From our Digital Antique Books Library…
Precious Stones: Considered in their Scientific and Artistic Relations
by A. H. Church, 1899
This 1899 (republished 1905) book outlines the knowledge at the time
of gems and precious stones. It is surprisingly accurate and most is
still current. It is a completely revised version of the 1882 book
"Handbook of Precious Stones". It covers the science, the origins,
the use, and meaning and more of gems. A very thorough book. Any
gemologist can benefit from reading this book - and it should be
mandatory for anyone studying gemology. It also deals with issues of
design and artistic use of gems which sets it apart from any other
gemology book I know of.
There are interesting political comments, such as a blistering
critique of the British government statistics reports on gem exports
from Sri Lanka (then Ceylon). A discussion of culture and fashion on
the use of gems in fine jewelry is similar to today’s discussion -
with a plea for more public acceptance of moonstones and other gems,
a hint of the swirl of debate that Art Nouveau jewelry created at
the time. Jewelers are criticized for their willful lack of
knowledge (still an issue in the trade - though much less now).
There is an early instance of the luster scale used today, and all
the main identification attributes such as polarization,
pleochroism, dispersion, refraction, double refraction, hardness,
specific gravity are addressed, all the same as today. Missing is
spectrum analysis detail which was pioneered some 20 years after
this book by Basil Anderson.
The explanation of refraction is very clear. If you are a gemologist
you will enjoy this glimpse of the developing understanding of
polarized light and the more subtle aspects of refractive index.
There is nothing really untrue here, just that parts of
understanding and theory got filled in better in the last hundred
years. They certainly knew how to observe and so the on
pleochoism is correct and insightful. Making your own dichroscope is
described. There are great tables on pleochroism. The Mohs scale of
hardness was already in use and it is detailed.
The section on specific gravity is very good, with early insight
into the use of heavy liquids, ones I never heard of, and one of the
final winners used today, methylene iodide. The Thallium
instructions should be ignored by anyone today because of its
toxicity, but it is really interesting. It is all solid,
experienced, scientifically based The observations are
The refractometer is introduced, and given Herbert Smiths somewhat
primitive pioneering version the remains great today.
There is a great chapter on cuts and cutting. It covers all that
mattered in 1905.
There is a remarkable chapter called “Artistic Employment of
Precious Stones”. It is most unusual to have such an editorial
commentary in a gemology textbook. This is the only gemology book I
have read that deals with design and comments on it for the artist
maker. Truly interesting. It is a philosophical ‘call to arms’ for
jewelers to use gems of all kinds for colors, subtleties of design
and creative efforts.
There are excellent chapters on imitation and synthetic stones, with
the early synthetics fully described and a debate on nomenclature
that continues today. With imitations time has caught up with the
descriptions, with simulants like moissonite and cubic zirconia
entering in the last quarter of the 20th century. All the
on glasses, which still make up the bulk of imitations
The chapters on gemstone descriptions is accurate and well done. It
is the bulk of the book, the most pages and most excellent
Lots of historical stories, chemistry and
references. A remarkable resource.
Includes: Diamond, Corundum, Sapphire and Ruby, Spinel, Turquoise,
Topaz, Beryl and Emerald, Chrysoberyl, Phenakite, Euclase, Zircon,
Spodumene, Hiddenite, Kunzite, Opal, Quartz, Lapis-lazuli, Iolite
Crocidolite, Labradorite, Moonstone, Sunstone, Obsidian, Epidote,
Axinite, Sphene, Cossiterite, Diopside, Apophyllite, Andalusite,
Jade and Jadeite, Pyrites, Hematite, Amber, Jet, Malachite,
Lumachella, Pearl, Coral.
Finally there is a catalogue and description of the Townshend
collection, which was donated to the South Kensington Museum.
A great book.
Definition of Precious Stones
Properties and Discrimination of Precious Stones
Cutting and Fashioning Precious Stones
Artistic Employment of Precious Stones
Artificial Formation of Precious Stones
Imitations of Precious Stones
Descriptions of Precious Stones
The Townshend Collection of Precious Stones
The Catalogue of the Townshend Collection
File Size: 7.72MB, 155 pages, dozens of illustrations.