This article showcases the book reviews for “Diamond Setting: The Professional Approach” and “Contemporary Jewellery: The Americas, Australia, Europe and Japan” published in the 1985 Spring issue of the Metalsmith Magazine.


Diamond Setting: The Professional Approach
By Robert R. Wooding
Dry Ridge Diamond Setting School
P O. Box 18814, Erlanger, KY 41018, 1984
170 pages, $29.95

In the preface the author describes his book as “a training manual to be used as a reference source for diamond-setting procedures.” Fair enough—a straightforward description of a clear objective. This goes beyond being accurate and is in fact a summary of the book as a whole.

The book follows a logical format that starts with tools and materials, goes on to explain simple settings for round stones, then moves into fancy settings for unusual cuts. Mr. Wooding makes a strong point of mastering each level before progressing to the next. I hear the voice of an experienced teacher here; I suspect that the author has ushered many students along this path before. There were several instances where asides were given to answer questions of the oh-no-what-have-l-done-wrong variety. These slow down the reading but make all the difference if the problem is one you’re struggling with.

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The first 50 pages are given over to a description of tools and their modification for diamond setting. Some of this is slow to an experienced metalsmith but worth the reading, especially the section on graver sharpening. The subsequent chapters are evenly paced and well-illustrated.

I enjoyed Mr. Wooding’s advice to those considering a career as a diamond setter. He notes that a setter must have a ”desire to strive for perfection with intricate detail, creative ability, and mechanical inclination.” That is, you should be a fussy perfectionist with a flexible mind who is also part mechanical engineer. That sounds like the diamond setters I know.

Diamond Setting is clearly aimed at a specific market. This accounts for its lucid and meaty text as well as its higher than usual cost. For those who want to pursue diamond setting as a career, or as an important part of their work, I think the investment will be justified.

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– Tim McCreight


Contemporary Jewellery: The Americas, Australia, Europe and Japan
The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, 1984
164 pages, 155 black-and-white portraits and 343 color photographs, 8,230 Yen, air mail, 4,830 Yen, sea mail
Write for remittance to:
Miss Ayumi Kondo. Registrar
National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto
Okazaki Park, Sakyo-Ku, Kyoto, 606, Japan

What’s the point of reviewing a predominately foreign-language exhibition catalog? Actually, such catalogs are critical to the body of literature surrounding any constantly evolving discipline.

“Contemporary Jewellery: The Americas, Australia, Europe and Japan” is an exquisite document of the show by the same name, mounted by the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto in August, 1984 (see review of show in this issue). The catalog is eloquent and valuable to anyone with an interest in the field, despite the fact that only the title, foreword, acknowledgments. artists’ names and piece designations appear in English. Because it is so savvy, so proficient and so complete in its visual presentation, we can relish it and learn from it without the benefit of text.

Art exhibition catalogs hold a unique place in the world of international bibliography. Often difficult to learn about, difficult to obtain and difficult to catalog and classify (because of their ephemeral nature, extremely limited production and general foreign publication problems), they are nevertheless avidly sought and collected by artists, researchers and libraries everywhere. Part of their value lies in their unique coverage—the catalog of a contemporary art exhibition offers the most current, state-of-the-art view, long before magazine coverage ever appears. Sometimes it remains the only view. If well done, a catalog becomes an exhibition’s surrogate. serving, even without a curatorial statement, as the fullest record of the show for those unable to attend. Frequently, catalogs contain valuable critical essays, bibliographies, chronologies, biographies, listings of lenders and provenance of pieces. As historical documents, they become important as frozen moments in the esthetic time continuum—showing us what was being thought about, grappled with, executed at a given time and place. They are, therefore, critical clues on the researcher’s path, often presenting the only documentation of early works in a given movement, medium or oeuvre. In short, they are essential to the ongoing informational process and thus the critical dialogue, of every esthetic field.

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This catalog does fall short of the full complement of a researcher’s demands. While it does contain an essay and biographies (all in Japanese), it lacks a bibliography as well as physical descriptions of the pieces. Yet it remains prized for the unusually complete visual documentation it provides of the spectrum of art jewelry being produced internationally in 1984.

The exceptional catalog reproduces every piece in a show. Here we are treated not only to each of the 480 inclusions, but we get them in high-quality, very “readable” four-color images. Appropriate background and size is always employed and the jewelry is carefully lit to render it dimensional and decipherable. The designers also deserve credit for making frequent use of display mannequins when pieces call for it. The visual impact owes much to the catalog’s large format, 13½” long x 9¾” wide. Each of the 155 artists [from 22 countries] receive a full page. Each has a small black-and-white head shot, so that the majority of the page layout can be devoted to color photos of the jewelry. This allows the sophisticated and consistent graphic design to include enough negative space for the eye to absorb each page comfortably.

Despite the richness provided by the stunning visuals, this cannot make up for the one serious flaw remaining for the English-speaking audience. The catalog is arranged alphabetically by artist, and although the artist’s name, the titles and sizes of the work are in English, the artist’s country of origin is not. This is most unfortunate, for, without consulting another reference source, we are denied the opportunity to formulate ideas and opinions based on the esthetic similarities and differences discerned from nationality, We are limited to a face-value, international view. It is a serious omission.

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And still, the catalog is successful, The art that it brings together is more than worthy of the time, money and effort that went into this publication. The work expresses every direction and every material being explored in the field today. It is a smashing, state-of-the-art compilation. Despite its many limitations, this catalog does belong in every jeweller’s personal library. As a model of visual jewelry documentation and a remarkably broad overview of contemporary trends, it remains unparalleled, We can only hope that American institutional shows of the future follow the committed lead of Japan.

– Vanessa Lynn