Saturday, June 13, 2009

Book Review: Emeralds, A Passionate Guide by Ronald Ringsrud

by Richard W. Wise

The subtitle of Ronald Ringsrud's new book, A Passionate Guide, The Emeralds, The People, their Secrets has been well selected. The book is not just about emerald, most specifically Colombian emerald, it is about a country, its people and one man's love affair with it all.

I first met Ron Ringsrud about a year and a half ago. I had never been to Colombia and as is my custom whenever I go into a new market, I was looking for a guide to the country and its emeralds. Ron Ringsrud was an inspired choice.

He is fluent in Spanish and has been involved in the trade and traveling to Colombia for over twenty years. He is a true aficionado and knows whereof he speaks.

The book begins with an excellent summary of the history of emerald mining in Colombia coupled with a history of the Mogul Empire and more specifically the Indian princes whose love affair with the Colombian emerald began, almost as soon as the Spanish conquered the mines in the 16th Century.

The book includes a provocative and thoughtful approach to connoisseurship and grading of the emerald. The author carefully defines and explains the terms he uses. He also takes on such arcane terms as "old mine" and "gota de aceite (drop of oil)." I first heard these terms a number of years ago and typically could not find any sort of consistent explanation as to their meaning. Ron provides the most lucid explanation of these concepts that I have seen or heard anywhere.

Ron is one of the new breed of gem writers, one who does not limit himself to quotes from Pliny and Theophrastus and is not afraid to actually tell his readers something of the real intimate secrets of how how emerald is appreciated and graded.

There are more than 225 photographs and 70 Photomicrographs. Some like the beautiful Harold and Erica Van Pelt image to the right are fabulous and more than adequately capture the sumptuous color of this verdant gem. Emerald is notoriously difficult to photograph true to color and a number of the author's images fall short while others are little short of magnificent.

Ringsrud includes some wonderful images of the people and the countryside in the province of Boyaca, a region I toured with him two years ago.

The author has spared no expense; the book has been beautifully produced, the paper, the cover, all top drawer.

Ron is a partisan and writes like one. If you are looking for a book that will give you a real sense of Colombian emerald, its unique characteristics and how it stacks up against emerald from other localities together with the feel for the country and its people, Ronald Ringsrud's new offering Emeralds, A Passionate Guide is the book for you.

Emeralds; A Passionate Guide, ISBN: 978-0-9822627-5-7. The book sells for $80.00 can be ordered directly From Green View Press:

Thinking of investing or just trying to find a beautiful gemstone. Want to know more about it? Consider the connoisseur's guide. 120 carefully selected photographs showing examples of the highest quality gems to educate the eye, including the Rockefeller Sapphire and many more of the world's most famous gems. Consider my book: Secrets Of The Gem Trade, The Connoisseur's Guide To Precious Gemstones.

“Wise is a renowned author... He’s done a marvelous job of this first book
, monumental work, a tour de force...My recommendation: Buy this book”.
Charles Lewton-Brain, Orchid

whether you like to know what the best colour is in Tanzanite, or how to grade a Diamond, you will find it in this book. No other book I read before dealt with this topic is such detail as Richard Wise's masterpiece."

A. Van Acker, FGA
Amazon June 2005

"Secrets Of The Gem Trade: The Connoisseurs Guide To Precious Gemstones by Richard W. Wise is an impressive new reference for dedicated dealers and collectors of gems, gemstones, and ... pearls. Introducing and descriptively exploring each and every gem covered in the easy-to-use reference, Secrets Of The Gem Trade contains an illustrated summary of each stone inclusive of its history and general information, hue and tone, saturation, which may be noticed as the finest, an understanding of the particular gems rarity, and the caution for synthetics and how to depict them, however depending upon the stone there may be description of clarity, color fading, multi-color effect, etc. Secrets Of The Gem Trade is very highly recommended to anyone interested in gemology as a superbly organized, authoritative, comprehensive, and easy-to-follow reference."

Midwest Book Review
April 2006

Newly reprinted. Only $39.95 in paperback. Read a couple of chapters online an order: We recently discovered about a dozen copies of the out of print hardcover: $79.95 signed by the author

Buy it on Amazon:


Ron Ringsrud said...

Dear Richard,
As I leave (today) for Colombia I was warmly delighted to read your words about my book, Emeralds, A Passionate Guide. With the same ease that you tore apart David Federman and Robert James, you elevated me to the top of a rainbow! The book is so new that yours is the FIRST review. Many thanks.
I have to share this: At the end of the geology chapter is a short section on crystallography. Several early readers have commented that that section explains in new terms the immense delicacy of gem formation underground. It is not mere stacking of molecules, but a truly intelligent group endeavor at an atomic level! A surprising Kurt Nassau quote tops it off.
Again, thanks for the mention in your popular and frequently visited blog.

Richard W. Wise said...


Bon voyage.


Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Wise,
Thank you for your review on this wonderful book. I have just ordered it and am very excited to read this book. I feel the emerald is the most fabulously fascinating gemstone I have ever seen. Especially the Columbian emeralds. I have a large collection of emeralds and feel that they are one of my passions. I am always excited to see reviews on new and exciting books out on the market and can always depend on you finding the newest books on the market and giving your opinion on the book.
Looking forward to the great read.
Thank you Mr. Ringsrud for writing about this extraordinary gemstone.

Alice Grim
Columbus OH

Virgilio said...

Mr. Richard W. Wise,

I watched a Youtube video from Discovery Channel stating that several million years from now the diamonds we own will dissentegrates.

Do you believe it?

Richard W. Wise said...


I am not sure, think I'll take a wait and see attitude on that issue.


Gadfly said...


What the Discovery Channel is referring to is that diamond is not a stable form of carbon at normal temperatures and pressures. There are many minerals and chemical compounds that only form and exist at higher pressures and or temperatures. Diamond, for example, can normally only form at very high pressures and temperatures (CVD synthesis is an exception). Outside that range, these minerals will start to break down, some immediately, some over time. "Over time" can mean geologic time, though--a very wide range.

Since within several million years, most of your possessions will have disintegrated, I would not lose any sleep over this.



Anonymous said...


So it means that diamonds need constant high temperatures and pressures to last forever and with that De Beers is wrong about their famous praise "a diamond is forever".

Interestingly PBC also has a special on diamonds about a decade ago saying that the carbon atoms inside the diamond are so tight that nothing inside them changes. "A diamond never grows old." And the only way for them to know the age of diamonds is when they possess some foreign inclusions such as garnets. In other words you cannot carbon date a flawless and colorless diamond.

Now which one should we believe? Discovery Channel or PBC? Now I can't eat and sleep until I find the answers...

Sincerely yours,


Anonymous said...

does a bluish green emerald looks best in white gold or yellow gold?

will they look good in dark skin or fair skin?

do you agree that bluish green emeralds are cool colors while the yellowish green emerald are warm?

Anonymous said...

Virgilio, look at it this way. The rich who smugly think bio-tech will sell them immortality before the end of this century, and assume they'll be enjoying their diamonds long after we've gone the way of the dodo, are in for a rude awakening a few million years from now.