Glossary of Jewelry Terms

Below are some jewelry terms that we can find on metal smithing. (Taken from various source)


Grains of tough material that are pressed against a softer material to shape it. Typically these are particles of minerals or man made substances that are attached to a backing of paper, fabric or plastic. Sandpaper is a common example.


A mixture of two or more metals. Common alloys are brass, bronze, sterling and karat golds.


Annealing is the process of using heat to relieve stress in metal. Annealed metal is commonly called “soft” though the proper term is “malleable.”


Either of two kinds of process used to color metal with electrical current. In reactive metals like niobium, electric current is applied to clean metal through a bath which re- sults in oxide layers of specific thickness and color. In the case of aluminum, electric current creates a porous skin on metal that can then be colored with dye and sealed.


A general term for loops, rings or other shapes that connect a pendant to a chain or cord.


A rim of metal that surrounds and secures a gem or the crystal of a watch.

Bezel Pusher

A tool used to press a bezel over a stone. The basic design is a squat tool with a bulbous handle and a short rod of steel or brass. The end should be smooth but not polished; clean up regularly with fine sandpaper to provide a little tooth.


A finishing process of rubbing a softer metal (such as silver) with a harder material (such as steel or agate).

Computer Aided Design (CAD)*

CAD is the use of computer systems to assist in the creation, modification, analysis, or optimization of a design. -wikipedia

Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM)*

CAM is the use of computer software to control machine tools and related machinery in the manufacturing of work pieces. -wikipedia


Techniques that pour or inject molten material into a mold. There are many forms of casting which is an ancient process. The results of these processes use the same word, such as, “These are high quality castings.”


A process used in the early stages of raising to quickly develop a volumetric form.


The process of using an electrical current to cause one kind of metal to transfer to the surface of another kind of metal. An example is gold plated jewelry, where a base metal object appears gold because of a thin layer of the precious metal.


An ancient technique in which powdered glass is fused to metal at relatively high temperatures. This is sometimes referred to as “vitreous enameling” to distinguish it from the modern faux enamels that substitute resins or paint.


An ancient technique in which sharp steel chisels are used to carve into metal. Traditionally this was done by hand but now it can also be done with a pneumatic tool.


Removing material with an acid. In metalsmithing this usually refers to a process of selectively removing metal from a surface to create pattern or image.


A dark oxide that forms inside a metal object. This most frequently refers to a stain seen in sterling and low karat gold alloys.

Gauge Plate

A steel disk with carefully calibrated opening around the circumference that measure the thickness of sheet and wire.


A bi-metal in which a layer of gold is bonded onto silver or a base metal then compacted or drawn to a final dimension.

Grade Rolling

A process of using a rolling mill to selectively thin a sheet of metal. The most common uses are to create a gradual thinning in preparation for forming a spiculum. The same result can be accomplished by planishing but the same term is usually used.


An ancient technique in which very small spheres are attached to a surface as ornament. In proper granulation the filler that joins the parts is so small it is invisible to the naked eye, creating the illusion that the tiny balls are simply set in place.


The hardened steel gouges used in engraving. Also called “burins.”


Tools used to simplify bending, joining or cutting. In addition to improving efficiency, jigs create uniformity between parts.

Jump Rings

Metal rings used to make chains or to connect parts, for instance attaching charms or a pendant.


This refers to the proportion of pure gold in an alloy. The number 24 is assigned to pure gold, meaning that an alloy containing half gold is called 12 karat. In the UK this means the same but is spelled “carat.”


A hammer-like tool with the head made of wood, plastic or leather. Mallets bend and form metal without thinning it the way a steel hammer will.


Tools (typically tapered rods) used to impart their form on malleable metal. A ring mandrel, for example, is used to make a ring band round.


What happens when oxygen bonds with a material. In general this is something to be avoided. When soldering, too much oxygen in the joint will inhibit solder flow. When melting metals for casting, excess oxygen may create porous metal.


Colored layers on metal. While these occur naturally, the term more often refers to treatments done in the studio to improve the appearance of a metal object.


A technique of setting many small stones close together; most often seen with diamonds. The result is that the surface is “paved” with gems like a cobblestone walk.


An acidic solution used to clean metal after it has been heated. Historically strong acids were used but modern pickles rely on sodium bisulfate or citric acid because they are less dangerous to people and the environment.


Sawing, particularly when cutting out an interior space.

Planish (planishing)

The process of striking metal with a polished hammer to smooth its surface. Depending the degree of work and the shape of the hammer, this can be a final finish.


A short steel tool, usually struck with a hammer to create form, texture or lines in metal. Punches are usually described with the process for which they are used, as in, dapping punches, chasing punches and repoussé punches. They can be purchased or made in the studio as needed.


A metalworking process in which malleable sheet is hammered over a steel form to transform a flat sheet into volumetric form.

Reactive Metals

A family of six tough gray metals: niobium, titanium, tantalum, zirconium, tungsten and hafnium. Their light weight causes them to be used in industry and sporting equipment. For jewelers, the attraction is the range of permanent colors that can be achieved through anodizing.


At various times in the casting sequence, this refers to (a) a wax rod, (b) the passage through a mold left when the wax is removed and (c) the metal that fills that space when the mold is filled. The sprue supports work in the mold then later provides the entry for metal into the mold. After casting, sprues are cut off.


A finishing process in which objects are put into a plastic or rubber container along with steel balls or shapes of hard plastic that contain grit to simulate sanding, burnishing or buffing. Most commercial jewelry is run through a series of tumbling media from coarse to fine to create a smooth shiny polish.


A machine that uses high energy waves traveling through a bath of soapy water to clean jewelry and other small parts.


A kind of rubber used in die forming. The toughness and flexibility of urethanes are identified by a unit called a durometer. The higher the number harder the material.

White Metals

A casual term for metals that have similar appearance, melting points and properties. Included here are lead, bismuth, antimony and cadmium.

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