Book Reviews

NARRAGANSETT SILVERSMITHS

The Silversmiths of Little Rest, by William Davis Miller, limited edition of 250 copies, facsimile of 1928 original. 1992. 50 pages. $65. (JCK Data Center NY-005)

This book will have special meaning to you if you’ve ever visited Little Rest (now called Kingston), R.I., where worked six silversmiths herein described.

The silversmiths served the wealthy farmers who lived in this sparsely populated Narragansett Bay community in the 18th and early 19th centuries. The culture of the Narragansett planters was more akin to that of the South than New England.

The silversmiths had a lower public profile than their competitors in nearby Newport and Boston. However, they did beautiful work, similar in style and proportion to that of Paul Revere and other early New England silversmiths.

A chapter is devoted to the life and work of each craftsman: Samuel Casey, the most noted of the group, John Waite, Joseph Perkins, Nathaniel Helme, Gideon Casey and William Waite. The photographs typify the major items of the time: teapots, porringers, sugar tongs and cream pitchers. I like everything about this book. It’s a collectors’ item. – Robert M. Johnston, Baltimore, Md.; JCK book judge.

METALLURGY LANDMARK

Metal Plating & Patination: Cultural, Technical & Historical Developments, edited by Paul Craddock and Susan Laniece. 305 pages. 1993. $89.95. (JCK Data Center AU-048)

If you are interested in history, metallurgy, metal surface options and plain old technology, this 305-page book could be for you. A landmark text, it describes the history and techniques of metal coloring and depositing precious and base metals onto other metals. It’s a compilation of the best 23 papers presented at a conference at the British Museum in London in 1990 on the coloring and patination of metals.

The conference was the first of its kind – a meeting of art historians, metallurgists, archaeologists, scholars of ancient history, collectors and museum directors from all over the world. The purpose was to share knowledge among disciplines.

The papers examine metalsmithing and jewelry in terms of world history, metallurgy, scientific analysis, technology and working techniques. They are readable, distilled and concise: a reflection of a conference where speakers literally were dragged away from the microphone when their 20 minutes were up.

Various “firsts” were presented at the conference, including major revisions in our understanding of ancient metallurgy. One revelation, for example, was that some Egyptian and Greek statues were made of shakudo-type materials. These alloys of copper with 3%-5% gold are colored in purplish black tones by treatment with simple coloring solutions.

Such a metallurgically based patination method now is considered Japanese – hence the use of the term shakudo-type. Evidence now seems to suggest the technology diffused from Egypt and Greece to India and finally through China to Japan, arriving there in the 15th century. It eventually made its way back to Europe in the late 19th century as a “new” method; there practitioners of Art Nouveau used it to produce very stable colors on metal.

Another example of new information links South American preferences for red gold to the scent of a particular frog in heat.

An excellent, succinct chapter sums up the process of patinating metals. There are superb descriptions of historical gilding methods, silvering, coppering and cladding techniques. One author argues that bronze Greek and Roman statues were painted and naturalistically colored; another author says the same statues were polished and protected with a thin film of pitch in turpentine.

As a goldsmith interested in the science of what I do and in applications of hand-working techniques, I find this book a real treat. For instance, one chapter describes Roman thin shell gold rings being filled with molten sulfur which, when suddenly quenched, acts like a pitch within the ring, allowing it to be chased. After a time it hardens, providing a solid and permanent (2,000 years-plus) support within the ring.

Other papers deal with Bidri brass/ silver inlays into blackened zinc, Bower Barfing (an antique method of blackening steel using steam), the coloring of scientific instruments, detailed descriptions of silvering and silver-cladding methods and the history of electroplating.

The papers represent the accumulated and filtered knowledge of hundreds of people and untold hours of research; each represents the summation of an author’s lifetime interest and commitment. – Charles Lewton-Brain, FGA, Calgary, Alberta, Canada; JCK book judge.

MARKETING GUIDE

AMA Complete Guide to Small Business Marketing, by Kenneth L. Cook. 192 pages. 1993. $29.95. (JCK Data Center NZ-002)

The key to any successful business is planning, and most owners of small businesses don’t do enough of it. In Small Business Marketing, Kenneth Cook is very convincing about the need for planning and provides tools to make it easier.

Cook leads the reader through the planning process with a series of interrelated worksheets. His approach is concise, thoughtful and easy to follow. This thoroughness continues in the analysis of information obtained through a series of questions whose answers are found in specified worksheets.

In the end, the reader should be able to determine his/her market(s), reachable customers and strategies to meet them successfully. This guide can be important for any small business. – Penn Fix, vice president, George R. Dodson Inc., Spokane, Wash.; JCK book judge.

A LOOK AT COSTUME JEWELRY

All That Glitters, by J.L. Lynnlee. 1992 revised edition of 1989 original. 128 pages, 177 color, 120 black/white illustrations. $12.95. (JCK Data Center CN-048)

This book is an updated paperback edition of an earlier publication, somewhat enhanced to make it more attractive.

While small and brief, it is jam-packed with color photos to document the topic of costume jewelry of the 20th century, focusing on the 1920s through the 1960s.

It contains a short history of jewelry, updated evaluations of costume jewelry, major producers and a glimpse at many other facets of this part of the industry.

While the book is oriented toward the general public, the low price ensures its value to anyone who might be remotely interested in this segment of estate jewelry. – Mark S. Baldridge, Longwood College, Farmvale, Va.; JCK book judge.