(starting with “B”)
Bail – yes, this is indeed what you had to lay out for your incorrigible grandpa that time he got caught shoplifting at K-Mart, but it’s also a glorious jewelry-related homonym. The bail is that little loop that gets fastened to the top of a gemstone or pendant or Olympic Gold Medal that enables it to hang (or “chill”) from a chain.
Bakelite – there won’t be a ton of plastic-based things on this list, but the once highly sought after Bakelite is definitely one of them. While it sounds like it gets its name from being baked in an oven (with less calories than usual!), its nomenclature stems from its creator, Leo Bakeland (and yes, his name clearly sounds like a dough-based amusement park). Bakelite was conceived by this fellow in 1909 and peaked in desirability during the not-so-roaring ’30’s (mostly for its affordability and highly durable nature), as it was used in a wide gamut of jewelry items.
Bandeau – is a headband, but in French; hence it is fancy. They first rose to popularity during the Middle Ages in Europe, where they were simply constructed of jewels strung together with ribbons, which were tightly yanked and secured on to these Middled Aged ladies’ foreheads. Later they were crafted out of various metals and took on a more tiara-esque look. They saw a significant surge during the 1920’s Art Deco era (the flappers sure loved them some bandeaus), and fairly recently as well, as poet laureate Paris Hilton has been frequently sighted donning one.
Basket Mount – why, this is one fancy gemstone setting that creates the illusion that the stone is set in a woven, wait for it…basket. Guess an explanation of that wasn’t really necessary.
Basse-Taille – those who are in favor of the process of “translucent enameling” are typically said to be ‘All about that Basse-Taille.’ This term, in French, means “shallow cut,” and this is a reference to how the metal here is treated. The metal is etched into very deeply, so that when a nice shellack of enamel is applied, it dries in various hues. These different colors draw attention to the minute contours of the overall design. This technique can often been seen in jewelry items that feature intricate shapes, such as leaves, butterfly wings, flower petals and replicas of Donald Trump’s hair.
Bavette – Is this from Bavaria? No, no Bavette. Here’s another phrase from the land of fine wine and stinky cheese. Bavette in French means “bib,” and is used to describe necklaces that are constructed of numerous strands of beads (usually pearls), of various lengths. They form a beautiful bib-shape, and can be used to showcase your opulence out on the town – or simply as a way to keep bar-b-que sauce off your camisole.
Bayadére – this is just twisted. It’s a necklace formed from a multitude of strands of “seed” (aka: tiny) pearls. The strands are twisted around and around, like a pair of earphones in bottom of the jostled purse of someone desperately running to catch a bus.
Belcher Ring – is not necessarily named after those with audible indigestion symptoms. Legend has it that this style of ring was christened after infamous English bare-knuckle boxer, Jem Belcher, at the turn of the 19th century; whether he was gassy or not remains a mystery. The ring features a stone that is set in place with prongs that are fashioned out of the original, core metal of the band. Also of note, is the fact that the guy’s name was Jem.
Belle Époque – the “beautiful era” in France (1901-1915). This was known as the Edwardian period in nearby, contentious England; for the contemporary king, Edward (aka “Fast Eddie”). The designs of this stylish epoch are quite flowery and flowing, consisting of many floral patterns, intertwined lace and billowing bows (just like Belle’s outfits in “Beauty and the Beast”).
Benoiton – surprisingly, this is not the precursor to the Benetton line of clothing. It’s a weird thing that women put in their hair during the 1860’s. It’s made up of a bunch of chains that come out of the hair (reminiscent of a lovely octopus or spider) and then clamp down into one’s dress. These non-functional hair clips first came into the public eye onstage, in a play written by satirist Victorien Sardou: the farce “La Famille Benoiton.” They fell out of favor when scores of people began injuring themselves while brushing their hair.
Billet-Doux – this one is a touch scandalous. A French expression connoting a “love letter,” the jewelry manifestation of this took its form in flower based pieces – that were given to clandestine lovers. The type of flower used would indicate a specific message, for instance: roses symbolized true love, daisies conveyed purity, gardenias meant secret love. Taking things to a Da Vinci Code level of crypticness, certain gemstones would be used in pieces, and the first letter of each stone (ie – “C” in crystal) would be used to spell out a covert message. For example, Labradorite, Opal and Lazulite (“LOL”).
Biscuit – a) the most delicious item on the menu at KFC, b) what you call your sweetie, c) the name given to the sumptuous ceramic, porcelain, when it has not yet been glazed.
Bloom Finish – this is a complicated process that utilizes a vast array of deadly chemicals (the charming hydrochloric acid, to name one) to remove the shiny surface from gold and essentially leave it looking softer and “pitted,” like a morose teenager’s face.
Bluite – now here’s some good marketing in action. Manhattan based jewelry company Goldfarb & Friedberg conceived this term around 1922 to describe an 18k white gold compound they sold which, they purported, was the closest approximation to platinum ever created. They found that “Bluite” sold far better than their previous product “Greenish Gold.”
Bombé – looking exactly how they sound, these jewelry pieces are the bomb. They exhibit a curved, bulbous shape, like that of a little explosive device. Most common in ring and earring design, these were a ‘hit’ during the greater part of the 20th century.
Brown Émail – before your imagination begins to run wild, know that “émail” is the French word for “enamel.” So this simply refers to enamel that has that particular, earth toned hue. Interesting to think that the French have been using email for hundreds of years (…don’t be jaloux, England.)