Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - December - 2008 Issue

Books About Gems and Jewelry from Twelfth Street Booksellers

The latest on gems from the Twelfth Street Booksellers.


By Michael Stillman

We recently received the annual catalogue from Twelfth Street Booksellers of Santa Monica, California. Twelfth Street specializes in books about gems and jewelry. This is a field where books tend to be uncommon or obscure, and few individuals are expert in the book side of the business. As such, their clients go beyond just collectors to those with specific needs for these works, such as jewelers, jewelry designers, appraisers, museums, historians and librarians. Whether your interest in these titles is as a collector or for some specific, practical need, Twelfth Street supplies a wide assortment of books and expertise in the field. Here are a few samples from Catalogue 29. Gemology, Gems, Jewelry, Minerals.

We will start with the most valuable resource for those seeking the literature of the field: Gemology. An Annotated Bibliography, two volumes by John Sinkankas, published in 1993. It describes 7,458 books and other papers concerning gemology, jewelry, and related subjects. The books described range from the 15th century to the 1980s. Twelfth Street describes this one as "the monumental work on the literature of gemology." Item 87. Priced at $200.

Item 85 is another Sinkankas work: Gemstones of North America, published in 1959. This book will tell you about gemstones found in North America, their properties, and where they are found. Included is a section on collecting. $65.

Item 13 is the story of a great jewelry theft: Drama in Diamonds. The Story of the Oppenheimer Jewel Theft. One night in 1955, someone broke into the bedroom of Harry and Bridget Oppenheimer of Johannesburg, South Africa. They made off with $600,000 of Mrs. Oppenheimer's jewelry from her safe, an amount equivalent to many millions today. Their ease of entry and use of a key she kept hidden led to the belief of an inside job, and suspicion fell on her domestic staff. However, they all checked out. This 1957 book will tell you the rest of the story, the finding of her jewels, and the shady characters who played a role in this exciting story. $35.

Perhaps the Oppenheimers should have joined the organization described in this book: The History of the Jewelers' Security Alliance of the United States 1883-1958. Okay, this is the wrong country for them, but the point is you can't just leave millions in jewelry lying around the house. This organization has helped its members protect their jewels as well as providing assistance in tracking down and prosecuting thieves. Tales of the work they did in catching criminals add to the entertainment value of this book. It cuts off in 1958 as the book was published in that year, the group's 75th anniversary. Item 33. $65.

Item 80 is the first step in the story of the discovery of the "Bactrian Gold" in the long troubled country of Afghanistan: Bactrian Gold from the Excavation of the Tillya-Tepe Necropolis in Northern Afghanistan. The author is Victor Sarianidi, an archeologist who preceded the invading Soviet forces into Afghanistan in 1978. This book was translated from the original Russian and published in Leningrad in 1985. What the Soviet archeologists discovered was some 20,000-plus gold and other ornaments in several burial mounds in northern Afghanistan. They date back some 2,000 years. While this book was published before the Soviets were forced to flee the country, the collection has had an extraordinary story since, hidden in a vault during the Taliban regime and only more recently being rediscovered. Selected items can currently be seen in a touring exhibit in the United States, and eventually, the collection will be held in a new museum in Kabul. $650.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Sotheby’s, July 11: Galileo, Document annotated and signed by Galileo, dated Padua, 1595. £500,000 to £700,000.
  • Bonhams, July 15-25: THE AUTOGRAPH COLLECTION OF ISRAEL WITKOWER. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: GEORGE WASHINGTON SIGNED DISCHARGE. June 9, 1783. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: "Shhhhh!" A DAVID SHANNON ILLUSTRATION FROM DAVID GETS IN TROUBLE. $2,500 - $3,500
    Bonhams, July 15-25: PICASSO, PABLO. Le Carmen des Carmen. Paris, 1964. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: RARE AUTOGRAPH OF AMERICAN NAVAL HERO CAPTAIN JAMES MUGFORD. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: KARA WALKER SILHOUETTES FOR TONI MORRISON'S FIVE POEMS. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: FIRST APPEARANCE OF PINOCCHIO IN ENGLISH. COLLODI, CARLO.New York, 1892. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: BONAPARTE, JOSEPHINE. Autograph Note (unsigned) in French. $1,000 - $1,500
    Bonhams, July 15-25: FROST ON MATTHEW ARNOLD.Autograph Letter Signed to Adams, July 27, 1934. $800 - $1,200
    Bonhams, July 15-25: ELIAS BOUDINOT'S COPY OF BARLOW'S COLUMBIAN EPIC. $800 - $1,200
    Bonhams, July 15-25: A SIGNED HART CRANE BROOKLYN BRIDGE POSTCARD TO EDWARD DAHLBERG. $600 - $800
    Bonhams, July 15-25: A STOCK CERTIFICATE SIGNED BY THE "QUEEN OF WALL STREET," HETTY GREEN. $700 - $900
  • Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: U.S. / European Shipping Archive 1800-1814. The Widow Bermingham & Sons Collection. €7,000 to €10,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Bunreacht na hÉireann. Constitution of Ireland. An important copy of the First Printing of De Valera’s new Constitution, approved in 1938. Signed by the Constitution Cabinet. €7,000 to €9,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: A Rare Complete Run of the Cuala Press Broadsides. €7,000 to €9,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Grose (Francis). The Antiquities of Ireland, 2vols. folio London (for S. Hooper) 1791. Magnificent Hand-Coloured Copy - Only 25 Copies. €3,000 to €5,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Cantillon (Richard). Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en General, Traduit de l'Anglois, Sm. 8vo London (Fletcher Gyles) 1756. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Gregory, (Lady Augusta). Spreading the News: The Rising of the Moon: The Poorhouse (with Douglas Hyde). Being Vol. IX of the Abbey Theatre Series. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Lavery (Lady Hazel). A moving series of three A.L.S. and a Telegram to Gen. Eoin O'Duffy, July-August 1927, expressing her grief at the death of Kevin O'Higgins. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Dampier (Wm.) Nouveau Voyage Autour du Monde, ou l'on descrit en particulier l'Isthme de l'Amerique…, 2 vols. in one, Amsterdam, 1698. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Howell (James). Instructions for Forreine Travel Shewing by what Cours, and in what Compasse of Time…, London, 1642. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Rowling (J.K.) Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, 8vo, L. (Bloomsbury) 1999, First Edn., First Printing of Deluxe Collectors Edn. Signed. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: James (Wm.) A Full and Correct Account of the Military Occurrences of The Late War Between Great Britain and The United States of America. 2 vols. Lond. 1818. €650 to €900.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: The Laws of the United States, Published by Authority, 3 vols. Philadelphia (Richard Folwell) 1796. €600 to €800.

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