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Treasures in Our Stacks: books about jewelry

by Cathy B | Jun 27, 2016

The idea for a post about jewelry books in the Art, Music & Media collection first occurred to me after coming across Chats on Old Jewellery and Trinkets by McIver Percival and Jewellery by Clifford Smith .  I was delighted by these very old books.  Soon after, I came across the Vogue book and was enchanted by the beauty of the book itself.  There are certainly many more books on jewelry and its creation among AMM’s shelves but these few jumped out at me because of their historical importance and/or their beauty:

Jewellery by H. Clifford Smith, M.A.  1908.Treasures

“Jewellery is not only worn with the purpose of attracting attention and setting off the beauty of the person, but satisfies the desire, not less deep-rooted in humanity, of establishing a distinctive mark of rank and dignity.”

It is from this book that I first decided to do a piece on jewelry.  I was at first wowed by the age of the book.  After skimming just the surface, I was captured by the detail of the history of European jewelry, from the pre-historic through to “the modern” (19th century).  Chapters on frauds and forgeries and Memento Mori, jewelry for remembering the dead, are included.

Opening at random, I found a treatment of the historical development of brooches which “originated from the simple pin, which itself was preceded by and probably derived from a thorn.”  From there the evolution of the safety pin proceeds.  Among chapter titles these stand out as absolutely fascinating:  Prehistoric (Celtic) Jewellery, The Barbaric Jewellery of Europe (The Great Migrations), Anglo-Saxon Jewellery (Fifth to Seventh Centuries), Merovingian Jewellery.  This is the history of humanity as told through its jewelry. 

There are many photographs of early pieces, including the ring of Ethelwulf, King of Wessex (836-858), found in 1780 (pictured above.) I didn’t know I could be so interested in the history of jewelry!

VogueVogue, the Jewellery by Carol Woolton.  Foreward by Alexandra Shulman, editor-in-chief, British Vogue.  2015.

From the foreward:  “In this book Carol Woolton has drawn on her 14 years of experience as British Vogue’s jewellery editor to highlight the role jewellery has played in the pages of the magazine.”  “…Carol’s writing contains a world of knowledge and entertaining facts.”

This book is a gorgeous and sumptuous collection of photographs from Vogue magazine from the 1930’s until the present. “Photography in Vogue is a famous element of the creative zeitgeist and it is fascinating to see how both the wearing of jewellery and the style of the pictures has adapted to the times…”

This bound book is itself a thing of beauty, and oversized.  It is organized by chapter into the following subjects:  Show-Stoppers, Rock Chick, Minimalist, Exotic and Classic.

Faberge, the Imperial Jeweler by Geza Von Habsburg and Marina Lopato.  1993.Faberge

​This is a beautiful and historically important book.  It served "as the catalogue of a landmark exhibition held in 1993-94 at the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersurg, the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Paris, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.”  The pieces included are stunning and were not well known in the West before the Soviet Union opened the Russian archives to scholars. 

From the dust jacket notes:

“…the most comprehensive study of Faberge and his innovative creations to date…”

From the introduction by the Faberge Arts Foundation: 

“An unusual opportunity to organize this exhibition was presented by extraordinary developments in Russia.  After more than seventy years of repression, Russia could honour, freely, its cultural heritage.  Glasnost – the opening of the Soviet system – presented an even more specific opportunity:  the archives of the Hermitage harbouring the historical records of the House of Faberge could now be explored.  …and it provides the historical framework for this exhibition.”

Jewelry from the OrientJewellery from the Orient:  Treasures from the Bir Collection by Wolf-Dieter Seiwert.  2009.

I love the idea of jewelry from the Orient, especially juxtaposed with the European jewelry found in other books in this post.  It is jewelry of "extraordinary regional breadth and a diversity rarely, if ever encountered."

“This book takes readers by the hand and leads them on an imaginary journey.  They discover the jewellery of Oriental Europe and the magnificence of Ottoman ornaments.  They criss-cross the Mediterranean, are fascinated by enameled and coral jewellery in north-western African and are astonished by the art of silversmithing in the Maghreb.  Passing Moorish and Tuareg treasure chests, they travel on beyond the Sahara.  In Ethiopia and Yemen they admire the legacy of the Queen of Sheba. Their journey ultimately takes them via Indonesia to the Hindukush.”

belperronJewelry by Suzanne Belperron.  Patricia Corbett, Ward Landrigan, Nico Landrigan, Foreward by Karl Lagerfeld.   2015.

“Suzanne Belperron, brilliant, beautiful, aloof and incredibly talented was the only female master jeweler in the twentieth century to create her own indelible aesthetic.  She achieved greatness in a male-dominated world and shattered the status quo, creating a signature style that in 2012 The New York Times labeled “Modern, before the world was.”   From the preface.

This is a stunning book showcasing the work of a master jeweler.  It is beautiful!

mastersMasters:  Gold, Major Works by Leading Artists curated by Marthe LeVan.  2009

This book showcases the work of 41 contemporary artists who “honor gold by letting it speak to and through them in distinctive ways.” 

From the Introduction: “Each chapter…reveals the groundbreaking work of a singular talent.  From chapter to chapter, the visual vocabulary shifts radically from minimal geometries to opulent fantasies, from still lifes to social commentaries.”

The sculptural quality of these works is stunning!  Trying to choose a single photograph was almost impossible.  From a plaster face mask with a gold nose to a necklace of gold Zoloft pills, from flora and fauna relief images to stark geometric design, the scope of the subject matter delights and amazes.

Chats on Old Jewelry and TrinketsChats on Old Jewellery and Trinkets by MacIver Percival.  1912. 

The title of this book and its age sparked the germ of the idea for this piece on jewelry.  It appears that this is one of a series of “chats.” The books lists chats on English china, old lace and needlework, miniatures, autographs and old pewter, to name a few. 

The preface states that “This little book has been written mainly for minor collectors – those who love old things, but cannot afford to pay large prices for them.  A piece, the possession of which involves the writing of a cheque for three figures, is definitely out of the their reach; even two figures is not a light matter to them, and they prefer to pursue their hobby in those less exalted regions where ten pounds goes a long way, and quite desirable things can be had for a sovereign or two.”  (!)

The author begins with a short history of jewelry through the 17th century followed by more detailed accounts of the 18th, 19th and early 20th century.  From there it is organized by type of jewelry – brooches, rings, shoe buckles, and so on.

This is a charming book.  It is not visually enticing, using all black and white photos and drawings, but it is a wonderment of information!

Cathy is a circulation assistant in Art, Music & Media. She is a painter and her work has been displayed in the library's Krull Gallery. In addition to painting, Cathy hooks rugs and nurtures her little bonsai trees.









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