Zucker, Benjamin 1940-
Zucker, Benjamin 1940-
Born 1940, in France; married Diane Wolkstein (a storyteller); children: Rachel. Education: Yale University, B.A.; Harvard Law School, J.D.
Gem merchant in New York, NY; writer. Lecturer, including at the Smithsonian Institution and American Museum of Natural History.
How to Invest in Gems: Everyone's Guide to Buying Rubies, Sapphires, Emeralds, and Diamonds, Times Books (New York, NY), 1976, reprinted as How to Buy and Sell Gems: Everyone's Guide to Rubies, Sapphires, Emeralds, and Diamonds, 1979.
Gems and Jewels: A Connoisseur's Guide, Thames & Hudson (London, England), 1984, Overlook Press (Woodstock, NY), 2003.
Cameos in Context: The Benjamin Zucker Lectures, 1990, Ashmolean Museum (Oxford, England), 1993.
Blue: A Novel, Overlook Press (Woodstock, NY), 2000.
Green: A Novel (sequel to Blue), Overlook Press (Woodstock, NY), 2002.
Benjamin Zucker is a gem merchant, connoisseur, and expert on the history of gems and jewelry who works in a family-owned business in New York City. Zucker has traveled worldwide in search of precious stones and is sometimes called upon to track the provenance of unusual or rare pieces of jewelry. His nonfiction titles offer practical advice to those who wish to purchase or collect gems, on scales both modest and grand.
Gems and Jewels: A Connoisseur's Guide is a reference book that contains previously published articles Zucker wrote for various consumer publications. The work begins by offering a background on gemstones as objects desired for their beauty and religious connotations, as well as for adornment of the human body. Following the introduction, each of the twelve chapters focuses on a particular gem, including ruby, sapphire, emerald, white diamond, colored diamond, pearl, amber, lapis lazuli, jade, opal, turquoise, and garnet. Zucker provides a history of each that explains, for example, the use of amber by the Etruscans in pre-Roman times, the trade in jade by the Chinese, the sixteenth-century pursuit of emeralds by Spanish conquistadors, and the Zuni worship of turquoise. He studies the properties of each of the stones and criteria for judging quality and color. Each chapter also notes where some of the most famous gems are currently located and when they can be viewed. The book contains 256 color illustrations. Stephen C. Hofer wrote in Jewelers Circular Keystone that Zucker "has succeeded in presenting an historically informative and superbly illustrated book."
Zucker has also published experimental fiction that explores "the meandering interconnections between art and life experience, contemplation and the search for self, collecting and roots," to quote Souren Melikian in the International Herald Tribune. Zucker's Blue: A Novel and Green: A Novel use colorful illustrations and a Talmud-like layout to present the ruminations of Abraham Talcott, or Tal, a New York gem dealer who accepts guidance from an eclectic variety of voices—presented in the margins—and then dispenses wisdom to his friends and loved ones. The right-hand page of each volume contains the text, and the left-hand page a graphic, from color pictures of jewels to calligraphy and paintings by such masters as Cezanne and Vermeer. Sidebars contain the voices of such diverse contributors as Chief Crazy Horse, the author F. Scott Fitzgerald, the artist Rembrandt, the philosopher Kierkegaard, the physicist Einstein, and the singer and songwriter Bob Dylan. Like a gem, the novels can be approached from many angles and in fact discourage a linear reading experience. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called Blue "a true novelty as well as a detailed, heartfelt love story … extraordinarily beautiful." In the New York Times Book Review, William Ferguson found Blue "at once a spiritual challenge and a gorgeous typographical object."
In Green, Tal returns with Raphael Fisher, a writer who is undecided about a romantic relationship, and advises him through the words of others. A Kirkus Reviews critic noted that "the reader's eye turns to the pictures—lush imagery from Vermeer, Pollock, and Blake—and all those commentaries crowding each page." Library Journal reviewer Philip Santo described Green as being a "beautifully produced and inventive second novel."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 15, 2000, Frank Caso, review of Blue: A Novel, p. 1732; May 1, 2002, Frank Caso, review of Green: A Novel, p. 1511.
Choice, May, 1985, S. Lechtzin, review of Gems and Jewels: A Connoisseur's Guide, p. 1321.
International Herald Tribune, August 19, 2000, Souren Melikian, review of Blue, p. 8.
Jewelers Circular Keystone, September, 1984, Stephen C. Hofer, review of Gems and Jewels, p. 131.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2002, review of Green, p. 452.
Library Journal, May 15, 2000, Jim Dwyer, review of Blue, p. 128; June 15, 2002, Philip Santo, review of Green, p. 98.
New York Diamonds, January, 2001, review of Blue, p. 16.
New York Times Book Review, August 6, 2000, William Ferguson, review of Blue, p. 17.
Publishers Weekly, May 15, 2000, review of Blue, p. 89; April 15, 2002, review of Green, p. 41.*