Handy Guide to Jewelry-Making Terms

Nov 25, 2009
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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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Crista Galli wrote
on Nov 25, 2009 8:16 AM
You forgot a "less common" name for beading wire. I learned it as "tiger tail."
on Nov 25, 2009 8:57 AM
Earring backs are also butterflies and clamshells are calottes. I also use 'tiger tail'.
LynneG@13 wrote
on Nov 25, 2009 9:02 AM
I've seen the term ribbon elastic. Is this another name for elastic cord?
KitschKitty2 wrote
on Nov 25, 2009 9:38 AM
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!
AletaBeadz wrote
on Nov 25, 2009 1:45 PM
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.
brightcircle wrote
on Nov 25, 2009 2:17 PM
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.
Jenna@20 wrote
on Nov 25, 2009 10:03 PM
Bent Nose Pliers: Common Name Less Common Name(s) Beak Nose Pliers; Curved Chain Nose Pliers
Sally322 wrote
on Nov 28, 2009 12:02 AM
And there's always "clusterfunk" = trying odd count peyote for the first time with size 15's instead of 6's ! :D
Sally322 wrote
on Nov 28, 2009 12:04 AM
Also rat-tail = satin cording
Spmandel wrote
on Nov 29, 2009 1:37 PM
Thanks for the guide!