A jewelry history glossary


For the benefit of the reader who is unaccustomed to the special vocabulary which has developed to fit the needs of jewelry and its many counterparts, a few of the more useful terms have been selected and defined. Some of these expressions are used throughout the work and are expounded upon here to provide the reader with a more complete knowledge.

Acus - a roman hairpin, or the pin of ancient brooches or buckles.

Aiglets, aglets or aigulets - tags or sheaths for the ends of ribbon, used in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Amulets - objects attributed with magical powers; used to ward off evil spirits or attract beneficial ones.

Aventurine glass - glass with glittering flashes, basically a brownish color. This was a trade secret of the Venetians.

Bristows or bristol diamonds - a type of crystal.

Bracteates - thin gold copies of coins or jewels, buried with the dead by the Greeks and antiquities.

Cire perdu - a lost wax process introduced in Egypt during the twelfth dynasty. Used in renaissance period for enameled jewels.

Damascening - work of inlaid gold or silver using an inferior metal, usually steel.

Enamels - glass that has been pulverized, mixed with gum until it formas a paste which may be applied with a brush and then hardened by firing. The varying types include:

champleve - metal is scooped out, leaving a design of cells. The enamel is then poured into these areas.

cloisonne - thin strips of metal are formed to make a design and enamel is used to fill the cells, or cloisons.

basse taille - design is carved at the bottom of a sunken space and shows through the transparent coat of enamel.

filigree enamel - the containing wires are twisted and the surface is not ground smooth.

painted enamels - paintings on enamel ground with china colors.

plique a jour - cloisonné without a metal base.

Enseigne - a jewel worn on the hat, popular during the renaissance. Had a symbolic or emblematic meaning. They were sewn into place, so they are not considered brooches.

Fillet - an ornamental band worn on the head.

Fibula - an archaeological term for a brooch of antiquity.

Ferroniere - a small jewel hanging by a narrow ribbon in the middle of the forehead. Worn in the renaissance and part of a nineteenth century revival.

Girdle hangers - Anglo-Saxon fasteners of a bag or purse.

Morse - a brooch or clasp to hold a cape in place.

Mosaic gold - an alloy similar to brass and pinchbeck. Used for mounting in the early nineteenth century.

Nef jewel - an ornament in the form of a ship. A favorite during the renaissance. The best known commemorate the armada.

Niello - a metallic composition of silver, lead and sulfur. This has been known since the earliest times. It resembles black enamel, but with a metallic luster.

Ouch, owche, nouche or nowche - a late medieval term for a brooch that fastens a garment in front.

Pomander - a case hung from the girdle in which perfume was placed. It had several parts hinged together, each containing a different scent.

Repousse work - a method of ornamenting sheet metal by using punches and other various tools to make holes and designs in the metal.

Sevigne - a brooch popular in the seventeenth century, consisting of an open-work bow, set with small diamonds and enamels.

Shot work - a large grain of metal placed in the middle of a silver coil. It is characteristic of many countries, including India and Scandinavia.

Torc or torque - a neck let found in several forms throughout the Celtic race. Bronze was most usually used, but gold can be fund.

Verre eglmise - used by early Christians and continued through the Byzantine era and the middle ages. This method used glass decorated by a design on the back in gold and colors.


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A Jewelry History
Table of contents|
 Introduction |Glossary| Ancients and Classical Jewelry| Jewelry of the Middle Ages|
  Jewelry of the Renaissance| Jewelry from the Seventeenth to the Twentieth Century| Rings| Necklaces|
Bracelets and Earrings| Brooches| Bibliography| Ancient Jewelry Photo Gallery





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