GLOSSARY OF TERMS USED IN COMPACTS AND PURSES
ABALONE: Seashell creature of the Pacific Coast with an inner shell lining of gray/pink natural pearlized substance. Used extensively by Indian tribes of the West.
AMBER: A yellowish-brown fossil resin. Also found in black and varieties of brown and orange. Amber comes from ancient forests of fir trees, or mined from under the Baltic Sea. Orange color amber comes from Sicily.
AMETHYST: A gemstone found in shades from pale lavender to deep purple. A crystallized quartz found in Russia, Brazil, Uruguay, Ceylon and the U.S.
ARABESQUE: Following scrollwork, often in low relief, epitomized by curlicues of line.
Art DECO (1910-1930): A stilted, stylized design which was named after the 1925 L'Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes, held in Paris, France. Much of the Art Deco design was a transition from the earlier Art Nouveau, and as with the nouveau epoch, was inspired by the Art of the American Indian, ancient Egyptian, and Greek and Roman architecture. The early 1920's interest in Cubism and Dadism as a new Art form, greatly influenced the Art Deco period. The King Tut traveling exhibit, in the 1970's, renewed the craze for Egyptian design jewelry. Additionally, the mysteries of the pyramids and a continuing revival of astrological studies, lent itself to Art Deco designs which in turn were incorporated in the Art Moderne period following 1930.
Art MODERNE (1935-1945): It is generally accepted that the period of the 1920-s to the 1930's is the Art Deco period. The decade of 1940-1950 is considered the "modern" period, an era in which just about any conceivable type of design -- whether it be flamboyant or contrived with delicate fancy -- survived. However, the Art Moderne period (1935-1945) avoided such frivolous swirls and instead streamlined into crisp geometric lines, all designs of decorative and utilitarian Art forms. "Modern" seems to be a term giving license to all creativity in any form, be it eccentric or strictly along conventional jeweler's lines. The Art Moderne period expresses the conflict between machine and nature, which is so evident in Art Deco. But Art Moderne contains somewhat less contrived Artistry, although some pieces do appear as near absurdities.
BAGUETTE: A narrow rectangular-cut stone most often chosen for diamonds. When associated with emeralds, it is called an emerald-cut.
BAKELITE: A trademark for a synthetic resin chemically formulated and named after Belgian chemist, L. H. Backeland (1909). This newer plastic was for molding items formerly created in the highly flammable Celluloid or in hard rubber molds. It is capable of being molded and carved.
BAROQUE: Bold, ornate, heavy-looking ornamentation.
BASSE-TAILLE: A type of enameling in which a metal plate is cut to various depths into which translucent enamel is poured, thus achieving a 3-dimensional effect. The depth of relief produces shadings from light to dark. The deeper the metal is incised, the darker the color; where shallow routing occurs, the shading is almost transparent. This routing is worked intaglio, the opposite of repousse work. (See INTAGLIO and REPOUSSE).
BEZEL: A groove or flange which holds a stone secure in the setting.
BOX SETTING: A stone enclosed in a box-shaped setting with edges of metal pressed down to hold it in place. Sometimes referred to as a "Gypsy" mounting.
BRASS: A yellowish-gold color metal which is primarily an alloy of copper, tin, zinc, or other base metal.
BRILLIANTS: Another term for paste, strass, crystal, or rhinestones.
BRIOLETTE: An oval or pear-shaped diamond entirely faceted in triangular cuts.
CABACHON: A stone without facets, and shaped like a dome.
CAMEO: Conch shell, onyx gem, coral and various gemstones, which were carved in either relief or intaglio. Cameos are also molded in synthetics such as plastic or glass. Cameos usually depict a scene or portrait, but may be symbolic. Ivory and wood can also be carved into a cameo, but natural elements cannot be molded.
CARNELIAN: A variety of chalcedony with a wax-like luster. An ornamental stone found mainly in Greece or in Asia Minor. Carnelian has a translucent color which may be deep red, flesh red, or reddish-white. It takes a good polish and cut, and is ideal for seals and intaglios.
CARNIVAL GLASS: Specifically iridescent glass made in America from 1910-1930. Usually in pressed patterns, it was mostly manufactured by Northwood Glass Co., (Ohio); Imperial Glass Company (Ohio); and the Fenton Art Glass Company (West Virginia). Carnival glass was utilized as ornamental beads for hatpins, circa 1930-1940.
CARTOUCHE': A shield or scroll with curved edges used particularly on gold or silver for a monogram. A cartouche' should not be confused with an escutcheon. An escutcheon is a plate of metal added or applied to the top of a signet or monogram type hatpin head, or to any other piece of jewelry such as a ring or brooch.
CELLULOID: A trademark of Hyatt Bros., Newark, NJ (1868). It is a composition mainly of soluble guncotton and camphor, resembling ivory in texture and color. Celluloid was also dyed to imitate coral, tortoise-shell, amber, malachite, etc. Originally called xylonite, celluloid is the word most often used to describe any imitation ivory, bone or tortoise. But there were many other imitators of such natural elements: "ivorine," "French Ivory," "tortine" and the like. Celluloid should not be confused with the harder and more resilient plastic known as Bakelite, Catalin, or Marblette. Celluloid, being highly flammable, lost favor to phenolic resins of the 1930's. Celluloid was first used as synthetic ivory in the manufacture of billiard balls.
CHALCEDONY: An ornamental stone found in Asia Minor, primarily Greece, which has a translucent quality. It is a variety of quartz. The term chalcedony denotes a grayish or milky-colored quartz including the family of onyx, agate, sard, cat's eye, jasper, carnelian, and chrysoprase. All take high polish and are suitable for good intaglio work except for the cat's eye which is polished into a cabochon-cut stone.
CHAMPLEVE: An enameling technique in which areas of metal are cut, etched, or routed and filled with enamel. Unlike cloisonné, the cells are cut rather than formed by wires (cloisons). Champleve is most commonly applied to copper or bronze. The metals are gilded on exposed and visible surfaces.
CHANNEL SETTING: A series of stones set close together in a straight line with the sides for the mounting gripping the outer edges of the stones.
CHASING: The ornamentation of metal with grooves or lines with the use of hand-chisels and hammers. Obverse (front) chasing is called intaglio; chasing from the reverse side (back) is called repousse.
CHATELAINE: A decorative clasp or a hook from which many chains are hung to accommodate various household accessories such as thimbles, scissors, keys, files, or to display jeweler's conceits such as watches, seals, and other decorative implements. From chatelaines hung various "necessaries," such as a miniature fan, glove buttoner, or a dog whistle. There were also grooming devices: an ear spoon for cleaning the ears, a sharp pick for cleaning under the nails, as well as a toothpick. Very short chatelaine chains were called chatelettes; they measured from 2" to 6" in length. An ornamental pink or brooch was attached, although the jewelry could be worn separately. The chatelette chain had a swivel at the end of the chain from which to hang a watch. The brooch was in the popular bowknot of pansy wrought in baroque fashion or an unusual twisted design. Early chatelaines were worn at the waist, but in more recent times, the clasp-type was pinned to the dress or waist, another ornament. Silver card cases, coin holders, and vanity cases comprised the chatelaines of the 1925-1940 years, when the chatelaine ring was introduced. From the tiny, short chain, came a clasp which secured a handkerchief and vanity cases equipped to hold scent pills, a little mirror, straight pins, coins, a lipstick and powder puff. The introduction of rhinestones studded plastic evening purses during the deco period ended the long-reigning chatelaine.
CHROME (Chromium): The word comes from the Greek "chroma," which means color. Chrome is a metal that forms very hard steel-gray masses that gleam a silver color. Less than 3% mixture of chromium to steel produces and extremely hard alloy. It is used for plating base metals that easily corrode. It receives its name from the green, orange, yellow, and red colors which emanate from the oxide and acid which contacts specific minerals and yields a chrome-green, chrome-yellow, and other color pigments.
CHRYSOPRASE: Apple-green in color, it is actually a dyed chalcedony or agate which has a cloud-like rather than brilliant color. It is almost like "vasoline" glass, seemingly with an oily surface. This stone was very popular during the Art Deco and Art Moderne periods, particularly when combined with marcasites and silver.
CINNABAR: Cinnabar is the only important ore of Mercury and is a brilliant red or vermilion color mineral used as a red pigment. Most popular in China, the origin of the word is probably Chinese. The color is sometimes referred to as "dragon's blood." The pigment is highly prized by Chinese Artisans for doing inlay work for jewelry and other Artifacts. Cinnabar is a term often misused when referred to as a "gemstone."
CITRINE: A pale lemon-colored gemstone of the quartz variety often mistaken for topaz.
CLOISONNÉ: A type of enameling in which thin wire made of silver, gold, bronze or copper is gilded, then bent to form cells (cloisons). Each cell or cloison is then filled with enamel. Each color is in a separate compartment, each compartment separated by this thin wire.
CONCEITS: A term used to represent curiously contrived and fanciful jewelry, a jeweler's artifice or jeweled accessories which are quaint, artificial, or have an affected conception that flatters one's vanity.
CORAL (genuine): Skeleton of the coral polyp which was highly popular in fashionable English Victorian circles. Most coral used in Victorian jewelry came from the Mediterranean.
CUT STEEL: A metal often mistaken for marcasite. Cut steel faceted and hand-riveted to a buckle or brooch frame. Cut and faceted steel beads were often used as spacers or decorative accents on cloth. Some cut steel was machine-made and appeared as strips or casements rather than individual sets.
DAMASCENE: To inlay gold or silver into iron or steel in a decorative pattern. Characteristic of ornaments from Damascus.
EBONY: Ebony is a black colored wood of great hardness, heavier than water and capable of taking on a fine polish. It is found primarily in Ceylon and is used in making beads and in combination with other materials such as silver and gemstones combined in Deco jewel Artifacts.
ENAMEL (see also Basse-Taille, Champleve, Cloisonné, Plique-A-Jour, and Guilloche): Enameling is a firing of melted glass. The powdered glass mixture is composed of feldspar, quartz, sods, borax, calcium phosphates, and kaolin. Metallic oxides produce the various desired colors. There is little transparent, see-through, colorless enameling; rather a better and more definitive term is translucent. However, the word transparent has been an accepted term for plique-a-jour enameling which permits light to pass through as in stained glass.
There are several important types of enameling:
Basse-Taille: Metal plate cut to various depths into which translucent enamel is poured, thus achieving a 3-dimensional effect. The depth of relief produces shadings from light to dark. The deeper the metal is cut, the darker the color; where shallow routing occurs, the shading is almost transparent. This routing is worked intaglio, the opposite of repousse.
Champleve: An enameling technique in which areas of metal are cut, etched, or routed and filled with enamel. Unlike cloisonne, the cells are cut rather than formed by wires (cloisons). Champleve is most commonly applied to copper or bronze. The metals are gilded on exposed and visible surfaces.
Cloisonné: Enameling in which thin wire made of silver, gold, bronze or copper is gilded, then bent to form cells (cloisons). Each cell or cloison is then filled with enamel. Each color is in a separate compartment, each compartment separated by this thin wire.
Guilloche: This technique differs in that the designs are machine-turned and etched, and then enameled ... this is a much faster process. Guilloche pattern consists of interlacing curved lines.
Limoges enamel: A colorful application of enamel which depicts a portrait or scene similar to that rendered on canvas.
Niello enameling: The lines or incisions of a design are contrasted with the color of the metal, i.e., gold, silver, etc., by applying in several layers a mixture of sulphur, lead, silver and copper. This addition appears black when filled into the engraved metallic work. Niello is a blackish enameling process, providing contrasts in highlights and darkness of the design.
Plique-a-Jour: A translucent cloisonné in which there is no metal backing for the enamel work. During firing, a metal supportive base is used until firing ceases. Then, when the piece has cooled and the enamel has hardened, the finished product no longer requires the base, so this support is removed. It is a most cautious procedure, requiring highly skilled craftsmanship and technique.
ENGRAVING: Cutting lines into metal which are either decorative or symbolic. Method used in monogramming a crest, cartouche or escutcheon.
FACET: Small flat surface cut into gemstone, glass, or shell. Its purpose is to refract light or enhance the design.
FAUX: Literally means "false light." Used in the context of jewelry, it specifically means that the gems or gemstones reflect a "false light," in that the brilliance is achieved by highly faceted glass and foiled backing. Fashion jewelry of the finest quality can be described as being set with faux turquoise, rubies, emeralds or sapphires. Usually the glass stones are of the finest quality and could pass for the genuine Article.
FESTOON: A garland of chain or chains decorated with ornamental drops or pendants which lay on a curve. A chatelaine chain could well be worn in festoon fashion, meaning it would be draped from shoulder to shoulder, forming a curve at the center fall.
FILIGREE: To apply thread-like wire and decorate into a lace, lattice, or cobweb work.
FLEUR-de-LIS: This is the jeweler's mark for the city of Verdun, France. The term means "flower of light." The fleur-de-lis is the French symbol of life and power and is designed from nature's iris. This symbol is found on many Victorian, Edwardian, and Art Nouveau pieces of jewelry and has been carried out in modern jewelry designs as well.
FOBS: The terms "fobs" and "charms" were interchangeable from mid-1850 through the 1930's. Watch fobs or watch charms were in vogue in the 1890-s through the turn of the century and certainly on into the 1930's when the pocket watch became more popular than ever.
FOIL: Silver, gold, or other color thin leaf of metal used to back imitation gemstones or faceted glass to improve their color and provide greater brilliance.
FRENCH IVORY (see also Celluloid, Bakelite, and Plastic): An imitation of ivory tusk in grained celluloid or plastic. "French Ivory" is a registered trademark. Other ivory imitations, not quite as good, were Ivorette, Ivorine, Ivory Pyralin, and DuBarry Pyralin. In the 1870's, there was a shortage of ivory for billiard balls and a $10,0000 prize was offered to anyone who could produce a substitute. John Wesley Hyatt mixed nitric acid and cellulose (guncotton), to make celluloid. It was the first plastic to look like ivory. "French Ivory" products were produced by J. B. Ash Co. (Rockford, Illinois). Since celluloid was highly flammable, it was eventually replaced with Bakelite and other fire-retardant plastics.
GERMAN SILVER: Metal which has not actual silver content but is an alloy of copper, zinc, and nickel with the highest content being nickel which gives it a silvery-white color. It is a common base for plating. Also called nickel silver, french gray or gun metal.
GILT: A method used after the invention of electro-gilding. Gilding (gilt) is a process of plating a die-stamped piece of base metal to give it a real or pseudo gold or silver color. Most often, and more abundant, are gold color ornaments which have been gilded, rather than silver-color gilt. Most fashion or costume jewelry is rhodium plated rather than silver gilt. Gilding is considered inferior to rolled plate or electroplating.
GUILLOCHE: See "ENAMEL"
HALLMARKS: An official mark first adopted in England. The mark is incised, punched, or stamped on gold or silver to show quality and to signify purity of metal according to "sterling" or "carat" standard.
Marks Mistaken for Name of Manufacturer/Designer/Jeweler:
R.P. = Rolled Gold or Silver Plate
E.P. = Gold or Silver Electroplate
G.F. = Gold Filled (usually preceded by numeral; i.e., 14K G.F. or 10K G.F.)
N.S. = Nickel Silver
G.S. = German Silver
B.M. = Britannia Metal
W.M. = White Metal
G.E.P. = Gold Electro-Plate
INTAGLIO: To cut a design deeply on the obverse or front side of a gem or other type material. Intaglio is the opposite of repousse work done in metals.
IRIDESCENT: To give a high luster to glass or other man-made materials. Some gems and gemstones have a natural iridescent quality peculiar to some stones. However, relating to natural gems and gemstones, such refraction is usually referred to as "brilliance" of "luster" rather than iridescent.
JET: Jet is the name given most black jewelry whether it be genuine or glass. Genuine jet will retain its sparkling polish for many years. "Black glass" (also known as 'French Jet', even though most black glass came from Bohemia), will crack, scratch, and become dull. Genuine jet is a brown-black lignite in which the texture or grain of the original fossilized wood comprised of coal, can still be seen.
LAPIS LAZULI: Deep blue gemstone, sometimes containing gold-colored specks of iron pyrites. Horn, stone, or jasper are all sometimes artificially colored to look like genuine Lapis.
LIMOGES: A colorful application of enamel depicting a portrait or scene similar to those rendered on canvas.
MARCASITE: A white iron pyrite. If the ore is yellow, it takes on the appearance of "fool's gold." Cut steel jewelry and marcasites resemble on another in color and faceted treatment, but cut steel rusts easily and is not as hard nor as brilliant as natural marcasites.
MOONSTONE: A translucent gemstone with a pearly or opaline luster.
MOSAIC: Creating a motif or design parquetry with minute pieces of colored glass or stone which have been set into plaster. Individual portions of the design are sectioned by metal, similar to the form used in cloisonné enameling. This type of Venetian jewelry work is also called peitra dura, and was utilized for such designs as foliage, leaves, flowers, pebbles, etc. In pietra dura, the mosaic design is usually set in dull jet or black marble.
MOTHER-OF-PEARL: Differs from abalone in color in that Mother-of-Pearl is the iridescent inner-shell layer of a pearly oyster.
NIELLO: The lines or incisions of a design are contrasted with the color of the metal, i.e., gold, silver, etc., by applying in several layers a mixture of sulphur, lead, silver and copper. This addition appears black when filled into the engraved metallic work. Niello is a blackish enameling process, providing contrasts in highlights and darkness of the design.
PARURE: Matching jewelry containing three or more pieces such as a necklace, choker, brooch, earrings, bracelet, and ring. Demi-parure consists of only two or three matching sets.
PASTE: A superior glass containing oxide of lead used for jewelry to imitate gems and gemstones. Much paste is actually a composition of pounded rock crystal melted with alkaline salts and colored with metallic oxides. Some paste stones are set with bright foil, a think leaf of metal placed in back of a glass stone to heighten its brilliance. The finest quality paste, however, requires no foil or backing and is usually claw-set or bezel mounted as if it were the genuine article. Inferior paste may be backed with mercury or quicksilver and applied by machine rather than the more expensive handwork which requires each paste stone to be individually mounted.
PATE-de-VERRE (Paste Glass): Crystals and lead combined in a pulverized heavy paste compound which is then layered in a mold and kiln-fired. After cooling, the mold is broken. The result is a unique object rendered in muted hues of heavy glass.
PAVE' SET: Stones placed so closely together that almost no metal shows between them.
PEARLS: Pearls are the natural formation of a secretion called nacre. This nacre lies within an oyster and is caused by some irritating substance such as a grain of sand. When the pearls are naturally formed, they are called Oriental pearls. Cultured pearls are made by nature with the help of man. Fresh-water pearls are called "river pearls".
PHOENIX: A bird represented by the heron or eagle motif in Egyptian mythology. According to legend, it was consumed by fire but rose from its ashes. Thus, the Phoenix symbolizes resurrection and an emblem or immortality.
PIERCE WORK: Die-cast frame which is cut and engraved with a great deal of open work in the metal.
PIETRA DURA: See Mosaic
PIQUE: Inlaying of gold or silver into genuine tortoise shell, ivory, or horn.
PLIQUE-A-JOUR: A translucent cloisonné in which there is no metal backing for the enamel work. During firing, a metal supportive base is used until firing ceases. Then when the piece has cooled and the enamel has hardened, the finished product no longer requires this base so the support is removed.
REPOUSSE': Decorating metal by pushing out from behind or from the reverse side, in order to create a design in relief. Repousse' is work in metal. Working from the front is called intaglio, which can be achieved in metal and/or gem. However, neither process can be done in glass or plastics, which must be molded.
ROUNDELS: Tiny round beads often used as spacers or separators.
SCARABUS (SCARAB): Form of a beetle, the Egyptian symbol of longevity. Many Deco designs were inspired by this form, especially after the opening of King Tut's tomb in 1922.
SILVER GILT (see VERMEIL): Process of applying a thin coat of gold or yellow lacquer over silver, to produce a rich golden color.
STERLING: A British term referring to the highest standard of silver, fixed at 925 parts of pure silver to 75 parts copper.
VERMEIL: Silver, bronze, or copper that has been gilded. Also a red (vermilion color) varnish applied to a gilded surface to give high luster. Ordinarily, one things of vermeil as a gold wash over sterling silver (see GILT).
VINAIGRETTE: A small conceit usually executed in gold or silver, with perforation on top. It held aromatic vinegar, smelling salts, or spirits of ammonia. This was a "necessary" carried by expectant mothers from the turn of the century through the 1940's.
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Information taken from Lillian Baker's "Fifty Years of Collectible Fashion Jewelry 1925-1975"