Diamonds: Their History, Sources, Qualities and Benefits

Book Review by Eric J. Hoffman


   Renée Newman, GG. Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books, 2021. 272 pp, color illus. Hardbound, color illus, d.j. 11-1/4 x 9-1/4 inches. $49.95



   This could be the shortest book review ever. If you are interested in anything and everything about diamonds you need this book. Period.

   Renée Newman is a highly respected Graduate Gemologist and author of several acclaimed guides to gems and jewelry, including previous books on diamonds. But this latest book goes well beyond anything she has previously published on the King of Gems. She begins with a clear explanation of what a diamond is, starting with its use as a drill bit in India in the fifth century BCE and into modern times with a well-illustrated history of diamonds in jewelry. The chemical structure that distinguishes super-hard diamond from its super-soft cousin graphite is covered well. Also explained well are the atomic inclusions that create colored diamonds. Then the countries where diamonds are found are examined in roughly chronological order and with the very latest information, maps, and illustrations, many of them full page.

   Cutting and polishing diamonds took a while to get started-- not until about the mid-1300’s-- because of diamond’s extreme hardness. The evolution of diamond cutting is covered, all the way from primitive point cuts and table cuts, though the ubiquitous 58-facet brilliant cut, and on to today’s modern cuts. Again, superb illustrations and clear writing make everything easy to understand, and the various cuts are beautifully shown in jewelry from all periods.

   The evolution of diamond jewelry is treated in its own chapter, along with romantic histories, gorgeous photographs, and brief explanations of the different periods and styles. This chapter will be of immense interest to ASJRA members.

   The tricky subject of diamond pricing is covered in a dedicated chapter with a thorough (and thoroughly illustrated) discussion, especially of color and cut. Next is an in-depth treatment of laboratory-grown or synthetic diamonds, from Henry Moisson’s pioneering experiments up to the very latest of today’s commercial techniques.

   Of course diamonds have uses other than in jewelry, and a brief chapter at the end of the book covers these as well. However, this is principally a book about diamond jewelry and will be of prime interest to jewelry aficionados and historians. The writing is crystal clear, the numerous illustrations are superb, and the information provided is absolutely up-to-the-minute. Whether your interest in diamonds is casual or intense, you need this book.


Copyright © 2021 by Eric J. Hoffman (Home Page)

Originally published in ASJRA Newsletter, December 2021