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Smithsonian Handbooks: Gemstones Paperback – May 15, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Wikipedia: A gemstone or gem (also called a precious or semi-precious stone, a fine gem, or jewel) is a piece of mineral, which, in cut and polished form, is used to make jewelry or other adornments.[1][2] However certain rocks, (such as lapis lazuli) and organic materials (such as amber or jet) are not minerals, but are still used for jewelry, and are therefore often considered to be gemstones as well. Most gemstones are hard, but some soft minerals are used in jewelry because of their luster or other physical properties that have aesthetic value. Rarity is another characteristic that lends value to a gemstone. Apart from jewelry, from earliest antiquity until the 19th century engraved gems and hardstone carvings such as cups were major luxury art forms; the carvings of Carl Fabergé were the last significant works in this tradition. ~~~ The traditional classification in the West, which goes back to the Ancient Greeks, begins with a distinction between precious and semi-precious stones; similar distinctions are made in other cultures. In modern usage the precious stones are diamond, ruby, sapphire and emerald, with all other gemstones being semi-precious.[3] This distinction reflects the rarity of the respective stones in ancient times, as well as their quality: all are translucent with fine color in their purest forms, except for the colorless diamond, and very hard,[4] with hardnesses of 8-10 on the Mohs scale. Other stones are classified by their color, translucency and hardness. The traditional distinction does not necessarily reflect modern values, for example, while garnets are relatively inexpensive, a green garnet called Tsavorite, can be far more valuable than a mid-quality emerald.[5] Another unscientific term for semi-precious gemstones used in art history and archaeology is hardstone. Use of the terms 'precious' and 'semi-precious' in a commercial context is, arguably, misleading in that it deceptively implies certain stones are intrinsically...

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Product Details

  • Series: Smithsonian Handbooks
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: DK; 2 edition (May 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0789489856
  • ISBN-13: 978-0789489852
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (155 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,094 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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130 of 133 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Huston on September 2, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I fear that I am a bit of a magpie. I like shiny sparkly things, and the usual response is Ooooh! Shiny! And as a young one, when taken on various trips, I started to take an interest in rockhounding and geology. It was finding gemstones that were the real fun, seeing these little bits of glittery rock that turned out to be sapphires or amethysts or garnets. Life would take me in different directions, but the interest in pretty, glittery rocks has remained.

Smithsonian Handbooks: Gemstones is one of those lovely little books that is crammed full of information and pictures, along some folklore and bits of trivia that add to the mystique of gemstones. Compiled by Cally Hall, it's a very readable book, filled with more than 800 photographs, with a text that while it is slanted towards scientific terms, is very readable and accessable.

The first section of the book is an extended introduction to what makes a gemstone different than say, a mineral, although they might be composed of the same chemicals. A brief history of how gemstones and precious metals (silver, gold and platinum) have been shaped, worn and coveted. One section that I found very intesting was the explaination of the Mohs scale used to determined hardness -- it ranges from 1 to 10, with talc at the bottom, and diamond at the top, and how a stone is determined to fit in along the scale. Another fascinating section is how light and crystallization help to determine gemstones, and what part they play in how a stone is shaped and graded. There is also a section on synthetic gemstones and how they have been created over the centuries, and how the colour of stones can be changed by irradiation, heating and staining the stones.
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78 of 80 people found the following review helpful By Jo McGillem on September 28, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A great book for beginners and experienced gemstone enthusiasts alike. Information ranges from simple descriptions for identification purposes (especially inclusions), to detailed terminology for the experienced rock hound.

I have purchased so called beginners books in the past (for identification purposes) and they require expert gemmologists to understand.
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101 of 110 people found the following review helpful By Rosey World Traveler on October 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a clear, concise, easy to read guide to gems. Well photographed. A great primer for those unfamiliar with all the different types of stones, and a good reference for those who are more knowledgeable. Excellent for jewelers and designers to use with customers. Highly recommended.
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60 of 65 people found the following review helpful By J. Malnar on January 16, 2006
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Never tought there were so many crystals that can be cut into gemstones. Never saw so many beautiful pics of cut loose gemstones in one place. Well explained, from formation, physical and optical properties, imitation and enhancement. Especially appreciate the color key section, with gemstones grouped according to color in which it is always, usually and sometimes available. Probably the best books on properties and identification of gemstones. I am positively THRILLED to own it, and I am only a gemstone lover and admirer.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Constance M. Siese on March 8, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is the second of the two books I purchased on gems. It is impossible to find pictures and information this great. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to learn about gems.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Spinner VINE VOICE on June 29, 2007
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I bought this for my 7-yr. old daughter - budding rock hound and naturalist! Like other DK books, the photography is luscious and the layout is casual and very inviting - full of beautiful images.

It provides a great overview and history of gemstones and their appeal, where specific stones can be found and appealing photographs of the different cuts of stones. It also provides detailed "specifics" such as structure, composition and hardness.

This is a thoroughly engaging book for all ages and it is highly recommended.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Spunkychk on July 6, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I love this book. It's a great resource especially if you just need a quick guide. The charts are great. Especially nice is the section that shows stones by color.. "always color ..", "usually color ..", "sometimes color ..", etc. So if you are looking for green stones you can find them quickly!

BUT some gemstones I looked up by name, weren't to be found. That left me to go to the internet where I quickly found the gemstone.

Even so, it's a beautiful little book, quick and concise. The photos are gorgeous.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Tomer Cohen on March 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
I've been using this book for a year now. All the relevant gems and minerals are listed with detailed description. Pictures are great and help in real life minerals identification.
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