The Jewellers Guide and Handy Reference Book by William Redman, 1883

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Description

This 1883 book is intended for the jewelry store owner and staff, and for interested amateurs, and pointedly, for the consumer. This seemed to be a new approach for that era. Redman consulted with the top authors of his time (many of them represented in the Ganoksin Antique Books Project) and includes extracts from their books. Any jeweler or gemologist would benefit from reading this book, and its stories are unique and numerous. It is full of history, and chemistry and really great detail. A very interesting book.

Hallmarking is explained for the public, and there are hints that the hallmarking system was really being introduced fully at the time, and that there were issues arising from it. An example: “the practice of foreign watch-cases being sent to England to be marked, and then returned and sold as English-made watches, with cheap foreign movements in, is a system which undoubtedly places the English watchmakers at a disadvantage, and ought to be altered.”

Gems and materials are addressed individually in specific sections. The book begins with diamond (there are a number of further diamond chapters scattered in the rest of the book). Brazilian and Indian sources mentioned are intriguing, as many are now long non-productive. South Africa was only beginning as a source when this was written, and most mining was still alluvial, washing river gravels to find them. The Brazilian mining was all carried out by slaves (we forget how late South America was to ban slavery), and if, unusually, a 17 carat stone was found the slave had their freedom granted. They made glasses out of quartz back then, grinding them with diamond dust. Lots of excellent diamond and other gem lore here, much of it lost in contemporary books and accounts. The gold rushes are described and diamond rushes too. Pretty wild stories. Good stuff.

A 12 carat stone would cost about 288 pounds at that time (very roughly about $ 19,000 equivalent today). The very good comments on diamond doublets and imitations hold good today.

Other chapter headings with their subjects addressed in depth include: Emerald, Gold, Jasper, Ruby, Sapphire, working precious stones, South African diamonds, Indian diamonds, Colored diamonds, red diamonds, green diamonds, diamonds of ‘unwonted’ color, celebrated diamonds, price of brilliants, pearls, assaying and marking, assay offices, ‘items worth knowing’, hallmarks, authorized marks, old silver, standards of gold and silver. All of these are chock full of anecdotes, histories and fascinating stories.

The chemistry of gems is remarkably correct, telling us how advanced they were in the 1880’s. Each chapter is very thorough and filled with intriguing detail about gems, lots of great stories for a jeweler or counter staff to know, details I’ve never seen anywhere else. Nero for instance used a ground glass of emerald to watch gladiatorial combat – who knew the Romans ground lenses? The lens is apparently in the Vatican (and is actually not a true emerald).

Gold alloys and recipes are covered well and in pretty exhaustive depth in several different chapters in this book. Working characteristics, alloying and more of direct interest to a working goldsmith is addressed. The history of its deposits, interspersed with anecdotes make pretty riveting reading.

The section on hall marks has all the offices in the UK described, their hours and signs. The date hallmarks pictured are really understandable (antique dealers rejoice!): well at least up till 1889 when this book was published.

The section on ‘things to know’ includes odd details about what goods are subject to duties, foreign marks with drawings, numbers of coins in circulation, tables of data and more.

This is an intriguing book, and if you are interested in the history of the field, of gems and gold then it is a ‘must have’ title.

109 pages, a number of illustrations.

File Size: 3.82MB, 109 Pages