Book Reviews

RICH HISTORY

Jewellery in Britain 1066-1837: A Documentary, Social, Literary and Artistic Survey, by Diana Scarisbrick. 1994. 456 pages. 176 black/white, 54 color illustrations. $100.00. (JCK Data Center OQ-001) To order call (212) 535-5406.

One pleasure for me as a jewelry-maker is awareness of the role jewels have played in the daily lives of people who have come before us.

Much of what we know of what our forebears valued we know through the jewelry they wore, commissioned and gave as tokens. Understanding this, it’s easy to see why I should be drawn to a book with a subtitle that refers to social and literary currents in culture.

I was immediately impressed with Scarsbrick’s wealth of information and attention to detail. Will you be as impressed as I was that the last 60 pages (that’s a small book by itself) is spent on bibliography and references? I enjoyed the heft of the book and the compelling mass of information she presents. The author and designers are to be congratulated on their decision to divide the text into many small sections that allow a reader to locate information readily.

Want to know about buttons in the 14th century? See page 54. Watches in the early 18th century? Turn to page 296. In every case you will find scholarship and probably an illustration. And in many cases there’s a bit of history as well.

Here is the poet Spenser describing the aglets or tags that ended the cords used to link seams and slashes in the 17th century:

Which all about besprinckled was throughout with golden ayglets, that glistred bright, like twinckling starres…

Or how about this one? “Rings blessed on Good Friday. . . were believed to have the power of curing cramp, epilepsy and palsy. The custom arose from an offering made by English kings at this time to buy medicines for epileptics. . . .Those close to the throne were continually asked for supplies.” (Page 151)

If you can turn a deaf ear to this kind of social archaeology and exacting research, you might want to return to your TV Guide and give this book a pass. But those of us who look to jewelry and metalwork for its rich history and the everyday stories it tells will thank Diana Scarisbrick for providing us such a rich and welcome resource. – Tim McCreight, Maine College of Arts, Portland, Me.; JCK Book Judge.

THE LEADING EDGE

The New Jewelry: Trends and Traditions, by Peter Dormer and Ralph Turner, 2nd edition. 216 pages. 120 color, 130 black/white illustrations. 1994. $24.95 soft cover. (JCK Data Center JD-014) To order call (800) 286-4044.

Well, this is a book I have to have in my collection and I recommend it for yours. As a contemporary metal artist myself, I find the book a vital resource, a place to see friends’ work, to moan about my own lack of inclusion and to compliment the erudite writing and strong opinions voiced.

Many of the photographs are new and it is intriguing to see how various people’s work has evolved since the first edition in 1985. With its many pages and 250 illustrations, many in color, it is a definite must for anyone interested in art jewelry, contemporary art metal, new design in body ornaments or fashion, as well as for any educator or student in art school.

The photos generally are great and there are lots of them; photo surface area exceeds text surface area. It is a good visual resource book. The writing is smooth and readable. The voice is clear and opinionated, a brave quality worthy of respect; after all, no one else is seriously writing books dealing with contemporary history in international art jewelry terms.

Judging by the number and variety of artist jewelers that were chosen, a heck of a lot is going on in art jewelry around the world. There is a definite need, however, for other voices to speak of the people Turner and Dormer were not interested in who still have much to offer. Try Metalsmith magazine, American Craft or Art Aura for a hint of the art jewelry scene.

The book has chapters on The New Jewelry, Mainstream Abstract Jewelry, Radical Jewelry and a good round-up of recent directions. At the back are concise biographies of makers, lists of galleries, museums and exhibitions, names of publications and a reasonable index.

The book has a sturdy soft cover, good color photographs, lots of good, sometimes dramatic black-and-white art and slick, smooth, glossy paper. Nice.

A recommended pick. You should have this book if you are interested in the leading edge, what may be fashion or standard down the road, an early glimpse at the future of jewelry. Just take the book with good doses of alternate reading matter, magazines or catalogs to get a more balanced view. – Charles Lewton-Brain, FGA, Calgary, Alberta, Canada; JCK Book Judge.

Jeweler’s Resource: A Reference of Gems, Metals, Formulas and Terminology, by Bruce G. Knuth. 1994. 112 pages. $17.95 (JCK Data Center ON-001) To order call (303) 452-7764.

My friend David at the Point Reyes Jeweler just called to find out if I knew the U.S. equivalent of Japanese ring sizes. Luckily I have a copy of Jeweler’s Resource. This wonderful book contains hundreds of facts and formulae for jewelers and gemologists, including the information I needed to answer David’s question.

In addition, the book lists the equivalent in millimeters, metric size, British, French, German and Swiss ring sizes. Browsing its pages is an excursion down the road towards a more complete understanding of jewelry and gemology.

Take this 10-question true-or-false test to find out if Jeweler’s Resource belongs on your shelf: 1. According to folklore, lovers should never wear moonstone. 2. Diamonds which are D-Flawless can be advertised as “perfect.” 3. According to U.S. law, an item marked 14k may not contain less than 14/24 parts gold. 5. Shakado is the center of Japanese jewelry manufacture. 6. Nickel silver contains a small amount of silver. 7. The term “lemel” refers to failed gold castings. 8. A mordant is used to rinse metal after etching. 9. Anti-flux can be used instead of borax to help during soldering. 10. A brick of lead weighs more than an equal-sized brick of 14k gold.

If you answered all of the questions false, you need not bother with this book, but should write your own. By the way, I called David back with the Japanese ring sizes and I also told him to start wearing moonstones. – Alan Revere, Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts, San Francisco, Cal.; JCK Book Judge.