Book Review: 'Secrets of the Gem Trade’ by Richard W. Wise

For those who could be considered jewellery connoisseurs, constantly learning about gemstones and the jewellery world is paramount. After my own formal gemstone education at GEM-A and the practical learning about the trade through my personal experience in several luxury jewellery brands, I realised that my desire to know more about fine jewellery and gems is insatiable.

It is for this reason that I couldn’t wait to read the second edition of ‘Secrets of the Gem Trade: The Connoisseur’s Guide to Precious Gemstones’ by gemmologist Richard W. Wise. There is some practical knowledge that one only garners when working in the industry and Wise, the Gemology Columnist for National Jeweler, has gathered a wealth of it. He has enjoyed a lifetime’s worth of experience in the gemstone industry and has taken time to put this knowledge on paper to share it with gem professionals and aficionados alike.

'Secrets of the Gem Trade’ by Richard W. Wise

The first edition of this book was an incredible success, being heralded by Gem Market News as the book that “unmasks the true criteria that expert gem dealers and collectors rely on for judging the quality of gem materials”. 

There are certain questions which can beguile and befuddle even the most seasoned gem expert – what is the ideal diamond cut? Which exact colour is pigeons blood ruby? Many of these concepts have taken on an almost folkloric quality within an industry which often involves generations of families continuing traditions - either trading gems or creating gemstone jewellery. The true answers are revealed here, simply and efficiently.

'Secrets of the Gem Trade’ by Richard W. Wise

What really drew me to the second tome is the revisions within second edition, and the numerous additions which have been made in light of the changes within the jewellery industry as well as the shift in perceptions as to what qualifies as a ‘precious gem.’ The first edition was released in 2002, and so the recent revised edition includes 11 new chapters on what were formerly considered ‘semi-precious’ gemstones.

This concept of evolving a successful book into an expanded version to suit the ever changing and adapting business which it relates to is an intelligent way of approaching the subject matter. Those who love to learn, and those who have the drive for knowledge in their field of expertise and passion find one another in informative, intriguing books like these. In this way, Richard Wise’s book is a meeting point for inquisitive minds which dream of gems.

'Secrets of the Gem Trade’ by Richard W. Wise

Providing a perfect example of Wise’s edifying intentions are the opening chapters – ‘Precious Gems: The History of a Concept’, followed by ‘Preciousness Redefined: The Modern Concept of a Gem’. The introduction to the second edition has been written by Vincent Pardieu, G.G., who I had a pleasure of meeting during ICA Congress in Jaipur. He is Senior Manager in Field Gemology at the GIA Laboratory in Bangkok and regularly travels to mining regions to hunt for unique and rare gems. He summarises perfectly why the book was so valuable to him: “I read the first edition in 2003 and fell in love with it. It was the perfect book […] it was very difficult to analyse the beauty in gems and to find the words to describe what I saw. Reading Secrets of the Gem Trade helped solve my problems.”

Vincent Pardieu asserts and admits: “I highly recommend it as one of the most useful books I have ever read about gemstones. Actually, I would love to have written it myself.”

‘Secrets of the Gem Trade: The Connoisseur’s Guide to Precious Gemstones’ by Richard W. Wise G.G. is printed by Brunswick House Press.

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