List Of Ancient Books On Gemstones – Gemstone Writers Of History

The Cullinan Diamond
The Cullinan Diamond – photo from Catelle’s 1911 text “The Diamond”

Here is a short list of famous ancient books on gemstones:

PLINY THE ELDER (23/24–79 AD) – “Historia Naturalis” – (Book 37 of Pliny’s famous Natural History deals with gemstones). (Latin, Teubner)

PEDANIUS DIOSCORIDES (c.40-90 AD) – “Materia Medica”. Dioscorides’ legendary, massive work, now almost forgotten by the masses, holds the distinction of being perhaps the single textbook with the longest history of continual use. For around 1500 years it was a staple of researchers. Deals with the medicinal qualities of herbs and other remedies, including some material on gemstones. An English translation from 1655 exists; other manuscript versions from various monasteries still have original margin notes that have never been translated.

THEOPHRASTUS (c.372-c.287 BC) – “Periton Lithon Biblion” (“History of Stones”). Translated by Hill in 1774 with extended commentary.

ALFONSO X (13th cent) – “Lapidary Of King Alfonso X”

GEORGIUS AGRICOLA (1546) – “De Natura Fossilium” (“On the Nature of Fossils”). Agricola’s most famous work is his metallurgical text “De re metallica” (“On the Nature of Metals”)

GERONIMO CARDANO (1550) – “De Subtilitate” Latin text available at Google Books.

GESNER (1516-1565) “De Omni Rerum Fossilium Genere Gemmis” (1565)

HILL, JOHN – “History of The Materia Medica” Has a large section on gemstones. (1751) – pp245-301. Deals also with earths and clays in great deapth.

LAET, IOANNIS DE – “De Gemmis Et Lapidibus” (“Of Gems And Stones”) (1647) – Latin text.

ANSELMUS de BOODT (BOETHIUS) (1550-1636) – “Gemmarum et Lapidum Historia” (1647) (“History of Gems and Stones”)

C.W. KING (1860s) – various books including Antique gems and rings (2 vols), Handbook of Engraved Gems, The Natural History Of Precious Stones And Precious Metals

DANA, James Dwight and BRUSH, George Jarvis (1867) “System of Mineralogy”.

G. F. KUNZ (1856-1932) – famous mineralogist and certainly one of the greatest of his era. The gemstone Kunzite, first identified by him, was named in his honour. Wrote numerous texts on gemstones and precious stones; one of the most notable being “The Curious Lore Of Precious Stones” – available at the Internet Archive.

BURNHAM, Sarah Maria. “Precious Stones In Nature, Art and Literature” (1886)

FARRINGTON, Oliver Cummings – “Gems And Gem Minerals” (1903)

CLAREMONT, Leopold – “The Gem Cutter’s Craft” (1906)

CATTELLE, Wallis Richard – “The Diamond” (1911)

WADE, Frank B. – “A Text-Book Of Precious Stones For Jewelers And The Gem-Loving Public” (1918)

Further reading: Wikipedia has a full list of mineralogists –

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