This holiday, jewelry fans who love a good book on the subject – almost as much as the desire to buy a rare piece of jewelry—will be thrilled with the selection of recently released tomes. They are exceptional and enticing visually as well as enchanting and educational to read. Here are four of the best of the season:
One of the books I recommend to friends who want a readable, educational and beautifully illustrated book to learn more about antique and vintage jewelry is Understanding Jewellery, by authorities and authors David Bennett and Daniela Mascetti. Unlike many other encyclopedic and informative books spanning different centuries, this one is easy to, yes… ‘understand’ and isn’t an academic read but rather an enjoyably scholarly romp through the past and a feast for the eyes for the novice and the consummate jewelry fan and collector. Now, in a follow-up to the original, in publication since 1989, the authors have zoomed in on one century. In this new book, Bennett and Mascetti concentrate on the 20th and the houses and designers who defined jewelry throughout this time period. Understanding Jewellery: The 20th Century (ACC Art Books, November 2021) digs deeper into the history, the popular styles, movements, techniques and brands of each decade and includes 500 new photographs of the jaw dropping, inspiring jewels that you will want to keep going back to review again and again.
David Bennett was the Worldwide Chairman of Sotheby’s International Jewellery Division and the Chairman of Sotheby’s Switzerland. Having worked as an auctioneer at the firm since 1978, Bennett is renowned internationally as an authority on jewellery and has sold four out of the five most expensive jewels in auction history. Daniela Mascetti was Sotheby’s Chairman of Jewellery in Europe. She joined Sotheby’s in 1980, opening the firm’s Milan-based department. She was one of Sotheby’s most experienced scholars in the history of jewellery her research has assisted with several notable auctions, from The Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor to the collections of Elton John and Gina Lollobrigida.
The new book was released soon after the Sotheby’s alumni launched their own website Understanding Jewellery which offers a virtual tour through the original book’s subject with a more personalized approach to guiding jewelry lovers through the history, the beauty, provenance and details of antique and vintage jewelry. As for this edition, it is a stunning gift for anyone interested in the jewels that characterize and span the years 1900 through 2000.
Diamonds: Diamond Stories (Assouline in partnership with The Natural Diamond Council, released October 2021) is like opening a treasure trove of striking visuals from the old and new guard that brings to life the stories and history that have created the mystique around natural diamonds. It reflects back on the big brand houses and moves to the present and future citing the smaller independent companies—pioneers that have revolutionized the industry and changed the way women view wearing diamonds every day. It’s a huge coffee-table tome with vibrant photos and anecdotes from designers, stylists, celebrities, journalists and influencers with the common denominator being their love for natural diamonds. From Cartier, Chopard, Tiffany & Co. to the legendary diamonds of Elizabeth Taylor, the Hope Diamond to the new pieces by Anna Khouri, Nikos Koulis and Fernando Jorge, this tome is packed with not only beautiful gems but the feeling designers derive from creating pieces to those that own and wear them.
In his Foreword, Edward Enninful, the editor-in-chief of British Vogue writes, “In today’s world diamonds are as entrenched in luxury, glamour and aspiration as they have been through history, but as the representation of those ideas are changing, so is the diamond. I am excited by a fashion landscape where the diamond has become approachable to anyone who dares to dream; where modern women wear their grandmothers’ diamonds with jeans and a T-shirt and part of their everyday styling; where young men are as dazzled by diamonds as their girlfriends; and where bold creatives, trailblazing hip-hop artists and the tone-setting streetwear community inspire us to use diamonds in new and progressive ways.”
And Law Roach sums it up with the quote, “[Jewelry] has the power to transport you or transform you into whoever you want to be, not change you, but just accentuate who you already are.”
This book is at the top of my gifting lists and should be on yours if you are searching for the perfect gem to give to a loved one this holiday season
Heart and Soul
The Soul of Jewellery (Flammarion, November 2021 published in collaboration with Chaumet) is unlike any other jewelry book you will read. And you will want to keep reading this one even though the weight and size will not allow for easy transport around. Although it might reside on your coffee table for accessibility, this is not your traditional coffee table book—The photos bring the jewels to life in vivid, extraordinary images which are as unique as the pieces chosen and the way in which the book has been organized. The concept is one that draws the jewelry devotee in with its different perspectives and themes that are written— by a range of experts in different creative and intellectual fields. For example, the Botanist Marc Jeanson wrote a chapter entitled Jewellery as Object of Nature and features Chaumet’s exquisite bejeweled flora and fauna, such as a diamond and green enamel trefoil, once owned by Empress Eugenie, a jaw-dropping pansy diamond tiara, a lily tiara in gemstones and rose and white gold that transforms into brooches and a necklace. There are chapters that are written by a philosopher, novelist, composer and perfumer and others of different disciplines, each delving deeply to find the heart, character and soul of the jewelry. These multiple perceptions regarding the jewels are crafted to “dazzle the reader on an emotional as well as a rational level” reads a line from the foreword. Each photo is more spectacular than the next, some from the Chaumet archives and others as seen through the creative eyes and lens’ of photographers Simone Cavadini and Julia Hetta. You will want to keep going back to your favorite sections of which you might have many if you are anything like me. But perhaps my favorite is the last chapter in which the jewels are all worn in the hair of different models, photographed by Julia Hetta. It is entitled Jewellery as Objects of Dreams. She is quoted in the book, “I wish to make pictures that are timeless and communicate to the human soul, filled with dreams and imaginings. The place of dreams and imagination has to be evoked within the spectator.”
The fact that the descriptions, stories, quotes and text come from different worlds than that of the jewelry author or historian has created a rich tapestry of insights and views into the dreamy, mysterious and marvelous world of high jewelry.
The Butterfly Theory
Wallace Chan is a visionary, an ingenious rebel who has pushed boundaries to create pieces that reveled in the ground-breaking and the unconventional to create beauty and grace. Chan has revolutionized techniques in jewelry making and has created some of the most enchanting butterflies that flutter like no others. The book Winged Beauty: The Butterfly Jewellery Art of Wallace Chan (ACC Art Books, September 2021) features 30 of Chan’s most riveting butterflies.
The butterfly’s meaning through history has always symbolized transformation and Chan has been instrumental in creating innovative gemstone carving techniques; aporcelain that is stronger than steel and other materials that take on the intricacies that Chan is noted for all spring forth in his butterfly creations—his emblem that has been with him since he watched a film as a young boy in which these delicate creatures represented a love story for him.
The accompanying text to his three-dimensional delicate and graceful winged creatures that often look like they are in flight was written by jewelry experts who explore the personal and cultural significance of these colorful brooches and necklaces. The authors include Emily Stoehrer, curator of jewelry at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Melanie Grant, the luxury editor at The Economist and 1843 Magazine; Juliet Weir-de La Rochefoucauld, jewelry expert and author of books; Ming Liu, lifestyle writer for the Financial Times who often writes special articles on watches and jewelry and Vanessa Cron who is in charge of the ‘Jewellery Design History’ class at the Geneva University of Art and Design.
When you land on this book, if you do not yet have an appreciation of butterflies or Chan’s workmanship, after reading, it will leave you in awe of both.