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jewelry glossary

Antique jewelry glossary

Welcome to our extensive antique jewelry glossary with around 1,500 jewelry related entries.If you feel you are missing an explanation, feel free to let us know and we will add it.

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A horn is a pointed projection of the skin on the head of various mammals, consisting of a covering of horn (keratin and other proteins) surrounding a core of living bone. True horns are found only among the ruminant artiodactyls, in the families Antilocapridae (pronghorn) and Bovidae (cattle, goats, antelope etc.). These animals have one or occasionally two pairs of horns, which usually have a curved or spiral shape, often with ridges or fluting. In many species only the males have horns. Horns start to grow soon after birth, and continue to grow throughout the life of the animal (except in pronghorns, which shed the outer layer annually, but retain the bony core). Similar growths on other parts of the body are not usually called horns, but spurs, claws or hoofs.

Human uses of horns

Use of animal horns is controversial, especially if the animal was specifically hunted for the horn as a hunting trophy or object of decoration or utility. Some animals are threatened or endangered to reduced populations partially from pressures of such hunting. Some peoples use bovid horns as musical instruments, for example the shofar. These have evolved into brass instruments in which, unlike the trumpet, the bore gradually increases in width through most of its length - that is to say, it is conical rather than cylindrical. These are called horns, though made of metal.

  • Drinking horns' are bovid horns removed from the bone core, cleaned and polished and used as drinking vessels. (See also the legend of the Horn of plenty, or Cornucopia).
  • Powder horns were originally bovid horns fitted with lids and carrying straps, used to carry gunpowder. Powder flasks of any material may be referred to as powder horns.
  • Antelope horns are used in traditional Chinese medicine.
  • Horn can also refer to keratin, the material of which a horn is made, sometimes including keratin from other parts of animals, such as hoofs. Horn may be used as a material in tools, furniture and decoration, among other uses. In these applications, horn is valued for its hardness, and it has given rise to the expression hard as horn. Horn is somewhat thermoplastic and (like tortoise shell) was formerly used for many purposes where plastic would now be used. Horn may be used to make glue.
  • Horn bows are bows made from a combination of horn, sinew and usually wood. These materials allow more energy to be stored in a short bow than wood would.
  • "Horn" buttons are usually made from deer antlers, not true horn.

From: Wikipedia


The following is from: An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry, autor: Harold Newman, publishers: Thames and Hudson

The fibrous, pointed growth on the heads of some animals which, being tough, light, and easily worked, has for centuries been used in various forms for ornamental wear and utilitarian purposes. The horn principally used was ox-horn, ranging from white to dark brown, which has been made onto buckles, brooches, etc.

In China articles have been made of Rhinoceros horn. The use of horn was revived by René Lalique (who employed it for making decorative combs, hair ornaments, and elaborate tiaras) and by Lucien Gaillard.

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