Body Piercing & Jewelry Glossary

Shopping for body jewelry can sometimes be daunting, especially if you don't know the terminology used in the piercing world.  Questions like "what does gauge mean?" or "what's a captive bead ring"? seem commonplace to those in the industry, but not always to someone who's new to the game.

We've compiled this list that will, hopefully, take the mystery out of how to talk to your piercer or how to shop for new jewelry. Here you will find helpful info about all things piercing related. If there is something you cannot find, please feel free to contact us.


: A substance composed of two or more metals. Usually a less costly metal mixed with a more valuable one.

Anaphylactic Shock: A severe reaction to a substance to which a person has an extreme sensitivity.

Angel Bites Piercing: Nearly identical to snake bites, an angel bites piercing is performed on each side of the upper lip.

Anti-Tragus: The ridge of cartilage that is opposite the tragus, which comes out over the ear canal. 

Argyria: When silver leaches into the pierced hole before it has had time to heal, the skin around the area will often turn black. 

Ashley Piercing: An Ashley piercing is a central lower lip piercing that goes through the lip rather than beneath it.

Attachments: Any type of an add-on that is attached to the primary body jewelry. 

Autoclave: A medical sterilization device that uses high pressure steam heat to sterilize. 


Barbell: Standard piercing jewelry with a rod that goes through the piercing and a ball at either end to hold it in place. 

Belly Button Ring aka Navel Ring: Jewelry that is located through the flesh at the top of the belly button and comes out the actual belly button opening. 

Body Modification: Refers to any kind of procedure that deliberately changes or enhances the body for aesthetic or personal reasons, but particularly certain forms of body art such as piercing, stretching, scarification, and tattooing. 

Bridge Piercing: A horizontal piercing through the skin at the bridge of the nose.

Calipers: A tool used to measure thickness and internal or external diameters. 

Canine Bites Piercing: A piercing comprised of 4 single piercings done on both sides of the upper and lower lips.

Cannula: The plastic sleeve that's on the outside of the piercing needle. The cannula stays in place after the needle is withdrawn and is then used as a guide in order to put the jewelry into place. 

Captive Bead Ring (CBR): A popular style of ring that holds a bead in place tightly by clamping it between the two bent ends. 

Cartilage: The tissue that gives shape to the nose and ears. (Cartilage piercings generally refer to the piercings in the ear.)

Cheek Piercings: Usually performed as a pair, cheek piercings are facial piercings done in a symmetrical fashion on the cheeks. 

Chloroxylenol: An antiseptic and disinfectant that is used for skin disinfection and cleaning surgical instruments. 

Chondritis: Cartilage inflammation

Circular Barbell: A horseshoe-shaped barbell that has balls at either end. 

Clamp: A medical clamp that is used to hold either skin or other instruments during your piercing. 

Conch: The shell-shaped area located in the center region of the ear. Better known for its two types of earrings: the inner conch piercing and the outer conch piercing. The puncturing of these areas within the ear offers two similar, yet distinctive styles.

Curved Barbell: A barbell that is slightly curved or bent. 

Cyber Bites Piercing: The cyber bites piercing combines the Medusa and labret piercings by placing one centered piercing above and below the top and bottom lips.

Dahlia Piercing: The Dahlia piercing is placed at both corners of the mouth.

Daith: The part of the ear that broadens out slightly while extending down from the upper curve of the outer ear.  The daith piercing (pronounced “day-th”), involves the perforation of the crus of the helix using a curved needle so not to puncture nor damage the surrounding portions of cartilage. A receiving tube may be used to assist in the procedure to ensure the needle is caught on the other side.

Dermal Punch: The dermal punch is a razor-sharp, circular blade that protrudes and removes a clean disk of cartilage from the desired area.

Dolphin Bites Piercing: Centered on the lower lip, dolphin bites are somewhat similar to snake bite piercings, only much closer together.


Expander: A plug that is used to stretch or enlarge a piercing. 

Eyelet: A hollow tube or cylinder that is put into a punched or stretched piercing.


Fistula: A medical term referring to any opening or break in the skin that is lined throughout its length with skin. Any time a piercing has fully healed, it has formed a fistula. 

Forward Helix: Quite similar to the helix (or rim), the forward helix piercing is done at the top front of the ear, or the front side of the helix.


Gauge: The term they use when referring to the thickness of a barbell or other piece of body jewelry.


Helix: The outer ring or rim of cartilage on the ear.


Industrial/Scaffold: Most commonly known in the States as an industrial piercing, but also called a scaffold piercing in other countries, it is the combination of any two piercings made with a hollow piercing needle to connect a single straight piece of jewelry. 


Jestrum Piercing: Protruding just above the center top lip, like the Medusa, and exiting the center of the top lip itself, a Jestrum piercing is basically and upside-down vertical labret.


Keloid: The scar tissue that builds up around a piercing.


Labret: The piercing of the lower lip or the jewelry that goes there. (see labret piercing below)

Labret Piercing: The labret is a form of piercing done just below the center of the lower lip and above the chin.

Lobe: Undeniably, the most common portion of the ear to be pierced, the lobe is considered both the largest and softest part of the ear. Due its size, the lobe is capable of accommodating multiple piercings.


Madonna Piercing: A piercing similar to that of the Monroe, the Madonna piercing is done on the left side to represent the mole on Madonna’s lip.

Mastitis: The painful inflammation of the breast tissue that is most likely caused by a bacterial infection from a nipple piercing that has not been properly cared for.

Medusa Piercing: Medusa piercings are placed centrally in the groove above the the upper lip.

Migration: The shifting of body jewelry from its original placement. 

Monroe Piercing: A single piercing done on the right side of the upper lip. Monroe piercings are named for the mole the late Marilyn Monroe had above her lip.


Nipple Shields: Decorative jewelry that goes around the nipple and is held in place by the barbell that goes through it. 

Nose Stud: Nose jewelry that is a straight or curved bar with only one ball on the outer end that's inserted into a nostril piercing. 


Oral Piercings: Piercings that are done on, in, or around the mouth, including tongue, lip, cheek, and labret piercings.

O-Ring: A rubber ring that fits on the end of a single-flared plug to keep it in place in your piercing. 


Parking: When piercings, like a belly button piercing, shift slightly to one side or the other. 

Piercing Gun: A spring-loaded device used to shoot a piercing stud through soft tissue. 

Piercing Needle: A needle specifically used to pierce a small hole in the flesh to allow jewelry to be passed through. 

Plug: Body jewelry that can be made of different materials that is placed in a stretched piercing, usually in an earlobe. 


: When a piercing has been poorly placed and it rubs against the bone and causes it to disintegrate over time. 

Retainer: Body jewelry that is clear or flesh colored. Retainers are used for keeping a piercing open but not noticeable. 

Ring Closing Pliers: Pliers that you use to reduce the gap in body jewelry, such as captive bead rings, without doing any damage to the jewelry. 

Ring Opening Pliers: Just the opposite of ring closing pliers these are designed for opening body jewelry. 

Rook: The piercing of the anti-helix, which is the cartilage area of the ear that is directly below the upper curve of the outer ear.


Septum: The central cartilage of the nose that divides the two nostrils. 

Shark Bites Piercing: Totaling 4 piercings, two piercings are done close together and on both the left and right sides of the lower lip.

Snug: Known as a snug (or anti-helix) piercing, this unique procedure pierces the ear’s inner cartilage. A rather shallow opening when compared to other ear piercing locations, a snug piercing truly lives up to its namesake. 

Spider Bites Piercing (or Viper Bites Piercing): This double piercing is placed close together and can be on either the left or right side of the bottom lip.

Standard Lip Piercing: A single, off-centered piercing of the lower or upper lip.   


: A rod that is larger at one end than it is at the other end. It is used to gradually stretch the opening of a piercing. 

Tongue Barbell: Much like a standard piercing barbell, the difference is the ball at one end is not removable. This is the ball that is on the top of the tongue and the bottom ball is secured underneath the tongue. 

Tongue Rims: A piercing along the outer edge of the tongue, and most likely done with rings. 

Tragus: The cartilage opposite the inner curve of the ear that protrudes over the ear canal and is attached to the front side of the face.

Transverse Lobe: A horizontal piercing of the bottom earlobe.

Tube or Tunnel: This hollow plug that is placed in a stretched piercing so that you can see through it. 


UV Reactive Jewelry: This fluorescent body jewelry that glows under UV light. 


Vertical Labret Piercing
: This piercing is centered an goes through the bottom lip. A curved barbell is typically used for this piercing type.