Book Reviews

GOLDSMITH’S AID

Practical Goldsmith; Mounting Joints, Electroplating. 1993. 80 pages. 1,216 color photographs. $70. (JCK Data Center DV-009) To order call (49-771) 976-6749.

Well, where to start? This is the fourth in an excellent series from Germany of technical how-to books for serious goldsmiths. It has numerous superb, step-by-step photos and instructions. While there are a number of sometimes confusing translating flaws, I recommend this book for anyone who is training as a goldsmith or wants to improve as a working professional. If that wasn’t a strong enough recommendation, let’s just say that as a professional goldsmith I want this book – and you should, too.

Like the others in this series, it has a sturdy soft cover and feels very clean and crisp in its layout. Side-by-side blocks present the text in English and German. The former is a readable, distilled and, in the main, reasonable rendition of the German. The explanatory color photographs are really good, clear and very informative. They are studio shots, with four square ones to a page.

The two main contributors are Wilfried Schafer, goldsmith, and Chris Meier, photographer. The photographs make you feel as if you were looking out of the goldsmith’s eyes at the bench pin, tools and work.

The projects are mostly those used to train apprentices in construction and linkage systems in Germany. They include making a number of jointed square setting constructed linkage systems, jump ring connections (called eye joints – one error that got under my skin), finishing, bracelet systems, hinges, a universal joint for bracelets and necklaces, electroforming, degreasing, electroplating gold, silver and rhodium, electropolishing and brush plating.

Then come several pages of technical tables and information about construction, including notes on age hardening gold alloys by heat treatment. This tidbit is not normally addressed by technical books in North America.

As in other books in this series, tools rare in North America are seen but not explained. Some examples: a thumb ratchet feed wire soldering pencil that cranks wire solder through as you use it and a really nice miter filing clamp (I want one of these sometime) which allows you to file truly accurate angles on metal rods, wires, sheet and tubes. Frei & Borel (which also carries this series of books) is among firms supplying this nifty tool in the U.S. A careful look at the pictures offers numerous details on German tools and working methods, which pliers hold what, etc.

This is the third of the series I have reviewed, and the translation is really rocky in parts. Once again, the pictures save the day, so don’t let this criticism stop you from getting the book. Some typical offenses (the book’s English translation first, then the actual meaning of the German text as I translate it): hinged clamp for tubing cutter, callipers for dividers, eye for jump ring, round for circular and inserted for set in. You get the idea. Still, I recommend this book. – Charles Lewton-Brain, Lewton-Brain Fontana Center for Jewellery Studies, Calgary, Alberta, Canada; JCK Book Judge.

SEAMANSHIP

Longitude, by Dava Sobel. 1995. 184 pages. $19. (JCK Data Center ER-004). Call (212) 265-3632.

At this writing, this book had been on the New York Times best-seller list for six weeks. Upon reading it, you see why it has become so popular. The alternate title is “The true story of a lone genius who solved the greatest scientific problem of his time.”

Dava Sobel, a former science writer for the Times who has won a gold medal for her science writing, has done her homework in gathering information for this book. Her mentors sound like a Who’s Who of Horology. Chiefly, they were William Andrewes, former curator of the Atwood (Rockford) Time Museum and currently in a similar capacity at Harvard, and Jonathan Betts, Curator of Horology at the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, England, two of the most highly respected authorities on the subject.

While the history of the marine chronometer has been recorded in several technical volumes, Sobel has been able to unravel an otherwise complicated subject so that the lay public has found enrichment in reading it.

The battle between the horologist and the traditionalist over use of a precision portable timepiece vs. lunar eclipses is made clear. Using lunar eclipses to arrive at longitude while far at sea is an involved exercise, yet this book makes it understandable. The older method was championed by the Astronomer Royal, who comes off as a prejudiced villain who put many stumbling blocks in John Harrison’s way.

Dramatic sections describe disasters and the lives lost due to an ignorance of longitude. Although later tables on lunar eclipses provided longitude, Sobel points out that at best it took four hours of complex mathematics and eye-damaging observations to arrive at the solution. Of course, unless a vessel was anchored in calm waters, it would no longer be at the longitude originally taken.

Told in an interesting style are the efforts of the world’s noted scientists, mathematicians and astronomers, each striving to obtain the 18th century £20,000 reward (equal to millions of today’s dollars). The marine chronometer that evolved from John Harrison’s winning timepiece was used for almost 200 years, until just after World War II.

This account will give anyone interested in horology a sense of pride to be connected with such a practical science and long, glorious history. – Henry B. Fried, horological editor; JCK Book Judge.

UPGRADING HANDBOOKS

Small Retailer’s Guide to Window Displays: How to Create Customer-Grabbing Displays on a “Petty Cash” Budget, by Stan Holden. 1993. 32 pages. $7. paperback. (JCK Data Center OJ-005) To order call (708) 491-1680.

Small Retailer’s Guide to Increased Productivity: How to Be More Productive, by Stan Holden. 1993. 32 pages. $7. paperback. JCK Data Center OJ-006) To order call (708) 491-1680.

Small Retailer’s Guide to Customer Surveys: How to Discover What People Really Think of Your Store – and Why you Should Care, by Stan Holden. 1993. 32 pages $7. paperback. (JCK Data Center OJ-007) To order call (708) 491-1680.

Stan Holden’s series of pamphlets for the small retailer holds many helpful hints.

He has relied on many different sources for his information, thus allowing the reader to simply read his guides on window displays, increased productivity and customer surveys rather than having to pore through so much more.

Much of the information makes a lot of common sense. At first, you wonder why there appear to be no new ideas. However, we need this kind of guide to remind us of what we already should know. From 37 different ideas for window displays to many practical ideas on saving time, Holden’s little “bookies” have something for everyone. – Penn Fix, Dodson Inc., Spokane, Wash.; JCK Book Judge.

DIAMOND TECHNIQUES

The Art of Diamond Setting, by Ray Schow. 1995. $60. 225 pages. (JCK Data Center OV-001) To order call (301)568-1171.

Ray Schow was a master Old World craftsman and a great teacher. The Art of Diamond Setting is a precise, logical, step-by-step guide to the art of setting diamonds.

Organizing his storehouse of knowledge by tool and procedure, Schow presents the average jewelry worker with some real gems of information. He takes complex techniques and breaks them down into progressive steps that are logical and easy to understand. The easy-to-read text and pictures clearly demonstrate the proper steps.

This book is well detailed and I recommend it highly to anyone in this profession. – Penn Fix, George R. Dodson Inc., Spokane, Wash.; JCK Book Judge.

GRANDFATHER CLOCKS

Longcase Clocks and Standing Regulators: Part 1 – Machine Made, by Tran Duy Ly. 1994. 504 pages. $69.50. (JCK Data Center BF-036) To order call (800) 526-0275.

The 1,100 and more clocks covered are from 50 factories in America and abroad. They can be dated from 1876 when the song hit of the year by Henry C. Work, “My Grandfather’s Clock,” caused a resurgence of (and a new name for) the long-cased, tall or floor clock, a popularity that exists to this day. They had been virtually put to rest when good spring-driven shelf and table clocks became available at reasonable prices.

This book, edited and authored by Tran Duy Ly, is an excellent work due to the many contributors and prominent American authorities. More than 1,200 illustrations, photographs and excellent catalog pictures show the cases, case ornamentation and, of course, movements. The subtitle, Machine Made Clocks, denotes a factory origin.

As noted in the introduction by David Morgan, many collectors have not heard of clockmakers such as Haas & Shore, Hirst & Co. and others. So the five pages of important tips by longcase clock authority and collector Thomas J. Spittler provide a valuable guide to identification and current value.

The various factories appear in alphabetical order, starting with products of the American Chime Clock Co. of Newtown, Pa., which used many German movements with chain-pull weights. Among this company’s offerings is the popular late 19th/early 20th century, center-seconds, lyre pendulum clock with massive lenticular bob. Many domestic makers refer to the latter as Swiss when in fact they are comptoise French made.

The American Clock Co. is followed by Ansonia with seven pages of longcase clocks. Becker’s offerings include pages of accessories such as dials, weights, chains, pendulums and chime rods. Borgfeldt & Co.s’ 14 pages show many of its finely made tubular chime clocks, including tubular models and the musical annotations of the seven melodies that changed every day.

Eighty pages illustrate the products of the Colonial Manufacturing Co., still popular tallcase clockmakers.

Walter H. Durfee may be credited with introducing the tubular chime clock into this country. Jo and Owen Burt, acknowledged authorities, supplied a good section describing the clocks of this Providence importer.

Electrically driven and wound longcase clocks are included, along with precision astronomical regulators and clocks by well-known makers such as Herschede, Warren Telechron, Standard Electric and others.

The popular American clockmaker Herschede is well represented and gets a full-page listing of production serial numbers and dates.

Values are listed in a separate thin booklet, which will be issued annually. They are based on clocks in very good condition with all the original case and movement parts intact. One of the highest estimates, $38,000, is for a Seth Thomas astronomical clock with gravity escapement and cast iron frame, which was especially designed for observatory use. Some other clocks with nine or more chime tubes are listed above $20,000.

The index lists company names in alphabetical order and page reference. However, there is no general index. Despite that fact, the book is unique in its presentation and should be welcomed by dealers and collectors. – Henry B. Fried, Horological Editor; JCK Book Judge.

A DEFINITIVE WORK

Silver in America 1840-1940, A Century of Splendor, by Charles L. Venable. 1995. 365 pages. 125 color, 121 black/white illustrations. $65. (JCK Data Center AA-045) To order call (212) 206-7715.

This is finally the reference we have been waiting for. Dr. Venable, Curator of Decorative Arts at the Dallas Museum of Art, thoroughly researched this period – a time when the American silver industry was at its most productive and imaginative. It also was a time in world silver manufacturing when America was unparalleled.

The nine chapters form three major parts:

Part I – Foundations Laid (l840-1875). Discusses how silver cottage trade was transformed from one-man shops to businesses employing many specialized workers.

Part II – Glory Achieved (l875-1915). Illustrates how America’s silver industry quickly became the world’s powerhouse. This period saw Gorham’s production dwarf the entire output of the combined manufactures of Great Britain. America had earned worldwide respect for its design and craftsmanship, in part by attracting some of Europe’s top silversmiths and designers.

Part III – Restructure and Reform (1885-1940). Studies the many mergers and liquidations.

The photographs are good throughout. I never tire of seeing objects in silver, some combined with other metals and enamels, from the Nouveau, aesthetic movement and Arts and Crafts periods. During these eras, the American silver industry and cottage businesses showed the rest of the world, especially England and France, that they could compete in style and design.

A glossary of manufacturing terms takes the reader back to 1932 when a Gorham manual was distributed to the sales force. A biography section brings to light lesser-known but nonetheless influential silver producers and retailers. The final section fully describes every illustration, listing wherever possible the item, maker, date of manufacture, dimensions, maker’s mark, provenance (when known) and a brief commentary on the piece’s style.

Silver in America is certainly an outstanding and essential reference. It journeys into the factories and helps us understand what prompted the technical and style advances, plus the many personalities that helped shape the industry. – Jeffrey Herman, executive director, Society of American Silversmiths, Cranston, R.I.; JCK Book Judge.

DIAMOND DAZZLER

Diamond Grading ABC: Handbook for Diamond Grading, by Verena Pagel-Theisen. 1993. 2nd edition. 305 pages. 450 illustrations. $39. (JCK Data Center IA-008) Call (212) 966-6300.

This high-quality slick paperback is an updated version of a 1990 updated edition of an earlier publication. Because of the many scientific changes and technical developments in the intervening years, the author felt compelled to assist the diamond expert by covering these innovations. She also wanted to deal with the drastic increase in colored diamonds and fancy forms on the market.

The book begins with a brief history of the international struggle of the diamond industry to standardize the various categories, colors and terminology. The table of contents covers topics ranging from color grading to new diamond cuts, recutting damaged diamonds and much more.

While most information is directed at experts, novices can benefit from material such as the newest procedures for filling cracks in diamonds, making them almost invisible. They wouldn’t want to fill cracks themselves of course, but they might not wish to buy one so treated either.

The book continues with all aspects of cutting. Under the clarity section, 34 pages detail problems and terminology, and actually display what is defined as wrong with diamonds. Each picture is worth more than a thousand words. While some photos are color, most are high-quality black and white and, like the scores of charts, diagrams, graphs and tables, are appropriately interspersed with the text.

We are reminded that laser drilling of blemished diamonds began around 1970. Holes as tiny as a human hair were drilled to burn out, bleach or remove coloration; they then were filled with high-refractive wax or synthetic resin. Another fact of note: You can determine whether blue diamonds are natural or irradiated by passing electricity through them. Natural diamonds conduct electricity; treated ones don’t.

There is a thorough discussion of fakes, synthetics, imitations and the new ways to detect them, ranging from specialized equipment to simply touching them to see whether or not they feel cold. The thermal resistance of a diamond is around 100 times less than that of most other gemstones or imitations.

While the book is primarily for people heavily involved in the diamond industry, anyone who will ever buy a diamond would gain invaluable insight into quality, price structures, inconsistent terms and other risks. Unfortunately, too many unscrupulous dealers are interested only in separating others from their hard-earned dollars.

Like a diamond, this book’s small size belies its bright, dazzling contents. It radiates quality and is packed full of brilliant technical information, yet written in an understandable manner, making it of value to everyone. it is highly recommended for anyone who might purchase or wear these beautiful objects. I guarantee that after reading this book, you’ll never look at a diamond in the same manner as before. – Mark Baldridge, professor of art, Longwood College; JCK Book Judge.

CREATING PICTURES

Beaded Images: Intricate Beaded Jewelry Using Brick Stitch, by Barbara Elba. 1994. 80 pages. $9.95 paperback. (JCK Data Center LV-008) To order call (800) 547-3364.

One of the virtues of this book is its clear mission. It succeeds at exactly what it sets out to do – which is to provide specific instruction on stringing small glass beads to create “pictures” of recognizable objects such as birds or holiday icons.

The book starts out with a few pages of introduction to the beads, threads and process, but quickly gets down to carefully drawn schematic illustrations that describe the assembly sequence for patterns.

Colored illustrations serve, as in a cookbook, to help a reader visualize the intended result. A reader with some stringing experience will welcome the direct instructions and find a great saving in time, because the author has worked out about two dozen images. A more advanced artisan also will be pleased with the hexagonal drafting templates at the back of the book and a pervasive invitation to modify the plans for personal expression. Tim McCreight, Maine College of Art, Portland, Me.; JCK Book Judge.

PRICING ENGLISH SILVER

The Price Guide to Antique Silver, by Peter Waldron. 1994 reprint of second edition with 1994 price insert. 368 pages. 1,172 black/white illustrations. $69.50. (JCK Data Center JJ-059) To order call (800) 252-5231.

This handsome, well-illustrated volume includes an excellent price guide and much more. It is filled with information on identifying, evaluating and understanding English antique silver.

The book is a working manual or reference book, not intended to be read from cover to cover in one sitting. But I found it so interesting that I read it cover to cover. The excellent photographs and descriptions made me feel I was getting a guided tour through a fine shop of English antiques.

The author, Peter Waldron, head of Sotheby’s silver department, has organized the book into sections by type of piece, i.e., coffee pots, cruets, drinking vessels, etc. Pieces within a section are arranged chronologically so that developing styles may be clearly understood. Also, at the head of each section, before photographs of the pieces are presented, there is an explanation of the history and use of the item, often including how it got its name. For example, an Argyle or gravy pot is thought to have been invented by one of the Dukes of Argyle.

These introductions in each section are followed by guidance on where and how to look for trademarks, advice about the condition of the piece and a warning on how to detect fakes. Waldron also tells us how popular an item was in its day and how plentiful or rare it is today. It is this careful consideration of all practical factors that makes this book so valuable.

The 1,100 black-and-white photographs are consistently good in quality and large enough to provide sufficient detail. Next to each photograph is a short explanation, the date of the piece and the price range at the time this edition was published. As the author explains, prices change with time, fashion and world economic trends. So there is an annual publication of price revisions to update these price ranges.

While most of the book is devoted to “hollow ware,” a short but very informative section covers “table silver” or flatware. This section gives us a good understanding of the origins and design forms of early spoons, forks and knives, as we know them now. The book includes all the important types of pieces that the collector will find today.

At the end are a bibliography and a list of some of the better-known makers, arranged chronologically, with the approximate dates at which their marks are found. This is a big help to the collector, as the popular makers greatly influence the price of piece.

This must be one of the most important books available on the subject of English antique silver. Its quality paper and good design make it a joy to handle and its wealth of information makes you want to run out and try your new-found knowledge. – Robert M. Johnston, R.M. Johnston Associates, Baltimore, Md.; JCK Book Judge.

ESTATE JEWELRY AID

Warman’s Jewelry: A Fully Illustrated Price Guide to 19th and 20th Century Jewelry, by Christie Romero. 1995. 271 pages. 300 black/white photos. $18.95. (JCK Data Center ES-024) To order call (610) 964-4731.

Christie Romero has made an important contribution to the antique and estate jewelry field with this easy-to-read book with easy-to-find information for both jeweler and collector. She covers the major periods beginning with Victorian and continuing through Arts & Crafts, Edwardian, Art Deco and Post-Modern through 1995.

Of particular importance is the attention she gives to jewelry available to the average collector: gold-filled Victorian pieces, costume and plastic jewelry of the 20th century, native American and Mexican. She does this within the context of finer, more important pieces, so the reader gets a broad picture of each period.

Romero’s thumbnail summaries of each period are to the point and very useful. They include cultural background, women’s fashions and the kinds and styles of jewelry worn, as well as the major designers and jewelry houses of the time.

The jewelry of each time period is shown through black-and-white photos, a combination of auction house pictures and those of private collections taken by Romero. Hundreds of additional items are described. Romero is one of the first to include Arts & Crafts jewelry, an area in which collectors have expressed interest because of a revival in furniture.

Romero has undertaken the huge task of compiling a vast amount of information and then matching it with photos and descriptions of jewelry. She succeeds very well. This book will be useful for the jeweler or collector of estate jewelry. – Penn Fix, George R. Dodson Inc., Spokane, Wash.; JCK Book Judge.

THE RENDERING ART

Designing Jewelry: Brooches, Bracelets, Necklaces and Accessories, by Maurice P. Galli, Dominique Riviere & Fanfan Li. 1995. 192 pages. 83 color illustrations. $59.95. (JCK Data Center CN-061) To order call (610) 593-1777.

Boy, these people are really good at what they do! I’d love to watch them drawing sometime. Like their previous work, The Art of Jewelry Design, this book belongs in your collection if you are interested in drawing jewelry and need some basic design principles and information, especially about commercial conventions in design. It is without any doubt the best-illustrated reference available for methods of rendering commercial jewelry and particularly gemstones. And the authors truly know their subject.

If you have any interest in drawing, rendering, counter sketching or even wanted to use the book as a reference for inspiring design ideas, you should add it to your library.

Its 175 pages feature full-page color pictures of excellent renderings. Major sections include brooches, bracelets, necklaces and accessories. Each of these large sections contains 20 to 30 or more color plates, each with a facing page of descriptive text. It is a lovely, coffee-table-size book with a great binding, hard cover, slightly glossy, smooth paper and a good printing job.

Rendering is concerned with speed and communicating ideas to the client, to oneself and to other goldsmiths. This book does a good job of showing how rendered surfaces and gems are rapidly built up with a minimum of steps and a reduced palette of colors and techniques for maximum effect. Welcome additions are occasional technical notes on jewelry construction and pricing consideration hints.

I must keep reminding myself that the book is intended for a relatively unsophisticated audience in terms of artistic training. The designs seem very old-fashioned to me; I can see examples from the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s. Many resemble what we consider antique rhinestone jewelry designs, because rhinestone jewelry copied upscale jewelry of its time.

Almost no design risks are taken. The gap between the design sense of this book (as well perhaps as the commercial high-end jewelry world) and the contemporary international jewelry design scene is pretty outrageously huge. Get this book, but take time to widen your views; remember that new designs and modern ways of designing offer the jeweler and jewelry store opportunities for profit as yet untapped.

Finally, this book is an excellent resource and reference. As with its predecessor, I insisted that my college library obtain it. – Charles Lewton-Brain, Lewton-Brain Fontana Center for Jewellery Studies, Calgary, Alberta, Canada; JCK Book Judge.

REVERE ON GOLDSMITHING

Reticulated Wedding Bands (JCK Data Center PA 002); Turquoise Pendant (JCK Data Center PA-003). $59.95 each. Videotapes.

Outstanding! I was asked to review two of Alan Revere’s eight videotapes on goldsmithing and found myself eager to try the projects and to buy the remaining six videos for my library.

Revere on Goldsmithing is an eight-part video series intended to teach the classical art of goldsmithing, focusing on basic and intermediate techniques. Revere, an international award-winning designer and goldsmith, begins with the fundamentals of sawing and filing, and progresses to setting stones in an intricate ring. This all is done at an easy-going pace, with Revere demonstrating and instructing throughout.

The two videos I reviewed were Reticulated Wedding Bands (Project 2) and Turquoise Pendant (Project 3). Both were interesting and highly informative. The series starts with a basic project, Japanese Pattern Earrings, and gets progressively more challenging. While the first few videos in the series may be somewhat elementary for goldsmiths with several years’ experience, they still are worth watching, either to learn new techniques or as a review. I had two other goldsmiths, each with eight to ten years’ experience, view the videos; they also found them informative and interesting.

I most liked the way Revere explained everything in simple terms and showed each step in close-up detail. Each project concentrates on a specific skill. Project 2 focuses on the use of a torch, while Project 3 shows how to make a bezel and bail and how to set a cabochon stone in the precision bezel.

Next is unclear. check with Kathy? (she was tied up when I was typing this). Says at beginning series is 8 tapes, priced individually, which doesn’t agree with following:

Each series is presented in two professionally produced videos, lasting from 2 1/4 hours to 3 hours. The videos cost $59.95 and certainly are worth it, I think. If you are unable to attend a seminar or workshop on goldsmithing, these videos would be perfect for you. While you may make a project only once, you may find yourself referring back to advice and suggestions offered in the videos. As far as I know, the only drawback is lack of a list of items needed for the project you are about to view. Either your shop must be equipped with a range of goldsmithing supplies and products or you’ll need to peruse the video before beginning a project to be sure you have everything needed.

These videos will help you build the skills needed to create professional quality work. While each is complete in itself, you’ll want to buy the whole set because they build upon each other, focusing on a range of goldsmithing skills. – Roma Strong Zanders, Timio 24K Custom Designs, Tempe, Ariz., JCK Book Judge.