Beading Terminology Glossary K To Z

Part two of a two part jewellery glossary of beading terms and jewellery making terminology. Easy to understand dictionary like definitions, this bead glossary also provides links to more in depth content and bead resources. It can be used as a beading A to Z reference guide to dip into as needed, or as a beading and jewellery glossary for beginners to help broaden beading and jewellery making knowledge. It is particularly effective when used alongside our Beading Guides, Histories, Theories and Tutorials, or in conjunction with our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary.

To allow for growth this informative beading dictionary is presented in two cross referenced sections Glossary of Beading & Jewellery Making A to J and Glossary of Beading & Jewellery Making K to Z. A jump to index is provided at the top of each bead guide to help you find information quickly.


Jump to a jewellery making term:  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z  or  A to J




The measure used to determine the pureness of gold with 24k being pure gold. 20k, 18k and 14k are golds combined with an alloy in varying degrees.


A ring that is used alongside a more expensive ring to keep it in place securely on a finger


Metal earring findings shaped like a kidney which are more secure than French Earwires or Fishhooks but are not as user friendly. They are used in pierced earring and are generally closed, as opposed to a shepherd hook or a fishhook, which remains open.


A unit of measure equal to 100 grams in weight. Kilos and grams are the standard unit of measure for small beads such as Seed Beads


Another name for a Calotte


Small knots tied between beads, most typically pearls, to stop them rubbing together and to secure them in case the necklace breaks. To learn more read our Guide To Beading Techniques.


Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary.




A gemstone in the same family as Moonstone which gives a good idea of why it is valued. When light hits labradorite from a particular direction, it can display striking rainbow-coloured reflections (known as labradorescence or schiller. Colours are dark grey, black, or brown with iridescent colouring. These stones can be found in Australia, Canada, Madagascar, Mexico, Russia, and the United States. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary.


Another name for Millefiori Beads


A stitch often used in the first row of a Brick Stitch project where the beads are sewn together with one bead on top of the other resembling a ladder.


Glass beads made by hand with a flame torch and finished in kiln. A rod of glass is heated and then spun around a mandrel or metal rod. When a base bead has been formed other glass colours are added to create a surface design. Because they are made on a mandrel they tend to have larger holes than machine-made glass beads.


A deep blue gemstone with white grey and gold inclusions. The fewer the inclusions in a bead, the more valuable it is. One of the primary minerals in this stone, namely lazurite, is light-fast so these stones don’t fade with time. These stones can be found in Afghanistan, Chile and Russia. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


An open ended (no clasp) necklace that can be worn in all sorts of imaginative ways. Generally, about 48 inches / 121.9 cm in length as this allows for wrapping, draping and loose knotting. To see how many of a particular sized bead are needed for a lariat necklace use our handy Bead Calculator in the menu bar above


See Milk Glass


A small, jewelled pendant or ornament to be worn around the neck often designed with fine chains


Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


A colourless transparent glass resembling Rock Crystal, that must have a minimum 10% lead content to be considered crystal


A type of Jasper with a spotted appearance resembling the skin of a leopard. The spots on Leopardskin Jasper are usually pink against a dark background. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


Designed for pierced ears these earwires have a hinged back that provide a secure closure once the earring is put on. There is usually a hanging loop or hook from which the earring design can be attached.


A style of enamel work similar in appearance to a painting


Are metallic or coloured coatings on the interior or hole surface of a transparent bead giving added depth to the bead.


The description given to the effect created when thin silver tubular beads are used in mass either on a jewellery piece or when embroidered on clothing


The description given to the effect created when thin gold tubular beads are used in mass either on a jewellery piece or when embroidered on clothing


Is the alchemists name for a chemical mixture which when dissolved in water oxidizes silver and other metals, particularly copper alloys such as gold, producing finishing shades of brown, green, magenta, purple and blue-black. The outcome is variable and dependent on the composition of the Liver of Sulphur, the strength of the mixture, the temperature, the water used, the treatment time and the actual composition of the metal being treated.


Another term for Trigger Clasp. It is a secure metal clasp that resembles the shape of a lobster claw! The pincer arm is under tension by an internal spring that is opened and closed by a lever on its side. It is used for finishing necklaces, bracelets and other jewellery.


A small pendant that is hinged and opens to reveal a space for the wearer to keep an image, a lock of hair, or other memento inside


A rig upon which beads can be hand woven.


The name given to the magnifying tool used by jewellers and photographers to look at items up close and in detail.


A polymer form of plastic that is denser and therefore heavier than other forms of plastic used for beads. They make for very good quality beads being less likely to display seam lines and better able to stand the test of time in terms of wear and tear.


A slightly shiny, often gold, or silver coloured, transparent finish applied to transparent and opaque beads. Creates a bead with a soft reflected light or radiant sheen.




Refers to beads that have highly polished facets with sharp angles and consistent and regular surfaces. This creates brilliance and sparkle achieved through the use of machinery.


A manufacturer of high-quality imitation pearls based on the Spanish island of Mallorca (or Majorca as it is also known). Learn more about man made pearls in our History of Faux Pearls


The beautiful green of this gemstone comes from the copper contained in the stone which is an altered form of copper with the presence of water affecting the shade. The more water in the copper makes it lighter, and less water makes it darker. Whilst the absence of water makes it black. Striations of green, light green, and black are malachite’s special feature. This stone scratches easily and can become dull. These stones can be found in the major deposits of Zaire, and also in Australia, Chile, Namibia, the United States and Zimbabwe. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


Any stepped tubular rod or bar around which sheet metal, wire or molten glass can be formed to shape it. Typically used in lampwork and wire working they can be used to make jump rings, for shaping earwires or bespoke clasps.


The careful bending of two or more different colours of glass or other bead making material to create a surface pattern reminiscent of marbled stone.


Pronounced mar-keys and also called a Navette. It is an oval gemstone which tapers to a point at both ends. It was named in honour of the Marquis de Pompadour, the mistress of King Louis XV.


A unit measurement or quantity for seed beads. One mass = 1,200 beads.


This is a necklace with a length between 20 inches and 30 inches / 50.8 cm and 76.2 cm. To see how many of a particular sized bead are needed for a matinee necklace use our handy Bead Calculator in the menu bar above


Not shiny. Matte finish beads have usually been chemically etched or tumbled to remove the top layer of the bead surface, creating a low lustre velvety non reflective finish. However, if the beads, typically seed and bugle beads, have been colour lined with brass, silver, or copper, the surface will be matte but with a shiny surface showing through from the colour-lining. Also known as Flat Finish.


A round or oval disk generally cast or stamped with a head or figures. They resemble coins and are usually mounted in bezels, hung from chains, or inserted into jewellery.


Tempered stainless-steel wire with excellent ‘memory’ (shape retaining properties), so it is nigh on impossible to bend it out of shape. It therefore holds its circular shape and can be used without a clasp. Memory wire comes in coiled loops of different dimensions, example: bracelet, necklace or ring sized. Don’t use your jewellery pliers with this wire it is just too tough. Use household pliers or specialist Memory Wire Cutters.


Also known as Hard Wire Shears they are made from strong tempered metal designed for cutting through Memory Wire. Don’t use normal cutters for cutting this wire as it will blunt your tools and run the risk of injury squeezing too hard and seeing pieces of wire fly away.


Opaque coatings that include gunmetal, bronze, gold, silver, copper, antique gold, or antique silver giving a shiny metal like surface to beads


An ornamental stamped metal part, such as a charm, generally formed by die striking.


Usually white (but sometimes has coloured dyes added) this glass is almost opaque but with a degree of translucency that somehow diffuses the colour. Can look similar to a glazed porcelain. Lattimo is the Italian name for this glass, from the Italian for milk latte.


This term is applied to glass beads that have been produced using a particular technique, it literally means thousands of flowers (mille is Italian for thousand, and fiori is flowers) for that describes the patterning on the beads. Millefiori beads have plain glass cores to which thin slices of cut-glass cane (known as murrine) have been applied to the surface. Each of the canes has been made up of many smaller canes arranged so that the cross-section creates a flower-like pattern. Beads can be decorated with a few murrine, or the whole surface can be covered with them. This is a technique that many polymer clay artists have borrowed from for producing their beads. Millefiori beads can only be produced by hand so the best examples can be very expensive. Occasionally these beads are also referred to as Lace Beads or Mosaic Beads.


These very bright plastic beads have a silver mirror-like core to which very thin layers of colourful lacquer are applied, they are then finished with a clear coating that contains UV inhibitors. Light passes through the outer coating, the lacquer layers and reflects back from the mirrored core. The result is a shimmering illusion of great depth. Japan produces many miracle beads.


A reflective coating on part of the surface of transparent materials, either to act directly as a mirror, or to multiply internal reflections created by the bead facets.


Or Mohs Scale of Mineral Hardness, was invented in 1812 by German mineralogist Friedrich Mohs. It is a way to gauge the hardness of a gemstone or mineral when compared to other stones and minerals. The Mohs scale ranges from 1 to 10, with 1 being the softest and 10 being the hardest. Diamond, the hardest natural substance rates as a 10. However, it is worth noting that the Mohs scale does not deal with the absolute hardness of a substance, just it’s hardness as it relates to the 10 minerals Friedrich Mohs initially tested. To find out more read our Guide to Mohs’ Scale of Hardness


A Japanese technique used to texture metal so that it resembles wood grain.


Pronounced mummy is a unit of weight used by the Japanese to weigh both silk and pearls. 1 momme equals 3.75 grams.


This product was originally produced as fishing line and is a cheap way of producing jewellery designs. It is strong (although not as sturdy as beading wire) and comes in lots of colourful options. Monofilament is straight forward to use as it is stiff enough to not require a needle and generally can be knotted (might need to add a drop of glue to secure).


Mookaite is named after the place it was first found namely on Mooka Station sheep farm in Western Australia. Colours are an earthy mix of reds, yellows and browns. To date these stones have only been found in Australia. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


The floating light phenomenon and sheen within these gemstones is called Adularescence or Schiller. The light is scattered by alternating layers of two kinds of feldspar producing a misty lustre of white, dull yellow, yellow-grey or greenish-grey. The stone’s main colour also comes in shades of peach and grey. Colours are white, yellow, and clear. These stones can be found in Brazil, India, Madagascar, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and the United States. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


An acid used to etch the surface of glass, metal and stone.


Decorative work in which a design is formed of small squares of coloured glass or enamelled material set into cement.


Another name for Millefiori Beads.


Is derived from the iridescent coating on the inside of mollusc shells found in the warm waters of Asia. The main source for this gemstone is the pearl oyster. This freshwater mussel lives in many rivers of the United States and Europe, as well as the Abalone of California, Japan and other Pacific regions. It is so named because when an irritant gets inside a shell, the shell protects itself by coating the irritant with the same material that creates pearls. Therefore, this substance is the creator, or ‘mother’ of pearls. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


This style of jewellery can be directly attributed to Queen Victoria. After her husband Albert died in 1861, she went into an extended period of mourning during which time she wore black clothing and what was to become known as mourning jewellery. English fashion was greatly influenced by this, and mourning jewellery became de rigueur. Typically black in colour it was traditionally made of Jet or black glass along with metal with a japanned finish.


The island of Murano, Venice has been home to glassmakers for many centuries and their skill is world renowned. Many beads are still made by hand on this island and sold around the world. The style and quality of Murano glass beads is something that many other makers aspire to and emulate, but only beads produced on the island should be termed Murano beads, other beads are Murano-style.


Are made from the fragrant hardened sap of the African Myrrh tree.




A substance produced by mollusk shells that coats particles and other foreign objects within the shell case. Over time this nacre builds up around the particle to form pearls


A type of sew on bead much used in the 1920s to add sparkle to flapper dresses. Used before sequins were developed, they were made of glass and were flat on one side so that they would lie close to fabric. Designed in different shapes, sizes and finishes they are now very collectable.


A chain that can be used to hang beads, crosses, and lockets around the neck. It varies in length and can be worn separately or in multiple lengths.


A short length of chain, beaded chain, or other necklace material with a connector on one end and a loop on the other used to lengthen a necklace.


Standard necklace lengths are Choker – 16 inches, Princess – 20 inches to 24 inches, Matinee – 28 inches to 30 inches, Opera – 45 inches and anything longer is known as a Lariat. To see how many of a particular sized bead are required for each of these lengths use our handy Bead Calculator in the menu bar above.


A short necklace or chain typically less than 18 inches / 46 centimetres in length.


For regular stringing, twisted-wire needles work best as the large eye closes to fit through the beads. For seed beads use beading needles which resemble sewing needles but are usually longer and thinner, with the larger the number indicating the thinner the needle. Read the fascinating History of Beading Needles


Are Chinese beads which have been hand painted from the inside.


A stitch in which three or more strands of beads are sewn together in a loose fabric to resemble a net.


A metal typically used in fashion jewellery and occasionally as an alloy in gold jewellery. Its use has been much reduced as it was found to cause allergic reactions and skin irritation in some people. European legislation in the form of the ‘Nickel Directive’ now defines the amount of nickel that can be used in jewellery to ensure it remains below the proven levels for skin reactions


An extremely fine chain made of gold often with small stones or ornaments.


Like an upscaled version of nylon sewing thread in appearance. This thread is strong, supple and drapes well. It is good for use with lightweight beads such as seed beads, and for bead weaving.


A nylon thread that was originally developed to be used as a stitching thread in the manufacture of shoes. It is strong, supple and perfect for beading with seed beads. Use with a beading needle.




Is a natural glass that forms from volcanic activity. The gemstone is made of the same minerals as granite but cools so quickly when exposed to the air that the minerals do not have time to crystallize. Colours are black, red-brown, and dark grey. These volcanic stones can be found in Iceland, Italy, Japan, Java and the United States. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


This gemstone Is harvested during low tides along the shores of Madagascar. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


Cultured pearls with an extremely thin layer of Nacre


A form of quartz that can come in almost any colour. The pure black form is the most famous, especially for gemstone beads. Colours can be striped, white, black, brown or red alternating bands, blue, green and white. These stones can be found in China, India, Madagascar, Mexico, South America, and the United States. Onyx may chip or scratch easily so should be stored carefully. Much of what is now sold as onyx is actually Agate that has been stained. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


A semi-transparent iridescent gemstone composed of silicon and water which are highly valued because their rainbow-like hues display a show of colour within the stone. They diffract light at various wavelengths, creating multiple colours. This play of colour diminishes when water is lost from the stones over time and as such Opals are quite high maintenance – needing to be kept away from heat and strong light which can dry them out and cause cracks. Colours are white, pale yellow, brown, bluish-grey to dark grey, dark blue, dark green. These stones can be found primarily in Australia with additional deposits in Brazil, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, and the United States. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary

This term can also apply to a semi translucent, milky finish applied to beads to give a similar appearance to the aforementioned semi-precious opal gemstone.


Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


With this finish light will not to pass through the object which when applied to beads means you cannot see through them. From a jewellery design perspective these beads often provide a good contrast when alongside shiny, matte or beads with other applied finishes.


A stone setting with open sides so that the lower portion of the stone is visible.


A long necklace of approximately 28 inches to 32 inches / 71.1 cm to 81.3 cm. It is worn as a single strand and may have a clasp closure or be permanently joined end to end. To see how many of a particular sized bead are needed for an opera necklace use our handy Bead Calculator


Orthoclase is the defining mineral for 6 on Mohs Scale of Hardness. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


Oval or teardrop shaped bead


A setting similar to a Tiffany setting but shaped in an oval to accommodate oval shaped stones


Useful knot for tying off ends of thread, anchoring seed beads and incorporating new threads into a piece. See the illustration below for how to tie it and read our Guide to Beading Techniques to learn when to use it.


A decorative layer applied to the surface of an object


Creates darkening or other colour changes to metal which is accelerated by humidity, especially salty air or the presence of acidic perspiration. This does not happen to very high karat gold or stainless steel.




Are turquoise glass beads made for trade purposes in China in the 17th and 18th centuries.


A rare and lustrous silvery white metal


This term, when applied to jewellery, usually relates to something having the signs or appearance of age. This can be genuine through the oxidation of metal, or artificially applied in order to make a component or beads look old.


Pronounced pah-vay is a method of setting small stones as close together as possible, so that the piece literally looks like it is paved with stones.


A cup designed to hold a pearl secured by adhesive. It sometimes has a small peg that fits into a hole in the pearl for additional security.


A real or imitation pearl with a metal ring attached for suspending from a piece of jewellery.


A round ball like finding that can be opened up and then placed over a strand of beads or pearls and then locked closed. Also known as an Enhancer.


The pearl is an organic gem grown within oysters and a few other molluscs. It is formed when a tiny particle makes its way into the mollusc’s shell. The irritation caused by this foreign particle forces the oyster to form a secretion, called nacre, to cover it. Nacre being the same material that forms the mollusc’s shell. When dried, the particle again irritates the animal, so it begins to secrete again. As this process continues thousands of layers of nacre coat the intruder and a pearl is formed. The process takes anywhere from four months to seven years with the length of time determining the size of the pearl. They can be found in Australia, Burma, China, Ceylon, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, Scotland, Tahiti and the United States, with the finest oriental pearls are found in the Persian Gulf. “Cultured” pearls are those in which the foreign particle is implanted by man with the molluscs kept in a pearl farm while the coating process goes on. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary and also have a look at our History of Faux Pearls


An ornament that hangs from a chain or necklace.


A unit of Troy weight for precious metals. It is 1/20th of a troy ounce or 24 grains.


Also known as Olivine is a yellowish green gemstone, composed of silica, magnesia, and iron. Common in certain volcanic rocks. The crusaders brought it back to Central Europe in the Middle Ages. Later revived as the Baroque era’s most popular stone. These stones can be found in Australia, Brazil, China, Kenya, Mexico, Myanmar, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, and the United States. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


A metal alloy composed of tin, antimony and copper


A stitch in which beads are stitched in an undulating pattern. When turned on its side this beading stitch looks like Brick Stitch


A opaque marbled or mottled finish applied to a glass bead. This finish can give the bead the appearance of being of ceramic or a semi-precious stone.


A type of Jasper found in Utah, North America. It is a softer form of Jasper, only 4 to 5 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness. It is made up of brown, black, grey, and white colours. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


A type of Jasper formed from mud that solidified in gas pockets within molten lava. The patterns that result from this process are felt to resemble pictures or landscapes. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


Is a variety of Tiger’s Eye which was discovered in Namibia, South Africa in 1962 by Sid Pieters. This remains its primary source although it has also been discovered around Nanyang in China. Colours are mostly lavender blue or light green and some may have small inclusions of red or gold. The Chinese Pietersite has a unique gold colour. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


A metal jewellery finding which comes partially folded with short prongs on the inside of each end. When pinched together with pliers it holds a pendant chain or cord and the pendant then hangs from the chain or cord. It can serve as a jump ring but is usually decorative and therefore adds to the overall design of the pendant.


Metal sheet used for stamping out findings. Alternatively plate or plating is the process of using electrolysis to add a surface of precious metal over a base metal.


A heavy, malleable, corrosion resistant, grey-white precious metal. Platinum is more precious than gold.


An acronym meaning Pass Needle Back Through. Used primarily in bead working.


An acronym meaning Pass Needle Through. Used primarily in bead working.


Is a clay like material made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), plasticizer, and pigment. It comes in a huge variety of colours and has great versatility as a medium. It can be baked or cured in a domestic oven. To learn more read our Guide To Making Polymer Clay Beads.


A size 6/0 seed bead is sometimes referred to as a pony bead. Plastic pony beads are also available in every hue, and they are a perfect cheap starter bead for children to work with as their hole size is generous. Pony beads aimed at the young beader come in all manner of novelty shapes, aside from the barrel shape of the original.


A type of Jasper that is characterized by poppy like red and yellow dots. It is found in North America in an area of California known as Morgan Hill. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


The pin that sticks out from the back of a stud earring, with the pin passing through a hole in the earlobe and then into a catch to secure it.


There are only three: Gold, Silver and Platinum. All others are classified as Base Metals.


Mechanical equipment used to stamp findings in the form of an electric press, foot press, hydraulic press, percussion press or screw press.


Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


A glass bead making technique whereby heated glass rods are put into a two-piece mould and the two halves brought together to create the three-dimensional shape. A needle pierces a hole in the molten bead. By making use of patterned canes (the glass rods fed into the machine) the resulting beads can be elaborately coloured, often giving the beads a slightly random appearance, even if the shape is exactly the same. One `feed’ of a hot rod might result in 10–20 beads, and a single operator can make thousands in a day. Because the bead hole is created by the introduction of a wire into the glass, rather than the bead being created around the wire (see Lampwork), it is possible to produce a bead with two or more holes. When the technique was devised in the 19th century it was the first radical change in glass bead-making for over 2,000 years! Pressed glass beads are most commonly made in the Czech Republic and Germany. Click here to read about the History of Czech Glass Beads


A necklace length slightly longer than a choker. Usually 18 inches / 45cm long including the clasp.


A setting consisting of a jewellery setting that has a series of prongs around the perimeter, usually four to six, that can be bent over to hold a stone, bead or crystal in place.


Is a variety of Tiger’s Eye which was discovered in Namibia, South Africa in 1962 by Sid Pieters. This remains its primary source although it has also been discovered around Nanyang in China. Colours are mostly lavender blue or light green and some may have small inclusions of red or gold. The Chinese Pietersite has a unique gold colour. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary.




A broad term defining very hard minerals composed of silica. Many gemstones are quartz, including crystal quartz, citrine, opal, agate, rose quartz, amethyst, and also tiger’s eye. Quartz is the defining mineral for 7 on Mohs Scale of Hardness. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary.




Also known as Aurora Borealis (AB), Iris and Fancy these beads have finishes which augment the beads primary colour with a rainbow of hues.


Is a type of Jasper that as it’s name suggests is identifiable because of its rainbow of colours. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


Aurora Borealis finish applied to a Matte bead.


A brightly coloured Rayon decorative cord with a satiny texture used for stringing larger beads. Best used in a piece without sharp edges as the cord has tendency to fray.


The Reamer is used to clean, neaten, and enlarge the holes of glass beads, ceramic beads and stones, ensuring that a bead will fit onto your chosen wire or thread. It is particularly useful if you are working with semi precious gemstones for enlarging the holes. Read more in our guide to Beading Tools and Jewellery Making Tools


A form of decoration that protrudes from the surface of a piece, such as the carved appearance of a cameo


Is a metal plating that was popular in the 1930s as a cheaper alternative to Platinum.


Is a uniquely marbled manganese ore-based gemstone which has beautiful striations of various shades of pink, ranging from very light to a deep raspberry. These stones can be found in major deposits in Argentina but also Chile, Mexico, Peru, South Africa, and the United States. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


Is a more durable gemstone than Rhodochrosite giving beads a flatter finish as it does not polish well. Colours are deep rosy-pink to lavender with characteristic black veins called dendrites. These stones can be found in Brazil, Mexico, Peru and the United States. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


Is an igneous rock with high silica content and is chemically identical to granite but having cooled from a molten state too quickly for crystals to form. Colours are mossy greens, browns and greys. These stones can be found in the Western and Southwestern United States.


A stitch where beads are sewn at right angle to each other.


A metal device which clamps inside a ring. It is used to tighten a ring that is too large or needs to be large to fit over a knuckle. Also known as a Ring Guard.


A finding used to temporarily reduce the inside diameter of a ring. Also known as a Ring Adjustor.


Are naturally polished by the action of water and other rocks moving against them. Colours are creamy beige and pale gray. These stones are found worldwide in rivers and on beaches.


A necklace of precious stones graded in size from a large central stone.


Pronounced roh-kai is a word that now often is used generically to mean Seed Bead. Historically, it is a French made Seed Bead with a silver (or gold) lined bead with a square hole (the square hole works as a inner facet to reflect the light).


A sheet of a base metal is laminated with a very thin sheet of gold (which must be at least 10 carats). The two layers are heated to fuse them then the sheet is rolled into a thin sheet from which jewellery items are made.


A bead in a rounded shape with a flattened off or faceted top and bottom alongside a central hole.


A chain of fine wire in close spiral links resembling a rope. Read more in our Glossary of Jewellery Chain


A long necklace of 40 inches to 45 inches / 101.6 cm to 114.3 cm. A clasp is not necessary with this length of necklace. The classic look for a rope necklace is a string of pearls 1920s style.


A string of beads with a cross attached used by Catholics to count prayers. They are often made with a specific number of small beads between larger beads to remind the owner of the order of their prayers.

A chain of beads used by Roman Catholics to count during devotional prayers.


An alloy of copper and gold this combination produces a warm gold coloured metal with a subtle hint of pink or red.


These pliers have tapered circular section jaws. You will need these for putting smooth bends and forming neat circular loops in wire. Perfect for finishing off head pins and eye pins when making earrings or charm dangles. The tapered round jaws can be used for making jump rings, or simply opening and closing them. Professional quality pliers have very fine points so that they can be used to make very fine loops and rings. These pliers are useful for making earring wire, making the loop for wrapped loops and for making eye pins.


A round shaped metal setting that uses bezels, prongs, or any other means of clamping the stone securely.


This gemstone is from the mineral corundum and comes in a range of colours from pink to brown. Other colour variations would be in the sapphire family. On a scale of 1 to 10 the Ruby has a hardness factor of a 9 which is second only to diamonds. Rubies have a wide range of prices depending on the cut, colour, clarity, and size of the gemstone. The most desirable colour is ‘pigeon’s blood’ a pure red with a hint of blue. These stones can be found in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, and Thailand. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


Or Ruby-in-zoisite. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


Describes a gold metal finish that typically has a matte antique appearance. Notably used by the American jewellery designer Miriam Haskell, who employed European craftsmen, many of whom had learnt their trade in the jewellery houses of Europe but found themselves as refugees due to war or persecution in their home countries.


Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary




Typically a two-part clasp formed from flat findings that are used to fasten a bracelet or necklace. The first part is ‘S’ shaped with the second part shaped like the number ‘8’. When used together they work as a clasp. Alternatively the ‘S’ hook can be used alongside a Jump Ring with only one side of the hook being open.


A bar or tongue catch for brooches, necklaces and pins. The tongue or bar can be operated to close the opening in the catch preventing the loss of jewellery.


Is the non red variety of corundum with Ruby being the other variety. Corundum comes in many colours, and any colour other than red is referred to as Sapphire. They are the most precious of blue gemstones due to their colour, hardness, durability and lustre. Large sapphires are also extremely rare. Colours are a variety of blues, clear, pink, orange, yellow, green, purple, and black. These stones can be found in primary deposits in Australia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


Glass beads with a striated, satin-like appearance.


A low lustre satiny surface effect intermediate between glossy and matte. Achieved through sandblasting, brushing with a stiff wire brush, or by chemical means


A very long Rope Necklace (finishing below the waist of the wearer) often ending in a tassel or pendant. Popular in Edwardian times and with 1920s flappers.


Used to describe an ornamental edge to a component made up of a series of curves reminiscent of a shell edge


An Egyptian representation of a scarabaeus beetle used in jewellery and revered as a symbol of resurrection.


A brilliant iris coating usually over jet glass.


An earring attachment for non pierced ears where the earring is tightened against the lobe by means of a screw with a padded flat end


A short straight wire with a ring at one end. The straight end is inserted into a bead or pearl with adhesive to convert it into a pearl drop.


The ancient art of ivory carving as practiced by seafarers to pass their long days at sea. Nowadays these intricate carvings are made using ivory from old sources such as piano keys, long dead animals as well as antler and bone.


Glass tumbled to a smooth matte finish by the washing of the tide along with the sand found in such environments. Sea glass is found upon the shoreline, and may have originated from a piece of jetsam dropped into the sea centuries ago (certain colours of glass indicate an historic provenance – example: black glass from 18th century gin, wine and beer bottles). Inevitably imitation sea glass is available, made to mimic its appearance, but created less romantically in a stone tumbler.


Small glass beads, named for their dainty size. Generally made of glass, although metal and plastic are also used. They come in a seemingly endless range of colours and finishes, and they are very versatile in their use. Seed beads come in a range of shapes, most commonly they have a rounded doughnut shape, but the appearance of this varies between manufacturers. Also popular is a cylindrical shape, often precision made, perfect for very uniform work when producing heavily beaded items or pieces made on a bead loom. Cylindrical beads tend to have a larger hole, so they allow for multiple passes of the thread in complicated designs. Other shapes include a teardrop with an off-centre hole (Magatama), triangles, cubes, beads with six sides (hexs), beads with two-facets (two-cuts) and one-facet (Charlottes). Wonderful pieces of jewellery can be constructed from seed beads alone. To learn about these small beads have a look at our Guide to Seed Beads.


Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


Also known as Gemstones, these are stones produced from organic sources such as rocks, stones, plants (amber) and animals (pearls). Generally, they are less valuable than precious stones (diamonds, rubies and emeralds etc.), although very rare or high-quality semi-precious stones can be as costly. Many of these stones are described in greater detail within this glossary. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


Typically plastic or metal sew ons used as jewellery embellishments or more usually on clothing, handbags, shoes or household objects such as curtains and light shades.


Is a trade name for a particular form of clinochlore, a member of the Chlorite group. It comes from the Korshunovskaia mine situated not far from Baikal Lake in Eastern Siberia, Russia. It was found and described by the famous Russian mineralogist Nikolai Koksharov (1818 – 1892). Seraphinite is generally dark green to grey in colour, has chatoyancy, and its hardness is 2 to 2.5 on Mohs’ Scale. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


Also known as Bowenite is a translucent, waxy silicate of magnesium. Because it is usually some shade of green, it is often referred to as ‘New Jade’ or ‘Green Jade’. This is despite the fact Serpentine is softer and less dense than most real jade. Colours are green, yellow, and brown. These stones can be found in Afghanistan, China, New Zealand, and the United States. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


A metal form into which a cabochon, crystal, or stone is set using a bezel, prongs or other means to hold the piece in position.


The metal part of a ring that goes around the finger. The shank and the setting into which a stone is set are collectively referred to as a ring mounting.


A cameo carving in which the white upper layer of a shell stands out from the darker brownish underside.


A ring with an insignia, monogram, coat of arms or family crest on it.


Made up of twisted strands of silk. Traditionally this is used for stringing pearls and lighter semi-precious beads as it gives a lovely fluid movement and it won’t damage the beads.


Means that a Base Metal, such as brass, has been covered with a thin layer of silver but this will be extremely thin and impure. Silver colour items are prone to wear and polishing to remove discolouration may eventually rub away the outer layer. Sometimes the expression silver-finished or silver-washed will be used instead.


Transparent glass beads lined with a silver colour. Coloured glass silver lined beads have a special brilliance and sparkle. Silver lined bead are harder wearing than colour lined ones


Means that a Base Metal, such as brass, has been covered with a thin layer of silver which must conform to an industry standard of 0.15mm to 0.25mm thickness. The silver plating must be at least 92.5% silver. Silver-plated items are prone to wear and polishing to remove discolouration may eventually rub away the plating.


Another term for Trade Beads


An embellishment that can be slid onto another piece of jewellery such as a necklace


Is a sodium aluminum chlorine silicate which is almost identical in composition to Lapis Lazuli which often causes misidentification. Colours are a dark intense blue colour with white and sometimes yellow streaks. These stones can be found in Brazil, Canada, India, Italy, Namibia, Russia and the United States. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


Is a finer version of Soft Flex Wire used for weaving and threading.


Used to describe either a ring with a single central stone or the central stone itself.


A component used to hold apart and in position multiple stranded jewellery designs. Used at regular intervals throughout the piece or at either end. Useful for necklaces as the natural curve of the neck can otherwise result in strands of beads sitting on top of each other. They also help prevent tangling.


Small or thin beads used between the ‘main’ beads in a design. Their function can be to space out feature beads; or to add length to a piece – often at less cost that using the equivalent length in other beads; to hide large holes or to help with the articulation and drape of a piece.


An alternative to Jump Rings, these rings have a double coil of metal to provide a very secure joining method. Harder to open as they are like very tiny key rings (and they are bad enough), but you can get a special split ring tool to assist you. They are typically used to attach charms to bracelets.


Have one bent up jaw and one flat one. They are designed specifically to open all sizes of Split Rings, to attach Jump Rings or wrapped loops of beaded dangles.


A gemstone of the Ruby family which is considered the poorer man’s ruby. Colours range from olive green, topaz, dark red, mauve pink, golden amber, and light blue. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


These one-piece clasps are used to fasten a bracelet or a necklace. The clasp is held closed by a spring mechanism acting against a pin closure. A small lever is drawn back to open the clasp.


A stitch in which beads are sewn in regular rows and columns resulting in a finish that looks like loom work.


Also known as Cage work is a finding or charm made from sheet metal which has been cut and shaped between two dies in a press. The pattern is formed in relief with a hollow or concave reverse.


Pure silver is very soft so most silver used for quality jewellery is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper or other alloy. The copper allows sterling silver to be flexible and workable. All sterling silver must be 92.5% silver (or higher) and may be denoted as such with the use of the ‘925’ stamp. Occasionally you may see the phrase ‘made from sterling silver’ to describe goods that are manufactured from sterling silver, but which, due to the manufacturing process of the goods, may not test as .925 sterling silver because of the amount of manufacturing residue left on the product – this may be true of small and very intricate beads. Sterling silver will tarnish over time if it is in contact with air, but this surface discolouration can be polished away.


A type of Jasper from California, North America which is found in a region between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It has yellow, white, and greyish-blue bands. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


A bead used to stop other beads falling off a thread whist you are working. Pass your thread through the bead and then through the bead again from the same side. For clarity use a bead of a different colour. Remove before finishing off the piece. Alternatives are a piece of low-tack masking tape, a paper clip, bulldog clips or a commercial product called a ‘bead stopper’ (a coil of wire that grips the thread).


A jewellery making technique in which strands of beads are manipulated to form jewellery pieces.


Have an opaque, translucent or transparent body with threads and swirls of tones or colours on their surface.


A simple style of earring for pierced ears that has a single stone or focal point on a straight post with no dangling parts.


A cheap and cheerful clasp which is secure but requires nimble fingers to unclasp it.


Is a bright sparkling stone also known as aventurine feldspar. It is formed as a crystal in molten lava. As the lava weathers away, the crystals are released. Sunstone sparkle comes from the reflection of light from tiny platelets of hematite or goethite within the stones. This gemstone varies from golden to orange to red-brown, and can be transparent or translucent. These stones can be found in Canada, India, Madagascar, Norway, Russia and the United States. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


Can be used for tying two ends of thread, string, cord together. See the illustration below for how to tie it and read our Guide to Beading Techniques to learn when to use it.


Useful for jewellery components as it is a non-allergenic material (when left uncoated).


Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


The name given to shaping or bending cold metal with a hammer or other tool


A brand name for the crystal glass produced by the Swarovski company of Austria. The company dates back to 1892 when Daniel Swarovski invented a faceting machine that automatically ground facets into lead crystal resulting in beads with very high reflective qualities.




This is the defining mineral for 1 on Mohs Scale of Hardness. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


A Charm in the form of an ornament, ring or stone that is believed to have magical protective properties.


A stitch used in embroidery in which beads are first strung onto a thread and hook needle, then fastened to a wooden handle or Tambour needle, before being used to make chain stitches on fabric as beads are placed into the stitches underneath the fabric.


Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


A heat treatment of metals, alloys and glass to increase the strength and ductility of the material through controlled reheating to a level below its annealing temperature.


Handmade by the Karen Hill Tribe in Thailand these beads are 99% pure silver meaning they will not tarnish as quickly as Sterling Silver. As with any handmade item there will be slight variations in sizes and shapes.


Another name for Folding Crimps.


Beading thread is made of nylon and is used in bead weaving and loom work. Other types of thread used in beading include decorative cords such as rattail.


Acts to prevent thread from tangling and also to make the thread stronger. Beeswax can be used as a conditioner, but you can also buy commercial products such as Thread Heaven. Thread the needle, run your thread through the wax and then run through your fingers to remove excess wax.


In a bead or pendant passes through the material whilst remaining symmetrical with respect to the overall form.


An elegant setting which is usually round with six prongs which flare out gracefully over the stone clamping it in position.


Is a quartz gemstone with rich yellow and brown stripes, and a fine golden lustre. When viewed from the opposite direction, the colours are reversed. This stone features golden stripes that catch light. None to surprisingly this effect resembles a cat’s eye. Colours are gold, yellow, and brown. The most significant deposits are found in South Africa, but t is also found in Australia, India, Myanmar, Namibia, and the United States. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


A beading wire made up of 7 strands of wire, with a plastic coating. ‘Tiger Tail’ has become a generic term for this type of wire. The plastic coating can be coloured, so you can match wire to your beads.


A faceting process carried out by hand. The bead was placed on a notched wooden stick and then held against a rotating tin wheel to create the facets. Because the facets are hand cut, the facets may be slightly irregular in size if examined closely.


See the entry below.


A two-piece clasp consisting of a bar which fits into a loop. The bar is passed through the ring to secure the piece. This clasp design is good for heavier bracelets and necklaces, or in the case of a necklace where the decorative design of the piece dictates that the clasp should be seen at the front.


A hard gemstone, Topaz is the defining mineral for 8 on Mohs Scale of Hardness. It comes from many different parts of the world including Afghanistan, China, Japan, Madagascar, Mexico, Myanmar, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Sri Lanka, the United States and Zimbabwe. Colours include red, orange, peach, pink, gold, yellow, blue, brown, green, white, and clear. Yellow is the most familiar colour with red being the rarest. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


Is a half drilled hole at the hanging end of a pendant or drop which needs a glued or screwed in hanger.


Dating back to Roman times this is a bangle that is pliable enough to be wound around a wrist. The two bracelet ends are traditionally finished with a ball which can be plain or embellished with gemstones


Is a complex crystalline silicate containing aluminum, boron and other key elements and as such it is more of a group of minerals than a single type. Colours are pink, red, green, yellow, blue, green, and clear. The most important deposits for this stone are in Brazil but it is also to be found in Afghanistan, Australia, India, Italy, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Tanzania, the United States, Zaire, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary


Old glass beads, mostly made around Venice 200 to 400 years ago, used for trade in Africa and the Orient, including the Slave Trade. Usually large, cylindrical, and colourful.


Some light can pass through, but it is not possible to see through clearly.


It is possible to see through and light passes freely. Transparent beads can be light, dark, medium or deep in terms of colour saturation and hue.


Beads shaped like a triangle with a central hole.


Another term for a Lobster Clasp. It is a secure metal clasp that resembles the shape of a lobster claw! The pincer arm is under tension by an internal spring that is opened and closed by a lever on its side. It is used for finishing necklaces, bracelets and other jewellery.


This unit of weight is traditionally used for gemstones and precious metals with 1 troy oz = 1.097 oz. The ounce contains 20 Pennyweights each of 24 grains. The name is derived form Troyes, France where the system was used prior to its introduction to Medieval England in the 15th century. The conversion to metric for precious metals is largely complete.


A method of polishing large quantities of jewellery by rotating them in a barrel or vibrating them in a tub. Special polishing agents and abrasives are used. The pieces are polished as they rub against the abrasives or each other.


Is one of the most easily identifiable gemstones due to its colouring and the fact it has been used throughout history. Rare and highly valued turquoise stones are usually sky-blue in colour without inclusions. Colours are light blue, blue green, and apple green. These stones can be found in Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, China, Iran, Israel, Mexico, Tanzania, and the United States. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary.




First discovered in the Unaka Mountains of North Carolina it is relatively new addition to the jewellery world. It is an altered granite composed of pink orthoclase feldspar, green epidote, and generally colourless quartz. Colours are a blend of red, pink, green, and white, grey and have a granite look. These stones are found mainly in the Unaka Mountains but also in Brazil, China and South Africa. Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary.




The process of laying an extremely thin metallic coating over plastic or very inexpensive metals using volatilization within a vacuum. It can be applied to beads, findings and other jewellery components.


A style of glass bead making originating in Venice in the late 1800s but that has since been copied by many other countries including India and China. Generally speaking, the term denotes a very high level of craftsmanship and that the beads have been made individually by hand. Antique Venetian beads are rare and much sought after by collectors.


A style of glass bead originating in Venice where small flecks of colour, often Aventurina, are suspended inside transparent glass. Sommerso means submerged in Italian.


Are decorated with small flower beads, with Fiorato meaning flower in Italian. The bead can be made by any technique but on the outside, there will be a small flower drawn using molten stringers of coloured glass. These beads require more skill in their manufacture than Sommerso beads.


A heavy gold plating over sterling silver. The Gold Plating must be 10 carat or higher and have a minimum thickness of 100 millionths of an inch or 2.5 microns of fine gold. Vermeil components are of better quality than gold plated items as the item plated is of sterling silver. As with any plated item, the plating can eventually wear away.


Like Antique this is a subjective description used to indicate the age of an item. Vintage is deemed to be a bead or item of jewellery older than 10 years but younger than 100 year. Or alternatively an item that is no longer in production. Since this gives these beads a certain rarity, they are often sought out by jewellery makers.


An iridescent finish with silver, yellow, green and red hues.




A watch chain usually worn across a waistcoat front with a swivel fitting for the watch bow and spring ring at the other end for a charm. Typically, about 14 inches / 36 centimetres in length. Read more in our Glossary of Jewellery Chain


Are glass beads made in Czechoslovakia in the 1920s, usually stripped in yellows, blues, and greens. Read our History of Czech Glass Beads to learn more.


The name for the thread that is used with a needle to string beads that are then woven perpendicular to the Warp threads on a loom


These are not heart shaped beads but transparent beads with an opaque white core resulting in a white lined hole. The outer part of the bead is coloured. This type of bead has been produced since the 15th century and the majority of white hearts available today are Antique.


As distinct from Beading Wire, which is constructed to be like a metal thread, is wire in its usual form. All the common metal types are available with copper and aluminium wires coming in a rainbow of colours through the use of enamels. Wire is supplied in different Gauges (thicknesses) which are denoted by a number according to an American system or by its diameter in mm. The table below details the most common gauges and their uses for more detail see Gauges

  • 28 = 0.32mm ( 0.013”) Good for binding, knitting and weaving.
  • 24 = 0.51mm ( 0.020”) Good for threading small delicate beads. Binding and twisting.
  • 20 = 0.81mm ( 0.032”) Good for wirework with crystals and medium beads.
  • 18 = 1.02mm ( 0.040”) Good for wire wrapping large beads and creating wire components.
  • 16 = 1.02mm ( 0.040”) Good for bold chunky wire worked design.

Wire is available in four different levels of hardness: dead soft, soft wire, half-hard and full-hard. Memory Wire is the hardest of all the wire types. It also comes in a wide variety of cross-sections such as round, triangular and square and is sold both by length and weight.

  • Dead Soft Wire can be easily bent and broken with the hands, so any shape produced is vulnerable to becoming damaged or distorted. Good for wire wrapping of larger beads or stones, and thicker wire can be used.
  • Soft Wire is very similar to the above, but is slightly tougher.
  • Half Hard Wire is the most versatile type of wire as is soft enough to bend, but strong enough to act as a functional component in jewellery – i.e. for use as an earwire or eye pin. Use the correct cutters with this wire.
  • Full Hard Wire is stronger than half-hard and can be trickier to work with, again suited for use where you need reliable strength and form. Use the correct cutters with this wire.
  • Tiger Tail Wire is a speciality twisted beading wire with a nylon coating, whilst Soft Flex wire is similar but has greater flexibility and is less prone to kinking. Solid or plated silver and gold wire is also available.

To learn more about the uses of wire see our Guide to Beading Techniques


Is similar to a Bullion only rigid. It is used where you want to form a loop for example where the bead wire goes through the loop on the clasp at the end of your piece. They are available in a range of metal finishes including, black, copper, gold, silver and antique.


A device used to bend wire into elaborate shapes, and to replicate the shape time and again. Commercial jigs are available, but a simple one can be made at home by hammering nails into a piece of wood. The wire is bent against or looped round the nails.


The art of bending wire into jewellery and decorative items often with the addition of beads.


A chasing hammer and steel stake are used for flattening and work hardening or toughening wire shapes. Chasing hammers are light weight and easy to handle. Steel stakes on which to hammer work have an ultra smooth surface to eliminate the possibility of marking items being worked on.






Read more in our Gemstones & Minerals Glossary