Book Reviews

MINERAL ORIGINS

Minerals, by George W. Robinson. 1994. 208 pages. 140 color illustrations. $40. (JCK Data Center CH-006) To order, call (800) 223-2336.

The author, curator of minerals at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa, has written a novel mineral book. Rather than identify a few hundred mineral species, he gives readers a background into what mineralogy is all about.

The illustrations are superb, dramatically photographed examples from the museum’s collection. The coffee-table-sized book allows the reproductions to be shown large enough for the real beauty of the specimens to be seen.

Robinson divides the book into a logical series of chapters that discuss all the environments in which minerals are found, beginning with crystal changes and the magmatic and igneous minerals that well up from the earth’s depths to start the process. He proceeds through the breakdown to other combinations and redeposition as other combinations. Section headings include “Minerals from the Molten Rock,” “Minerals and Water: Chemical Alteration” and “Recrystallization.”

One hesitates to criticize the effort. Presumably, intelligent readers who see the word beryl, chalcopyrite or calcite want to know what it is and why it should interest them. Robinson rarely tells them. He flings dozens of names about with abandon, but leaves the non-mineralogist in ignorance.

Minerals is almost a basic book, an introduction to minerals and the processes responsible for them. Though the writing is pedantic, the illustrations are exciting. If some buyers struggle through the text, too, it will do them good. &endash; Frederick H. Pough, Ph.D., Reno, Nev.; JCK Book Judge.

WHAT’S IT WORTH?

The Standard Catalog of Gem Values, 2nd edition, by Anna M. Miller and John Sinkankas. 1994. 258 pages. 47 black/white illustrations. $24. (JCK Data Center LX-007) To order, call (802) 457-4000.

A publication of colored gem values seemingly is an impossible task. With variables of color, cutting and clarity almost impossible to quantify on paper, not to mention changes in value caused by sources, politics, world economics, style choices, supply and demand, I expected to find a pointless book. However, The Standard Catalog of Gem Values is as complete and thorough as could be developed. I found it descriptive and interesting. Its foundations for pricing are complete.

The authors have done a good job with market information ranging from why a stone is rare and heat treatments to fluctuations in availability at the mine, export problems, marketing and resale margins, historic price trends, cutting, the effects of flaws and effects of color distribution.

They proceed to discuss ways of viewing rough, cabochon vs. faceted, carving rough selection, selection of chatoyant and asteriated material, treatments of rough and consideration of double refraction in the selection of rough.

When they begin a discussion of faceted gemstones, the authors delve into the necessities of a gemstone to be faceted, the basics of cut, effects of inclusions, ideal cutting angles and variations from ideal surface finishes, proportions of cabochon gems, what to look for in optical effect gems and common shapes and cuts for cabochons and faceted gems. They end up with some “rules” for choosing gems.

The book also deals with engraved gems, carvings and miscellaneous gemstone objects.

As an appraiser or in dealing with a customer, I’m often left unsure of the value of a gem in a piece of jewelry. This book is not the final answer but, combined with other market data, will provide wonderful background information to support my value decision. The Standard Catalog of Gem Values will be an important part of my reference library and should be a part of yours. &endash; James C. Jessop, Certified Gemologist Appraiser, AGS; George Carter, Jessop & Co., San Diego, Cal.; JCK Book Judge.

EARRING STARTERS

Techniques of Fashion Earrings, by Deon DeLange. 1995. 72 pages, four in color. $9.95. (JCK Data Center LV-009) To order, call (800) 547-3364.

This slim volume adds to the growing list of titles by its publisher aimed at the beginning-to-intermediate bead stringer. It consists of clear illustrations and instructions on the sequence of assembly for patterned earrings that use small glass beads and porcupine quills.

The book describes basic techniques of bead stringing and offers about 40 blueprints for patterns that range from geometric to figurative and even includes a Christmas section. &endash; Tim McCreight, Maine College of Arts, Portland, Me.; JCK Book Judge.

AGATE TO ZIRCON

Gemstones: Beauty, Lore, and Fascination, by Michael F. Babinski. 1995. 96 pages, paperback. $7.95. (JCK Data Center MT-001) To order, call (610) 964-4470.

This is a great little book! It has 96 pages of interesting information on the beauty and lore of gemstones. Twenty-two gems are listed in alphabetical order from agate to zircon. Each section describes the gem’s history, legends, color varieties, hardness and durability.

The information on peridot, for example, covers color (light yellowish green to deep olive green), transparency (transparent to translucent) and cut (faceted or cabochon). It tells how peridot got its name (from the Arab word “faridat,” meaning “gem”), how it’s used as a talisman (if set in yellow gold it supposedly protects against nightmares) and other legends (aids in digestion and cures liver ailments). It includes the locations where peridot is found today (mostly in the U.S., but also in Australia, Brazil and Myanmar). Finally, it lists peridot’s hardness (6.5 to 7), toughness (fair to good) and birthstone month (August). Each of the 22 gemstones is covered in this manner.

The book also has chapters that cover a gem’s journey from its source to the consumer, physical characteristics, magical connotations, synthetics and imitations. Each chapter is only a few pages, but the information is well written and easy to understand.

The book was written for the general public, to be sold in jewelry stores and rock shops. But it’s a worthwhile addition to a jeweler’s library because of its informative, concise format. It would be an excellent source of information for sales associates to include in sales presentations. From my experience, consumers are fascinated with the history of gems. Roma Strong Zanders, Timio 24K Custom Designs, Tempe, Ariz; JCK Book Judge.

SINCE 40,000 YEARS AGO

Beads of the World: A Collector’s Guide and Price Reference, by Peter Francis Jr. 1994. 144 pages. 272 color photos. $19.95. (JCK Data Center CN-056) To order, call (610) 593-1777.

Peter Francis has spent more than 15 years exclusively researching beads all over the world. He’s visited more than 100 bead-making industries, written hundreds of articles on beads and traveled around the world eight times; he now serves as a consultant to many institutions, including the Smithsonian. The New York Times calls him “the world’s leading authority on beads.”

His extremely detailed book provides information on all aspects of beads, including their appeal, history, origins, collecting, uses, materials, manufacture, publications and organizations dedicated to further research, shows, conferences, price guides (with special sections devoted to geographical information) and everything else you could possibly want to know about them.

The book starts 40,000 years ago in the Stone Age, when beads were a byproduct of man’s seeking to adorn and express himself (herself always included). Beads represent his struggles, beliefs, values, technical accomplishments, personalities, economics and, in fact, his entire history. In ancient times, the best way to hold onto wealth was to wear it.

Many beads were produced because of magic, superstition and religion. They became the first line of defense against the Evil Eye. We learn many other tidbits, such as wood emits a gas that attacks shells and pearls. We also learn that gem treatment is nothing new. Even 2,000 years ago, the Chinese knew how to turn poor-quality amethyst into beautiful bright citrine. Other tricks and recipes included soaking carnelian in iron-laced acid and firing it into beautiful reds and bathing emerald in green oil to conceal cracks.

The book also portrays man at his best and worst ecologically (ostriches became extinct in many areas as humans sought their eggs for beads) and lays to rest some fallacies (Manhattan wasn’t bought for $24 worth of beads and trinkets).

The book is superb in all aspects and highly recommended whether you are interested in beads or not. The various details and stories make it relevant and applicable to all. The story of beads is the story of man. &endash; Mark Baldridge, Longwood College, Midlothian, Va.; JCK Book Judge.

DINING SPECIALTIES

Sterling Flatware for Dining Elegance with Price Guide, by Richard Osterberg. 1994. 204 pages. 205 black/ white photos. $39.95. (JCK Data Center CN-058) To order, call (610) 593-1777.

Here is one of the few books with complete and detailed information about the evolution, design and function of sterling flatware place and serving pieces made in the U.S. from the 1860s to the present. Several hundred photographs give helpful support.

The author provides valuable information for the flatware dealer, appraiser and collector. Rare and discontinued pieces such as lettuce forks, strawberry forks, fruit knives, orange knives, egg and sorbet spoons are identified, explained and illustrated. But it offers even more, explaining the reasons behind particular designs of such pieces as citrus spoons, pea spoons, sardine tongs and croquette servers.

The chapters are well organized to make matching and identifying pieces easy.

The price guide is particularly useful to anyone who buys or sells such merchandise.

I had the pleasure of spending several hours with the author while he was preparing this book. His intelligence, knowledge and enthusiasm for sterling flatware come through in his writing. I recommend it to anyone who works with or collects sterling. It’s fascinating. &endash; Robert M. Johnston, R.M. Johnston and Associates, Baltimore, Md.; JCK Book Judge.