Gemstone Buying Guide, 3rd edition: How to evaluate, identify, select & care for colored gems

Book Review by Eric J. Hoffman


   Renée Newman, International Jewelry Publications, 2016. 153 + (7) pp, 356 color photographs, softcover, 9 x 6 inches, $19.95


   If you are at all involved in buying and using gemstones you probably already own the previous edition of this wonderfully useful book. But much has transpired in the gem world in the 13 years since that edition. New gemstones have become popular and new treatments and imitations have appeared. Renée Newman’s completely revised third edition will bring you up to speed.

   The first six chapters focus on all the factors affecting quality: color, shape and cutting style, clarity and transparency, treatment status, carat weight, and more. Each of these is discussed in detail, well illustrated with helpful examples and references to actual dollar values. As this is principally a colored gemstones book, color receives an especially thorough treatment. Hue, saturation, uniformity, and other factors are explained and well illustrated, along with discussions of how lighting affects color and even psychological factors. A brief section discusses phenomenal stones such as stars and cats-eyes.

   The next three chapters discuss treatments and processes, synthetic stones, and “deceptive practices.” Here is where much has taken place since the previous edition was published. And perhaps we should be heartened by the fact that the Deceptive Practices chapter is only three pages long, in light of Pliny the Elder’s famous statement from almost 2000 years ago that “There is no fraud or deceit in the world which yields greater gain and profit than that of counterfeiting gems.”

   Then follows the largest section of the book, “Gemstone Descriptions” (78 pages). Here, each variety is discussed and illustrated along with technical data, history, sourcing, pricing, and important factors to look out for when buying. Of course this includes all the usual gemstones you would expect, but with updated information. And there are some (e.g., danburite, kyanite) added since the previous edition as well as some (e.g., ammolite) that have since come into wider usage. (Some of these “exotic” gems are more fully treated in Newman’s series of “Exotic Gems” books.) The book ends with a chapter on caring for your gems; useful charts of hardness, refractive index, and density; and a bibliography and index.

   One point to be aware of is that this edition is one inch narrower than the previous one, so illustrations are a tiny bit smaller. The upside is that the newer edition is more convenient to carry on those gem shopping sprees. This book advertises itself as “straight talk on buying gems” and that’s precisely what it delivers. Like all of Ms. Newman’s gem books the writing is clear, concise, and helpful. The previous edition was reprinted nine times, just to give you some idea of how well regarded her gemstone writings are. So if you are still holding on to your dog-eared previous edition, it’s time to update. And if you’ve never owned any version at all you are in for a real treat.


Copyright © 2017 by Eric J. Hoffman (Home Page)

Originally published in ASJRA Newsletter, Dec 2016/Jan 2017