Gemstones
Asterism - Gems with a star
2017/05/31
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Front cover of ASTERISM - Gems with a Star

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Star quartzes and star rose quartzes offer beautiful star formations, such as this 'angel'

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Fine pinkish Burmese star ruby of 26.15 carats

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The Star of Ceylon star sapphire. Photo credit: Richard Allan

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Rough trapiche rubies and a polished crystal from Mong Hsu in Myanmar

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The famous Rosser Reeves (Star) Ruby. Photo credit: Smithsonian Institution

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A very fine golden star sapphire of 10.02 carats

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The author in Hawaii, on Oahu, searching for volcanic peridots at the famed Diamond Head volcano, circa 1987

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 Former US President Eisenhower holds the carved bust of President Lincoln, one of the carved ‘President Heads’ in star gems, now in the Oval Office in the White House. Photo credit: Kanzanjian Foundation

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A superb network of stars in quartz

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The Star of Heavenly Dreams, an 8.12-carat star tourmaline. The author believes this is the only gem of this quality and kind known today

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Asterism meets Humanistic Gemology. A six-rayed star and 12-rayed star all in one quartz cabochon

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The unbelievable Red Star Supersphere. It is the same one on the cover of the book, but at a different angle

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Burmese grey star sapphire of 5.34 carats, showing two lovely stars

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Sri Lankan quartz with multiple star network

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Page depicting the beginning of Chapter 3 in ASTERISM

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Catch the Rainbow trapiche quartz, in polarized light, from Penas Blancas, Colombia

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A four-rayed star tanzanite of 99.80 carats. Photo credit: Karola Sieber

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The Private Dancer star sapphire of 7.22 carats from Myanmar

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A 24-rayed star quartz sphere in diasterism, photographed via a mirror

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Amethyst trapiche sphere in transmitted light, entitled Purple Rain, in honour of Prince

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A super-blue diffusion giant weighing 91.91 carats

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A fine 12-rayed star sapphire of 10.80 carats from Thailand

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Fine gems are even used in political statements. Shown here is Burmese leader, 
Aung San Suu Kyi, protected by amazing trapiche sapphires

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Author Martin P. Steinbach on graduation from the Asian Institute of Gemological Sciences (AIGS) with an Accredited Gemologist degree, in 1982 in Bangkok, with the legendary W.K. Ho, founder of AIGS

The luminous star-like shape that many gemstones exhibit has fascinated people for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

The luminous star-like shape that many gemstones exhibit has fascinated people for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Now, a comprehensive book on the subject has been written by German gemmologist and asterism expert, Martin P. Steinbach.

 

Book Review by Cynthia Unninayar

 

To say that this extremely impressive oeuvre has been a labour of love would be a great understatement; it is more a life’s work. Taking nearly 30 years to complete, ASTERISM brings together, in one important and very weighty volume (literally, at 4.1 kg and nearly 900 pages), all the glowing aspects of these remarkable gemstones, including hundreds of dazzling photos and illustrations.

“In the beginning, the plan was to write a book simply about asterism,” confides Steinbach. “During the many years of the writing process, however, the book grew to include more information on the provenance of these gems in addition to their scientific and gemmological properties. And, we added more of the world’s most important gems and their major mining areas as well as lots of interesting stories about these mythical jewels.”

Steinbach’s love affair with gems in general, and star gems in particular, dates back to 1982 when he travelled to Bangkok and took a gemmology course at the world-renowned Asian Institute of Gemological Sciences (AIGS). After graduation, he returned to his home country of Germany and moved to Idar-Oberstein, the gem capital of the nation. Over the years, Steinbach travelled to more than 40 countries buying, selling and collecting gems.

In ASTERISM, the author starts with a description of star gems throughout history, from the Ancient World to the Mysterious Middle Ages, right up to the present day. He details research on star gems by some of the world’s greatest experts in the field beginning centuries ago.

The second chapter of the book features some of the planet’s most intriguing and spectacular star sapphires and rubies, among other gems. These include the Star of Ceylon, Star of Asia, Star of Bombay, Rosser Reeves Ruby, Star of India, Black Star of Queensland, and many more. A noteworthy section also illustrates engravings on star gems that depict a number of US presidents and celebrities, and the stories surrounding them.

Beauty aside, Steinbach delves into the scientific and gemmological aspects of the causes and properties of the asterism phenomenon as well as the geology, history and occurrences of star gems. He defines epiasterism and diasterism and talks about the role of inclusions in various types of gems and how they are formed. And, because of their beauty, star gems have not escaped those who create the gems synthetically. The author explains the various treatments and what to look for when purchasing a star stone, as well as the many imitations that are on the market.

Finally, Steinbach describes Dream Stars that include an unusual number of rays as well as multiple stars and trapiche stars in gems such as aquamarine, morganite, spinel, tourmaline, garnet, cordierite, quartz, amethyst, peridot and others.

ASTERISM is the ultimate reference book for aficionados of star gems and experts alike. The illustrations are spectacular; the histories and stories are fascinating; and the scientific explanations are rigorous, yet clearly understandable. One thing is sure – in this enormous and incredible undertaking, the stars are always shining.

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