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John Sinkankas
(1915-2002)

John Sinkankas was primarily self-taught, both as a mineral artist and as a mineralogist, but excelled at both endeavors. His textbook Mineralogy for Amateurs (1964) became a standard work for decades, and his watercolor paintings of gem minerals are remarkably refined in their knowledge of light interactions in transparent materials. He was born in Paterson, New Jersey on May 15, 1915, the son of Lithuanian immigrant parents, and showed a proficiency in art at an early age. He began collecting botanical specimens, but discovered minerals in a local quarry at the age of seven and instantly became a life-long mineral enthusiast. He received a bachelor's degree from the New Jersey State Teacher's College in 1936, following which he joined the Navy and became a career pilot for the next 25 years, rising to the rank of Captain. His interest in minerals broadened to include gems and gemology; shortly after the end of World War II he enrolled in correspondence courses from the Gemological Institute of America and the American Gem Society, cutting his first stones in 1947 and becoming a self-taught master lapidary.

John retired from the military in 1961, and he and his wife Marge settled in the San Diego area, in close proximity to the many pegmatite mineral localities in San Diego County. He became a prolific author of works aimed at the amateur lapidary and mineral collector, including Gem CuttingóA Lapidary's Manual (1955), the encyclopedic Emerald and Other Beryls (1981), Gemology: An Annotated Bibliography (1993), and the three-volume series Gemstones of North America (1959, 1976, and 1997), among many other books and articles. In the process of researching his many writing projects he became a bibliophile, operating a rare-book business (Peri Lithon books) out of his home for many years and building a 14,000-volume personal library of gem and mineral books (acquired by the Gemological Institute of America in 1988). He was awarded an honorary doctorate from William Paterson University in 1982, was honored by the naming of the new mineral species sinkankasite in 1984, and was presented with the Carnegie Mineralogical Award in 1988.

John's mineral art was produced primary in order to provide some illustrations for his books; pen-and-ink drawings appeared in Mineralogy for Amateurs (among others) and his watercolors were used principally in the first volume of Gemstones of North America and Emerald and Other Beryls, which contain reproductions of 20 of his paintings.

W.E.W.



References:
KELLER, A. S. ( 2002) Remembering gemology's Renaissance Man: John Sinkankas (1915-2002). Gems and Gemology, 38 (2).
LININGER, J. L. (2000) Highlights from the life and times of John Sinkankas. Matrix, 8 (4), 179-95.
Click on thumbnail picture to see larger image.
Number of artworks found: 14 | Artworks being viewed: 1 to 8

The Mineralogical Record: John Sinkankas - Beryl from Riverside County, California Beryl from Riverside County, California
Watercolor on paper (1981), painted from a 13.8-cm crystal in the William Larson collection; published in Emerald and Other Beryls (1981).
The Mineralogical Record: John Sinkankas - Red Beryl from the Wah Wah Mountains, Utah Red Beryl from the Wah Wah Mountains, Utah
Watercolor on paper (1981), painted from a 2.6-cm crystal in the F. John Barlow collection; published in Emerald and Other Beryls (1981).
The Mineralogical Record: John Sinkankas - Yellow-green Beryl from the Diamantina District, Brazil Yellow-green Beryl from the Diamantina District, Brazil
Watercolor on paper (1981), painted from a 4.5-cm crystal in the William Larson collection; published in Emerald and Other Beryls (1981).
The Mineralogical Record: John Sinkankas - Morganite Beryl from Brazil Morganite Beryl from Brazil
Watercolor on paper (1981), painted from a 6-cm crystal cluster in the William Larson collection; published in Emerald and Other Beryls (1981).
The Mineralogical Record: John Sinkankas - Emerald in Schist from Transvaal, South Africa Emerald in Schist from Transvaal, South Africa
Watercolor on paper (1981), painted from a 9-cm specimen in the collection of the artist; published in Emerald and Other Beryls (1981).
The Mineralogical Record: John Sinkankas - Brazilian Beryl Crystals Brazilian Beryl Crystals
Watercolor on paper (1981), painted from three crystals, the largest of which measures 7.7 cm, from the collection of William Larson; published in Emerald and Other Beryls (1981).
The Mineralogical Record: John Sinkankas - Aquamarine Beryl from Adun Chilon, Transbaikalia, Russia Aquamarine Beryl from Adun Chilon, Transbaikalia, Russia
Watercolor on paper (1981), painted from a 12.3-cm crystal in the William Larson collection; published in Emerald and Other Beryls (1981).
The Mineralogical Record: John Sinkankas - Aquamarine Beryl Crystals from Klein Spitzkoppe, Namibia Aquamarine Beryl Crystals from Klein Spitzkoppe, Namibia
Watercolor on paper (1981), painted from two crytals, the largest of which measures 5.4 cm, from the William Larson collection; published in Emerald and Other Beryls (1981).
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