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The Handbook of Jewellery Techniques Paperback – 31 Oct 2000
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About the Author
Carles Codina is a well-known Spanish jeweller. He is a professor in the department of Jewellery at Massana School in Barcelona. He has exhibited his work throughout Europe and he is in frequent demand as a lecturer and emostrator. His work appears in both public and privaate collections.
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It is clear from the author's acknowledgements at the end of the book that he has supplemented his own very wide and detailed knowledge of jewellery techniques by having other experts contribute either complete chapters covering their specialisms, or else contribute significant content to other chapters. The book is therefore a mélange of expert knowledge from several sources, but it is all seamlessly edited into a contiguous whole. It is also clear that during its preparation, the book's author encouraged extensive 'peer review' by fellow jewellery experts. The quality of the text is therefore excellent, and the sharpness of the very many photographs of techniques and jewellery work is an example to those authors and photographers who do not set themselves such high standards. There are typically 5, 6 or 7 photographs per page, and so on the premise that, especially in a handbook, "every picture tells a thousands words" there are nearly a million 'implied words' that accompany the textual ones in the 150 or so pages in this book.
The book starts with a short but fascinating review of the history of jewellery in human ornamentation, starting with its Paleolithic and Neolithic beginnings. It then proceeds through the English Arts and Crafts movement (and similar movements in other European and Scandinavian countries), ending with a current-day review of trends in both the production of designer jewellery for the fashion world, and the use of jewellery as an art form.
In its next section the book covers the metallurgy of (particularly) gold and silver. Most of this is informative and useful, for example annealing and pickling are covered in sufficient detail, and the importance of avoiding cross-contamination of the filings and leftovers from jewellery work is stressed with advantage. However readers might find the inclusion of some of this section rather curious. For example, although the instructions on how to determine the purity / standard ( carat / fineness) of a piece of gold or silver are useful, the further detailed instructions on how to change it, by melting the metal and then adding either pure gold/silver to increase the standard, or adding more alloying elements to reduce it, are not the first or second processes that a hobby or semi-professional jeweller would wish to get involved in during their initial, or even normal, jewellery-making endeavours.
After this rather mixed metallurgical interlude, the book resumes its well-defined track. Basic jewellery techniques are covered in great number rather than great detail, and anyone who thought that jewellery was mostly about the simple shaping of a couple of pieces of metal, and then soldering them together, is in for a very pleasing and eye-opening excursion into the world of many other jewellery techniques. Indeed, the subject of soldering, if not exactly dismissed, is expeditiously despatched in just over a page and a half of text : rather quicker than most hobby jewellers take to get the 'hang' of it!
There follows a wide-ranging review of the surface treatments that may be applied to jewellery. Readers who started the book thinking that gold has to be a yellowish color, or that silver has to be both shiny and a silvery colour, are in for a big surprise, and much enlightenment.
Techniques related to or incorporated in jewellery, such as repousseé, Japanese lacquering, enamelling, stone-setting and lost-wax casting are described the next section, and superb photographs of finished work show the wondrous results that may be achieved by these techniques.
The last section of the book is titled 'Step by step' and shows in more detail how the techniques described earlier in the book may be applied to the manufacture to the manufacture of particular pieces of jewellery, such as a pendant, brooch, bracelet and various chains. These are not simple 'basic' pieces but good-looking items, such that a jeweller following the author's instructions, and applying not a little care and skill, will produce very acceptable pieces of jewellery.
If there are to be mild criticisms of this book, they arise from the very ambitiousness of the author. Because he covers so many techniques, the descriptive text has had to be cut down to a minimum for each technique. The important topic of the personal safety of the jeweller whilst practicing some of the these techniques that involve handling strong acids (used for example in etching and for dissolving) and the fire or burn risks of handling molten precious metals, are mentioned, but only just sufficiently. A few more cautionary words for the hobbyist jeweller on the subject of safety would not have gone amiss. The author of the book, Carles Codina, is Spanish, and the book is produced in Spain but published in England. Although the translator has done a good job, the producer's editor has allowed English and US spellings to be used interchangeably (e.g. jeweler / jeweller; center / centre, etc.), which possibly might slightly irritate English and US readers alike.
But these are very minor gripes. Even without a jewellery tool or a piece of precious metal to one's name, this book is a 'good read', and visually stimulating. Armed with a few jewellery tools and some raw materials, this book is an essential guide to what jewellery techniques can be used, and how they should be used, to achieve stunning results. This book will not disappoint, and it is also excellent value for money.
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