Secrets of the Gem Trade

For those who love gems and pearls, this book is a must-have addition to your library. The chapter on natural pearls is brand new and includes this photo of a conch pearl from a Monili bracelet that was featured in a previous Pearl Guide News article.

monili for book review.jpg
Photo: Blaire Beavers

I wrote a book review for the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers. Having said what I felt about this book from the standpoint of a gemologist and appraiser, I then had a very hard time writing a different review for Pearl Guide. So, rather than sit with writer's block indefinitely, I am sharing my NAJA review:

Secrets of the Gem Trade 2nd Edition, by Richard W. Wise, GG, Reviewed by Blaire Beavers, GG, for the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers, December 1, 2016

I am certain that many of you have read the first edition of Secrets of the Gem Trade. I read the first edition as I was embarking on my first formal gemological training. Raised by a geologist father and growing up a rockhound, I had read extensively and thought I knew a lot about gemstones. I had many opportunities to see fine gems at trade shows, but was lacking an essential element in their evaluation—connoisseurship.

Richard Wise opened my eyes to a whole new way of viewing gems. Connoisseurship allows us to search out and enjoy the finer aspects of gems without necessarily owning them-something an appraiser can appreciate as a great variety of gems make a steady parade to their door.

The other major concept that rattled my cage was a rethought concept of the revered four Cs, substituting Crystal for Carat Weight. Crystal is the concept of transparency or diaphaneity that is easily observed in diamonds. “Oily” over-fluorescent diamonds may have no inclusions, but they do not compare visually with their highly transparent cousins. This idea made a permanent impact on my evaluation as I started to recognize super-transparency as the reason for my indefinable preference between nearly identical colored stones.

The second edition is better in many ways. There is much more of everything that made the first book great. Richard’s definition of what is precious has expanded to include many new gems. Those of us who have always adored spinel will be pleased to see it featured as well as a new section on natural pearls—eleven new chapters in all.

Visually stunning, the book is a much larger format, beautifully printed and coffee table worthy. As a former press operator, I can especially appreciate the extra expense of spot varnishing the photographs, which makes them come to life on the page. Richard’s eye for photographs and illustration is second to none. (Blushing here, as Richard used one of my photographs, a conch pearl, on page 199.) There are 404 pages and 277 color photographs.

A great author to begin with, Richard has grown as a writer over the last few years. The book is filled with wonderful stories. His descriptions made my gemologist’s heart flutter and his delightful frankness had me laughing out loud at times. This book is a bridge between the beautiful and the technical and should be required reading for all gemology students. It would not be exaggeration to say that this book is the crowning achievement of a lifetime.

The new edition of Secrets of the Gem Trade is the perfect gift for a valued client who wants more than an educational or reference book. It’s an instant immersion into the world of gem connoisseurship and a great read.

Blaire Beavers
Managing Editor
Pearl Guide News