Wendy Smith is dazzled by six luscious new books that celebrate the art of the jewel from every facet.
JAR Paris I and II Book Set
In celebration of the current Jewels by JAR exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a sumptuous, oversized collector’s edition pairs a reissued 2002 volume featuring 397 examples of Joel Arthur Rosenthal’s sublime jewellery with a new book displaying 316 pieces created over the past decade. Almost every elegant item gets its own page; Rosenthal’s passion for fine stones is honoured in close-up photography conveying their varied textures as well as his exquisite craftsmanship and painterly use of colour.
Phaidon/Metropolitan Museum of Art, $1,400
20th Century Jewelry & the Icons of Style
by Stefano Papi and Alexandra Rhodes
Instead of focusing on particular gems or jewellers, Stefano Papi and Sotheby’s Alexandra Rhodes profile eleven women who built extraordinary jewellery collections from the 1920s through the 1970s. It is fascinating to see how a necklace or a bracelet expresses the personal style and taste of opera diva Maria Callas, screen star Merle Oberon or Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton. In most cases, vintage black-and-white photos of the women are accompanied by full-colour close-ups of the jewellery they are wearing, enhancing our appreciation of both.
Thames & Hudson, $65
The Art of Bulgari: La Dolce Vita and Beyond, 1950–1990
by Martin Chapman and Amanda Triosi
“The only word that Elizabeth knows in Italian is Bulgari,” joked Richard Burton, and Ms Taylor was among the many movie stars who adored the historic jewellery house’s exciting innovations in the postwar years. This book accompanying an exhibit at San Francisco’s de Young Museum shows Bulgari moving away from the restraint of traditional Parisian jewellers to pioneer “casual formality,” employing a wider array of jewels and colours in robust designs.
by Joanna Hardy and Jonathan Self
Although magnificent examples of emerald jewellery date back to the Roman and Byzantine Empires, it looks especially glamorous on the array of 20th-century socialites and celebrities portrayed here. This lavish volume contains some 400 photographs, including a few demonstrating that emeralds show off brilliantly, even in black-and-white – not so hard, when they are being worn by Marlene Dietrich. Colour photos make palpable the jaw-dropping opulence of the 187-carat Mackay Emerald and other historic pieces.
Thames & Hudson, $125
David Webb: The Quintessential American Jeweler
by Ruth Peltason
His big, bold jewellery matched the adventurous spirit of the Swinging Sixties. Inspired by what he called “barbaric” forms, David Webb made use of animal shapes – a turtle compact studded with emeralds and diamonds; a gold clamshell evening bag – and unusual materials like spinel and black enamel in jewellery that made women feel empowered. The vivid photos energetically arranged on these pages make it easy to see why Gael Greene called her Webb gold cuffs “my Amazon bracelets.”
by Beatriz Chadour-Sampson with Hubert Bari
Called “a flower of immortality” in the epic poem Gilgamesh, the pearl remained a symbol of luxury and power for millennia, as can be seen in the extravagant jewellery and pearl-encrusted clothing filling royal portraits in the companion volume to an exhibit at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. The knowledgeable text by Chadour-Sampson and Bari also chronicles the appearance of cultured pearls in the 1920s, which transformed pearls “from the precious to the affordable.”
V&A Publishing/Abrams, $40