GO 340 Gemstones & Gemology

Emporia State University
Susan Ward Aber


Gemstone, Mineral, and Jewelry Book Reports

Miscellaneous Gem and Jewelry Books Available at White Library at ESU

Gems for the taking: Mine your own treasure CeLena Clough
Amber: Window to the past Erin Grosstephan
Jewels and jewelry Jue Jiang
The pearl book: The definitive buying guide Sarah Pick
Gemstones Tally Russell
Amber: Window to the past Stephanie Trump
The pearl book: The definitive buying guide Jed Archuleta
Gem Stones: The visual guide to more than 130 gemstone varieties Jacob Bray
Natural gemstones Jacob Bray
Treasures in the Smithsonian: The gem collection Karla Gaines
The complete metalsmith - an illustrated handbook Cliff Harris
At the crossroads: The mineral problems of the United States Jerry Harvey
Minerals of the world Patrick Laird
A range guide to mines and minerals Ali Nashatizadeh
Before you buy an engagement ring Shawn Salley
Minerals, rocks, and fossils: A self-teaching guide Elizabeth Wilson
Kansas rocks and minerals Dina Wingfield
Additional book reviews of interest include: Jewelry Book Shelf Table of Reviews

CeLena Clough
Book Report

A Review of... Gems for the Taking: Mine your own Treasure
written by Mary Brown

Gems for the Taking describes the properties, locations of where gems may be found, and histories of the gems. The first ten chapters of this book are about rubies and sapphires. In addition to specifics about these gem minerals, the author describes her adventures of hunting for rubies in North Carolina. The other chapters focus on the other well-known gemstones such as diamond, emerald, pearl, opal, amethyst, topaz, tourmaline, alexandrite, peridot, and several others. The last chapters discuss birthstones, tips about mining, and what to do with the rough gemstones. While the focus of the book is on mining, some of the gemstones mentioned were mined personally by the author and others, not. Brown concludes with a chapter that discusses the different opinions on gemstones from various people with no geologic background.

The main point of the book is to inform readers of the different types of gemstones, the many different locations that one may be able to find gemstones, the history of each gem, and the feelings that accompanies gem hunting. Brown conveys to the readers the emotion and excitement that go through the miner when he/she finds a gem quality stone. Mining for gemstones can become sort of an addiction for some people. According to Brown (1971), “Leaving the mines on Friday evening was like tearing oneself away from an old friend.”

One purpose of this book is also to convey to the reader the legends and history of famous gemstones. For example, turquoise was thought to change color when the wearer was close to death. The chapter about diamonds discusses the history of the Cullinan Diamond, the largest diamond ever found. Tourmaline may be found in a number of places, but one place to look for tourmaline in the United States is Maine. Brown (1971) said, “Maine is a state where some good gem material in tourmaline is very likely.” Some other states that tourmaline may be found in include Texas, California, Colorado and many others.

In addition to mining locations, Brown’s book is useful because it gives basic properties and descriptions of the mentioned gems. Gems for the Taking may be helpful to readers that do not know the trade names of certain gems. Brown (1971) writes, “Yellow quartz is one of the gem minerals most often taken for some other stone. Actually yellow quartz is called citrine but it is what most stores offer as topaz.” Gems for the Taking is a good book for anyone interested in gemstones for monetary value or for their geologic quality.

The last chapters of the book encourage readers to go out and hunt for their own gemstone treasures. There are hints for people that have never searched for gemstones. Brown gives advice for surface mining and for mining in alluvial deposits. Amateur gemstone hunters and gemologists would benefit greatly from reading this book, although it only discusses the most well known gemstones. The book gives readers several different locations to mine for gemstones.

There were strengths and weaknesses to Brown’s book. One strength of the book was that it involved conversations between the author and gemologists, as well as other interesting people. Another strength was that the book is written in a way that is easy to understand for a person with little gemstone background. The author explains and has Mohs’ Hardness Scale in two parts of the book. Unfortunately, the author uses words such as “precious” and “semiprecious” to refer to grade or value gemstones, which is a weakness of the book. It would be best if Brown did not use these derogatory words; however, the book was written in 1971 and those words may not have been considered derogatory at the time.

Brown’s book is informative and appealing to the reader. After reading this book people might be inspired to plan a vacation to go hunting for their own gemstones. Readers may also have the desire to learn more about gemstones not mentioned in this book.

Brown, L.T. Mary. (1971). Gems for the taking: Mine your own treasure. NY: Macmillan, 193 p.

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Jue Jiang
Book Report

A Review of... Jewels and Jewelry
written by Clare Phillips

"Jewels and Jewelry" is a 160-page book written by Clare Phillips, a leading authority on jewelry in England, and first published by Watson-Guptill, New York, in 2000. This book collects various styles of Western jewelry over the last 500 years, from Middle Ages to 20th century. It has colored pictures and supporting text on each page, and most of the jewelry illustrated in the book is on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in England.

The book is divided into three sections: "materials", "chronology of style", and "manufacturing and distribution". The materials introduced in the book include gold, silver, platinum, base metals, diamonds, colored gemstones, organic materials, glass and enamel. The main portion of the book, more than 100 pages, describes the development of Western jewelry style chronologically. The third section covers hallmarking, design registration, shops, jewel's history, jewelry boxes, and jewelry in religion. A rich assortment of jewelry is examined in the book, including rings, necklaces, pendants, bracelets, earrings, brooches, buckles, hair combs, rosaries, plaques, lockets, and other forms of adornment.

This book focuses on the history of jewelry including history about different jewelry materials, Middle Ages masterpieces, Renaissance pendants, and pieces of jewelry celebrating Queen Elizabeth I. In addition, the different fashion of jewelry in different periods and some techniques about jewelry were covered, as well as entertaining biographical facts about some historical figures and the jewelers from different countries, including Wendy Ramshaw of England, Gijs Bakker of Holland, Fritz Maierhofer of Austria, Yasuki Hiramatsu of Japan, and more.

The jewelry mounting material platinum was first found in South America by Spanish settlers. Due to its high melting points and rarity, it was seldom used in jewelry until around 1900, when it became a fashion to be used as diamond settings in the 1920s and 1930s (12). In the book, you can see a number of historic jewelry masterpieces. For example, the Shannongrove Gorget, a gold collar from Ireland during the Bronze Age (11); the Langdale Rosary, "the only surviving English gold rosary of the late fifteenth century" (29); the Danny Jewel, a Renaissance pendant made of Narwhal horn and enameled gold (31); the Barbor Jewel, the sardonyx cameo of Queen Elizabeth I which is surrounded by rubies and diamonds from 1600s (39). Each time period is characterized by different style of jewelry. Polished gems with pebble-like shapes were popular during the late Middle Ages (28) and pendants were in fashion during the Renaissance (30). Bodice ornaments became the vogue in the 17th century (46). Paste jewelry with faceted gemstones became the primary style in the 18th century (54) and the jewelry with shape of particular plants was the principal style in the 19th century (78).

In addition, some jewelry creation techniques were introduced in the book. For example, the author explained that the shimmering color of the niobium earrings was made by "submerging the piece in an anodic bath and passing controlled electric currents through it" (15).

On the whole, it is a well-organized book with informative text and full-colorful photographs of representative selections from different period, and it puts emphasis on the history of western jewelry. However, the author does not cover physical properties of jewelry materials in any detail, nor the method to identify specific gem materials. People who are interested in either history or beautiful jewelry will enjoy this book. Also, people who want to, but have not got a chance to, visit Victoria and Albert Museum in England can enjoy a lot of displays in the museum from this book. It can be a reference book or an entertaining book, and it is easy to catch up on some Western history while enjoying the attractive jewels and jewelry.

Work Cited
Phillips, Clare. Jewels and Jewelry. New York: Watson-Guptill, 2000.

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Erin Grosstephan
Book Report

A Review of... Amber: Window to the Past
written by David A. Grimaldi

The book that I chose to explore was Amber: Window to the Past, by David A. Grimaldi. It was published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers in 1996 in New York, New York. This book gives a general overview of amber, including properties and formation processes, world deposits and mining techniques, preservation of biology within amber, and the use of amber in art. The book is divided into two main sections, entitled Amber in Nature and Amber in Art.

The Amber in Nature portion of the text goes into detail on the origins of amber and its physical and chemical properties. This section continues with an overview of where mine able deposits of amber can be found throughout the globe. It is in this section that distinctions are made about the various types of amber, each unique in chemical composition and placement in the world. This first portion of the book also contains a discussion on amber as a preservation mechanism for prehistoric, historic, and present-day flora and fauna. The section finishes with a brief look at forgeries and imitations that exist to mimic the look of amber.

The second part of the book is dedicated to the use of amber in art and is appropriately titled Amber in Art. The author provides photographs and descriptions of amber artwork from the Mesolithic period through the early twentieth century. Considerable space is dedicated to a description of the Amber Room, a room originally commissioned by King Frederick I of Prussia in 1701 that eventually disappeared from Russia during the Second World War. This section of the book ends with a description of the use of amber in Asian cultures and in Asian artwork.

The author, David A. Grimaldi, wrote this book to “produce a lavishly illustrated volume on the entire spectrum of amber” (Grimaldi 8). This text dedicates a great deal of space to full color photographs, grey scale photographs, and black-and-white sketches of amber. The book does not focus on any specific type of amber, but rather offers an overview of all different types, including Baltic, Dominican, and Mexican Amber. This book attempts to bridge the gap between general information books and the more academic book that address the “paleontology of amber” (Grimaldi 8). The author also wanted to incorporate more color photographs than previous texts. Grimaldi wrote this book with the specific purpose of addressing both the science of amber and its mysticism and romance.

As previously stated, this book is split into two major sections the deal with different parts of the amber spectrum. The first section deals with amber in its natural form. The origins and properties of amber are explored from a scientific viewpoint. The book discusses amber in terms of its place in the geological record, its impact on the study of prehistoric biology, and its chemical compositions. The author goes into great detail about prehistoric life and the lessons that can be learned from specimens that are trapped in amber. According to Grimaldi, “(a)mbers have preserved the various developmental stages of some insects, prey and plant hosts, parasites, commensals, as well as exhibitions of defensive and social behavior” (Grimaldi 79). According the text, amber is particularly good at preserving organisms, right down to the microscopic level. The author explains “there is often virtually no shrinkage of soft tissues and no traces of decomposition, at least in Dominican and Mexican ambers” (Grimaldi 122). The first section ends with a look at science fiction. The book and later movie, Jurassic Park, offered the view that organisms trapped in amber could have their DNA harvested and used for cloning. Grimaldi explains the futility in attempting to clone from prehistoric DNA. “The DNA that is preserved in amber fossils is so hopelessly jumbled into tiny fragments that, given present technology, it would be impossible to reconstruct the entire genome of, say, an extinct termite” (Grimaldi 131).

Whereas in the first portion of the book, the author offers a diverse, interdisciplinary study of the basic scientific study of amber, the second section of the book examines the way that humans have used amber for ornamentation and decoration throughout much of recorded history. While many examples of amber art have survived through time, much has been lost, as “oxidation is a serious problem with wafer-thin pieces” (Grimaldi 144). The author discusses the uses of amber among ancient peoples of Europe, particularly along the Baltic Sea and England. Grimaldi gives a brief history of amber art, from the time of the Romans through its use in medieval religious art to the ornate carves that were created in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in Europe. The book concludes with a discussion of amber and its symbolic use in Asian art. The author references a museum collection of Asian art the clearly shows “that the variety of Chinese objects d’art in amber is nearly comparable to that of European objects” (Grimaldi 202).

The text does a good job of presenting an overview of both the science and art of amber. One of the book’s greatest strengths is the use of color photography. This allows the reader to have a clear understanding of how inclusions can be used for scientific study, and how the variety of amber can be used to gain different looks in art. The color photographs emphasize the points that the author makes in terms of transparency and color. Gray-scale photographs would not support the author’s points as well. Another strength of this particular text is the author’s writing style. The author has a clear audience in mind; that of an educated layperson with a basic knowledge of science and little to no knowledge of amber. This book works well as an introduction into the study of amber.

Two weaknesses that I would comment on would include occasionally being too heavy on the science terminology and having too many photographs in the middle of the main text. On the first point, the author does use a great deal of scientific vocabulary that does, on occasion, become overwhelming when the reader does not have a firm understanding of biology. My suggestion to improve the text would be to scale-back on the science terminology when possible, or, offer up definitions to explain the words. Also, fewer examples could be used to illustrate the same points. Decreasing the number of examples would also decrease the amount of vocabulary that the author is assuming the reader is familiar with. The other weakness is that the main text is broken up across many pages due to the large number of photographs. While the photographs are necessary in supporting the author’s points, as a reader, it becomes difficult to follow the main line of text when there are often pages and pages of photographs in the middle on paragraphs. I would suggest having a specific section of photographs in a section at the end of the main text that can be references, rather than forcing the reader to search for the next section to read. While I appreciate having the photographs next to the text, generally speaking it makes it much more difficult to follow the author’s thoughts and points. The current setup requires much re-reading.

The book ends abruptly, with very little by way of a formal conclusion. The preface of the book explains the author’s goals of presenting the entire spectrum of amber study in general. The author describes the need for such a book and then lays out his findings and information in a normal textbook fashion. There are few new conclusions drawn by the author and, therefore, the author did little to draw the book to an end. The book laid out the information and concluded with no fanfare.

It is my belief that this book is intended for a general audience that has a good understanding of basic science, such as geology, chemistry, and biology. A reader with no science background would have difficulty with certain parts of this book. The book is intended to spark interest in amber study among an educated population. The word choice and explanation of certain concepts indicates that the author meant for this book to be enjoyed by readers with a formal education and an interest in learning about the topic. There is no sign that the author intended this book to add new ideas or theories to the study of amber. This text, as explained by the author, is meant to share general information about amber through the use of excellent photographs.

I believe that the author completed the task that he desired to complete with this book. The goal was to provide information to the educated reader who knows little about amber, but desires to learn more. The photographs and descriptions add much to a reader’s understanding of the text. Different sections focus on a variety of aspects of amber study, from science to art to history. The author was successful in producing a text that would summarize much of the general data that is known about amber.

Complete Reference
Grimaldi, David. Amber: Window to the Past. New York: Harry N. Ambrams, Inc., Publishers, 1996.

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Tally Russell
Book Report

A Review of... Smithsonian Handbook: Gemstones
written by Cally Hall

The book I chose to review is entitled, The Smithsonian Handbooks: Gemstones by author Cally Hall. Hall explains the different kinds of gemstones. Each chapter is filled with endless amounts of information regarding: how and where gemstones are found, the different types and shapes of gemstones, physical properties, history, and other vital information regarding gemstones. The book is divided into three parts: precious metals, cut stones, and organics.

In the introduction, the author specifies that there are over 3,000 different types of gemstones, but only fifty are commonly used as gemstones. Hall goes into great detail explaining what exactly a gemstone is, and how gemstones are formed. She discusses processes involved with rock types such as metamorphic, igneous, sedimentary, and organic. Hall lists the five most notable gemstones as: diamond, star sapphire, river pearl (uncut), ruby (step cut), and emerald (octagonal cut). On pages fourteen and fifteen there is a map showing the locations for twelve main gemstones. Regarding this map Hall states, “The twelve varieties of gemstones shown on this map represent some of the world’s best-known gems. All are popular and highly prized, but some are far rarer than others” (p. 14-15). There is also a symbols key to show where each gem is located on the map, indicating where they are mined. The key includes: diamond, ruby, sapphire, emerald, aquamarine, chrysoberyl, topaz, tourmaline, peridot, garnet, pearl, and opal. It was interesting to see where each gemstone came from in different parts of the world.

The book provides history, myths, and folk tales associated with gemstones. Some gemstones history and folk tales tell of special powers, curse stones, healing, and even good luck stones. For example, “Belief in the healing properties of gems has a very long history, as the rituals of medicine men in ancient tribes attest. Crystal healers today believe that each gem has the power to influence the health and well being of a specific part of the body. The light reflected off stones placed on vital nerve points is thought to be absorbed by the body, supplying it with healing energy” (p. 33).

After the history, myths and folk tales, Hall provides the reader with a color key which helps gemologists distinguish gemstones by the way they see them, inspect them from all angles, and feel them. The color key categorizes gemstones into categories such as colorless, and sometimes colorless, and then it goes into gemstones categorized in each color of the color spectrum. “Many gems appear the same color, but can be distinguished when viewed through a spectroscope. This reveals an absorption spectrum that is unique to each gemstone” (p. 38). This information is important when distinguishing one gem from another.

Hall also talks about the different physical properties of gemstones and has a quick reference guide in the Table of Properties that can be found in the back of the book before the Glossary section. These properties include the gemstones hardness, specific gravity, cleavage and fracture, shape, and crystal system as well as its optical properties. These optical properties include: allochromatic gemstones, idiochromatic gemstones, multicolored gemstones, pleochroic gemstones, refractive index, and its luster.

Halls major strengths in this book are organization and the color photographs of gemstones and jewelry. The color photographs, illustrations and the descriptions that accompany the photographs of the precious stones and the gemstone examples are large, very colorful and show great detail. There are approximately 800 precise color photos of over 130 kinds of gemstones and precious metals. The photographs bright colors and detail are very appealing. The other strength is her organization of this book. It benefits the reader in understanding all of the characteristics of gemstones.

The organization of dividing the book into three parts: precious metals, cut stones and organics, which help the reader locate these areas easily. This organization is illustrated by a helpful section in the book with arrows expanding what the reader will be reading and viewing regarding each entry. Examples of this organization for each entry include: crystal structure, composition, and hardness. It also provides the gemstone’s specific gravity, refractive index, and luster. Also included are the common name, physical characteristics, where and how it is formed, and other additional information. This is a very good source for beginning gemstone collectors as well as those who are experts in the field.

There are not many weaknesses that I found in this book. However, the print is so small that it is very difficult to read. Some areas of the book have even smaller print than other areas. In contrast to the nice blown up photographs, the print is very undersized. To eliminate this problem the print font could be larger. Another weakness I found was that the book could have included a wider variety of jewelry and jewelry settings. This is not a major weakness, but it would make the book more enjoyable to read and view.

In conclusion, this book would be a great book for gemologists and gem enthusiasts because it gives an in depth look at different types of gemstones. This book is also appropriate for children or beginner gem enthusiasts. In addition, it provides the reader with different properties that make up gemstone, and how various types of gemstones are used today as well as thousands of years ago. The photographs are a strong component of the book, but the writing in the book could be larger and easier to read. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend this book to others.

Complete Reference
Hall, Cally (2002). The Smithsonian handbooks: Gemstones. New York, NY: Dorling Kindersley, Inc.

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Sarah Pick
Book Report

A Review of... The Pearl Book: The Definitive Buying Guide
written by Antoinette Matlins

When Matlins wrote this book, she covered every topic that a pearl enthusiast could think of. Her topics include the history of the pearl, what makes a pearl, what makes good quality and artificial enhancements, how to care for pearls, advice from experts, and what to look for in lab reports. She spent most of the book discussing different types of pearls and what to look for in terms of quality. She also repeatedly emphasized the fact that each person has their own idea of good quality pearls and while some jewelers try to sell perfectly round, white pearls, some consumers, including her, enjoy baroque pearls. While she does discuss different types of pearls, her emphasis was on cultured pearls.

In informing the reader of the history of the pearl, Matlins starts with the first written reference of the pearl in the book Sho King in 2206 BC. She then moves on to the pearl’s history in Rome and includes references in the Jewish and Islamic literature. She then discusses when the cultured pearl came into being, and then lists several famous pearls.

After a brief history lesson, she informs the reader of the difference between natural and cultured pearls and Then, she discusses several ways to differentiate between natural, cultured, and imitation pearls. Next, she writes about the different types of cultured pearls available to consumers including cultured, saltwater, freshwater, baroque, symmetrical, mabé, solid blister, seed, keshi, ringed, half, three-quarters, Akoya, South Sea, Burmese, abalone, and conch. Matlins then informs the reader about the six factors that can affect the value and quality of a pearl, which are luster and orient, nacre thickness and quality, color, surface perfection, shape, and size. She follows with tips on how to judge each property.

In chapter six, Matlins lists some artificial enhancements and how to discern if a pearl has been enhanced. The author also gives a list of different types of misrepresentation and some misnomers. She also gives the reader several tips for what to look for when buying pearls, but keeps reminding the reader that a pearls beauty differs from person to person.

The final chapters are devoted to advice on buying and caring for pearls. In chapter eight, she gives the reader ways to tell which pearls are from certain countries, based on luster, thickness of nacre, color, surface, shape, size, and treatments. Chapter 9 is a price listing for different types of pearls. In chapter ten, the author has some pearl experts give advice on buying pearls and some stories about what they have seen. Chapters 13 and 14 inform the reader the many different ways pearls can be worn and how to care for them. Matlins ends her book by giving the reader a list of questions to ask when buying pearls, plus how to choose a good jeweler, where to get a good appraisal, and where to get a lab report.

Before reading this book, I did not care much for pearls. However, after reading what the author had to say and learning how to distinguish between natural, cultured, and imitation pearls, I have developed a liking and an appreciation (it sounds like to me!) for them. As Like the author said stated, “In a world where we often wonder how we will survive the obstacles and stresses that threaten to overwhelm us, the pearl is an exquisite reminder that from something which might at first appear to be misfortune can come something of great beauty and value, something that would not otherwise have been created at all (p. 4).

Complete Reference
Matlins, A.L. The Pearl Book: The Definitive Buying Guide. Woodstock, VT: Gemstone Press.

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Stephanie Trump
Book Report

A Review of... Amber, Window to the Past
written by David A. Grimaldi

The book, Amber, Window to the Past, by David A. Grimaldi, provides much information about amber, both how it is formed and how is has been used as ornamental stone. This book is composed of two major sections, Amber in Nature, and Amber in Art.

The first section, Amber in Nature, is about how and where amber is formed, as well as organic inclusions in amber. This section is further broken into subsections. The subsections are “Origins and Properties,” “Deposits of the World,” “Frozen in the Act,” and “Processed Amber, Imitations, and Forgeries.”

The first sub-section, “Origins and Properties,” is about how amber is formed and various properties it has. It also explains the difference between amber and resins and copals. Amber is a unique material, formed from tree resin that preserves organic matter extremely well, but only under special conditions is amber able to stand the test of time. There exist only about twenty such rich deposits of amber in the world (Grimaldi, 12). Amber is formed from tree resin. Resins have been used for various reasons for a long time. For example, the “[a]ncient Egyptians used sandarac….and mastic…as a base for pigments. The great masters ….coated their paintings with liquid dammar (Grimaldi, 14).” Resins and amber have been used for medical purposes, too. It was used to treat smallpox, ulcers, diarrhea, and syphilis.

Copal is a sub-fossilized resin. Amber is resin that is sufficiently old enough for it, at a molecular level, to become cross-linked and polymerized. Copals are incompletely cross-linked. When exposed to extreme heat, copal will melt, while amber will not. Grimaldi states that the process and stages from resin to copal to amber is a continuum, rather than a process with definite steps. There is no clear, exact demarcation between resin and copal, and copal and amber.

The second sub-section “Deposits of the World,” tells of the various places amber is found in large quantities, and the various properties of these different ambers. First, the author tells about amber from the Mesozoic Era. There are a few inclusions found in amber from the Triassic, but most of them are from primitive organisms, such as bacteria, protozoa, fungal spores, and plant spores (Grimaldi, 21). Amber from the Cretaceous, however, contains many interesting inclusions of newly evolved angiosperms and insects. Many of these Mesozoic ambers are very brittle and fractured.

In Europe, Cretaceous amber is found in Austria, but the amber found in France, which is about 100 million years old, is better known and more abundant. It is very similar in both composition and inclusions to slightly younger amber deposits found in New Jersey. It is cloudy because of bubbles and pyrite that have intruded into the cracks.

Cretaceous amber can also be found in North America, particularly in Alaska, Canada, and New Jersey. Much of the Cretaceous amber found in Alaska is heavily weathered and the pieces are small. Many of the deposits found in Canada “yield an exciting array of insects and other inclusions (Grimaldi, 25).” Aphids, pseudoscorpion, praying mantis, and the oldest known mosquito are among the inclusions that have been found in Canadian amber. There are several small Cretaceous amber deposits in the continental United States, but the only large deposit is found in New Jersey.

Cretaceous amber can also be found in Japan. It is usually found in coastal deposits along with mosasaur teeth and ammonites. Japanese amber has a variety of colors and usually has inclusions.

The largest deposit of Cretaceous amber is found in Siberia, and the oldest amber containing insects is found in the Middle East, specifically Lebanon. The oldest definitive moths have been found in Middle Eastern amber (Grimaldi, 35).

Many of the major amber deposits in the world are Tertiary in age. Grimaldi states that “the Tertiary period…extends from 65 million years ago to the present,” but this is not correct. The Tertiary period ended about two million years ago, with the beginning of the Quaternary period.

Tertiary amber can be found in Asia. The best known Asian amber is from Myanmar, which used to be called Burma. Amber from this area is referred to as “burmite.”

Amber from the Tertiary can also be found in Africa. Africa produces copal, but the only true amber of Tertiary age is found in Nigeria. This amber is “dark red, transparent to opaque (Grimaldi, 42).”

Europe has many rich amber deposits, particularly in the Baltic Sea area. Amber found in Sicily, near the Simeto and Salso Rivers, is called “simetite.” It is known for its varied, deep colors, which include red, blue, and smoky green. Amber found in Romania, called “rumanite,” is very similar to simetite.

In North America, Eocene deposits of amber can be found in deposits on Ellesmere and Axel Heiburg Islands in the Canadian Arctic. Fossils of extinct catfish, snapping turtles, and plagiomerid mammals have been found in this amber (Grimaldi, 43). The largest Tertiary deposit in North America is found in Arkansas.

The largest and longest-exploited deposits of amber in the world can be found in the Baltic area. Amber from deposits near the Baltic Sea have been known to wash up on the eastern shores of the island of Great Britain. This amber was formed in the Eocene, about 40 million years ago. Most of this amber contains large amounts of succinic acid. It is called “succinite.” Yellow, friable Baltic amber is called “Mürber Bernstein,” or “Gedanite.” Some other forms of Baltic amber are “stantienite”, “beckerite,” and “glessite.” Foamy amber is amber that has a large froth of bubbles. Bone amber has microscopic bubbles, giving it an opaque, white color or look of bone. Amber that has bubbles larger than bone amber, but smaller than foamy amber is called “flom.” Amber that is cloudy with milky swirls is referred to as “bastard amber.”

In the western hemisphere, large deposits of amber can be found in Mexico and the Dominican Republic. These ambers have been used by the indigenous people of the area for a very long time. Christopher Columbus was said to have received gifts of amber objects from the native people when he first landed on the island of Hispanola. The Mayans used amber for carvings and incense (Grimaldi, 62.) This amber is usually very transparent.

The third subsection is “Frozen in the Act.” This sub-section is about the organic inclusions found remarkably preserved in amber. Amber preserves “the various developmental stages of some insects, prey and plant hosts, parasites, [and] commensuls” (Grimaldi, 79). Many insects have been found preserved in amber, including mating crane flies. Cocoons and larvae have also been found. Leaves, stems, and flowers preserved in amber give paleobotanists good evidence as to what plants were around at that time, and what modern plants may be related to the extinct plants. Even small lizards and frogs have been found in amber. Some organisms have been so well-preserved that fragments of DNA can be extracted from their cells.

The fourth sub-section is “Processed Amber, Imitations, and Forgeries.” Usually imitations and processed amber is easy to distinguish from true, unaltered amber. Some common imitations are cellulose acetate and nitrate, acrylic resins, and polyester resin. Bakelite was the first synthetic amber imitation (Grimaldi, 133). Imitations can usually be identified by their unnatural color. Also, a hot needle may be used to test. Amber and copal, when touched with a hot needle, will smell like resin. Imitations will not. A common process performed on amber is to heat the piece to create “sun spangles.” When heated, the air bubbles expand and crack, creating interesting disk shapes. Also, amber with lots of bubbles can be clarified. Another method amber is processed is to fuse tiny, useable chip of amber together to create ambroid.

Inclusions are also artificially added to amber. Copal is melted and an organism is placed inside. This is allowed to harden, and it looks like amber with an inclusion. Copal is used for this technique rather than amber, because amber does not easily melt. Another method to creating forgeries includes using authentic amber. A piece of amber is split in half. A small hole is carved inside and an inclusion is added. Melted resin or copal is placed around the added inclusion, and also used to seal the piece back together. Some forgeries made using this method are very convincing. Many have fooled even experts. Some forgeries, however, are not so convincing. One forger, for example, left a human hair inside next to the lizard he or she placed inside the authentic amber.

The second main section is “Amber in Art.” This section is about the use of amber as ornamental objects. The sub-sections are: “Mesolithic Period to the Bronze Age,” “Amber Among the Ancients,” “Medieval and Renaissance Amber,” “Seventeenth-Nineteenth-Century European Amber,” “The Amber Room,” and “Asian Ambers.” Amber has been used for art because it can be carved fairly easily and comes in a variety of warm colors.

The oldest amber artifacts are beads and amulets. Rough beads dating back to the Paleolithic age have been found in England, most likely made of Baltic amber that washed up on the shore. Mesolithic amulets have been found in Scandinavia. According to Grimaldi, large-scale production of amber artifacts was not evident until the Early Neolithic Narva Culture. “Considered…to be the greatest archaeological finds of amber are two early Bronze Age amber cups.” Amber objects have been uncovered at the ruins of Stonehenge.

The second sub-section is “Amber Among the Ancients.” The ancient cultures had several myths regarding the origin of amber, including that is was lynx urine and they were tears of mythical birds. The Etruscans were very active in the trade of amber. Amber objects have been found in tombs of important and wealthy people in Greece, Crete, Palestine, and Egypt. The Romans placed high value on amber. According to Pliny, a figurine carved from amber was worth more than a slave.

The third sub-section is “Medieval and Renaissance Amber.” During the Middle Ages, Baltic amber in Prussia was tightly controlled by the order of the Teutonic Knights. Rosaries were crafted from this amber by the guild of Paternostermachers. Many amber-working guilds soon followed. Anyone caught collecting amber on Baltic beaches without permission was harshly punished. This punishment sometimes included hanging. In the seventeenth century, many rulers from what is now Germany became Protestants. The demand for amber prayer beads diminished, but the demand for amber did not. Many of the amber crafted began to create other objects, such as game boards, goblets, cups, tankards, and cutlery with amber handles. Prayer beads made of amber were so highly valued that many Dominican and Augustinian friars in the thirteenth century forbade the use of them, viewing them as a luxury and an excess.

The fourth sub-section is “Seventeenth-Nineteenth-Century European Amber.” During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, northern Europe, particularly Prussia, was full of amber workshops and artisans. These artisans created chests, inlaid cabinets, altars, chandeliers, and the famous Russian amber room. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, European nobility was known for its opulence and grandeur. Amber candlesticks, amber bowls, plates with amber inlay, amber snuffboxes, amber chess boards, and amber tankards would very likely be found in the home of a very wealthy individual.

The fifth sub-section is “The Amber Room.” In 1701, King Frederick I of Prussia commissioned a banquet room to be made with panels of amber. Pieces of amber were made into elaborate mosaics. The room was given to Czar Peter I (the Great) by King Frederick William I, Frederick I’s successor, in 1717. It was originally placed in the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. In 1755, the amber panels were moved to the Ekaterininsky Palace in Tsarskoye Selo. A room was designed specifically for these amber panels. This new room was larger than the previous rooms, so additional panels were created. Many amber objects were placed in this room, including candlesticks, snuffboxes, and small chests. During World War II, when the Nazis invaded Russia, the Russians had removed many of the objects in the amber room, but left the panels. Two Nazi officers, who were art historians in their civilian lives, wanted to protect the panels from damage by bombing, so they removed them and sent them to Kaliningrad. When Kaliningrad was bombed by the Western Allies, the panels were again removed and hidden. There location, to this day, remains a mystery. In 1979, Russian artists began to make replicas of the panels, as close to the originals as possible. Restoration work on the Amber Room was complete in 2003.

The sixth sub-section is “Asian Ambers.” This subsection is about the use of amber in art in Asia. The first mention of amber in Chinese literature is from The Annals of the Former Han Dynasty by Pan Ku in 85 AD. Most of the amber used in China is burmite, from modern-day Mynamar. Amber was used to make vases, figurines, and bowls.

There are a few strengths and weaknesses of this work and this author. One strength, is that it is very detailed regarding the formation of amber and the organic inclusions in them. Also, this book contains many nice color photographs, depicting various shades of amber, various organic inclusions in amber, forgeries, and objects made from amber.

There were also a few weaknesses in this text. For one, the section, “Amber in Nature” was about three-quarters of the book, while the section, “Amber in Art” was only about one-quarter. I would have liked to know more about amber in art. Also, while I identified the detail of the work as a strong point, it is also a bit of a weak point. Sometimes, it was too detailed. The author would get very long-winded about the insect inclusions found in amber. It was rather boring.

The author does not present a conclusion to the book. He just ends it with “Asian Ambers.” This book should be read by anyone who has an interest in amber. My conclusion is that amber is composed of fossilized tree resin. It often contains remarkably well-preserved inclusions. Its use in art is varied, and has been used in art for a very long time.

Complete Reference
Grimaldi, David A. Amber, Window to the Past. Harry N. Abrams, New York. 1996

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Jed Archuleta
Book Report

A Review of... The Pearl Book: The Definitive Buying Guide
written by Antoinette L. Matlins, PG

This extremely informative book was written for pearl lovers by a pearl lover. Matlins covers a wide encompassing range of subjects about pearls, including coloration, shape, valuation, origin and methodology of production, and characteristic features. While much of this information is of a technical nature, Matlins rarely allows the reader to get bogged down in these aspects. She constantly asserts an idea that has recurred throughout our gem course, beauty and desirability is in the eye of the beholder. In addition, she provides pearl care tips, including preferable setting styles and cleaning techniques. This book is a relatively easy read for anyone interested in pearls.

Antoinette L. Matlins begins by providing the rich history of the pearl. Its beauty and characteristic iridescence have attracted and astonished cultures throughout recorded history. The pearl was an important gemstone in nearly every culture, whether it signified a regal background or was simply included in traditional ceremonies. Matlins also includes several beliefs and legends surrounding the pearl in many cultures. I think that this introduction provides a good background and argument for the accumulation of pearl knowledge.

The author then goes into what exactly a pearl is and what qualities are most desirable. She explains what causes these characteristics to be optimized, such as the characteristic iridescent orient in fine pearls. However, she makes note that no amount of monitoring of these factors can provide a foolproof method of production or analysis. Matlins provides a methodology for pearl analysis and gives examples of some of the tale-tell signs for impostor or treated pearls.

She provides a pretty impressive list of the major pearl producers of the world as well as the types and colors that each area produces. An inclusive section of the various shapes and styles of pearl is included. In addition to this, the methodology of the production of these pearls is briefly outlined. Some general guidelines are laid out to help analyze most of the regional locations where pearls are produced. Several methods for pearl enhancements and false pearls are also discussed.

Following these details, several small excerpts from experts and collectors are compiled. This is an intriguing section in that, through those whose appreciation for the gemstone is greatest, additional interest and support for the pearl market may be accentuated. Following these insights, general pearl care is outlined for the common pearl owner.

This book also has price listings for a variety of sizes of nearly every type of pearl discussed. In addition to these guides, several charts are assemble dealing with nacre thickness, pearl grading, pearl misnomers (including correct identification), and popular jewelry designs can be found in various locations. There are also several illustrations throughout the book, as well as a very nice section dedicated solely to the display of pearls. All in all, this is a terrific book for anyone interested in pearls or any organic jewelry.

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Jacob Bray
Book Report

A Review of... Gem Stones: The Visual Guide to More Than 130 Gemstone Varieties
written by Cally Hall

The book I chose to review for this assignment is called Gem Stones: The visual guide to more than 130 gemstone varieties, by Cally Hall, and published by Dorling Kindersley, New York, in 1994. This book is very similar to the text for GO 340, only about 10 years older. There are 130 plus gems covered in this book with pre and post pictures of finished pieces. I found this book interesting because of the many pictures. I enjoyed pictures of the jewelry that dates back many years. It is very interesting to see the quality of the workmanship, and realizing that machines were not available, much was done by hand.

This book is setup like many other gemstone books. First there is an introduction to gems with definitions and pictures to help understand the topic. Also covered is the synthetic and imitation side of jewelry. Equipment used in all aspects of jewelry are also shown and explained. Following these sections is pictures and statistics on the gems used.

One of the more interesting reads in this book is when the author talks about the “Five Major Gemstones”, they are as follows. Diamond (brilliant cut), star sapphire (cab.), river pearl (round, uncut), ruby (step), and finally emerald (octagonal cab., and step), these are the most highly prized gems, and all except the pearl have a particular cut that brings out their best qualities.

This is a good overall book for a modest collector, and would even be useful to one more involved in the business of gems. The pictures really assisted in the understanding of the content within the book. I would recommend this book to someone wanting to get an introduction into the gem and jewelry trade, or someone looking to learn a little about gems.

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GO 340
Cliff Harris

A Review of... The Complete Metalsmith: An Illustrated Handbook
written by Tim McCreight

The book I chose to report on is a handbook for the working metalsmith. The chapters are very well designed and do-it-yourself tabs are a great idea for navigating the book. The first chapter deals with metallurgy and the metals, in great detail. The second chapter covers things that can be done to the surface of a metal and the tools that can be used. The third chapter is about design and shaping, as well as the tools and techniques. The fourth chapter goes into detail about the methods of joining metals together. The fifth chapter describes the many ways to cast metal with more than lost wax and sand casting techniques. The sixth chapter outlines the types of stones and settings that are used in making jewelry. Chapter seven is all about mechanisms that are employed in metalry including buckles, pins, clasps and hinges. Chapter eight is all about tools, both hand tools and electric, that are employed in the metalsmith business. Finally there is a reference section that has a plethora of information like conversion charts and formulas as well as valuable information about the history of the trade. Techniques are also described in detail with pictures to give the reader a better understanding. This is a great book for the new or experienced methalsmith.

Note: this book is used in ESU courses but is not available at White Library. McCreight, T. (1991). The Complete Metalsmith: An Illustrated Handbook (Revised Edition). Worcester, MA: Davis Publications, Inc., 192p.

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Karla Gaines
Book Report

A Review of... Treasures in the Smithsonian: The Gem Collection
written by Paul E. Desautels

The book "The Gem Collection" was written by the curator of the Smithsonian Institute's mineralogy division. Although short, this book is divided into eight key sections relevant to the study of gemstones. Of the 77 pages, 22 are full color pictures of specimens from the Smithsonian Institute gem collection.

The first section of the book gives a little of the background of gemstones and the National Gem Collection at the Smithsonian. It covers where and when various donations occurred and also talks briefly about each of the eight curators that have been in charge since the collection was started in 1884 through the publication of this book, 1979.

Section two covers the study of gems, including the various physical and chemical characteristics of gemstones. For each of the characteristics, the definition is given, along with the procedure. The author then gives examples and comparisons that are simple enough for the average person to understand. For the chemical characteristics, the formulas of the common gems are given, along with a discussion of what make a gem desireable.

The third section of the book covers shaping. It includes a discussion of faceting, including diagrams of cuts. The diagrams also show what happens when a stone is cut incorrectly. Although not all of the cuts for faceted stones are shown, the book does cover the more common ones. For each of the cuts covered in detail, pavilion, crown, and girdle cuts are shown.

Section four is about gem substitutes. Four types of "fake" stones are covered. These include imitation, assembled, reconstructed and synthetic stones. I found the section on the reconstructed stones to be interesting, as it covered many ways that natural stones could be altered to make them more desirable.

In section five, gem lore is covered. This section covers some of the mythology surrounding gemstones, and ends with a discussion of the birthstones we have today.

The main portion of the book comes in section six. In this section, each of the principal gem species is covered in depth. For each of the species, the general characteristics are given, along with the key things to look for. The history of the gem is briefly covered and the key locations of origin are given. The author then gives examples and pictures from the National gem Collection. Overall, there are 13 different species of gems given.

Section seven is labeled jewelry, but after two paragraphs about the more famous gems in the collection, rest of the section is a table of the characteristics of some common gems. This table gives values for hardness, specific gravity, refractive index, dispersion, durability, and color.

The last section of the book is a listing of all the gems in the National Collection. They are listed out by species, and ordered by carat weight. Each one then gives the stone's color, name or other description, origin, catalog number, and the name of the donor. I was amazed at the number of stones in the collection.

Overall, although this book covers a lot of what can be found in other gemstone books. It is worth looking at because, in addition to the background information, there are beautiful pictures and descriptions of historic pieces of jewelry and rare gemstones.

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This page originates from the Earth Science department for the use and benefit of students enrolled at Emporia State University. For more information contact the course instructor, S. W. Aber, e-mail: esu.abersusie@gmail.com Thanks for visiting! Webpage created: April 23, 2003; last update: September 30, 2012.

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