From our Digital Antique Books Library…
The Jewellers Guide and Handy Reference Book, 1883
by: William Redman,
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.
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