Book Reviews

JEWELRY’S INTENT

The Art and Craft of Jewelry, by Janet Fitch. 1994. 144 pages. 175 color illustrations. $17.95. (JCK Data Center IX-003.) To order call (800) 722-6657.

This inexpensive, high-quality, how-to-book is loaded with creative ideas for a large variety of materials and techniques to make all types of jewelry. While many of the double-page, color photographs are beautiful, they are not for lovers of expensive gold and silver jewelry. Instead, they would appeal to a younger, fashion-conscious audience that is open-minded to art and what jewelry can be.

Even if you don’t like the end product, you can gain insight into a multitude of other directions. The book is loaded with ideas with which to make jewelry with materials ranging from copper wire to peach pits, from buttons to papier-mch.

Six pages gloss over 40,000 years of jewelry history, two pages are devoted to design sources, two pages detail potential tools, and the rest cover materials and how to use them. It becomes obvious that the author has never attempted some of the techniques described, such as how to cut stained glass or cast metal.

The book introduction compares man’s original intentions to decorate himself with items from his immediate environment with what is promoted by the commercial jewelry world today. Our values and tastes have changed dramatically. The book goes on to document what our jewelry should look like based on the original intent, while today’s commercial jewelry documents the other extreme. Somewhere in the middle is a happy compromise, but it is always good to see both sides.

While I don’t particularly like most of the jewelry portrayed in this book, commercial jewelry can be equally insulting. At least this jewelry returns to its roots and sufficiently whets viewers’ appetites and challenges them to create appealing and satisfying jewelry.

All things considered, this is a cheap investment for amateurs interested in pursuing new (or old) directions. It’s sure to spark interest, motivations and knowledge. – Mark Baldridge, Longwood College, Midlothian, Va.; JCK Book Judge.

ALL FOR $6.95

The Jewelry Engravers Manual, by Allen R. Hardy and John J. Bowman. 1994 reproduction of 1976 edition. 160 pages. 89 black/white illustrations. $6.95. (JCK Data Center BD-049.) To order call (516) 294-7000.

Engraving predates nearly all other art forms and is so simple that it can be accomplished with as little as one tool. Someone on a limited budget can get started for less than the cost of lunch. For the price of a glass of wine, you can toss in this book.

Despite the passage of time and the development of technology, engraving hasn’t changed in centuries. Yes, there is machine engraving, but that is a completely different animal. You also can go high-tech and use power-assisted tools, but the techniques are still the same as using a simple wood and steel push-graver.

All of the basic techniques and a lot more are included in this classic text, originally published in 1954 by Allen R. Hardy and John J. Bowman, both of the Bowman Technical School. The book definitely has survived the test of time. It is just as useful today as the day it was written, a feat that not many technical books can boast.

The book serves well as a classroom text, as a guide for individual study or a reference for seasoned pros. Chapters are thoughtfully organized in a logical sequence, starting with tool preparation and then script, ribbon, Roman, block, old-English lettering and monograms, etc.

It is full of projects and exercises which add new skills and check progress along the way. The current Dover republication is identical to the very successful original. As probably the best value for under $7 in any craft, there is no excuse for not owning a copy and brushing up on your skills. – Alan Revere, Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts, San Francisco; JCK Book Judge.

WEALTH OF INFO

Understanding Jewellery, by David Bennett and Daniela Mascetti. 1994 update from 1989 original. 385 pages. 836 color illustrations. $79.50. (JCK Data Center JJ-056.) To order call (800) 252-5231.

A title as vast as Understanding Jewellery commands exceptionally high standards in scholarship, illustration and production. The challenge of coaxing a clear narrative from the political, economic and cultural history of the last two centuries is a task that would daunt all but the hardiest authors. It is a tribute to Bennett and Mascetti that they have accomplished their task so well.

The authors describe hundreds of pieces of jewelry by examining the relationship of fashion to times of social, political and economic transition. They draw associations between trends in the fine arts and the jewels being worn in the salons and fancy balls of the day. In this regard, any reader will be enriched as well as entertained by the wealth of information.

The authors bring many years of training and hands-on investigation to their enterprise. Both have worked at Sotheby’s auction house for more than a decade, and in that context have been brought into daily contact with some of what we might call “the jewels of the rich and famous.” Sotheby’s photo department deserves praise for its ability to capture the sumptuous colors of gems, enamels and metals.

A value range is presented in pounds sterling that any interested reader can easily interpret.

It is no coincidence that Understanding Jewellery is published by the Antique Collectors’ Club. This organization, which this year will celebrate its 30th anniversary, is devoted to enlarging the pleasure of antique collecting. Having recognized a need for improved documentation, historical research and pricing standards, the Club is engaged in an ambitious publishing program.

This volume sets that series on an elevated path. The production qualities are first-rate: from design to reproduction to binding, these expensive books justify every dollar for the collector, the jewelry appraiser or the jewelry estate dealer. Understanding Jewellery is a collectable in its own right. – Tim McCreight, Maine College of Arts, Portland; JCK Book Judge.

SOUTH OF THE BORDER

Mexican Silver: The Program for Mexicana Europlia ’93, by Clara Bargel lini et al. 1994. 176 pages. 29 color, 295 black/white illustrations. $40. (JCK Data Center NN-003.) To order call (206) 543-4050.

Mexico has been one of the world’s leading producers of silver; exquisite examples from 800-1200 A.D. still exist.

In 1993, “Mexicana Europlia ’93,” a collection of Mexican silver, toured Europe. This book is the program used for the exhibit. The text offers glimpses into the rich history of silver in Mexico – its gathering, mining, refining, processing and artistry.

The program was written by various authors, many repeating information given by previous authors. The resulting volume of text could easily have been condensed.

The photographic plates made me wish I had seen the show. In fact, this catalog would have been wonderful during the exhibit, but much is lost reading it as a stand-alone text. – James C. Jessop, C.G.A., George Carter Jessop Jewelers, San Diego, Cal.; JCK Book Judge.

NATURE’S GEMS

Collecting Earth’s Natural Treasures. 60-minute videotape narrated by Robert Jones. 1993. $24.95. (JCK Data Center AS-002.) To order call (801) 562-5136.

This overview of collectible geological artifacts takes us to the annual gem and mineral bazaar that Tucson becomes for two weeks every February. Aptly narrated by Bob Jones, it commences with views of the show.

Cases brought to Tucson by representatives of legendary foreign museums emphasize the truly international nature of the event.

Complementing them, sometimes even excelling them, we find an abundance of outstanding specimens, case after case of truly superb, privately owned examples of the popular mineral species of the world. Among a wealth of mouth-watering displays distributed through dozens of privately prepared cases, we find displays of stone carvings, faceted stones and stone-set jewelry. Lapidary work has become a basic part of the Tucson experience, and the video shows how stones are cut even by amateurs, filming the series of steps that transform a bit of rough into a sparkling jewel.

This is a well-made, professional-quality video that should certainly stimulate anyone with an interest in geological specimens to visit Tucson and see the show. A jeweler might be impressed with some dollars-and-cents specifics. It could even suggest a new merchandise line – stocking a few specimens for display props, but also something for which some customer might make an offer too good to turn down. – Frederick H. Pough, Ph.D., Reno, Nev.; JCK Book Judge.