Top 10 Digital Reads from the GIA Library
April 2, 2020
Would you like to brush up on your Latin and read Pliny’s “Natural History”, the 17th-century book that is the foundation of ancient gemmology? Peruse an 1817 copy of Sowerby’s “British Mineralogy” with your morning coffee? Or thumb through — virtually — an especially rare, 1925-26 catalogue of the Russian Romanov dynasty’s regalia and crown jewels?
These are just three of 650 digitised rare books from GIA’s Cartier Rare Book Repository and Archives that are available for free through the non-profit digital library Internet Archive. This multi-year effort by librarians at GIA’s Richard T. Liddicoat (RTL) Gemological Library and Information Center aims to bring thousands of the rarest, most venerated books in gemmology, mineralogy and jewellery into easy reach.
Many of the books are from the Sinkankas Library, which was acquired by GIA in 1988. John Sinkankas, a noted author and lapidary artist, and his wife Marjorie, spent more than 40 years collecting approximately 14,000 items, including virtually all of the major works related to the study of gems and jewellery.
“The GIA digital library is growing into a comprehensive collection of manuscripts and books that document centuries of history, art, science, gemmology and mineralogy,” says Robert Weldon, director of the RTL Library. “Reflecting the many countries and languages that make up the international world of gems and jewellery, this online archive is an excellent resource for gemmologists and researchers — available at their fingertips, no matter where they are.”
TOP 10 DIGITISED BOOKS
Here are some of the most notable books, as selected by the library staff:
- Fersman, A.E. Russia’s Treasure of Diamonds and Precious Stones, 1925
This rare catalogue documents Russia’s regalia and crown jewels at the time of the overthrow of the tsarist regime in 1917. It includes jewels that date from the reign of Peter I (1689-1725) through to Nicholas II (1894-1917), with 100 photographs of the tsarist riches.
- Kozminsky, Isidore. The Magic and Science of Jewels and Stones, 1922
From ancient myth to modern science, this book is (from the preface) "…a sincere attempt…to blend modern science with the ancient and occult philosophy of the … stones of the earth.” Sinkankas describes it in his Gemology: An Annotated Bibliography as "An outstanding work, comparable to Kunz’s Curious Lore in respect to authenticity & accuracy of information.”
- Hendley, Thomas Holbein. Indian Jewellery, 1909
This rare work is a collection describing the jewellery, costumes and gemstone terminology of the Indian provinces. Sinkankas calls it the “largest, most detailed, and lavishly illustrated monograph ever to appear on the subject.”
- Vever, Henri. La Bijouterie Francaise au XIXe Siecle (1800-1900), 1908
This three-volume work describes the history of French jewellery, including famous gems, persons and pieces. Sinkankas lauds it as “astonishingly detailed” and “remarkable for the numerous high quality photographic and other illustrations”.
- Winter, Albert Andrew. A Course in Fundamental Principles of Designing and Engraving, 1915
This 1915 instructional book from Winter’s School of Jewelry Engraving is a practical guide in basic engraving, which includes explanations on monogram design, letter formation, proper tools and techniques, types of metals, terminology and more. The explanations are accompanied by detailed illustrations and diagrams.
- Tagore, Sourindro Mohun. Mani-mala: or, A Treatise On Gems, 1881
In English and Sanskrit, Tagore’s two volume Mani-Málá includes both Eastern and Western sources of information on diamonds and coloured stones, lore, jewellery, royal gems and more. Sinkankas calls it “one of the most remarkable and important works on gems ever published”, especially as a resource for the history of gemstones in Indian culture.
- Kunz, George Frederick. The Curious Lore of Precious Stones, 1913
This work is a significant and comprehensive assemblage of information on gemstone folklore and healing properties. Learn about the mystical properties that many — to this day — ascribe to gems.
- Lacroix, Alfred. Mineralogie de la France et de Ses Colonies […], 1913
Are you fascinated by minerology? Do you read French? This five-volume work “describes the minerals of France and its colonies". Sinkankas describes it as "[…] peer, being extremely thorough, neglecting no important aspect, and lavishly illustrated."
- The Bishop Collection: Investigations and Studies in Jade, 1900
A rare collection of articles on jade, commissioned by Heber Reginald Bishop to describe his collection of jade objects, which was donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1902.
- Pliny, the Elder. C. Plynius Secundus De naturali hystoria diligentissime castigatus, 1496
This 1496 Latin edition is the oldest book in GIA’s collection. Its 37 chapters are a compilation of all that he could discover about nature; the last five books cover metals and gems. As gemmologist and author Sydney Ball explains, it was the foundation of all science until the Renaissance, and is one of the largest single works to have survived from the Roman Empire to the modern day.
Find out more about how GIA is digitising its rare book collection.