Jewelry Terms Decoded

Jewelry Terms Decoded

With so many styles and jewelry looks out there today it can be difficult to figure out exactly what you’re buying. Different sites use different terminology, and two identical looking pieces can actually be made from totally different materials. How is a shopper supposed to make a smart choice while still getting the style they’re searching for? With a little education on jewelry materials and what they mean!


We all know opals are hot these days! You can hardly surf pictures of piercings on the net without seeing dozens of pictures of gorgeous opal items in all sorts of body piercings! But did you know that there are multiple kinds of opals ranging from the rare and exotic to the very affordable and man-made? Genuine opals are found in nature, like a diamond. However, also like a diamond, they can be extremely expensive which can put them out of the price range of the average shopper. They are also rather fragile, being roughly as hard as a typical piece of glass. This would make a genuine opal a good choice only if it’s going in a piercing that has little chance of being struck against something. (For example: Ears would be a good location while a tongue piercing would not.) Then there are the far more common synthetic opals. These are simply opals that have been grown in a laboratory. That means that they look like an opal but don’t have the outsized price tag attached. And then there are faux opals, which are simply non-opal materials that look like opal. Being fake, they’re considerably more affordable and while they may not always look exactly like the real thing, they’re often very close in appearance.



Another point of confusion can be the difference between “gold” and “gold tone”. Gold tone generally means that there is a gold or gold-color plating over what is usually stainless steel. Items that are described as anodized are not coated. They are treated via an electromagnetic process that actually changes the color of the metal. (Science is awesome!) Generally speaking, if an item is real, genuine gold, it will be described as such. In case you had wondered, the higher the karat count of a gold item means the higher the purity level. 24 karat gold will be purer than 14 karat. Interestingly, higher karat gold is also softer so it may not be ideal for body jewelry.



Another stone often used in body jewelry is cubic zirconia. It’s commonly seen in clear form, giving it a resemblance to diamond but far more affordable. In case you’ve wondered (or even if you haven’t), cubic zirconia is simply a synthetic gemstone made from zirconium dioxide. It comes in a vast array of colors and shapes. Whereas jewelry that has “gems” on it is made with glass stones, cubic zirconia is an actual gemstone. Whether you prefer gems or cubic zirconia is really just a matter of taste. They both look fantastic, and nobody will know what you’re wearing unless you tell them!


When you’re shopping for body jewelry, it’s important to really know what you’re getting. Whether you have sensitive skin, are on a tight budget, or are looking for a specific showpiece for your favorite piercing, you need to know what your jewelry is made of before you put in your body. While this isn’t every term or material used in piercing jewelry, it’s a good start towards educating yourself further about the wonderful world that is body piercing. There’s always more to learn! Happy piercing!