small “v” or “bird in the distance in a painting” shapes.

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Allochromatic – just like the Allosaur that gets eaten in Jurassic World, this term has epic connotations.  The phrase “allochromatic” is applied to gems that exhibit a certain color…that is not what their chemical components dictate it should actually look like, but rather a hue which is purely visible due to the impurities therein.  Confused?  Good.  Here’s a nice example of allochroma in action: the highly valuable gemstone Sapphire.  Now, sapphire is blue, right?  Dead wrong! (as if you’ve been huffing mercury)  Sapphire is naturally a clear gem in it’s unadulterated state.  However, typically when it forms, iron and titanium particles get in there, alloying the true chemical composition.  These dirty little elements are what give sapphire that azure allure we know and heart.

Alluvial – this one is a little slippery: literally.  The phrase is really just an adjective meaning “deposited by water,” and in the jewelry universe this refers to precious metals (gold, silver, the Lord of the Rings ring) left behind in riverbed rocks.

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Amorphous – Honey Boo-Boo and Momma June jokes aside, amorphous things have no form at all.  What this means in gem terms, is that they are devoid of a “crystal structure.”  Popular gemstones such as amber and opal are amorphous, making them both great gifts for someone whom you want to express the message “Our love has no…form.”

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Arabesque – those who frequent hookah lounges will be familiar with the ornate and intricate style that is Arabesque.  Jewelry with extensive filigreed is often in the Arabesque category, which was definitely #trending during the 1500’s with the Renaissance art crowd.  Arabesque designs feature a lot of flowing flowers, hearts and in some rare cases, shawarma samples.

Archaeological Revival – this term is sort of self explanatory, but cool nonetheless.  When art loving Europeans of the 1700’s began digging stuff up from the Roman and Egyptian Empires, they fell in love with the style and started replicating it like mad.  Wearing a Cleopatra inspired golden asp headpiece became totally en vogue with the bourgeoisie crew.

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Argentan – if you receive a shiny silver gift with an intaglio on it proclaiming this word, then you have a right to be miffed.  It means that the metal is masquerading as actual silver, but, sadly, is not.  This information can be extremely useful when deciding whether or not to melt jewelry pieces down into bullets to combat attacking werewolves.

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Armilla – is just a super fancy word for an ‘armlet’ – a bracelet for the upper arm.  These have been around since the times when people fought lions with their bare hands for the entertainment of the masses (usually on the TNT network).  Roman soldiers wore these to signify rank, as well as for an excuse to show off their biceps.  Today, hordes of  inebriated girls wear them at Coachella.

Assay – is not that thing you had to write to get into college.  Assay is the procedure that jewelry items undergo to analyze the precise content of the precious metal they contain.  The results are often stamped right on the little guys (ie – “24 kt gold” or, in some less than fortunate cases, “100% tin foil”).

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Asterism – akin to the mighty asteroid, soaring through the cosmos, the concept of asterism is equally ephemeral and can scorch you if you attempt to grasp it.  …Well, not really.  It just signifies a star-like shape that forms when light hits certain, inclusion laden gems and then reflects out in said stellar fashion.  Basically, it’s like looking at a jewel-born asterisk*

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Aventurescence – if you are a gem and you possess this quality, it means you are ready for adventure!  …Or something to that effect.  When stones have aventurescence, they have an entirely unique brand of sparkle to them.  Gems that exhibit this property are chocked full of various mineral inclusions that are too hard to spell or pronounce (and in some cases, sound completely inappropriate).  Not a believer?  Just try to say “fuchsite” in polite society and see what happens.

-Joe Leone 

Alternative Stones

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When it comes to engagement and wedding rings, diamonds have reigned as the stone of choice for quite some time.  After faltering in desirability during the Great Depression, the ultimate monopoly over the diamond industry, De Beers, made it their mission to make diamonds universally synonymous with marriage.  A vastly successful ad campaign and a few generations later, diamonds have still been going strong.  Yet, as times and attitudes change, new styles and trends are inevitable.  Not every single woman needs a diamond engagement ring anymore, or wants to hold on to old diamond jewelry.  If you are considering breaking away from the norm, here are some lovely, eye-catching stone options as compiled by Diamond Lighthouse.  Precious or semi-precious, each stone holds its own intrinsic significance.  They also are drastically different in terms of value and gradation (as opposed to the standard “4C’s” used to determine a diamond’s worth – learn more here).  Listed here by birthstone, there definitely is a tailor made gem out there for everyone.

Garnet (Capricorn/January) – while garnet actually comes in a wide variety of colors, it is most often associated with a deep red or maroon hue.  Its name in Latin is “granate,” which means “seed,” as it was thought to resemble the seed of the pomegranate fruit.  Garnet is identified with vitality, regeneration, and the ability to ward off evil.

Garnet is on the inexpensive side; one carat typically costs around $20 to $100, depending on condition.

photo via Wikipedia
photo via Wikipedia

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