A glossary of ethnic jewellery terms


Bakelite (also called catalin) is a dense, synthetic resin that was used to make jewelry, game pieces, and many other things. Bakelite was patented by L.H. Baekeland in 1907. Bakelite plastic is made from carbolic acid and formaldehyde. Bakelite pieces are molded, extruded, or carved. When one Bakelite color is inlaid into another, interesting designs…Continue Reading


The Baloch (Baluch) are a most ancient semi-nomadic tribal group who eventually occupied an area of land stretching through Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, first settling there between the 5th and 7th centuries. Considered to be an Iranian people based on language, their racial origin is murky. Some historians believe they are Semites while others track…Continue Reading


The Bamileke is the ethnic group which is now dominant in Cameroon’s West and Northwest Provinces. It is part of the Semi-Bantu (or Grassfields Bantu) ethnic group. The Bamileke are regrouped under several groups, each under the guidance of a chief or fon. Nonetheless, all of these groups have the same ancestors and thus share…Continue Reading


A bangle is a stiff bracelet. Some bangles have a hinge, others are solid and must be slipped over the hand.Continue Reading


The Banjara are a class of usually described as nomadic people from the Indian state of Rajasthan, North-West Gujarat, and Western Madhya Pradesh and Eastern Sindh province of Pakistan.Continue Reading


Basse-taille (meaning “low cutting” in French) is an enameling technique in which the underlying metal (usually gold or silver) is carved in low relief (the metal’s surface is cut away by engraving or chasing, producing a sculpted surface). The highest point of the relief carving is below the surface of the surrounding metal. Translucent enamels…Continue Reading


Bawsani refers to the House of Baws, or Beit Baws, a community of silversmiths near Sana’a, the capital of Yemen. They developed a very high level of skill in creating intricate filigree, both open work and filigree. Photo by ArtfireContinue Reading


Beads are small decorative objects, each with a hole (perforation) through it for stringing. Beads are made of many materials including glass, stones, wood, plastics, seeds, and ceramics.Continue Reading


An ethnic group indigenous to North Africa west of the Nile Valley. They are distributed from the Atlantic Ocean to the Siwa Oasis in Egypt, and from the Mediterranean Sea to the Niger River.Continue Reading


A bib necklace (also known as a collarette) is a short necklace with flowing ornaments in the front.Continue Reading

Black Coral

The black or thorny corals (Antipatharia) make up an order of about 230 recognized species, many found in deep water. Prized for bead making and often adorned with inlaid silverContinue Reading


Bones are rigid organs that constitute part of the endoskeleton of vertebrates, carved to make beads, pins, bangles, etc. It superficially resembles ivory, but has a less-complex characteristic internal patterns and a yellower color.Continue Reading


A bracelet is an ornament worn wrapped around the wrist. Types of bracelets include solid and hinged bangles, expansion, cuff, beaded, charm, spiral, Yurman-style and, and link bracelets.  Continue Reading


The buckle or clasp is a device used for fastening two loose ends, with one end attached to it and the other held by a catch in a secure but adjustable manner.Continue Reading


A bulla is an ancient Roman pendant that consists of a rounded container holding an amulet (a good luck charm). The bulla is worn on a strap around the neck.Continue Reading

Butterfly wing jewellery

Butterfly wing jewellery is made from real butterfly wings. A picture is sometimes painted on the wings, which is then enclosed in glass or plastic and then mounted in metal to make a pin, pendant, or other piece of jewellery.  Continue Reading