A glossary of ethnic jewellery terms

Number square

An article by Sigrid van Roode A well-known variety of the number amulets is the so-called magical square: a numerical arrangement that has magical meaning. The most widely used square is the ‘buduh’-square: an arrangement of the numbers 1 through 9 with 5 in the middle, that reads 15 in all directions. This square is…Continue Reading


Necessaire is another word for etui, a tiny, decorative, cylindrical-shaped case that was often carried on a chatelaine. The necessaire/etui was used to carry small “necessary” items like pencils and scissors. The etui was first used in the 1720’s.Continue Reading


Niello is ancient technique in which an engraved design in metal is filled with powdered niello alloy (a black/dark gray metal alloy composed of silver, copper, lead, and sulphur). The niello alloy is melted (the entire metal piece is heated in a kiln) and it fuses with the underlying metal. The object is then polished…Continue Reading

Nickel Silver

Nickel silver (also know as German silver) is an alloy consisting of mostly copper (roughly 60 percent), and approximately 20 percent nickel, about 20 percent zinc, and sometimes about 5 percent tin (then the alloy is called alpaca). There is no silver at all in German/nickle silver. This alloy was invented around 1860 in Germany…Continue Reading