No mere pretty little picture book of baubles, “Antique Jewellery” is a useful, compact, reference book that delves into the types of jewelry, the materials old and antique jewelry are made of, and how jewelry was once produced. The list of plates at the beginning of the book piqued my interest and made me jump right in.
According to author Duncan James, who is a lecturer, jewelry designer and craftsman, “It seeks to encourage the reader to look at jewellery more closely and carefully for the subtle hidden evidence of fine craftsmanship and design.”
If you’re in the market for old and antique jewelry, and you can identify quality workmanship, you have a better chance of getting the best value for your money. “Antique Jewellery” is a good tool to help you learn to spot fine antique jewelry while you are out in the marketplace. It offers crisp, clear images of exquisite jewelry examples, though without pricing and value information.
Just as important as the many color photographs are the many helpful illustrations (the little book holds a whopping 60 figural drawings) to teach the intricacies of finely made jewelry, some of which include gold content, hallmarks, principal decorative techniques, types of engraving tools, stone cuts and settings.
Antique jewelry is worth more than the sum of its parts. Take away the condition, however, and that antique jewelry is at risk of being reduced for the cash value of the materials it’s made of. Perhaps an understanding and appreciation of how a 200-year old piece was made, though it may now be broken or battered, might yet be enough to save it, one piece at a time.
“Antique Jewellery: Its manufacture, materials and design,” by Duncan James, Shire Publications, 2007, softcover, 120 pages, $19.95, www.shirebooks.co.uk.
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