J Austin's

American Gem Studio

75 Princes Street

Gem Portrait

Below are the front and back of a gem portrait from J Austin's studio at 75 Princes Street.

Gem Portrait from J Austin's American Gem Studio at 75 Princes Street [front] Gem Portrait from J Austind's American Gem Studio at 75 Princes Street

  Reproduced with acknowledgement to Ron Cosens


Gem portraits were tiny tintype photos mounted behind a card, the same size as cartes de visite (approx 4ins x 2.5 ins) to enable them to fit into Photographic albums designed to hold cartes de visite.

Cost of Gem Portraits

Gem portraits were not expensive -  9 for 7  old pence,
i.e. 9 for 0.03 in the example above.

Studio Addresses

Many gem portraits have no photographer's name and address on the back.  The only two that I have seen from Edinburgh with photographer's name and address both come from 75 Princes Street, at the corner of Princes Street and Hanover Street opposite the Royal Scottish Academy Galleries.  They are from:

   -   J Austin's American Gem Studio (when?)

   -   White's American Portraits  (1880-1883)

The names of photographers based at 75 Princes Street/1 Hanover Street changes so frequently that it is not surprising to find some of them not appearing in the Edinburgh trade directories.  They may have arrived and left between the annual publications of these directories.   A similar situation, no doubt arose along the road at 79 Princes Street.

Studio Addresses in Other Cities

I have another tintype photograph by J Austin, also on a carte-de-visite size of mount.  The photograph is larger than the one above.   It is oval, approx 2ins x 1.5ins.

The back of the picture is very similar to the one above, but with different wording.  The label is headed:  J Austin, American Gem Studio Studios in Edinburgh and at, Grainger Street West, Newcastle-on-Tyne.

There is also a reference to London, but the full text of the label is not now legible.

Thank you to Marcel Safier, Photographic Historian, who wrote:


"J. Austin 'The American Gem Photographer' offered 9 mounted gems for 7d.  His studio was at 13 Grainger St West, Newcastle from 1881-1882 and his mount advertises a branch at 75 Princes St, Edinburgh."

 Marcel Safier, Holland Park, Queensland Australia


J Austin

Large Photos

In contrast to the tiny 'gem photos' above, here are two large attractive framed photos, each 22 ins x 9 ins,  signed by J Austin.  Is there any connection between the J Austin who signed these and J Austin's Gem Studio in Edinburgh.

 Two large photographs, each 22 ins x 8 ins, signed by J Austin

Thank you to Robert McLeod, Elgin, Moray, Scotland for providing these images.


Click here to select Other Photographers