Understanding the Difference Between 'Finish' and 'Texture' for the Jeweler


I will begin with my definitions of “Finish” and “Texture” for the Jeweler. Please understand that there is no generally accepted standard for definitions of “Finish” and “Texture”. This is how I describe things to my clients.

  • 'Finish' and 'Texture' are general terms used to describe the condition and characteristics of a jewelry items surface.
  • 'Finish' is defined as the visual quality of the surface of an object-- how it looks.
  • 'Texture' is the tactile quality of the surface of an object--how it feels if touched.
  • It is the combination of the two that gives each piece of jewelry its own unique look and feel.


Finish is defined as the visual quality of the surface of an object-- how it looks. Generally a very fine and mostly visual component to the jewelry item. When feeling the surface of a jewelry item, different finishes may not be distinguishable from one another without looking at them. How the light interacts with the finish on a jewelry item is the most important consideration during the design phase.

A List of Common Surface Finishes Used on Jewelry

These are the common terms used in the jewelry trade to describe the finishes used on jewelry and as such, most people are familiar with them.

  • Mirror Finish
    Like it sounds. The surface is smooth and is highly reflective. This requires a lot of labor and is a very fragile finish.
  • High Polish Finish
    A high polish finish is one where the surface is very smooth and shiny. Depending on the metal type, you might be able to see a reflection of nearby objects. This is the most common finish on rings and jewelry. This type of finish is very shiny and reflective.
  • Satin (Matte) Finish
    A satin is smooth to the touch like a high polished surface. However, you will not be able to see your reflection on the surface of the metal. After polishing to a high polish, the metal is again polished with a larger grit of abrasive to leave a uniform matte finish. This can also be done with sandblasting. Some jewelers call this a frosted finish. The standard for a satin finish is that there is no discernible pattern or grain in the finish.
  • Brushed Finish
    A brushed finish is similar to a satin finish. Both, the satin finish, and the brush finish are not shiny. The difference is a brushed finish has a texture to it. This is normally done with fine brass brushes with different gauges of wire to leave fine lines closely spaced together.
  • Scratched
    Like the brushed finish but more random and less uniform.


At some point, a finish will become large enough to become easily felt and described as a tactile element of design. This is texture. Roughness, patterns, and lay can be determined with only tactile information.

A List of Common Surface Textures Used on Jewelry

  • Florentine:
    Seen a lot in antique pieces. A fun ridged directional texture.The finish is created with a Florentine graver, also known as a line or threading graver.
  • Etching:
    Etching is traditionally the process of using strong acid or mordant to cut into the unprotected parts of a metal surface to create a design in intaglio (incised) in the metal.
  • Patterned:
    A distinctive style, or form, a combination of textures, forming a consistent or characteristic arrangement on the jewelry item.
  • Engraving:
    Typically done by hand after the jewelry item is completed, This can be used as a texture, writing, or an image. Engraving is the practice of incising a design onto a hard, usually flat surface by cutting grooves into it with a burin. The result may be a decorated object in itself, as when silver, gold, steel, or glass are engraved.
  • Milgrain:
    Milgrain can be spelled with either one “l” or two. A milgrain is a row of tiny beads or hemispheres along the edge or boundary of a section of jewelry. Often, you'll see it all along the outer edges of band rings. Derived from the French 'mille-grain'.
  • Planished (Hammered):
    The texture of this finish is a dimpled look, by carefully using a small hammer to dimple the surface of the metal. This is very labor intensive. The finish on the hammer surface determines how bright this finish looks. With every strike of the hammer, the metal being struck takes on the same surface texture of the hammer. The finer the finish on the hammer head, the shinier and brighter the finished pattern will be.
  • Reticulation:
    Reticulation, which is used quite often by studio jewelers, produces a ridged or ripply surface through controlled heating with a torch. With indirect light, the ridges of reticulation cast shadows, the shadows on a reticulated surface shift as the light source, the jewelry, or the wearer moves.

The surface finish of jewelry items can vary significantly, depending on the materials and processes used to make the item.
Education with the client is important as they need to understand what the designer is trying to convey. If there is not effective communication of the surface requirements between the client and the designer, the jewelry item produced will not meet the criteria set by the client. Often the consequences of omitting, incorrectly specifying, or misinterpreting surface finish requirements can have a substantial impact on the perceived value, and cost of the final jewelry item as well. The result is an unhappy client, and added costs to correct the error in surface finish.

Some extra notes about textures.


Surface roughness often shortened to roughness, is a component of surface texture. It is quantified by the deviations in the direction of the normal vector of a real surface from its ideal form. If these deviations are large, the surface is rough; if they are small, the surface is smooth.


A pattern is a regularity in the world. As such, the elements of a pattern repeat in a predictable manner. A geometric pattern is a kind of pattern formed of geometric shapes and typically repeated like a wallpaper design. Any of the senses may directly observe patterns.


Lay is the direction of the predominant surface pattern.

Note: My background is not the same as your average jeweler, so I see many things more from the view of a manufacturing type mindset and not so much from the artistic side. I realize that others may have other opinions about this, and I am ok with it.