Book Reviews

FLAWS IN GEMSTONES

Wonders Within Gemstones: The Elusive Beauty of Gemstone Inclusions, by Anthony de Goutiere. 1996. 135 pages. 124 color illustrations. $49.95. (JCK Data Center PD-001) To order call (847) 564-0555.

This is primarily a pretty picture book, definitely coffee-table caliber. If you can’t afford the Guebelin-Koivula opus on the same subject, this could serve as a less costly way to introduce a lay reader to the subject of flaws in gemstones. It turns faults into virtues by demonstrating that flaws may not be as undesirable as De Beers and peddlers of the 4Cs would have you believe.

No effort is made to be scientific or to use inclusions as guides to the provenance of certain gemstones. In some cases, this is significant; a sapphire that can be demonstrated to be from Kashmir commands a premium over a look-alike without the characteristic dust.

Many of the “inclusions” cited in the book are not inclusions at all. Instead, they are polychromatic reflecting surfaces, each unique, and giving no identification clue.

We have to say it is just a pretty picture book. But if it makes us more receptive to the fascinating things within our gems, it is a worthwhile contribution. — Frederick H. Pough, Reno, Nev.; JCK Book Judge.

A FUN BOOK

Gemstones, by Cally Hall. 1994. Hard cover, $29.95 flexible binding, $17.95. (JCK Data Center CL-002) To order call (800) 225-3362.

Gemstones have a universal appeal that makes them perfect subjects for the coffee-table books that proliferate in the bookstores of America. Commonly, these texts combine old, sometimes inaccurate information with glitzy pictures.

Within this growing maze, encompassing varying levels of usefulness, it’s encouraging to find a book like Gemstones. Beyond the somewhat limited text is a publishing philosophy that is evident in this and other books produced by Eyewitness Handbooks. Simply stated, they select a specific topic and create a museum experience in living color, between two covers. Their texts, commonly found in museums and bookstores, are among the most visually exciting and interesting works available on a broad variety of subjects. Although generally not designed for depth, this venture presents gemstones in a stimulating format, replete with a high level of photographic color control and informational accuracy.

A generous cross-section of gem materials, from the most common to the rare and exotic, is presented with representative examples of mineral specimens, cut stones and jewelry pieces complete with very readable text. The only glaring representational distortions are the line drawing of cutting styles, which unfortunately do not reflect any currently used proportions. In addition, corrections of minor technical issues, such as the brown diamond mislabeled pink/red and the anemic sapphire labeled Kashmir blue, will only make the next edition of the book even stronger.

Despite these minor editorial glitches, this is a fun book that is user-friendly and an excellent investment or gift for anyone interested in gemstones. This is a definite thumbs-up recommendation in hard cover or paperback. — C.R. “Cap” Beesley, president of American Gemological Laboratories, New York, N.Y.; JCK Book Judge.

FOCUS ON RHINESTONES

Collecting Rhinestone and Colored Jewelry, 3rd edition, by Maryanne Dolan. 1993. 318 pages. 14 color, 750 black/white photos. $12.95. (JCK Data Center LQ-009) To order call (205) 757-9966.

This oversized paperback, a virtual dictionary of rhinestone jewelry, is packed with information on costume jewelry. The first 24 pages provide an overview of rhinestone jewelry, including technical, historical, political, cultural and economic aspects — basically, the how, why and when it was created and more.

Everything is detailed, organized and thorough. Manufacturers are listed with information about how they started and what they’re known for.

The next section includes more then 140 pages devoted to trademarks and logos. This section is prefaced by the statement, “Much of the jewelry of the period with which this book deals was not marked in any way. When trademarks do appear they can be found on the jewelry itself, or in the form of a paper label, or on cards to which smaller pieces, such as ornamental pins, were attached.” Because much of the jewelry pictured was manufactured in the first half of this century, it’s unlikely that accompanying paperwork still exists.

The balance of the book features hundreds of photos depicting typical costume jewelry along with suggested values and descriptive information such as dates, materials and unusual techniques. We see every type of flower and plant imaginable, political abbreviations, U.S. flags, stars, hearts, butterflies, bees, frogs, starfish, eagles, elephants, bicycles, Christmas trees, flamingos, etc., all loaded and dripping with the most blatant and dazzling glass stones imaginable.

The book advises the novice what to look for, where to buy and how much to pay. It also discusses the latest lines and trends in the marketplace and explains the proper way to clean and preserve rhinestones (moisture is their biggest enemy).

Other threats include artists who strip the fake stones out of jewelry to use in more appropriate ways while discarding the original settings. It’s ironic that one major concern of collectors is whether this imitation jewelry is the genuine imitation article or counterfeit. Like all collectibles, scarcity plays a major role in value.

All things considered, the book will be of interest and value to the collector of rhinestone jewelry. The author is quite knowledgeable and provides solid advice. She promotes buying jewelry only if you like the piece and will enjoy it. — Mark S. Baldridge, Art Department, Longwood College, Farmville, Va.; JCK Book Judge.