Book Reviews

THE BEST OF A SERIES

Complete Price Guide to Watches, No. 14, by Cooksey Shugart and Richard Gilbert. 1994. 1017 pages. $19.95. (JCK Data Center NW-004)

The current 14th edition is larger than preceding editions by 62 pages. It claims, with some justification, that it can be considered a “new encyclopedia.”

Its market report indicates that pocket watch activity rose in 1993, while wrist watches had “another slow period”; also that “higher-grade American watches attracted many new collectors, while moderately-priced wrist watches and other items such as Rolex sports and chronographs suffered another setback in 1993.”

This 1994 edition appears to be the best so far from the esteemed Shugart-Gilbert-Engle group. Priced at the 1992 level of $19.95, it appears to be a good buy.

The first 93 pages can educate a beginner in determining the age of a watch, together with its maker, condition, manufacturer’s grade designation and value.

Some pages here describe watch types, including a good section on railroad watches and another on early, pre-Waltham American watches with a three-page listing of makers.

Other sections cover nomenclature, trademarks, watch care and working principles. Escapements, jewels, winding systems and adjustments are clearly described.

Swiss trademarks, dials and the identification of early Swiss imitations of American watches also make the early pages of reference value to all grades of collectors.

Some pages offer advice in arriving at judgments when one is confronted with an offer/appraiser situation; another addition to earlier editions is a description of how early European watchmakers did their job. – Henry B. Fried, horological editor; JCK book judge.

LOOKING FOR A BOOK?

Jewelry History: A Core Bibliography in Support of Preservation, by Christine De Bow Klein. 1992. 48 pages. $12, including postage. (Jewelers’ Book Club IB-001)

Can you imagine yourself someday writing the story of some segment of the jewelry industry?

If so, you can count on enormous help from Jewelry History: A Core Bibliography in Support of Preservation. It lists 284 basic titles assembled by the author during an internship towards a master’s degree at the Graduate School of Library and Information Service at Catholic University of America, following ten years in her own antique jewelry business.

To build this core bibliography, Klein asked each of nine prominent jewelry historians, scholars and appraisers to identify the 25 books they had found most useful in their zone of research. To their replies she added bibliographies from 11 selected books.

Result: 28 pages of listings, ranging from “Abbot, Mary. Jewels of Romance and Renown. 1933” to “Zucker, Benjamin. Gems & Jewels: A Connoisseur’s Guide. London, Thames and Hudson, 1984.” Each entry describes the book, together with the number of survey panelists who mentioned it, the number of times it appears in the cited bibliographies and the number of copies held in libraries participating in OCLS, the catalog records consortium.

Suppose, now, that you’d like to assemble all the information you can about earrings. To begin with, select a couple of promising titles from the 284-book list and, if the nearest good-sized library doesn’t have them, consult its ILL (inter-library loan) person. Through the OCLC computer, the latter quickly discovers the nearest library that has one of the books and then the other. Perhaps the first book may be sent on loan, while the second is available only on microfilm. Here the library may loan but more likely will say, “You’ll have to come in and read it here,” or “We’ll copy whatever pages you want at such and such per page.”

Reading a microfilm resembles TV. You control the speed; put in a dime and a page is reproduced automatically. If there is a bibliography, print that out.

Microfilm is the principal way to preserve the content of books printed on acidic (wood pulp) paper as was usual after 1850. With aging and use, such volumes often crack when opened, spines break, pages crumble and loosen. Facing such destruction, many have been taken out of circulation and thus are inaccessible for research. Only 28 books in the core bibliography have been microfilmed.

The author lists 15 libraries with “comprehensive” or “considerable” collections of jewelry history books, topped by GIA. She includes some of the books’ replacement values, ranging in one exceptional case to $2,500 for Twining’s A History of the Crown Jewels.

Jewelry-related associations, she declares, should:

  1. Support special collections of jewelry books.

  2. Encourage private industry to preserve and maintain records and archives that can be used by researchers, scholars and appraisers.

  3. Insist on acid-free paper for all publications and appraisals.

  4. Cooperate with other associations with shared interests.

JEWELS OF ANTIQUITY

Greek Gold: Jewelry of the Classical World, by Dyfri Williams and Jack Ogden. 1994. 256 pages. 260 color, 30 black/white illustrations. $45. (JCK Data Center AA-044)

When the British Museum in London and the Metropolitan Museum in New York City join forces to create a major exhibition of classical Greek gold jewelry, you can bet it will be worthwhile. When scholars with the experience and passion of Ogden and Williams team up to write about the exhibition, the result is certain to be top-drawer.

This book – a wondrous catalog of a wondrous event – is a genuine treat. The scholarship is as thorough as it is reliable. Electron microphotographs, familiar to some readers from Ogden’s Jewellery of the Ancient World, enlarge our understanding of the mastery of the jewelers of antiquity and provide access to these wonderful artifacts that cannot be found in any other way.

Scholars of the ancient world will enjoy the careful catalog entries that include size, provenance, dating and descriptions. For the rest of us, it’s the glorious jewelry that makes this book a must-have volume. Most of the color illustrations are larger than life. The sumptuous volume that results provides, for me at least, a visual experience that is so powerful it’s best described as visceral. Moving from page to page, I feel my pulse quicken and my spine curve down, metaphorically pressing against the display case in my eagerness.

As I wrote this, the show was about to open in New York City, where it was to be at the Met from Jan. 2 through March 24. I’ll go because nothing can replace the thrill of seeing such masterful work close at hand. But I’ll carry this book along with me, because the close-up photographs and enlightening descriptions enlarge the experience so dramatically.

People who are unable to visit the exhibition are fortunate to have such a wonderful catalog. That it is available at a cost well below the usual price for such a book makes the decision to add it to your collection even easier. – Tim McCreight, Maine College of Art, Portland, Me.; JCK book judge.

DIRECTIONS IN POLYFORM

The New Clay: Techniques & Approaches to Jewelry Making, by Nan Roche. 144 pages. 140 color illustrations. 1991. $24.95. (JCK Data Center GL-001)

The New Clay is a serious and readable text offering polyform clays as a material for unique and production jewelry-making.

Polyform clays are PVC clay-like materials that come in numerous colors, consistencies and working characteristics and are set hard by low-temperature baking. Afterward, they can be drilled, sanded and painted. Excellent imitations of most opaque and translucent gem materials are possible with this technique.

You might view jewelry making with this material as a “beginning hobby” or low-level craft work. But this well thought-out book goes far to counter such an early dismissal. How the material is used – rather than its nature – is what counts, and Nan Roche gives a great overview of techniques and pieces that take polyform clays to a high level of material control and understanding.

The book illustrates dozens of specific techniques with good diagrams and photos of finished work. The instructions look easy to follow. Tricks include transfers, foils and molds.

The New Clay could be used as a text for a serious course in the material. In all, a good book worth consulting if interested in beads, glass, color, precise pattern control, designing, mimicry or in making jewelry with these materials. I’d have to call it the definitive work on polyform clays. – Charles Lewton-Brain, Center for Jewellery Studies, Calgary, Alberta; JCK book judge.