Handy Guide to Jewelry-Making Terms

What's in a name?
I live near this kid named Christian. Nice boy, a little shy, but very polite. "Hi, Christian!" I yell from the porch when he walks to the bus. "Hi, Mrs. Campbell." "Hey, Christian! How's your sister?" "Fine, Mrs. Campbell." The other day Christian paused and said, "You know, Mrs. Campbell, my name isn't Christian. It's Cameron."

I laughed so hard! I'd been calling him Christian for at least two years. I'm sure he thought, jeez, what a ditz. But you know what? I was relieved that he finally got the nerve to set me straight––otherwise how would I know?

Chain names
I'm relieved when people set me straight on jewelry-making terms, too. That's why I was pleased to find a very clear table of photographs showing and naming eighteen different types of chain in Jane Dickerson's wonderful new book, Chain Style: 50 Contemporary Jewelry Designs. Included are familiar types of chain such as the cable, rolo, and curb chain, but also anchor, long-and-short, charm, wheat herringbone, and many others. I know I'll refer to the photos in this book again and again to make sure I'm set straight, and while I'm at it will be inspired by the many fashion-forward projects within.

Learn the lingo for jewelry-making supplies
Seeing all those chains and their proper names made me think about what we call things. For instance, I've always called Boston link chain "elongated box chain," and I'm sure readers can picture what I'm talking about without me using the proper name. It's the same for lots of jewelry-making materials-there can be lots of names for the same thing. Just for fun I made you a chart of some supplies and terms that have multiple names.

 Supply  Common name  Less-common name
 Findings        Ribbon-end crimp  Basketweave crimp
 Earring backing
 Ear nut
 Hook-and-eye clasp
 Fishhook clasp
 Knot cup  Clamshell
 Spacer bar  Separator
 Beads  Fire-polished  Czech crystal
 India glass  Wound glass
 Pressed glass  Molded glass
 Semiprecious stone  Gemstone
 Cylinder bead  Delica, Treasure
 Wire  Beading wire  Flexible beading wire, nylon-coated steel wire, SoftFlex, Beadalon, Accuflex
 Craft wire
 Artistic Wire, color-coated copper wire
 French wire  Gimp, bullion
 Tools  Nylon-jaw pliers  Wire straighteners
 Embroidery scissors  Snippers, sharp scissors
 Other materials  Beading wax  Beeswax, microcrystalline wax, synthetic wax
 Nylon beading thread  Nymo, Silamide, C-Lon, One-G
 Braided beading thread  FireLine, WildFire, Power Pro
 Elastic cord  Gossamer cord, illusion cord

These are just some of the hundreds of terms we jewelry-makers run into every day that have more than one name.
What names would you add to the list? Please share them here on Beading Daily.

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About jeancampbell

Jean Campbell is the founding editor (and currently the senior editor) of Beadwork magazine and has written and edited more than 45 beading books. She has written for Beading Daily and has appeared on the DIY Jewelry Making show, The Shay Pendray Show, and PBS' Beads, Baubles, and Jewels where she gives how-to instructions, provides inspiration, and lends crafting advice. Jean teaches jewelry-making workshops throughout the United States and calls Minneapolis home.

10 thoughts on “Handy Guide to Jewelry-Making Terms

  1. I’ve never come across the term knot cup! I have heard most commonly calottes, and clam shell, but also occasionally bead tip.

    Ribbon-end crimp, aka ribbon clamp.

    Hook-and-eye clasp some times called a shepherd’s crook (hook) and figure 8 clasp!

    Seed beads may be roccailes.

    Furnace glass is also called cane glass.

    It does get complicated talking about beading thread and wire as there are so many popular brand names in common use, for example KO is a popular thread.

    illusion cord is a clear non elastic nylon monofilament.

    Incidentally tigertail is slightly different to other beading wires, but that’s another topic!

  2. How do you pronounce Nymo? Is it “Nye-mo”, “Nee-mo” or something else? I sometimes get raised eyebrows when I ask for it and I would like to sound as if I knew what I was doing with it.

  3. Basketweave crimp is a specific term for when there’s an actual basketweave pattern on the ribbon crimp. And nylon jaw pliers are often wire straighteners, but one =/= the other.