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BellaOnline's Jewelry Making Editor

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Gemstones Book Review


Smithsonian Nature Guide GEMS, the world in your hands. "Gems", by Ronald Louis Bonewitz, is an excellent reference book and simply beautiful. This compact little book has more than 400 examples of gemstones. Every major group of gems is thoroughly covered in this easy to use guide. Cut stones, precious metals, and organic gems are explained in detail with beautiful photographs.

The table of contents has three sections, a 38 page introduction,  profiles of GEMSTONES and an illustrated explanation on how to read the Gem Profiles in the book. The introduction is well written and provides the  reader  with an enormous amount of information. Everything is covered from, how gems are formed to where they are mined, to cutting, polishing and engraving gemstones. The introduction wraps up with an interesting history and folklore on collecting gemstones.

The Gemstone section covers over 400 stones. Each show a profile of the stones along with a key that indicates the structure, hardness, specific gravity, and other identifying points. Illustrations show popular cuts of that particular stone. Most impressive, are several photographs on each page showing the mineral in its natural form, as a cut gem, variants of the gem, and its application in jewelry. Each gemstone description includes its chemical makeup, where the gem comes from, as well as interesting information as it applies to the individual gemstone. The author intertwines technical detail with interesting stories, which gives the book an interesting twist.  

The photography alone is enough to captivate the reader. The commissioned close-up photographs vividly show each gem's key feature and facets. The photographs along with the illustrations and keys provide quick, clearly understood information. Everything you want to know about gemstones can be easily accessed with this book.

I especially enjoyed entries such as the precious opal on pages 120  and 121. Ten beautiful photographs show the opal in it's natural state as well as different types of opals used in jewelry designs such as a necklace by Louis Comfort Tiffany. 

An entertaining excerpt is on the  history of opals: "Opal derives its name from the roman word Opalus, which means 'precious stone.’ In the middle ages, opal was considered a lucky stone. In 1829, Sir Walter Scott published the novel Anne of Geierstein, or the Maiden of the Mist, in which the protagonist owns a magical opal talisman that cause the death of its owner when it accidentally comes into contact with holy water. Within a year of its publication, the sales of opal plummeted in Europe. Many still consider the stone unlucky."

I expected to find the gemstones in alphabetical order throughout the book, however they are not. If you are looking for a specific stone, you need to refer to the index. The book is bound in a very stiff glossy wrap around cover designed to hold up to the handling of a good reference book.

I found this book  to be very informative and believe anyone remotely interested in learning more about gemstones would find this to be a very valuable resource. The glossary is well written with over 100 entries and the index is complete. I would recommend this as companion to your jewelry making library, whether you currently work with gemstones or simply interested to learn about gems.

The book was published by Dk Publishing, with the American edition published in 2013.
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Content copyright © 2014 by Susan Mendenhall. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Susan Mendenhall. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Susan Mendenhall for details.

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