The Official Elina Mira Jewelry Dictionary

Posted by Laura Fleischauer on

Since our customers come from all kinds of different backgrounds with different levels of experience, I wanted to put together a dictionary of terms you might see around our site that might not be familiar to everyone.  Have you ever wondered to yourself, "What does it mean if jewelry is gold filled?" or "What is a faceted stone?"  Well, wonder no more because here is a simple but comprehensive guide to the terms we use on Elina Mira.  If you have any requests for additions let us know in the comments.



The bail is the part of the pendant that connects it to a chain.  Usually it is an inverted tear drop shape where the pendant link rests in the angled part leaving the rounded part open for the chain to pass through.  Other styles include a simple round hoop and the Y bail which has two loops that meet in the middle where it connects to the pendant in a Y shape.


Bead Set

Bead setting is when stones are placed in little holes to be flush right along the top of the metal and then held in place with tiny beads that are strategically soldered around them.  You will typically see this with only small accent stones.  The is the method used for pavé.

 Bezel Set

When a stone is bezel set that means there is a metal ring that encircles the stone to keep it in place.  It is one of the most secure ways to set a stone because pressure is exerted on all sides of the stone instead of a few select points.  Below you can see an example of a bezel set stone.


A briolette is an elongated tear drop shaped bead that is faceted on all sides.  Typically there will be a small hole drilled at the top to allow the briolette to hang from an ear wire or chain.  It's a very sparkly accent!  The earrings below each have a faceted blue quartz briolette bead at the bottom.


A cabochon is simply a smooth, polished stone that does not have any facets.  Compare to a faceted stone which features many small cuts to create more brilliance.

Checker Cut

Checker cuts are a type of facet that involves placing a grid of uniform diamond-shaped cuts over the face of the stone.  This is a simple method that imparts a lot of sparkle to the stone.  These facets are typically larger than average.

CZ (Cubic Zirconia)

Cubic Zirconia, also known as CZ, is a synthesized stone that is almost as hard as a diamond and, because it is created in a lab, it is visually flawless.  It can be colored any shade and can also double for a diamond.  Only a keen eye and your wallet can tell any difference.


This one is a bit more confusing because the definition depends on the context.  If something is drop-shaped that means it is in the shape of a tear drop.  Another usage for Drop is if there is a stone that dangles on the piece as in the case of drop earrings.  The necklace below features a drop-shaped gemstone whereas the earrings have a round gemstone drop inside the hoop.  And, if you'll allow me to blow your mind, you can also have a drop-shaped drop!  See the blue topaz pendant on the right for an example.


Druzy (or Druse) is a naturally occurring phenomenon where a gemstone is coated in a fine layer of crystals.  It can range form the appearance of a fine sandpaper to a much more rough and jagged style.  It's adds interest and sparkle to a gemstone without faceting, which allows it to retain a more natural look.


Have you heard of science?  Me neither.  But apparently they are really working wonders in the lab these days.  It would be disingenuous for me to pretend I understand the complexities of electroplating, but I can repeat some basic facts that come from a trusted source.  Electroplating is a method of coating metal with another substance.  For our purposes it's usually gold, silver or rhodium plating over a base metal of silver or brass but there are many more applications.  Electroplating differs from standard plating because electricity and magic are involved.  It is considered to be a superior process because it is more complicated and therefore is said to yield a better, longer-lasting result.


Emerald Cut

The emerald cut is a method of faceting and it can be used on many types of gemstones even though it originated with and takes its name from the emerald.  Although this cut does not yield the most brilliant look, it is quite popular due to its classic, timeless style.  When the emerald cut is employed, a series of concentric step cuts are placed along each edge and the corners are slightly angled.


When a stone has been cut to add a sparkling effect, those cuts are the facets.  There is no one way to facet a stone and different shapes allow for different techniques.  The ultimate goal is to add style and brilliance to the stone.  Compare this to a cabochon, which is a polished stone without facets.


Most often you will see this word used when describing Moonstone and Labradorite gemstones.  The flash is the color you see light up inside the gem with certain angles of the light.  Most often it is blue, but there are variations.  Gemstones with inner flash never have a uniform appearance--they change depending on the light.  Sometimes we receive emails telling us that a piece with moonstone or labradorite does not have the same color that is seen in a photo, but it's never an attempt to mislead our customers.  That's just how the stone behaves.  What we suggest is placing the gem in the palm of your hand so no light comes through the back (that tends to wash the stone out) and then rotate your hand to see the colors change.  It's like a little light show in your hand!  The photo to the left shows a piece lit from behind that appears to be translucent grey.  The photo on the right is the exact same piece angled and lit from the side.


Freeform Facets

Freeform faceting is a method of stone cutting where seemingly random cuts of alternating sizes are placed all around the stone.  Typically extra facets are placed along the top of the stone for extra sparkle.  Like the checker cut, this style does not require the time and skill of finer cuts but still yields a great deal of brilliance.  It also gives a trendier, less formal look to jewelry.

French Ear Wires

French ear wires are a type of earring hook where the hook is not permanently affixed to the jewelry--it goes through a loop and moves freely.  This is the most common style of ear wires.

 Freshwater Cultured Pearls

Freshwater Cultured Pearls are created naturally but under farm-like conditions with freshwater mussels playing host to the pearls.  Instead of acquiring pearls the traditional way which involves diving into the ocean and cracking open tons of oysters like the workers looking for Veruca Salt's Golden Ticket, freshwater pearls are grown in a more controlled environment.  They are still real pearls even though they are not formed the natural way.  There are slight differences between the freshwater cultured pearls and naturally occurring pearls, but this can only be determined by an X-ray.  Unless your boyfriend is Superman no one will know the difference.


Gold Filled

Gold filled jewelry is a way to give one the look and durability of solid gold jewelry at a considerable savings.  This is done by creating a hollow tube from solid gold (usually 14k) that is then filled with brass or other similar base metals.  The gold tubing gives you a much thicker layer of gold than you get from jewelry that is only plated in gold, meaning there is next to no chance the gold will ever wear off.


Gold Plated

There are several methods of gold plating, but for this entry we will deal only with the traditional method.  For electroplating, please look above.  Traditional gold plating is a simple process where the base metal is cleaned then readied for plating with an activating chemical agent.  While plating can last for a lifetime, much depends on the frequency of wear and the thickness of the plating.  Any plated item that shows wear can easily be re-plated.


Heishi Beads

Heishi beads are small flat disc or tube-shaped beads that are crafted from shells or polished stones.

Lobster Clasp

A lobster clasp is a popular style of closure for necklaces and bracelets.  Its shape slightly resembles a lobster claw. See the photo under Heishi beads above for examples.


Oxidization is a natural process that occurs with many metals after extended contact with, you guessed it, oxygen.  You can see the byproduct of oxidization as the greyish tarnish that appears on your sterling silver.  Luckily it is very easy to remove this tarnish and return your metal to like new condition.  However, some people actually prefer the oxidized look and many designers purposely include oxidized elements to add style and contrast.  When you see pieces that have dark crevices, that is oxidization at work.  The pieces below feature intentional oxidization.


Pavé is a style of setting stones that uses the bead setting method mentioned above.  Pavé is when many small stones are bead set together in a group to create an area that is totally covered with stones.

Princess Cut

Don't worry; this isn't the kind of princess cut on your finger that puts you in an eternal slumber à la Sleeping Beauty.  Not to say you won't go into a trance taking in the intense sparkle motion, but it's not fatal.  This princess cut is a method of stonecutting that enhances the brilliance of the stone while requiring the cutter to waste very little of the original gem.  It is always a square cut with hard 90 degree angles at the corners.

Prong Set

Prong setting is one of the oldest methods of stone setting but it continues to be popular because it securely holds the stone with minimal obstruction.  It allows light to penetrate from many angles all at once and lights up the facets to create a brilliant effect.  There are typically four prongs at equal intervals around the stone and each one wraps slightly over the edge of the stone to hold it in place.  See the photo above in the entry for princess cut for an example.



When you see a stone described as "raw" that indicates the stone is not in a highly refined state but is closer to how it appears when it is mined.  You will primarily see this on precious stones such as ruby, emerald and sapphire.  A fine, AAA quality ruby is translucent and bright whereas a raw ruby will be more of a solid, duller red.  These stones are still authentic gems but they are not as high quality as the finer gems.  Compare the raw sapphire on the left with the fine sapphire on the right.



Rhodium is a noble metal that is more rare and valuable than gold or platinum.  Many of our silver pieces are plated with rhodium because it resists corrosion and therefore combats the visible tarnishing that characteristic of silver.  It also adds a brighter shine to the metal.  There is also black rhodium which darkens the appearance of the metal.


A rondelle is a type of bead that looks like a squished circle.  When viewed from the side it has an oval shape but it appears round when viewed from above.


Similar to Rhodium, this rare metal is used to plate metal with a striking, deep black finish.  It is extremely hard and resists scratching.


Spring Ring

A spring ring is a type of closure used on necklaces and bracelets.  It consists of a round metal ring with a raised latch mechanism that opens the ring allowing it to connect to another ring.  Once connected, the latch is released and the ring closes.

Sterling Silver

The large majority of our jewelry is crafted from sterling silver.  You will often see this noted as sterling silver, 925 sterling silver or 92.5% sterling silver.  Why isn't jewelry made from 100% pure silver?  Well, that's because pure silver is too soft (aka malleable) to be used for jewelry.  That's why the purity is reduced to 92.5% silver with 7.5% of the composition coming from other metals such as copper to add hardness.  



Vermeil is a type of gold plating considered to be of the highest quality.  In order to meet the standards of Vermeil, the base metal of sterling silver must be plated with at least 10k gold and be a minimum of 2.5 micometers (microns) in thickness.  Items that are vermeil can either be plated using the traditional plating method or with electroplating.

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