Jewelry Terms to Know When Shopping for an Engagement Ring

A man and woman looking at engagement rings in a shop window.

When shopping for an engagement or wedding ring (or any wedding jewelry for that matter) you’re likely to encounter a few complicated terms in the process. While a good jeweler with a sense of customer service will be able to explain everything to you, trying to understand new terminology while picking out the perfect ring might be overwhelming. Hence, it will ease your stress if you familiarize yourself with them beforehand. Prior to visiting your chosen jewelry shop, take a look at this brief glossary of common terms you’re likely to hear in the engagement ring buying process.

The “4 Cs”

This is an acronym referring to the four key qualities of diamonds and precious stones that determine their value. The “Four Cs” include cut, color, clarity, and carat. All of these should be considered when purchasing any valuable gemstone.

Alloy

Because precious metals aren’t durable in the long-term, most jewelry pieces are not pure. Instead, they are often sold as an alloy (mix) of multiple metals. There are, however, a few exceptions to this. Gold, for example, is often alloyed with other metals because it’s very soft on its own, but you can find 100% gold (or 24k) pieces. For a wedding band or engagement ring, this is not recommended as the ring will show wear and tear quickly.

In addition, gold is also mixed with other metals, sometimes naturally, in order to achieve different colors. For example, rose gold is usually a mix of gold and copper, and white gold is a mix of gold and platinum.

Baguette

Long and slim rectangular stones, mainly used as accents around a larger gemstone.

Band

Another term for the ring.

Baroque

Describes a specific jewelry style that may mean something ornate or unique. For example, with gemstones this might mean irregularly shaped cuts, tumbled and uncut stones, and free-form shaped gemstones.

Blemish

An imperfection on the surface of a gemstone.

Bezel Setting

This is one of the oldest and classical settings for gemstones, although less commonly seen today in engagement rings. With a bezel setting, the gemstone is secured by being completely surrounded by the metal on all sides.

Bridal Set

A matching set of rings, such as the engagement and wedding ring, which are meant to be worn together. A common bridal set includes one solitaire ring and an enhancer that creates the illusion of having two additional side-set stones.

Carat (ct)

A diamond engagement ring.

Also abbreviated as ka, this use of carat refers to the weight of a gemstone. One carat is equivalent to 0.2 grams. (Not to be confused with karat.)

Clarity

This refers to how clear a gemstone is, tied to its lack of exterior and interior imperfections (aka blemishes and inclusions). It is one of the key factors in how well the gemstone will reflect light.

Claw Setting

This is probably what you picture when you think of an engagement ring. A claw setting holds a gemstone in place via little prongs or “claws”. Most rings have 4-6 prongs, but it depends on the cut.

Crown

The top portion of a gemstone.

Cut

A specific style or shape into which a gemstone is formed. Aside from giving the crystal its gemstone look, most cuts intend to alter or maximize how well the stone will sparkle. Common cuts include princess, brilliant, Ascher, cushion, emerald, heart, oval, pear, and many more. Some cuts work better with certain gemstones more than others.

Eternity Band

A ring with a continuous line of gemstones surrounding the ring on all sides.

Facet

This refers to a flat side (or layer) of a gemstone that results from it being cut into a certain style. Generally speaking, at least with diamonds, more facets mean better light reflection. The brilliant cut, which intends to maximize the sparkle of a diamond, features 58 facets.

Filigree

A term that refers to precious metal wire twisted into a specific design or pattern.

Gemstone

Diamond engagement rings in a velvet jewelry box.

A crystal or other mineral which is both attractive, durable, rare, and valuable, used in making jewelry. Also referred to as a precious stone. It is assumed to be of organic origins unless labeled as “lab-created” or “synthetic.”

GIA

This acronym stands for the Gemological Institute of America, one of the leading diamond and gemstone certification labs in the world. You’re likely to see this acronym pop up the most when shopping for an engagement ring. However, you might also encounter other gemstone graders such as the AGS (American Gem Society), EGL (European Gemological Laboratory), and IGI (International Gemological Institute).

Keep in mind that each organization has its own grading system. Regardless of which one your jeweler uses, it should only be used as proof of your gemstone’s authenticity and quality. It is not meant to be an appraisal of value.

Girdle

The width of the gemstone.

Hallmark

This refers to the purity stamp of a metal. See Karat.

Halo

A certain style, popular in engagement rings, in which one large gemstone is surrounded by a circle of smaller gemstones. It is possible to have more than one halo.

Inclusion

An imperfection, such as a foreign object, crack, or other abnormality, located in the interior of a gemstone.

Karat (K)

Sometimes misspelled as carat, but appreciated with a K. This term is used specifically for silver or gold, in reference to how pure the metal is. It may be accompanied or replaced by a stamp that shows the purity in percentage. Here are some examples for reference:

  • 14K = 58.5% pure, or 585
  • 18K = 75% pure, or 750
  • 24 = 100% pure, or 1000

Melee

Very small diamonds, less than 0.2 ct.

Pavé

A set of diamond rings.

Also known as a bead setting, a pavé style has gemstones implanted into the ring band, but so closely that no metal can be seen in between.

Pavilion

The bottom portion of the gemstone, normally not visible if attached to a ring.

Precious Metals

This refers to any naturally occurring metal of high value. In regards to jewelry, this usually refers to gold, silver, platinum, or palladium.

Satin Finish

Also known as a brushed or matte finish, a satin finish features many micro parallel scratches, which give it texture. It is popular in men’s rings.

Solitaire

A solitaire ring (or another jewelry piece) simply means that there is only one, single gemstone set upon it.

Synthetic (or Lab-Grown) Gemstones

These gemstones are not found in nature. Rather, they are replicated in a lab setting. To be clear, synthetic gemstones have the exact same chemical composition as real ones, so they are not “fake.” However, some people place more value on naturally formed ones, so lab-grown ones tend to cost less. One of the other main benefits of synthetic stones is that they tend to have little to no flaws.

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