Exotic Gems: Vol. 1 ... How to Identify and Buy Tanzanite, Ammolite, Rhodochrosite, Zultanite, Sunstone, Moonstone & Other Feldspars

Book Review by Eric J. Hoffman


   Renée Newman, International Jewelry Publications, 2010. 160 pp, 288 color photographs, softcover, 9 x 6 inches, $19.95.


   Would you recognize a beautiful ammolite if you saw one? Seen any zultanites lately? If these gems sound unfamiliar, this book may be for you.

   Renée Newman has authored several highly praised guides for buyers of diamonds, sapphires, rubies, emeralds, and pearls. With this book she enters the realm of the more unusual gems. Newman starts off with a careful discussion of all the factors affecting price-- 10 different factors are discussed and illustrated. Then comes a brief summary of gem treatments and a quick review of gemstone terminology, all in clear English.

   The first stone discussed in detail is tanzanite. You may consider this gem more mainstream today than “exotic,” but have you seen yellow tanzanite? Or pink, or green? This chapter, the longest in the book at 31 pages, mostly updates Newman’s previous writings on tanzanite, including its many treatments, coatings, and imitators. Especially interesting is the dramatic improvement from recutting chipped or poorly cut tanzanites; two examples are well illustrated.

   Then follow chapters on zultanite (color change diaspore), ammolite, rhodochrosite (including the desirable transparent variety), and the various feldspars such as sunstone, moonstone, labradorite, and spectrolite. Ammolite, an iridescent gem found within ancient fossilized mollusks (ammonites), is an unusual and surprisingly beautiful gem that deserves wider recognition. Newman gives us a peek into the mines and shows examples of how several exotic stones are cut. Rounding out the book is advice on caring for these gemstones, their “metaphysical properties,” and a chapter on selecting an appraiser.

   This is a very practical guide to these unusual gems, yet has more than enough technical detail to satisfy the gemologist. It is clearly written, easy to understand, and illustrated with excellent color photographs and photomicrographs from a wide variety of sources. Both set and unmounted gems are pictured.

   The first in a promised series, this book is a wonderful reference as well as a joy to read. It will leave you looking forward to Ms. Newman’s next volume.


Copyright © 2010 by Eric J. Hoffman

Originally published in Adornment magazine, Vol. 9, No. 1, November 2010