Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Criteria for Preservation Selection

Jewelry historians tend to look upon books published before 1815 as artifacts.[14] Their numbers are so few they belong in museums or special collections designed solely to protect and preserve the item itself. Such materials bear hidden costs (insurance, security, preservation and conservation concerns) that preclude them from use. Many of the books on the bibliography fall into this category. Although perhaps not technically “rare books,” they are nonetheless scarce. Another primary consideration for preservation of jewelry history materials is the intellectual or interest value of an item’s contents. An example of a book that is of both artifactual and intellectual value to jewelry historians is David Jeffries’ A Treatise on Diamonds and Pearls[15] written and published in 1750, which describes the commercial aspects of cut diamonds, establishing guidelines for evaluating, pricing, and defining diamond cutting styles. This book is thought to be one of the first books to discuss these topics, and it is listed as a source by many of the authors of the early books found in the core bibliography.

The Jeffries book has its place in the history of the book. It is an artifact. It follows a “citation” theory of value and selection. It qualifies as a artifact according to the “Intrinsic Value in Archival Material,” a National Archives and Records Service Staff Information Paper.[16] The following criteria for intrinsic value are suggested by the National Archives paper: physical form, aesthetic or artistic quality, unique or curious features, age as a relative quality of uniqueness, value for use in exhibits where the impact of the original cannot be equalled by a copy, and controversial aspects of its content.

Age, according to the National Archives and Records Service, is of relative importance. The words scarce or rare are replaced by the word unique. Therefore a book, such as George Frederic Heydt’s’ Charles F. Tiffany and the House of Tiffany and Co., privately printed in 1893, or Anne Clifford’s Cut-Steel and Berlin Iron Jewellery, published in 1971, requires thoughtful consideration.

Heydt’s book is scarce and no OCLC holding could be found except the microfilm record at the University of Michigan. Less than 100 holdings were found in OCLC for the Clifford book, also scarce. The Clifford book is the first and may be the only book about the Berlin Iron jewelry phenomenon. The Heydt book represents a contemporary view of a prominent leader in the jewelry field and his business. Neither book would be defined as technically rare, as both were published after 1815. Clifford’s book is listed by J. M. Cohen, a rare book dealer,[17] as available for $80.00. Heydt’s is not available.

Comparison of some of the books from the bibliography gives insight into the problems of using fiscal value as a criteria for selection. Yvonne Hackenbroch’s Renaissance Jewellery, published in 1979 lists for $125.Q0, while Marvin C. Ross’s The Art of Karl Faberge and His Contemporaries; Russian Imperial Portraits and Mementos (Alexander III-Nicholas II); Russian Imperial Decorations and Watches with a forward by Marjorie Merriweather Post lists for $350.00.[18] Charlotte Gere’s Victorian Jewellery Design (Chicago: Kimber, 1972) lists for $125.00, Margaret Flower’s Victorian Jewellery lists for $125.00, yet the 43-page, 1922 Gustave Geffray’s Rene Lalique with browned pages[19] lists for $350.00 and Ryley’s Old Paste described as 99 pages, 27 black and white plates and a color frontpiece is listed at $375.00. Ryley’s book is considered the definitive work on glass paste jewelry and ornaments from ancient Egypt through the 19th century. The most dramatic example, A History of Crown Jewels of Europe by Twining, emphasizes that scarcity and fiscal value are not necessarily related. A History of Crown Jewels of Europe has been reprinted more than once, yet it is the most expensive item on the chart. The chart Fiscal Value and Illustrating Examples for Bibliographyfurther illustrates how age and scarcity do not necessarily determine fiscal value.

From a jewelry history perspective, therefore, criteria for preservation probably would include an item’s condition and the environmental stress (amount of use, pollution, storage or shelf conditions), intellectual value, scarcity, and content, not merely age. The books in the bibliography make a strong case for the fact that publication date or a rare books classification cannot be the only determining factors. Title 16 of the United States Code. Determination of endangered species and threatened species outlines definitions that could be appropriate for library preservation criteria. The criteria used by the Department of the Interior to rule that a species is endangered or threatened include the following factors:

(a) present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range;

(b) over utilization for commercial, recreational, scientific or educational purposes;

(c) disease or predation;

(d) the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms;

(e) other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence.

The books in the bibliography printed on acid paper are “threatened” and many are already endangered because of use, environment or scarcity.

The Wildlife Department examines the diversity of the gene pool in making its determinations. This criterion is unique and needs explanation. The Wildlife Department looks for sufficient diversity in a species gene pool to guarantee the healthy survival of a species. Diversity within a collection is what gives the collection personality, and this diversity is important in the preservation selection process. When jewelry historians help select books for preservation, the profession must look for alternative points of view, seeking items that will inspire. If diversity is a priority of jewelry history collections, this makes a case for “uniqueness” playing an important role in the selection process.

Skip to content