Book review: Revised edition a gem of a book


"Secrets Of The Gem Trade: The Connoisseur's Guide To Precious Gemstones" (Second Edition) Revised and Expanded by Richard W. Wise is an absolutely fascinating book, which is both highly collectable and a complete reference to beautiful gems and jewelry.

Wise's articles have appeared in leading gem journals, and he is the Gemology Columnist for National Jeweler and a contributing editor with Gemkey and Gem Market News. He is also the author of "The French Blue," a novel about the life of the 17th-century gem dealer Jean Baptiste Tavernier and the back story of the Hope Diamond.

Everyone who loves gemstones, jewelry or who may be involved in the jewelry trade, will want to have this gorgeous book. Wise lives in Pittsfield and was President of R. W. Wise, Goldsmiths, Inc., in Lenox for 34 years having retired in 2013 to write. This book is a marvel in its generous 11 3/4 by 8 dimensions, startlingly clear photography of gems and jewelry, and all on high quality glossy pages. Every chapter has the history, the language and the practice of understating the appreciation of gems and their value. They include travelogues detailing people, places and things that underscore the very essence of fine jewels. Much more than a reference book, "Secrets Of The Gem Trade" is a banquet of gemology where you will discover new gems you may very well have never heard of — such as Carnelian in luscious orange, Chrysoprase in jasper green, several different kinds of (red, pink, purple, green, blue, blue-white, orange, brown, yellow, violet) diamonds, Cobalt Blue Spinel, and varieties of multi-colored pearls from around the world. Seeing these gems reproduced with such clarity is much like having them right in the room with you.

Benjamin Zucker, author of "Gems and Jewels, A Connoisseur's Guide," writes in his foreword to the book that "Secrets Of The Gem Trade," "breaks new ground in his discussion of blue-white diamonds and included perhaps the most comprehensive and sensitive overview of the aesthetics of jade to be found in the English language."

In discussing the histories, mining and trade of over 50 gems, each chapter reveals in-depth secrets on seeing colors in hue, saturation and tone, such as how to see the background yellow hue of jade versus the background blue hue in a very fine emerald. Every example is reproduced on the page perfectly. Concepts such as rarity and quality, origin and value, are balanced with the price of a gem, often based on the lifespan of a particular mine.

Some famous gems are displayed in discussion of certain categories such as the 76.02 carat Golconda type IIa Archduke Joseph diamond that sold for a record $21.48 million in 2012 and the 25.60 carat Sunrise Ruby, which, due to its size and quality, is perhaps the rarest ruby on earth and sold in May 2015 at Sotheby's for $30.3 million.

This new volume is very much like having a museum, a travel book and a very fine jewelry shop right at home. The chapters of this book will most certainly stimulate conversation and and curiosity in gems that have for many centuries inspired people of all kinds in every part of the world to become obsessed with beauty. "Secrets of the Gem Trade" is so generous in sharing how to look at gems, how to appreciate where they come from, and how to connect with the jewels with reverence and awe, it is clearly a mission and one that Wise wants us all to share in.

Colin Harrington is the Events Manager at The Bookstore & Get Lit Wine Bar in Lenox. Colin welcomes reader comments at

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"Secrets Of The Gem Trade: The Connoisseur's Guide To Precious Gemstones" (Second Edition) Revised and Expanded

By Richard W. Wise

Publisher: Brunswick House Press

361 Pages


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