By David Stanley Epstein
Soft cover, 158 pages Price $20 Available from www.atlasbooks.com
It is always a treat to find a book that lives up to expectations and it is especially satisfying when it is also entertaining to read. This is such a book.
The author has been a gem dealer for over 20 years, as is obvious in his narratives. He is a native New Yorker and has extensive experience in the US, but his expertise is in international sales. Because of his background, he is able to share intimate details about all the world’s major trading centers.
I found his history of the sites to be especially interesting. I learned things about Idar-Oberstein, Bangkok, and Teofilo that I have not come across in any of my other readings. Not that the history will do much for your bargaining today, but he gives that much more attention.
The author has a harsh, even cynical approach to gem dealing. He has seen many enterprising dealers loose their saving by ignorance. The purpose of the book is to remove the mystery and show a person how to be successful.
For example, he emphasizes that if you can’t grade, you cannot value. If you can’t value, you cannot challenge prices. Equally important is knowing the techniques of bargaining. A subtle mistake in your approach can cost you thousands of dollars. Not to mention the fundamental fact that you have to know how to distinguish one gem from another and natural from synthetic.
It is beyond the scope of this book to teach gem identification, grading or pricing, but he does show how to put them together to create the foundation of a successful enterprise.
As to bargaining for the best prices, he goes into great detail. He teaches the best approaches for the area you are buying or selling in. Also that prices vary by region and the manner in which they are sold. For example, lots, pick price, memo, COD, all have different pricing structures. He has the insight to show that you can buy too low. This is a prime example of the experience the author has to offer.
In addition to the knowledge the author has to offer, the book excels in thoroughness. The first section is on buying and contains eight chapters. Then there is a lengthy section on marketing, followed by one on manufacturing and one of general information. I started by saying the book is enjoyable to read. That does not mean that is does not get dry in parts. Chapters like the one describing the forms needed are essential to the theme of the book, but far from entertaining reading. The delight comes from being clear and easy to understand and an abundance of anecdotes. The chapters are filled with short tales of real people and the experiences they encounter. This adds life and meaning to the work.
This book is highly recommended for anyone interested in working in the gem trade.