Book Reviews


Jewelry of Our Time, by Helen W. Drutt and Peter Dormer. 1995. 500 illustrations. 352 pages. $55. (JCK Data Center DT-036) To order call (800) 433-1238.

Since Helen Drutt started her Philadelphia, Pa., gallery in 1974, she has been a tireless promoter of contemporary designer jewelry. She has amassed an impressive personal collection and has traveled widely to show it to the world. This volume takes her initiative one step further and enlarges the enterprise with an excellent collection of essays.

The core of the book is a vast array of photographs of jewelry, all in color and all top quality. It’s a rare exhibition that boasts more than 200 works, yet here’s one with more than twice that number. It would be a terrific book if it were only about the pictures, but it’s even more.

Four thematic chapters are subdivided into 15 brief essays that discuss many of the central issues of fine art jewelry today. Topic include “Preciousness as Content,” “Body Objects, Bodies as Objects” and “Narrative Worlds.” These essays often deal with complex questions but are remarkably direct.

Anyone even remotely involved with jewelry in the past decade must be aware of the shifting winds that blow through the field. The usual conventions fail to apply, but they are not fully shed. Jewelry is outrageous, provocative, even insulting, yet there is still a place for the well-turned form and the sensitive surface.

One of jewelry’s nagging dilemmas has to do with its position in the fine arts gallery. One part of the dilemma resides with the record-keepers — the curators, writers and collectors who establish credentials for artists. The dearth of appropriate information in the field of jewelry is largely to blame for its lack of acceptance as fine art. To the degree this is true, Jewelry of Our Time starts to set things straight. Seventy pages are devoted to resumes of artists represented in the book, and there is a 15-page chronology of exhibitions.

Jewelry of Our Time is a powerful book. I suppose there are important people not represented and valuable themes that go unaddressed, but they don’t jump readily to mind. This is clearly a work of great importance and one that will benefit the field immediately and in the years ahead. The authors are to be congratulated for a significant contribution to the field, and thanked for handling the task with such passion and style. — Tim McCreight, Department of Metalsmithing and Jewelry, Maine College of Art, Portland, Me.; JCK Book Judge.

CIRCA 2000 A.D.

European Designer Jewelry, by Ginger Moro. 1995. 304 pages. 707 illustrations. $79.95. (JCK Data Center CN-067) To order call (610) 593-1777.

Visually stimulating and historically oriented, this hefty tabletop book presents a smorgasbord of “people’s” jewelry, from one-of-a-kind to mass-produced. European Designer Jewelry includes the broadest range of ornaments imaginable, and perusing its pages offers an enlightening glimpse into the state-of-the-jewelry designer’s art circa 2000 A.D.

Divided into 13 chapters, each focusing on a different country, the book methodically surveys many notable designers of the 20th century and their work. Trends, fashion influences, history and the evolution of materials are all addressed; there’s also a value guide for dealers and collectors. Some of the work is well-known and some esoteric.

Included are a 1900 silver and coral necklace by Charles Ashbee, a 1920 French carved horn pendant, a set of 1930 German chrome-Bakelite bracelets, a 1967 nickel-over-brass Pucci necklace and a 1984 plastic and silver hair ornament by Sigurd Persson.

The range of beautiful forms demonstrates the variety of western style. Among the most intriguing is a Bakelite pin in the form of Tyrolian hat with a painted feather and green suede ribbon. Another innovative design is a pair of celluloid glasses with attached blue celluloid earrings curling around the ears.

While some may take issue with the author’s interpretation of the term designer jewelry, all will agree this is a major work. Ginger Moro deserves much praise for documenting an important aspect of western culture: the attempts to adorn the human form as it enters the third millennium. — Alan Revere, Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts, San Francisco, Cal.; JCK Book Judge.


Gem Care, by Fred Ward. 33 pages. 46 color illustrations. $9.95. (JCK Data Center IC-004) To order call (301) 983-1990.

This slim paperback is a real addition to the book collections of working jewelers, jewelry shop owners, gemologists and, interestingly, your customers — the general public.

A compilation of straightforward information on how to take care of gems and jewelry, it covers most of the stones in general trade use. At 33 pages, it is modest indeed (as, too, is the price ). But every page is well laid out, concise, accurate and easy to read. Best of all, it has lovely rich color photographs.

The book is consumer-oriented — it’s designed as a “profit center” for the average jewelry shop or as a premium for jewelers to give to customers. After all, if a customer has spent $300-$500, what is $10 for a gift for him or her? Just say, “Please take one of these; it will answer your questions about care.” It will keep jewelry in better repair and more damage-free than would otherwise be the case.

I showed the book to a number of my students and to several goldsmiths — all felt it was worth having. One commented that he really liked the simplicity of presentation and the clarity of points made.

In particular, the pointers at the bottom of every page (one gem per page) are useful. I have selected malachite as an example: “Ultrasonic: do not use; steamer: do not use; cool soapy water: OK; toughness: poor; light: stable; hardness, 31/2 to 4; heat: avoid heat and sudden temperature changes; chemicals should be avoided: malachite is attacked by acids; use no solvents.” This kind of brief tabular information could save a piece or two from brutality by your customer, your salesperson and, heaven forbid, your goldsmith.

It was kind of nice to read a book where one looks at the information and finds nothing wrong. — Charles Lewton-Brain, Lewton-Brain/Fontana Center for Jewelry Studies, Alberta, Canada.


Visual Optics: Diamond and Gem Identification Without Instruments, by Alan Hodgkinson. 1995. 50 pages. 35 color, three black/white illustrations. $25. (JCK Data Center PD-002) To order call (847) 564-0555.

This new book by Alan Hodgkinson shows how to examine gem properties with few or no instruments. By simply holding a gem close to the eye and looking at a light in a manner that superimposes its streak on a giant scale, for example, Hodgkinson can determine the type and strength of refraction and refractive index and estimate the strength of the dispersion.

Using his methods is fun. You can put in a pleasant day if you have a sufficiently varied stock of cut stones and take the trouble to make up a refractive index scale 48 inches long and mount up a couple of discs and a narrow light source, as illustrated in the book. Then, of course, you check the conclusion on a refractometer and seek color shifts with a dichroscope. — F.H. Pough, Ph.D., Reno, Nev., JCK Book Judge.