Glossary of French Jewelry Terms

Excerpted from Warman’s Jewelry,

3nd Edition
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”)