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Handbook of Gemmology Review

Apr 18th, 2013

Handbook of Gemmology Review

The Handbook of Gemmology

By Geoffrey M. Dominy with photos by Tino Hammid

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Vancouver-based Geoffrey Dominy has just released a digital-format book, The Handbook of Gemmology, featuring the photographs of notable photographer Tino Hammid. Why digital? “Tino and I chose to make our book digital for one reason and one reason only,” Dominy explains, “to make it affordable.” Indeed, a 650-page hardcover book would retail for $200 if not more. The digital format, for as little as $39.95, puts it in the hands of students, who can benefit from the information. As Dominy writes in his preface, during his own pre-Internet study for Gem-A courses, “I did find there were certain areas, namely crystallography and chemistry, that were somewhat lacking. … I was left at the mercy of the public library pulling my hair out trying to make sense of concepts that seemed beyond comprehension.” If only he’d had an e-book to study.

While we’re on the topic of the format, it bears explaining that such a format may not be for everyone. The book won’t render nicely on a laptop or tablet. Even on a 20-inch monitor, the default resolution leaves the text slightly distorted in the “.app” version we reviewed. (It also comes in three other formats; spend $10 more and get all four.) But then again, you don’t read two pages at a time, so simply tap the middle of a page to enlarge it. And you can enlarge quite a bit before images become pixelated—something you can’t do as easily with a hard-copy book—allowing for nice detail in the illustrations. You can mark up your virtual book with notes and highlights, something you’d be loath to do with a $200 book. And, of course, there is virtual bookmarking and—most useful—searchability (in addition to a traditional index that unfortunately is not hyperlinked to targets, but is printable).

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A typical spread. Navigation and such are handled by controls at the top and bottom of the window, settings at the left side. Below, the same page is bookmarked (green), notated (yellow), and highlighted (violet).
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Moving on to the content, which begins with a basic question, “What is a Gemstone?” and differentiates a gemstone from a “mineral” and a “rock.” This is followed by a discussion of gemstones’ chemical nature, properties (physical, chemical, optical), and some basic crystallography.

Light is handled next, including absorption and spectroscopy; the 3 R’s (reflection, refraction, refractometer); polarized light and the polariscope; and pleochroism, the dichroscope and color filters. Specific gravity and luminescence are next.

Now, the first of several sections of eye candy (not that the other sections are short on lovely images), as part of a look at magnification (and thermal conductivity), which is followed by 24 illustrations of inclusions. Next, imitation and assembled stones are covered, followed by synthetics. (I know that this last chapter would have been useful in regard to our look at Dr. Karl Schmetzer et al.’s work on flux-grown alexandrites in February.) Again, this chapter is accompanied by many photomicrographs.

Treatments and enhancements are handled next, and include price modifiers. Gem mining covers both localities and techniques. Next is cutting and grading, including diamonds, with some beautiful photographs of jade by Tino Hammid. This is but an appetizer for a section devoted to 160 of his images, “Reflections by Tino Hammid.”

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From “Reflections”: A padparadscha sapphire at left, a Malaya garnet at right. You, of course, won’t have your view obstructed by the note we’ve included as a piracy deterrent. (Images © Tino Hammid)

The book is rounded out by more than a dozen chapters on gemstone identification, mostly grouped by color, for one-stop shopping. Amongst these chapters are discussions of natural, cultured and imitation pearls as well as advanced gem testing techniques. Appended… are eleven appendices, including lists of gemstones by refractive index, specific gravity, etc., and some quick reference guides.

There’s an impressive amount of information provided by Geoff Dominy—all in one place and with ease of access. Such a book as this likely wouldn’t be read from cover to cover even as a traditional book, so the format seems perfect. It’s the sort of reference you’ll find yourself coming back to time and again in pursuit of answers to questions or clarification of terminology or science. One of the most exciting aspects of digital technology is its revisability, and Dominy is taking full advantage of this by offering the reader a new edition at a preferred price every year beginning in May 2014.

To purchased your copy, go to the Handbook of Gemmology site.

David Hughes for Gem News

Pala International 

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