A glossary of ethnic jewellery terms


A cameo is a relief carving (a carving that comes up above the surface) on a shell or stone. In multi-colored cameos, a layered substrate is used (with two different colors), and when part of the upper layer is carved away, the second color emerges as the background. Cameos are frequently portraits of women.Continue Reading


A carat (ct.) is a standard measure of weight used for gemstones. One carat weighs 0.2 gram (1/5 of a gram or 0.0007 ounce). A hundredth of a carat is called a point. The carat unit was introduced in 1907.Continue Reading

Carnelian / Chalcedony

Carnelian (also called cornelian and carneole) is a reddish form of chalcedony (a type of quartz). This translucent stone has a waxy luster. The best carnelian is from India. Most commercial carnelian is really stained chalcedony. Carnelian has a hardness of 7 and a specific gravity of 2.6Continue Reading


A white, tasteless, odorless protein precipitated from milk by rennin. It is the basis of cheese and is used to make plastics, adhesives, paints, and foods.Continue Reading


Casting is the process in which metal is shaped by melting it and pouring it into a mold. This process has been used for thousands of years. Molds are made from many materials, including plaster compounds. Some different methods of casting include the lost wax process, centrifugal (or investment) casting, and sand casting.Continue Reading


Celluloid is a plastic made from cellulose (derived from plants). This very flammable material was invented in 1869 by the American inventor John Wesley Hyatt (it was invented to be a substitute for the elephant ivory used for billiard balls). Celluloid was one the first plastics invented; it can be damaged by moisture.Continue Reading


(meaning sunken enamel) Champlevé (also called email champlevé) is a method of applying enamel to metal in which the design is first outlined on the metal surface by cutting lines into the surface. The engraved grooves are then filled with enamel, then fired to a glassy sheen, and polished. Champlevé is similar to cloisonné, but…Continue Reading

Chasing / repousse

Chasing is a type of metal decoration in which the metal is manipulated using a hammer and a punch, resulting in an effect similar to engraving or embossing. Repousse is a method of decorating sheet metal in which designs are hammered into the back of the metal. Special punches are used to form the designs,…Continue Reading


A chatelaine is a decorative belt hook or clasp worn at the waist with a series of chains suspended from it. Each chain is mounted with a useful household appendage such as scissors, thimble, watch, key,vinaigrette, household seal, etcContinue Reading

Chevron Bead

Chevron beads are special glass beads; the first specimens of this type were created by glass bead makers in Venice and Murano, Italy, toward the end of the 14th century. They may also be referred to as rosetta, or star beads. The term rosetta first appeared in the inventory of the Barovier Glass works in…Continue Reading


A choker is a type of necklace that fits tightly around the neck. Chokers are from 14″ to 16″ in length.Continue Reading


Cinnabar is the mineral Mercury Sulfide. Its color ranges from cinnamon to scarlet to brick red and it can be translucent to transparent. It is often carved. Cinnabar has a hardness of 2 – 2.5 (very soft) and a specific gravity of 8.1 (quite heavy).Continue Reading


A clasp is a fastener that can open and close, attaching two things together (for example, the two ends of a necklace, or a pin to a garment). The clasp on a piece of jewelry can tell you a lot about the piece, including giving an indication of its age (by determining when that particular…Continue Reading


Conus is a large genus of small to large predatory sea snails, marine gastropod molluscs, with the common names of cone snails, cone shells or cones. This genus is placed in the subfamily Coninae within the family Conidae. Geologically speaking, the genus is known from the Eocene to the Recent (Holocene) periods.Conus species have shells…Continue Reading


Copal is a name given to tree resin that is particularly identified with the aromatic resins used by the cultures of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica as ceremonially burned incense and other purposes. More generally, the term copal describes resinous substances in an intermediate stage of polymerization and hardening between “gummier” resins and amber.The word copal is derived…Continue Reading


Copper is a soft metal often used in jewelry. It is used in making bronze, brass, and gold alloys.  Continue Reading

Coptic cross

There are a variety of Cross symbols used by the Coptic Christians. The original “Coptic cross” may have been influenced by the ankh symboland was adopted by early Christian Gnostics, most notably Valentinus of Alexandria, Egypt. Old Coptic crosses often incorporate a circle; sometimes large, sometimes small. For the Coptic Church, the circle represents the…Continue Reading


Coral is an animal that grows in colonies in the ocean. Coral polyps secrete a strong calcium structure that is used in jewelry making. Coral ranges in color from pale pink (called angelskin coral) to orange to red to white to black. The most valued colors are deep red (called noble coral) and pink. In…Continue Reading


A crystal is a solid whose atoms form a very regular structure. Some crystals include quartz, diamond, and emerald.Continue Reading


Cufflinks are men’s jewelry that close the buttonholes of the cuff of a long-sleeved shirt. Some cufflinks are basically two button-like objects connected by a chain; the bottons go through the cufff’s buttonholes. Another type of cufflink has a decorative button attached to a stick whose end swivels out to form a T-shape that goes…Continue Reading

Lost wax casting

Lost-wax casting (also called “investment casting”, “precision casting”, or cire perdue in French) is the process by which a duplicate metal sculpture (often silver, gold, brass or bronze) is cast from an original sculpture. Dependent on the sculptor’s skills, intricate works can be achieved by this method. The oldest known examples of this technique are…Continue Reading