Book Review – Jewelry Making for Schools, Tradesmen, Craftsmen

It would be inappropriate to review this book without including a short description of the craft environment of the early 50’s, when it was first published. World War II was over, and the streams that would later form the current craft renaissance were merging. Art jewelry makers were thinly scattered around the country and the constituency for books on jewelry making consisted of hobbyists, occupational therapists, returned veterans, industrial arts teachers, trade people and art students in the few schools that maintained jewelry shops.

Jewelry Making for Schools, Tradesmen, Craftsmen
By Murray Bovin
Enlarged and revised May, 1979 by Peter Bovin, Bovin Publishing Co.
68-36 108 St., Forest Hills, N.Y. 11375
287 pages
$16.50 cloth
$.12.95 paper

There weren’t many books to choose from. Some had been written in the early 1900s. The better-known authors were Henry Wilson, Herbert Maryon, Kenneth Winebrenner, Greta Pack, Louis Wiener and Rose and Cirino. Then there was Murray Bovin: and his book became the jeweler’s oracle. lf you wanted hard facts and clear-cut procedures, he had them. There was good reason for this. First, Bovin was an industrial arts teacher who taught jewelry making in a New York high school. He was a product of a tradition that placed a lot of value on the thorough mastery of technical knowledge and skills (unfortunately, esthetics tended to suffer from benign neglect). Second, Bovin was not just a shop teacher who wound up in a jewelry shop when the laws of chance could just as easily have deposited him in a woodworking or printing shop. He had a special love for the field and he haunted the workshops and supply houses in the New York commercial jewelry trade. He asked endless questions, took pictures, made sketches and watched stone setters, casters, platers, polishers and engravers at work. When something got into his book, it was because that was the way it was done in the trade, He blended the theoretical, culled from the existing literature, with the practical, based on the hard realities that the jewelry trade lived with.

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Murray Bovin made a good book, and if the loyalty of the marketplace is any indication, it is still a good book. It has gone through numerous printings, revisions and enlargements. The latest, the topic of this review, was made in 1979, and from the looks of it, it should do well.

I have a 1959 revision in my library and curiosity tempted me to compare the two. At 278 pages, the new book is almost twice as thick as the old one. Some of the additional material is in the form of an enlarged section illustrating the work of contemporary jewelers. Most of the new material is designed to keep pace with technical developments in jewelry making in the last decade or so. Consistent with past performance, this edition includes processes found in industrial as well as academic and studio settings. In the new book you will find sections on stripping and bombing, barrel tumbling, photoetching, married metals, mokumegane, reticulation, granulation, electroforming and refining and alloying gold. As usual, emphasis is placed on trade practices, so stone setting and construction and repair of different types of jewelry are well covered, Jewelers who are ready to break away from the ivory tower and try to make their craft pay the rent will appreciate the straightforward, non-poetic, factual language and the numerous photographs and drawings. A lot of information is packed into those pages. Finding it is made easy with the help of a good table of contents, index and bold-type titles introducing every topic.

My complaints are minor. No one book has everything, and that is why it pays to collect a basic library of jewelry books. Murray Bovin’s should be in it, but it should be near your bench, not in the bookcase.

1 . For a good historical overview of the period, see Lois Moran’s report, “American Metalsmithing in the 1940’s and 50 s. American Craft Magazine, Feb.-Mar. 1983, pp.86,

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By Bernard Bernstein
Metalsmith Magazine - 1983 Summer
In association with SNAG's
Metalsmith Magazine, founded in 1980, is an award winning publication and the only magazine in America devoted to the metal arts.
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