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.