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March-April 2012

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Media Reviews: Emeralds—A Passionate Guide by Ronald Ringsrud. Green View Press, Oxnard, California; 2009; 382 pages; $80 plus shipping and handling (hardbound).

Emeralds—A Passionate Guide is a rather well-done source book on emerald that includes a broad spectrum of topics spanning not only emeralds per se but the mysteries and the people associated with every aspect of these unique stones. Ronald Ringsrud is an acknowledged expert on emeralds, having dealt with them commercially for more than twenty-five years, with a particular familiarity with Colombia, its mines, and the Bogota emerald market.

The book begins with acknowledgments, a table of contents, a foreword by John Koivula of the Gemological Institute of America, and a brief introduction. There follows the meat of the book contained in 23 chapters. The final sections are a bibliography, appendix, and index. The first two chapters develop emerald's seemingly magical romantic powers and how they are woven into a very long and intricate history. The next three chapters deal with properties of emerald and in particular its optics and the impact of lighting on color. The following three chapters cover grading of emerald including systematics, color, and clarity. Chapters 9–11 are important sections on clarity enhancement, a buyers guide, and the aspects of certificates, reports, and appraisals. Chapter 12 consists of an excellent treatment of what is known as Gota de Aceite, an unusual and rare aspect of certain Colombian emeralds that produces an attractive velvety interruption of light as it passes through the stone. The following chapter, titled “More Secrets of the Connoisseurs Brought to Light: Old Mine Emeralds” explains the truth about historical emeralds and their comparative quality with respect to modern stones. Chapter 14 is a short but important treatment of fair trade practices in the emerald mining and marketing world. Chapters 15 and 16 explain the geology of Colombian emerald deposits and recount some of Ringsrud's adventures in the Andes. Chapter 17 is a brief review of the world's major emerald localities that makes clear the dominance of the Colombian emerald. Next follow two interesting chapters, the first covering the buying and cutting of emerald rough and the second dealing with the “world of gem people,” beginning with a section on the annual Tucson gem show, the annual colored stone convention that immediately precedes the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show each February. Chapter 20 is an interesting treatment of the mystical and astrological importance of colored stones, especially emerald. Next comes an important chapter devoted to collecting mineral specimens, especially emeralds and species intimately associated with them. Chapter 22 is unique in that it treats emeralds in poetry, a subject of surprising interest. The final chapter is a short treatment of “The Medieval Lapidaries,” much of which is devoted to the writing of St. Thomas Aquinas, a fitting way to end this comprehensive work.

The book is beautifully illustrated with more than 70 photomicrographs and 270 other photographs and related illustrations. The pictures span a wide range of topics and include mines, cutting shops, the marketplace, finished stones and jewelry, and mineral specimens. The print is relatively large (a reflection of the somewhat short text), the editing tight, and the book well constructed with high-quality paper, faithful color rendition, and tight binding. Although somewhat expensive, the book certainly serves as a worthy complement to Sinkankas' comprehensive treatment of emerald in his classic Emeralds and Other Beryls and in this regard should be a welcome addition to any collector's library. It is certainly recommended as a broad treatment of emerald amplified by very fine and appropriate illustrations.

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