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2007, Hardcover
192 pages
Dimensions: 210 x 280 mm
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Ikons, Classics and Contemporary Masterpieces of Mineralogy
Limited Hardcover Edition

English Language: English

Author: Wayne A. Thompson

Edited by: Wendell E. Wilson

Illustrations by: Jeff Scovil Harold & Erica van Pelt

Ikons, Classics and Contemporary Masterpieces of Mineralogy [Limited Edition Hardcover]
by Wayne A. Thompson

[This limited-edition hardcover version of Wayne Thompson's extraordinary "Ikons" book is bound in maroon bonded leather with gold-foil stamping on the front cover and spine. Four full-page color photographs of showcases of specimens in the homes of world-class mineral collectors are included as end-papers (not published in the softcover edition).]

Long-time field collector and mineral dealer Wayne Thompson provides something never attempted before: an analysis and categorization of "world-class" specimens in mineralogy, not by price but by significance. Having spent most of the last 50 years dealing in this rarified level of commerce, he is well-qualified to discuss details and points of discrimination that concern the elite, top-level connoisseurs. "This is an area," he says, "of high exclusivity and high financial stakes, nearly inaccessible to most collectors."

Thompson begins by dividing world-class specimens into three basic categories: (1) "Ikons," specimens with an unforgettable visual presence that are as well-known throughout the mineral world as movie stars; (2) "Classics," which combine exceptional quality with important provenance and historical significance, and (3) "Contemporary Masterpieces," which have been dug from the ground too recently to have achieved Ikon or Classic status, but are clearly among the finest specimens known. Hidden in this structure is a fourth category, mentioned briefly: the "Contemporary Classic," resulting from new and surprising discoveries at classic localities, most of them long thought to be extinct.

Thompson then provides a primer for "Building a World-Class Collection," outlining and discussing the pre-requisites that a collector must possess in order to compete at that high level. To his credit, he is a great advocate of education, strongly urging potential connoisseurs to educate themselves intensively before attempting to make any purchases. Four photos (full-page and half-page) showing actual exhibit cases containing world-class specimens in the homes of elite collectors are particularly interesting to see. (The hardcover edition of the book also contains four more full-page cabinet photos as end-papers.)

Then follows a discussion of nine important factors that together determine the desirability of individual mineral specimens: aesthetics, condition, rarity, associations, matrix, provenance, ranking, crystal size and specimen size. Under "Condition" he gives valuable perspective on such potentially problematic areas as repair, reinforcement, restoration and reconstruction. He also discusses the importance of the relative rank that a particular specimen holds among the best known examples of its species, and (interestingly) presents a seven-tier caste system for understanding how species determines or limits value, even for the best known specimens. Thompson concludes the chapter by discussing that all-important area when it comes to extremely expensive specimens: investment value.

Concepts discussed in the above-mentioned chapters are then gorgeously illustrated by what comprises the core of the book: 76 full-page portrait photos of world-class specimens, each one discussed in terms of its history, locality, quality, significance, rank, provenance, status (as "Ikon,"Classic," and/or "Contemporary Masterpiece"--some fit in two categories). He also lists the various publications in which each piece has previously been pictured, and (in keeping with his educational emphasis) provides a short list of references where the interested collector can go for more in-depth information on the locality. Although all of the examples pictured are specimens Thompson has handled (and had photographed) at one time or another in his life, the vast majority are no longer in his possession.

The book concludes on a personal touch, an "About the Author" section containing biographical notes on the author along with a scrapbook of photos from his life of collecting, depicting many of his collecting partners over the years and a selection of photos of specimens collected during his mining projects, followed by a section on "Prominent Collectors," wherein we get to see snapshots of some of the world's top mineral collectors.

Thompson's "Ikons" book (as it will no doubt be called in common parlance) is an essential reference for aspiring connoisseurs, and makes a fascinating read for the rest of us as well, emphasizing many important considerations that we should all be aware of as collectors at any level. And the stunning beauty of the specimens pictured, in exquisite photos by master photographers Jeff Scovil and Harold and Erica Van Pelt, justifies the price by itself.

Wendell E. Wilson

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