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March-April 2010

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Media Reviews: March/April 2010

AGATES II by Johann Zenz, Rainer Bode, Haltern, Germany; 2009; 656 pages; €89 plus shipping (hardcover).

This beautifully illustrated book, produced in collaboration with Rainer Bode, Stefan Hamann, and Steffen Jahn and with text contributions by Nick Crawford, L. J. Cromartie, Hans Gamma, Jens Götze, Pat McMahan, Terry Moxon, Stefan Raimann, and Dieter Schwarz, is the second in a three-part definitive set of books dealing with agate (see Rocks & Minerals, March/April 2006, page 158 for a review of the first book in the series). Although the general appearance and high quality defined by the 2005 production of Agates has been perpetuated in this volume, the content is quite different.

Agates II begins with a brief introduction followed by an interesting discussion of the continuing enigma of agate genesis. Next follows an unusual 127-page chapter, a Who's Who in the realm of agate collecting, titled “Important People in the World of Agates.” Here, about fifty of the most important and interesting agate collectors from around the world are featured. Such notable collectors as Reiner Schafer, Eugene Mueller, Peter Jeckel, Nick Lorimer, and many others are highlighted. Fascinating information related to their private collections and the adventures involved with acquiring their specimens are presented here. An important section describing the intimate relationship between Idar Oberstein and agates comes next, tracing the history and current craft there as it relates to agate cutting and carving. The next chapter is devoted to jasper and includes sections on its description and definition, various jasper types, and the specific occurrences in Csaterberg, Austria, and Burn Anne, Scotland. The next approximately 300 pages are devoted to an update and expansion of locality data given in what should be referred to as Agates I. Interestingly, Germany is reviewed first, followed by a section on agate localities in European countries, leaving one with various geographic and political questions. An enlightening section on Asian countries follows and includes agate localities in Russia, Tajikistan, Georgia, Armenia, China, and India. Australia follows with separate sections on Mount Hay Gemstone Park and Rainforest Jasper. Sixty pages are devoted to North and Central America, followed by a chapter on South America with sections devoted to Colombia, Brazil, and Argentina. African occurrences are covered in a short 20 pages. Antarctica and its little-known agate are also featured in a short section. Geographic agatology is followed by a rather comprehensive chapter on agates with inclusions. Again, the treatment is geographic and follows an initial 30 pages of introductory material; the exceptional McMahan collection of included agate is featured. Next are short sections devoted to agates under ultraviolet radiation and pictures in agate. The book closes with an index, photo credits, and acknowledgments.

Like the first Agates, the present volume is spectacularly illustrated with twenty-two hundred pictures of agate, jasper, collectors, localities, and maps. The color reproduction appears to be excellent, and the selection of specimens is clearly based on both beauty and the desire to illustrate important features. Translated from the original German text, the English is good (although at times a little stiff and literal), and translator Angelika Filz is to be commended. If you are hooked on agate, then you already own the first Agates; this book, therefore, is a must. If you have seen but did not purchase Agates, then I am saddened to tell you that it is now out of print. Don't let Agates II slip away into the world of expensive collectibles without securing your own copy now. It is highly recommended. We curiously await Agates III, for what is left to present that will not at this point be anticlimactic?

Robert B. Cook
Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama

Cristalli: L'Ordine dal Caos by Giovanni Pratesi, Federico Pezzotta, and Adalberto Giazotto. In Italian. Giunti Editore SPA, Milan, Italy. 240 pages; 2008; €48 (hardbound).

This book, at first glance, appears to be yet another coffee-table book featuring page-sized color photographs of good to spectacular mineral specimens. It is written in Italian, making the text, particularly the important introduction, potentially unappreciated by those not reading the language. To make matters worse, there seems to be no organizational scheme when one first thumbs through the book, as the specimens are not arranged alphabetically, chemically, or geographically. However, one needs to look closer. The book actually features the rather unusual and quite fine mineral collection of a well-known modern physicist, Adalberto Giazotto, whose specimens have been chosen not for systematics but for pure aesthetics, and as the introduction makes clear, this is a combination of nature and art. The title, which translates in part “order out of chaos,” puts it quite succinctly.

Cristalli begins with a foreword by Cristina Acidini in which the importance of preserving natural aesthetic materials is discussed. This is followed by several pages on the collection and preservation of minerals by Dr. Giazotto. Next is the two-part introduction; the first discusses the union between science and art, and the second the geologic origins and the study of crystals. Both are well done and particularly well illustrated with respect to mineral localities and environments of formation. Pages 34–229 present ninety-five specimens through the excellent photographs of both Giazotto and Jeff Scovil. In a few instances the specimen is shown as it appeared when acquired, or enlargements of particularly interesting parts of the specimen are given. Also included with each specimen are a description of its source and in some instances a brief summary of how it was acquired. Accompanying each specimen is a small map of the world with the locality of origin highlighted in red and an accompanying thumbnail-sized outline of the specimen with “x” and “y” coordinate dimensions. The book closes with several appendices. The first is a set of twenty-four photographs that depict many of the well-known worldwide specimen localities featured. There is a page of technical definitions followed by a list of suggested readings and websites of mineral museums, publications, and scientific organizations. An alphabetical listing of the specimens featured in the book, complete with locality and descriptive information, follows and takes the place of a more typical index. Finally, there are photograph attributions and brief author biographies.

Cristalli is particularly interesting when one studies the specimens chosen for inclusion. Some appear to be excellent though not top quality until the dimensional sketch is studied. One then realizes that the majority are not miniature or small cabinet-sized pieces but are large, most exceeding 10 inches in maximum dimension. This makes the Tsumeb cerussite at 25 × 15 cm extraordinary. Similarly, the Italian sulfurs are exceptional specimens, as might be expected. A Xuebaoding scheelite appears to be on bruised matrix and seems lackluster until one realizes it is 40 cm across. The accompanying 35-cm cassiterite specimen from the same locality and sporting two groups of twinned crystals is equally impressive. Interestingly, a second 24 × 28-cm Xuebaoding scheelite of apparently far better quality is shown elsewhere in the book. Even the Chanãarcillo proustite, although a broken crystal group, is enormous at 10 × 13 cm. Gem crystals are equally impressive and include a 33-cm Madagascar liddicoatite; a 30 × 18-cm Pakistan morganite on matrix and a 10 × 27-cm Brazilian gem morganite; a 20 × 20-cm brazilianite; a strikingly blue 20 × 28-cm Brazilian topaz; a suite of Pederneira mine, Brazil, elbaites, one of which is a mere 41 cm long; several large Paprok, Afghanistan, elbaites; and a truly exceptional 31-cm aquamarine crystal from the Karur district, India. One of the most interesting specimens is the first presented, an ajoite in quartz from Messina, South Africa. Likely every reader is familiar with these attractive robin's-egg-blue included quartz crystals, but who has seen a group over 50 cm across, the largest crystal of which must be 35 cm long!

This interesting book gives the reader a rare look at what a collector of significantly large, top-quality specimens goes after. It is clear that the objective of presenting the marriage between science and nature has been met here. Giazotto recently placed the collection on a five-year renewable loan to the Natural History Museum of the University of Florence, where it will remain on display, making Cristalli a photographic catalogue of sorts. I heartily recommend this book for any available open space on the serious collector's coffee table. After all, the photographs are not in Italian.

Robert B. Cook
Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama

Italian Type Minerals by Marco E. Ciriotti, Lorenza Fascio,  Marco Pasero. Plus-Pisa University Press, Lungarno Pacinotti, 43, 56126 Pisa, Italy. 357 pages; 2009; €40 (softbound).

A significant percentage of known mineral species, 264 in all, were first recognized in Italy, beginning in 1546 (Agricola's salammoniac). In addition, 28 minerals discovered elsewhere are named after Italian individuals and institutions, and so the publication of a comprehensive book on Italian type-minerals and related topics is certainly in order. The book begins with an informative introduction that includes sections on definitions, the world distribution of minerals, comments about the format and the presentation of the species to be described, acknowledgments, and a useful section discussing minerals that could have been included in the book and were not as well as those that could have been excluded.

The meat of the book is contained in Chapter 2, some 266 pages devoted to the minerals first discovered in Italy. The species are arranged alphabetically. Information given for each includes the type locality, the name's derivation, the status of the species including exactly how it was established and approved, brief information about its occurrence and distribution, remarks about unusual or interesting features, and five or six important references. Photographs that accompany each entry include several that document typical specimens and usually one of the general type-location or of the person for whom the mineral is named. The Strunz-Nickel classification symbol, chemical formula, and space-group symmetry and related information are also given. Names as familiar as forsterite, cerussite, and several of the heulandites appear as well as those that are quite obscure such as fantappieite and carlosturanite. Chapter 3 contains an alphabetical description of minerals named after Italian individuals or institutions, beginning with amicite and ending with zanazziite. One of the most interesting of these is the gold mineral museumite, named “in order to give proper credit to all museums of the world preserving their old samples with care and accuracy.” The general descriptive format used in Chapter 2 is continued throughout this chapter. The fourth and final chapter contains six useful appendices. These include a table of the minerals following the Strunz classification scheme, Italian type-minerals arranged chronologically, Italian minerals arranged by regional distribution and a similar arrangement based on district distribution, Italian minerals arranged by author, and an interesting “selected bibliography” that is divided into sections containing general mineralogical references, Internet sites, regional mineralogy, and others.

This is an informative book that is well researched. The presentation is clear and concise, and there are almost no editorial glitches. Although one might quibble with the choice of some of the species presented (or left out), there is an internal consistency that seems to work. The references are particularly useful and clearly document the status of the mineral and the important papers that contain information related to it. The mineral photographs vary in quality, type, and composition, generally as dictated by the species and its characteristics. Some, such as SEM photographs, are in black and white, as they must be. Others are good color photographs of micromounts; still others are of polished or thin sections. Some of the minerals are so rare that this book may well be the most readily available source of a photograph. For the more common minerals, rather typical specimens have been used rather than the most magnificent museum examples. Each specimen is carefully described, and the photograph attribution is clear. A significant effort has been made to secure photographs of the many persons for whom Italian minerals are named.

Italian Type Minerals makes a nice addition to one's personal library. It is fun to thumb through, and there is much to learn between its covers. It is a bit pricey, but this reflects the quality of the paper stock, printing, and cover. I strongly recommend it as a good reference source for anyone interested in geographic or historical mineralogy.

Robert B. Cook
Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama

The Beauty of Banded Agates by Michael R. Carlson. Fortification Press/Beautiful Agates LLC, Edina, Minnesota; 2002; 160 pages; $59.95 plus shipping (hardcover), $38.95 plus shipping (softcover).

This well-illustrated book, which is essentially a photographic essay, treats the occurrence of banded agates by focusing on eight major localities. Initially, however, the book begins with short though informative sections on the general features of agate, agate quality, characteristics of banded agate, and lapidary issues. Characteristics discussed—each illustrated with one or more color photographs—include fortification, color, shadow, geodes, tubes, eyes, sagenite, banding, moss, plumes, stalk aggregates, chromatographic features, the iris effect, and more. The next approximately 125 pages are devoted to the occurrence of banded agate at eight interesting and somewhat contrasting localities. These include Botswana, Brazil, Argentina (Condor agate), Montana (Dryhead agate), Fairburn agate (South Dakota, Wyoming, and Nebraska), the Lake Superior region, Mexico (Chihuahua), and Queensland. Then follows a short section on other banded agates and conclusions. The book closes with a glossary, an index, and a list of references.

For such a broad and important topic, the text is relatively short, comprising less than 20 percent of the book. However, as one moves through it, it becomes clear that the objective is to present only general introductory information relative to each locality and get quickly to the more than 250 color illustrations, letting the reader admire and interpret these wonderful photographs that depict both polished agate surfaces and finished jewelry. Much credit is due to the photographic skills of Peter Rodewald and Dennis Westman, both of whom contributed many of the exceptional photographs.

I like this book very much, particularly the quality of the photography and printing; however, I believe that additional text, maps, and coverage of some other great localities would strengthen the presentation and overall value of the book dramatically. Although the price is relatively high, it makes a nice companion to Agates and Agates II and is recommended to anyone building or maintaining a gemstone library.

Robert B. Cook
Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama

Collector's Guide to Three Phases of Titanium: Rutile, Anatase, Brookite by Robert J. Lauf. Schiffer Publishing, 4880 Lower Valley Rd., Atglen, PA 19310. 93 pages; 2009; $19.99 (softbound).

This is volume 6 of the Schiffer Earth Science Monographs, and it pretty much follows the same format as the others in the series, such as those on mica and epidote, which were reviewed in the July/August 2009 issue. The publications can best be described as overviews and are handy references and guides to what the minerals look like in hand specimens, particularly for those collectors who have an interest in the minerals covered. Because of my strong interest in Magnet Cove, Arkansas, where all three minerals occur in this latest volume, I found it quite useful as a worldwide review of each species. The data given are not detailed enough to be much help on specific localities; however, by comparing the photographs of specimens that occur at various locations, one can get a good sense of what to expect from each in terms of mineral size, color, quality, and associations. This is neither an in-depth study nor coffee-table book, but most collectors will find it extremely useful and a handy, easy-to-use reference. I strongly recommend it.

Arthur E. Smith
Houston, Texas

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