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[Orchid] [Book Review] Secrets of the Gem Trade
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Charles Lewton-Brain Tuesday, January 06, 2004
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    Hi all, here's a copy of my review of our very own Richard Wise' new
    book for gem connnoissiours. 
    Best Charles 

	"Secrets of the Gem Trade"
	by Richard Wise reviewed by Charles Lewton-Brain 2003.
	ISBN 097282239-9,

    292 pages hardcover, with120 color photos 

    Every goldsmith, jeweler, gemologist, gem lab, gem dealer and
    gemstone collector needs a copy of this book around. Especially gem
    collectors and connoisseurs, at whom the book is primarily aimed. 

    This very readable book represents the accumulated wisdom and
    experience of a lifetime in the field, and especially a life
    committed to examining and buying gemstones, as well as selling
    them. The view is unique, and rich with examples and deep background
    information. In fact the view is different than any other book in
    the field. It is eminently practical and deals with the skills of
    connnoissiourship, that is how to really look at and see a gem, what
    the subtleties and conventions are.  This view is one that people in
    our field need to hear and take account of. The language used is
    rich, flavored and interesting. Wise's strong personality comes
    through clearly as does his logic as he questions assumptions,
    institutions (gasp-even GIA at times) and invents new words and
    concepts to make his points about evaluating gems. New ideas include
    Daystones  and Nightstones  gems which truly work best under
    different lighting conditions. And the idea of Crystal  an older term
    reintroduced, a term to evaluate a sense of clarity, transparency and
    even 'glow' in a gem. 

    Real and apparent rarity are discussed at length and their
    implications for gem prices. He makes a good case that the diamond
    grading system's intention is to increase apparent rarity of diamonds
    and is a handy marketing device in this regard for a monopolized
    business whose gems are, perhaps, not so rare at all. 

    He's done a marvelous job of this first book, a monumental work, a
    tour de force. There is a pleasant critique of the established
    system, a clear independence of thought. All that and nice thick
    creamy paper, excellent layout and binding too. There is a thoroughly
    respectable bibliography. 

    The book begins with a discussion of preciousness, history and
    concepts. Market forces are discussed at length. Then issues of
    connoisseurship are dealt with along with a really great overview of
    theories and applications (for gem evaluation) of light, color,
    dispersion, and cut. Buying advice and dealer's tricks are scattered
    throughout the text, as are hints for strategic buying for the best
    return. Gems and qualities ignored by the trade are pinpointed for
    the canny investor and gem buyer to take advantage of. There are
    astute statements such as "poor cutting is almost always the result
    of a well thought out weight retention strategy". 

    And over and over there is detail about how to actually look at a
    gem, what to see and how to appreciate it and value it. And how and
    why the trade values one thing over another. Pithy shopping tips are
    everywhere, such as always get the price stated before the pick, then
    select, and if necessary remind the dealer of the tradition that once
    given a price cannot be withdrawn. 

    There is great information about stars, catseyes, pearls and
    diamonds. Colorless diamonds and their grading are covered in more
    depth and more sensibly than I've seen elsewhere. There is good
    information on gem treatments and how they relate to disclosure and
    to the market. Really up to date information on new sources, and
    newer gemstones spills from those chapters. Numerous gems are dealt
    with in depth, from a buyers point of view. 

    This information is a great addition for the gemologist, whose
    references are often theoretical or deliberately academic in nature.
    There are some truly current comments on new diamond cut studies and
    conclusions (there is no ideal cut!). Wise argues that there are in
    fact an infinite number of ideal cuts for diamond if computer models
    are used to vary proportions. He talks about recent changes in
    thought on the value of blue fluorescing diamonds (its ok after all). 

    Areas that I think Wise misses on includes his approach to
    synthetics, which barely rate comment, except with the caveat "to
    have a gem report from a reputable gem lab accompany the purchase" or
    "the dealer must state natural on the sales certificate", which is
    fine given the viewpoint of the book but to my mind missed certain
    information that might be useful to one buying gems, and to the
    gemologist and goldsmith lessen the apparent value of the book a bit.
    For instance there is no reference to synthetic moissanite or to
    irradiated green diamonds in the section on green diamonds (yes I
    know they were very rare). In yellow diamonds there is no mention at
    all of the current crop of yellow synthetics which are coming in and
    which beat the best natural ones for color and quality. Given the
    amount of the rest of the valuable information in the book this is a
    fairly minor quibble, but one that stuck out for me. Wise responded
    that this was a conscious decision because of the numerous other
    books available specializing in treatments and synthetics. He says "
    In fact, any treatment of the issue is almost obsolete by the time it
    is published, eg.  deep diffusion, lattice diffusion, they don't even
    know how the latest one is actually done. My objective was to deal
    with just what you point out, connoisseurship and quality

    My recommendation: Buy this book! It is an invaluable addition to
    gemstone literature and a necessary part of the library of all
    involved in the field. Wise is a renowned author, whose articles have
    appeared in many magazines, including GIA's Gems and Gemology, as
    well as having a retail jewelry gallery and store. This means that he
    understands the goldsmiths point of view as well as the clients and
    the collector. 

The book may be ordered from:

Charles Lewton-Brain/Brain Press
Box 1624, Ste M, Calgary, Alberta, T2P 2L7, Canada
Tel: 403-263-3955  Fax: 403-283-9053  Email: brainnet AT

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