Excerpted from Warman’s Jewelry,
Krause Publications, 2002
In order for us to understand each other when talking about antique and period jewelry, we must have a common vocabulary. The problem for monolingual Americans is that a great many jewelry terms are French. French jewelers were the leaders of the jewelry industry, and so France is where the language of jewelry-making evolved. The terms used there were adopted by English and American jewelers and thus are part of our jewelry vocabulary today. Below is a list of the most commonly used terms, their approximate phonetic pronunciation (nasal and glottal sounds are difficult to transcribe!), their literal translations and jewelry-related definitions.
à jour [ah ZHOOR] lit., open to the day. The opening of a setting to allow light to pass through a gemstone
basse-taille [bahs TIE yuh] lit., low-cut. Enameling technique: translucent enamel applied over an engraved or otherwise decorated surface (metal ground plate)
calibré [kal ee BRAY] lit., calibrated. Gemstones cut to fit a specific setting, often in rows or groups
cannetille [kan TEE yuh]: lit., flat twisted braid (of gold or silver). Decorative technique: twisted wire filigree forming cone-shaped scrolls or spirals, usually as part of a setting or framework for gemstones
champlevé [chaw le VAY] lit., raised field. Enameling technique: stamped or engraved depressions in a metal ground plate filled with opaque enamel
cliquet [klee KAY] lit., catch. Type of pin having two ornamental terminals, one at each end of a pinstem, the pointed end having a snap closure or other mechanism for attachment. When worn, the pinstem is invisible. A.k.a. jabot pin, sûreté.
cloisonné [klwah son NAY] lit., partitioned off. Enameling technique: designs formed with metal wires or strips mounted on a metal ground plate and filled with opaque enamel
échelle [ay SHELL] lit., ladder. Series of graduated gem-set brooches or dress ornaments (often a bow motif) worn vertically (large to small) down the front of a bodice, 17th – 18th centuries.
en esclavage [awn es kla VAJH] lit., enslaved. A necklace or bracelet of identical or graduated plaques joined by swagged chains, usually three or more.
en résille [aw ray ZEE yuh] lit., in a hair-net. A flexible trellis or network, usually of diamonds and platinum, often forming a dog collar or other close-fitting necklace, originated by Cartier, early 20th century.
en tremblant [aw traw BLÃ] lit., trembling. A flowerhead or other decorative element mounted on a wire or spring attached to a jewel, usually a brooch, which moves (trembles) with the wearer’s movements.
faux [foe] lit., false or fake. Term applied to non-precious jewelry set with imitation gemstones.
ferronière [fair own ee AIR] lit., blacksmith’s wife. A narrow band, usually with a central jewel, worn around the forehead, originally worn in the 15th century.
girandole [jhee rahn DOLE] lit., chandelier. Form of earring or brooch with three pear-shaped pendent drops, suspended from a central stone or motif, often a bow.
guilloché [gee oh SHAY] lit., engine-turned. Machine-engraved decoration on metal, over which a translucent enamel is often applied (called guilloché enamel)
habillé [ah bee YAY] lit., dressed up. In reference to cameos, depicting women wearing some form of gem-set jewelry
jabot [zhah BOW] (pin) lit., ruffle or frill. See cliquet.
jarretière [zhar et teeAIR] lit., garter. Usually refers to a bracelet, a gold or gold-filled mesh strap with fringed terminals and sliding ornamental closure
Limoges [lee MOZH] (enamel) Enameling technique: painted enamel applied one color at a time, fired after every application, producing a picture-like image, named after a town in France where the technique originated. Painted enamel in shades of gray is called grisaille [gree SYE yuh].
lorgnette [lorn YET] a pair of spectacles with an attached handle, usually suspended from a neckchain
manchette [maw SHET] lit., cuff. Bangle bracelet tapering out in the shape of a sleeve cuff
négligée [nay glee ZHAY] lit., negligent, careless. A type of pendant or necklace with two drops suspended unevenly
pampille [pahm PEE yuh] articulated row of graduated gemstones or pastes terminating in a tapered pointed drop; grouping of pampilles also called aiguillettes [ay gwee YET], from aiguille (lit., needle)
parure [pah ROOR] lit., set. A matched suite of jewelry, of three or more pieces (demi-parure: two matched pieces, e.g., brooch and earrings)
pavé [pah VAY] lit., paved. Numerous small gemstones set close together.
pendeloque [paw d’LOKE] lit., drop or pendant. Pear-shaped drop earring, suspended from a circular or bow-shaped surmount
piqué [pee KAY] lit., pricked. The inlaying of gold or silver in patterns, usually into tortoiseshell or ivory. Piqué posé [poe ZAY]: floral or ornate patterns of inlay; piqué point [pweh]: geometric shapes or dots.
plaque de cou [plak de KOO] lit., plate of the neck. Central ornamental plaque of a dog collar necklace.
plique à jour [pleek ah ZHOOR] lit., (enamel) open to the day. Enameling technique in which the groundplate is removed after firing, the translucent enamel then resembling stained glass.
repoussé [ruh poo SAY] lit., pushed back or out. Raised design in metal. Repoussage: Technique of raising metal, working from the back side
rivière [ree vee AIR] lit., river or stream. A short necklace of graduated gemstones, usually diamonds, in linked collet settings.
sautoir [soTWAHR] a long necklace or neckchain, strand of pearls or beads, often terminating in a tassel or pendant
sévigné [say veen YAY] a bow brooch set with diamonds, worn on the bodice (three or more worn en échelle), popular from the 17th century, named after the Marquise de Sévigné (1626-96), of the court of Louis XIV
sûreté [soor TAY] (pin) lit., safety, security. See cliquet.
taille d’épargne [tie yuh day PARN] lit., saving (economical) cut. Enamel technique: engraved design partially filled with opaque enamel, usually black (a.k.a. “black enamel tracery”)