The Lingo of Antique Jewelry

The upcoming holiday season is looking to be a good one for vintage gifting, and one of the most active categories is likely to be antique jewelry. Accordingly, we've had a lot of inquiries on the subject of late, many focused on the particulars of this or that necklace or wristwatch. Unless you know the vernacular, it's often difficult to describe such pieces accurately. Thus, the following is a review of the lingo related to this rather arcane area so when shopping you'll know what to ask and better understand the answer.

Alloy: A mixture of elemental metals that changes the color and features of the end result. Examples include rose gold (a mixture of gold and copper) and white gold (gold and nickel).

Baguette: Not the bread, but rather a terraced cut often characteristic of smaller gemstones.

Brilliant Cut: A 58-facet cut regarded by many as the loveliest way to finish diamonds and other clear stones.

Caliber: The factory designation or size of a particular watch movement.

Champferred: An edge with a sloped or bevelled surface.

Chronograph: A watch with the added ability to measure elapsed time and other related functions.

Curvex: A name originally patented by Gruen to describe a watch case curved to lay flatter on the wrist.

Embossed: A design or mark that is raised above its background surface

Filligree: A delicately constructed see-through design usually made with gold or silver wire.

German Silver: A blended metal made mostly from copper, zinc, and nickel, but without any actual silver.

Gold-filled: A very thin layer of gold bonded to another metal and then rolled to the desired thickness.

Gold-plated: A very thin layer of gold electrically applied to another metal resulting in very little actual gold content.

Green Gold: An alloy made of 17 parts pure gold and 7 parts pure silver.

Ligne: A Swiss unit of measure designating watch size and equaling 0.0888 inches

Nickel Silver: A similar alloy to German silver and containing no actual silver.

Repousse: A technique for creating designs in metal by hammering one side so that the image appears on the other.

Tonnueau: A watch case wider in the center and tapering at either end.

Tourbillion: An expensive and complicated variant to a standard mechanical watch movement.

Troy Weight: The standard measuring system for gold and system in the United States and England. One troy pound equals 12 troy ounces. Further divided into pennyweights and grams.

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