Jewelry Nomenclature: Gem Bracelets And Necklaces


Step 1: Introduction to Gemology

Lesson 18

bracelets and necklaces - pendant centerpiece
“Curved Soft Edge Quadrilateral Amber Pendant” by Choon Hong Yap. Licensed under CC By 2.0.

Basic Terminology

Although worn on different parts of the body, bracelets and necklaces share much of their terminology. The principal parts of these jewelry pieces are:

  • Metal chains or fabric cords that form their foundations.
  • Clasps or fasteners used to secure them.
  • Ornaments used for decoration, such as pendants.

There are two main styles of bracelets and necklaces: metal chains and strings of gemstones or beads. Typically, metal chains are made of silver or gold. However, stainless steel, titanium, and other novel metals are becoming increasingly popular, especially for men’s jewelry. Bracelets and necklaces made of strings of gemstones or beads feature them in rows or singly, set in prongs or with a string running through their centers.

Chains And Cords For Bracelets and Necklaces

Chain Styles

Chain style jewelry pieces come in a variety of different styles. Dainty styles include box or rope chains. Rugged styles include double rope or curb chains. A series of interlinking pieces form the actual chain. One end has a clasp. The other end has a simple ring that slips inside the clasp to secure the item.

Normally, three factors describe metal chains for bracelets and necklaces:

  • The type of metal.
  • The style of the chain
  • The width of the chain.

For example, you can order a seven millimeter curb chain in 14 karat gold or sterling silver. The style and thickness of the chain would be the same. The only difference is the metal. You can purchase metal chains in bulk or as finished pieces with clasps and rings already attached.

bracelets and necklaces - chain styles
Examples of popular chain styles

Cords

Cords are often used to string beads, pearls, and other stones for necklaces and bracelets. Although silk is the traditional thread for beaded necklaces, modern polyesters are now more popular due to their longer lifespans. Tiger tail, a plastic coated wire, is used with heavy beads. Other popular cord materials are leather, velvet, and hemp.

To accommodate beads and stones of various sizes, cords of varying thickness are available. Before buying cord for jewelry making, measure the diameter of the holes drilled through your beads. For the beads to slide on easily, these holes should be slightly larger than the diameter of the cord.

bracelets and necklaces - cotton cord
“Simple Elegant Sprig Pendant,” cotton cord with silver clasp, by knitsteel. Licensed under CC By-ND 2.0.

Beads

Bead makers frequently utilize pearls, various gems, metal, wood, plastic, and shells. Traditionally, bracelet and necklace styles feature a single type of bead (like the classic pearl necklace, for example). However, more eclectic styles can combine two or more bead materials.

When buying beads, look at three things:

  • The material from which the beads are made.
  • The shape of the beads.
  • The size of the beads.

For example, you may want to order 12 millimeter rose quartz lentil-shaped beads. Or, you may prefer eight millimeter yellow topaz round beads.

bracelets and necklaces - common bead shapes
Common Bead Shapes

Metal beads can be solid, plated, filled, or even filigreed. They can be strung together to create all-metal bracelets or necklaces, used as spacers between other types of beads, or as centerpieces.

Rondelles are fancy spacer beads, usually (but not always) round, cylindrical, or disk shaped. Often textured and sometimes set with gemstones, they accent the primary beads in bracelets and necklaces.

Clasps

Although some bracelets and necklaces are tied together, most include fasteners. Clasps make it easier to wear these jewelry pieces. Without clasps, putting on a necklace could be difficult. You’d need either an elastic or fairly long cord just to get it over your head.

There are nearly as many styles of clasps as there are jewelry styles. The size and quality of the clasp should complement the bracelet or necklace. In other words, fine jewelry pieces should typically feature fancy clasps made of gold or other fine metals. Many incorporate filigree, and some even feature precious gems. More utilitarian jewelry styles may feature stainless steel clasps with plainer designs.

Lobster Clasp

The lobster or lobster claw clasp is the strongest type of clasp. For maximum strength, they contain massive amounts of metal.

Spring Ring Clasp

The spring ring clasp is lightweight and inexpensive. Although popular, it’s not as strong as a lobster clasp. Occasionally, the spring mechanism may stick, resulting in the loss of the jewelry item.

Hook And Eye

The simplest type of clasp is a just a hook and eye made from wire. Usually handmade and quite strong, they complement jewelry designs nicely. However, these clasps aren’t recommended for bracelets because they may unclasp during wear.

bracelets and necklaces - clasps
Types of clasps

Pendants

Pendants are decorative items that hang from a chain, cord, or beaded necklace. They may hold gems or be decorative objects in themselves. Although pendants come in different types, larger pendants with single bails are referred to simply as pendants.

Pearl Enhancers

You can clip a pearl enhancer pendant onto a chain, cord, or beaded necklace. As the name implies, they can enhance a string of pearls as well as many other types of necklaces. These pendants make versatile additions to any jewelry wardrobe.

Slide Pendants

Typically, you can thread a necklace through the two openings on the back of a slide pendant. As the name implies, these pendants can slide freely from side to side as the chain moves. They can be used on chains and cords but not beaded necklaces.

bracelets and necklaces - pendant types
Types of pendants

Charms

Smaller, single bail pendants are often called charms. Although charms are commonly worn on bracelets, some people like the look of several charms hanging from a single chain necklace.

bracelets and necklaces - charms
“WWII Charm Bracelet” by shlala. Licensed under CC By 2.0.

Bails

The part of the pendant that goes over the chain is called the bail or bale. This holds the piece to the chain. Most bails are attached to a metal pendant. However, some connect directly to a gemstone.

Peg Bails

Peg bails are glued into holes in the tops of inexpensive, tumbled stones.

Glue On Bails

Glue on bails are designed to be glued to the backs of cabochons. Although not as secure as a bezel setting, glue on bails are less expensive and don’t detract from the stone itself.

Bell Caps

Similar to bails, bell caps are glued onto the ends of crystals. These are ideal for stones you don’t want to drill, such as amber.

bracelets and necklaces - bails
Types of bails

Other Ornaments For Bracelets And Necklaces

Lockets

A locket is a special type of pendant with a hinge that can be opened. What goes inside depends on the wearer. Typically, lockets contain small photographs, engravings, or personal tokens, such as a lock of hair. Lockets are often made of precious metals, such as gold or silver, but may be plain or ornate in style. Although just about any shape is possible, jewelry makers commonly create them as hearts.

Larger lockets are designed to be worn on chain or cord necklaces. Smaller lockets can be worn on bracelets or on children’s jewelry.

bracelets and necklaces - locket
“Follow Your Dreams” by no lurvin here. Licensed under CC By 2.0.

Festoons

Some jewelry pieces feature fancy centerpieces called festoons. They come in a wide range of styles and materials.

bracelets and necklaces - festoons