Book Reviews

Not for Us

Handbook of Precious Metals, by E.M. Savitsky and Alan Prince. 1989. 600 pages. $175. (JCK Data EQ-001) To order call (800) 821-8312.

This book is named Handbook of Precious Metals. It should be Textbook of Precious Metals for Miners and Scientists. I found the 600-page book intimidating. For example, some of the chapter’s titles are “Principal Ores and Minerals, Principal Deposits,” “Physico-Chemical Properties of Liquid Precious Metals and Their Alloys” and “Phase Equilibria in Precious Metal Systems.”

If there is any relevant information for the jewelry industry, it was buried in periodic table symbols and formulas. A book that covers jewelry techniques such as soldering, casting and fabricating; characteristics of all precious metals, including color-ed gold, silver and platinum; and the chemicals used for refining and pickling metals is necessary. But this isn’t it.

If you are a metallurgist or scientist dealing with precious metals, buy the book. But the average goldsmith, even one who dabbles with alloying, doesn’t need it. – Torrance D. Hoover, Hoover & Strong, Inc., Richmond, Va.; JCK Book Judge.


Dazzling! Jewelry of the Ancient World, by the Gemstone Department of Runestone Press. 1995. 64 pages. 25 color, 30 black/white illustrations. $21.95. (JCK Data Center HL-004) To order call (612) 332-3344.

This book is an introductory volume aimed at a young market rather than serious literature. Seen in that context, it’s a useful addition to the limited selection available.

The task is daunting. In this small book, the authors introduce basic archaeological procedures and describe human ornamentation, from the ancient Egyptians to American Indians. Cramming so many cultures with their widely varied technologies into such a small space is bound to cramp the truth a little. With an introductory chapter given to the science of archaeology, this leaves about a dozen pages each to the remaining four chapters, which deal in turn with the Middle East, Asia, Europe and the Americas.

Though it’s unsettling, the authors shrewdly emphasize the storybook side of archaeology. They introduce familiar and little-known terms (filigree and ajoure, for instance)

and include some details that seem to me to be minor on such a grand stage. But to point them out is to quibble. The mission of the book – it seems to me – is to crack open a window for eager young students, a window that leads to the world of people who make jewelry. And for this we should be grateful. – Tim McCreight, Maine College of Art, Portland,Me.; JCK Book Judge.


Silver in America 1840-1940: A Century of Splendor, by Charles L. Venable. 1995. 368 pages. 260 illustrations. $65. (JCK Data Center AA-045) To order call (212) 206-7715.

This is one of the best-written books on American silver I’ve ever read. It explores the emergence of the United States as a world leader in silverware between 1840 and 1940. In nine chapters, the author examines in scholarly detail the production, marketing, design and consumption of silverware, including flatware, hollowware, baby goods and novelties.

The historical development of the American silverware industry is told by tracing the histories of key manufacturers and retailers, some that exist today and others no longer in business. Included is the work of such internationally known companies as Tiffany, Gorham, Reed & Barton, Kirk and Oneida. The exquisite silver merchandise of these and many other American silversmiths is placed in the context of the opulent dining and gift-giving rituals of the 19th century.

The author, curator of decorative arts at the Dallas Museum of Art, draws on extensive research to explain how and why Americans became the largest producers and consumers of silver tableware in the world after 1840. In the prosperous post-Civil War period, fine silverware came to be viewed as a necessary part of increasingly elaborate social rituals and was displayed in opulent rooms.

World War II greatly curtailed silverware production as the manufacturers turned to war production. This caused a pent-up demand to be filled in the immediate post-war years. This high demand eventually subsided, though a number of Americans still regard silver as a symbol of refinement and family heritage.

– Robert M. Johnston, R.M. Johnston and Associates, Baltimore, Md.; JCK Book Judge.


Jewelry by Joan Rivers, by Joan Rivers. 1996. 120 pages. 71 color illustrations. $35. (JCK Data File NG-009) To order, call (212) 888-1969.

If you’re a compulsive jewelry book buyer, here’s one to cure your obsession. Presenting itself as an exposé of comedienne Joan Rivers’ passion for jewelry, this attractive book is little more than an expensive catalog.

Placing herself in the company of Tiffany, Bulgari and Fabergé, the author has included a hundred “specially commissioned” photos of her collection, which is sold primarily through QVC, the cable retailer. The work is a mixture of authentic famous jewels alongside costume copies by Rivers plus nearly generic designs.

The author/manufacturer tells anecdotes of her life-long affinity for jewelry to establish validity. She tells us of her dissatisfaction with other costume jewelry, which she says motivated her to hire a costume designer as her jewelry design assistant.

Copying Fabergé and others provided much of the inspiration for her line. “Pestering” manufacturers in Providence, Rivers tells us, was her method for achieving favorable prices. Passing on those savings to customers is not one of the things she explains.

Most certainly, the book will appeal to someone. We are told consumers have spent more than $100 million on the Joan Rivers Collection. There also are die-hard Joan Rivers fans who will want this book to go on their coffee tables. Other than that, unless you are an absolutely helpless jewelry book junkie, save your money and borrow the book from a library, if you can find one foolish enough to own it.

– Alan Revere, Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts, San Francisco; JCK Book Judge.

To Cut A Diamond The Art of Diamond Cutting,

by Basil Watermeyer and Sofus Michelsen, G.G. 137 pages. 140 illustrations. 1994. $27.95. (JCK Data File EP-080) To order call (212)


This is a specialized book of interest to faceters. In fact, the author writes, “This condensed manual is specifically written for the purpose of converting the colored stone faceter to a diamond cutter.” He also indicates the book is devoted to the individual who has already achieved a level of competence as a colored stone faceter or a self-taught diamond cutter.

The Art of Diamond Cutting, a 7-in.-by-10-in. soft-cover book, includes an extensive glossary and appendix of rough diamond prices. The 13 chapters, totaling 88 pages, cover topics such as the origin of diamonds, facet placement, repair and recutting, equipment, rough diamond grading and diamond cutting as a cottage industry.

The information is thorough and easy to follow, but I would have to describe as overly ambitious the authors’ statement that “once a bench, tang, and dop system are in place, all that is needed to complete a standard round brilliant is to follow the procedure in this book.”

However, for colored stone faceters who have considered transitioning to faceting diamonds, this book is the perfect place to start. It will take you step-by-step through selection of diamond rough to buying the proper cutting equipment.

– Roma Strong Zanders, G.G., TIMIO 24K Custom Designs, Tempe, Ariz.; JCK Book Judge.

A Japanese Art

Mokumé Gané in the Small Shops, by Steve Midgett. Video: two hours, 20 minutes; $49.95 plus $3.05 mailing. Book: 122 pages, 80 black/white illustrations; $16.95 plus $3.05 mailing (JCK Data File: video, GG-001; book, G-G00Z) To order call (800) 374-6423.

Mokumé gané is an ancient Japanese metalworking technique used to produce multicolored sheet stock in a variety of patterns. The words mokumé gané refer to a wood-grain pattern. The basic procedure consists of laminating two to 50 layers of contrasting metals into one solid billet and then manipulating it to achieve a desired pattern.

Steve Midgett has developed a small, inexpensive kiln and clamp that allows anyone to try the technique. Previously, a goldsmith would have to invest a lot of money to be able to hot-roll a heated billet through a rolling mill. The kiln is cheap and eliminates the need to hot roll the metal.

If you are at all interested in mokumé gané, the video is worth it. The book seems to be a good alternative if you don’t want to spend the extra money. However, either one will pay for itself. – Torrance D. Hoover, Hoover & Strong Inc., Richmond, Va.: JCK Book Judge.


Yogo, the Great American Sapphire, by Stephen M. Voynick. Paperback, 215 pages, 12 color and several b/w illustrations. 1985, revised 1987, fourth printing 1995. $12. (JCK

Data File MB-014) To order call (602) 326-9595.

The latest printing of Yogo, the Great American Sapphire adds information about significant developments in sapphire mining in Montana, in color enhancement by heating and the involvement of unlikely major companies since the 1987 revision. These additions were essential supplements to the already commendable book.

With progress in sapphire treatment, new sources and a new attitude among sapphire dealers regarding their wares, a bit more updating, and a few words about neighboring deposits, would not even have been amiss. An extensively quoted long-time dealer reflects a persisting attitude toward treated gems of all sorts (some old-timers believe all good

rubies must come from Myanmar and all good sapphires must come from Sri Lanka, Myanmar or Kashmir). That’s no more correct than his erroneous implication that heated stones will revert to their former hue in time.

Some years ago, Voynick did a thorough job tracing the history of the Yogo deposit in Montana. He examined many documents and prepared a detailed history of the deposit. Living in the area, he is well-informed and has been a prolific author on mining in several areas in the West. In fact, an earlier edition of this book has already been reviewed in this journal and was recommended as an essential addition for the jeweler with any Montana sapphires in his stock. So if you’ve been waiting to buy it, wait no more. Someday, perhaps, the author will cover the remaining Montana sapphires, the river reefs and their many colors.

– Frederick H. Pough, Ph.D., JCK Book Judge.

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