My Husband Won't Buy Me a Tiara for Valentine's Day. Sad!

February 8, 2017 | Bill V.

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Since my husband won't buy me a tiara, or in fact any jewellery, for Valentine's Day I will have to make do with either buying my own or looking at books.

Tiara by Diana Scarisbrick: Created in conjunction with an exhibition of tiaras at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, this magnificent volume showcases more than 75 of the world's most exquisite tiaras adorned with everything from delicate feathers to ornately decorated, gold fleur-di-lis scrollwork set in diamonds, pearls, and sapphires. An essay by Diana Scarisbrick, curator of the exhibition, traces the tiara's history, and dozens of photographs show tiaras worn by Russian princesses, British royalty, American socialites, and many others. Taking a lighter, popular culture approach to a traditionally high fashion subject, Tiara will delight aficionados as well as those less familiar with the tiara's artistry, who will be astonished by the array of styles, shapes, and showstoppers from around the world.


I am happy to report that Toronto Public Library owns more than one tiara book. If you know the British Antiques Roadshow you will no doubt be familiar with jewellery expert Geoffrey Munn. His enthusiasm, knowledge and in fact love of jewellery is well known and he's also the author not one, but two books about tiaras.

Tiaras - A History of Splendour by Geoffrey C. Munn. Tiaras have always inspired a great fascination and the most beautiful and influential women have been painted, photographed and admired whilst wearing them. Even in the twenty-first century they are still worn and continue to inspire special poise and elegance. This lavishly illustrated book includes new photographs of a variety of Royal tiaras together with those of French and Russian Imperial provenances. Geoffrey Munn has been granted special access to the photographic archives of many famous jewellers, including Cartier, Boucheron and Faberg, for his research. Other makers include Castellani, Fouquet, Garrards, Giuliano, Lalique, and Tiffany. Among the contemporary pieces illustrated are tiaras belonging to Jamie Lee Curtis, Vivienne Westwood, Elton John and Madonna, made by Slim Barratt, Galliano and Versace




But why limit yourself to one form of jewellery? Indulge, splurge, live big!

Sicilian duke-turned-jewelry-designer Fulco di Verdura may not be a household name now but for much of the mid 20th century his designs (esp the tied/bound hearts, gem studded seashell earrings or Maltese cross cuff bracelets) were very recognizable.

Verdura The Life and Work of a Master Jeweler: A master of metamorphosis, Sicilian duke-turned-jewelry-designer Fulco di Verdura (1898-1978) studded seashells with precious gems, transformed sailor's knots into pearl-encrusted necklaces, and wrapped blazing ruby hearts with braided gold rope. Since the mid-20th century, his ultrasophisticated neo-Baroque pieces have been the status symbols of a near-secret society of European blue bloods, Hollywood royalty, and Park Avenue patricians. Verdura's by-appointment-only patrons included Wallis Simpson, Marlene Dietrich, and Diana Vreeland, who considered his Maltese Cross cuffs an essential part of her daily uniform.In this lavish book, featuring fresh color photographs as well as vintage images, Patricia Corbett presents a deft evaluation of Verdura's work and a glimpse inside his impossibly glamorous world.


Better known would be the Italian firm Bulgari. True story . . . I visited New York City for the first time with my best friend Tim in the mid 1980s. We were on the second floor of Tiffanys and he was looking out the window and said in a slightly quizzical voice "I wonder why the the Bulgarians have such a big consulate in New York?" He was looking at the 5th Avenue Bulgari store. 

Bulgari by Daniela Mascetti.Bulgari is a lavishly illustrated exploration of Italy's greatest jeweler. New photography and archival pictures trace the development of the Bulgari style, a distinctive look that has captivated royalty, movie stars, and others for more than a century. Since its start in Rome in 1884 - and throughout its years of expansion through shops from Los Angeles to New York, from Madrid and Athens to Jeddah and Hong Kong - the Bulgari firm has launched trends and revivals. In this volume, detailed chapters examine a range of successful innovations such as the easy-to-wear everyday jewels made with precious gems, the powerful modular units combined in repeating patterns, and the recent trademark Bulgari wristwatches.


Some years later I was visiting Paris and window shopping (it may have on / near rue Saint Honoré or Place Vendôme). On a lark I tried to enter Bulgari. You had to be buzzed in through security. You then sat down at a table and someone came to help you. In my broken French I lied and said I wanted to buy my mother a gift and had a budget of $1000 dollars. The sales clerk paused and said he would return in a moment. He came back with one pair of gold hoop earrings, one pen and one key chain. He looked at me. I looked at him. We parted ways in very formal and polite French.

The art of Bulgari  la dolce vita and beyond, 1950-1990: "This catalogue accompanies the exhibition of the same name at the de Young Museum, San Francisco, September 21, 2013-February 17, 2014. It covers four decades of creativity and artistic production by the jeweler Bulgari, based in Rome, focusing particularly on the postwar climate in Italy in which an "Italian style" of jewelry emerged"


Perhaps a more common household name is Van Cleef and Arpels? They are known for the quality of their stones and their very pretty invisible settings.

  Van Cleef & Arpels by Sylvia Raulet  Set in style  the jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels: Since its opening on the place Vendome in Paris in 1906, renowned jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels has played a leading role in setting style and design trends in luxury jewelry and in the development of the art of jewelry design. Van Cleef & Arpels pieces have been worn by such style icons as the Duchess of Windsor, Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor, and the company's prestige has spread throughout the globe, thanks to an unending list of prominent commissions issued by royal and imperial courts and the world's rich and famous. Set in Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels explores the historical significance of the firm's contributions to jewelry design in the twentieth century, including the establishment of Van Cleef & Arpels in New York in 1939. The book features more than 350 of Van Cleef & Arpels' most celebrated works from museum and private collections worldwide, including jewels, timepieces, fashion accessories and objets d'art, focusing on those created exclusively for the American market. Six accessible essays accompanied by nearly 400 photographs, including previously unpublished design drawings from the Van Cleef & Arpels archives, examine the precious pieces through the lenses and themes of innovation, transformation, nature, exoticism, fashion and personalities.

Where would we be though without the most famous name in jewellery, Cartier!

Cartier by Judy Rudoe: This sumptuous volume surveys spectacular creations from the first four decades of the 20th century, when the renowned Paris-based firm known as Cartier expanded to London and New York. Specially taken photographs present a breathtaking array of necklaces, bracelets, brooches, and rings, as well as cigarette cases, clocks, and "objets d'art". 450+ illustrations, 350 in color.


Cartier Innovation Through the 20th Century: Cartier epitomizes creativity and individuality in jewellery design.The 175 objects featured in this book exemplify Cartier's inimitable talent and represent milestones in twentieth-century design. Peerless archetypes of excellence that are important benchmarks in the history of world jewelery, they retain their beauty and relevance into the twenty-first century


Although one wonders what Tiffany or Harry Winston might have to say about who exactly is the most famous name in modern jewellery. One images a veritable boxing match between Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe.

Bejewelled by Tiffany, 1837-1987: This catalogue covers around 200 pieces of jewellery dating from the 1850s to the 1980s, products of the American company Tiffany & Co. The essays chart the early years of the store, its transformation into a world leader and its re-establishment as a worldwide brand after 1945.


Harry Winston Rare Jewels of the World: A fascinating chronicle of the career of the King of Diamonds, founder of an international firm, captures his expertise in jewelry-making, showing how his creative cutting of priceless gems made his name synonymous with artful elegance






The sleek look of Cartier jewellery leads us more broadly to Art Deco jewellery.

Art Deco Jewelry Masterworks And Their Makers: This comprehensive survey features Art Deco jewelry made by the world's leading designers and makers between 1910 and 1937. Not only does it include famous names from the Art Deco period; it also restores other notable jewelers to their proper place in one of the most creative eras for beautiful, stylish work.Drawing on public and private collections worldwide, the book includes some of the best-known pieces of Art Deco jewelry, together with many original drawings and designs. A number of the world's foremost authorities explore the world of Art Deco jewelry with essays on the context of the modern movement; on clients and collectors; on the relationship between jewelry and the fine arts, architecture, and the movies; and on the world of graphic art,commercial design, and advertising.Eighteen makers are featured individually,


I would be remiss though to not mention the lovely work of the Art Nouveau movement including The jewels of Lalique.

I also note some of the other firms and designers we have books on including:


Enough you say, of simply beautiful books about jewellery.

What about the rich and their ostentatious displays of wealth?

20th century jewelry & the icons of style: For many centuries the collecting of precious jewels was the preserve of kings and queens, emperors and maharajahs. But in the aftermath of the First World War, with the fall of several European monarchies, royal gems passed into the hands of a different kind of elite that included celebrities from the silver screen and a coterie which revelled in a new-rich social whirl. This book profiles eleven of these rich and glamorous women, all of whom built up astonishing jewelry collections in the early and mid-20th century. The authors, both international jewelry experts, bring to life the worlds in which these women moved, as well as describing the gems in detail and providing a portrait of the work of the leading jewelers of the day.  Famous jewelry collectors: For many centuries precious jewels were only collected by kings and queens, emperors, popes and maharajahs. But during the 20th century, movie goddesses, opera singers, industrialists, real-estate investors and rock stars have joined those with the means to deck themselves in glittering bracelets and rings, necklaces and earrings. This work shows the collections of such society women as Daisy Fellowes and Barbara Hutton, aristocrats such as Umberto II of Italy and Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal (Princess Mary) of Great Britain, and of stars from the world of entertainment, like Merle Oberon, Joan Crawford and Ava Gardner.

What about the beautiful people wearing jewellery?


Elizabeth Taylor  My Love Affair with Jewelry: Known for her beauty, her seven marriages, and her stunning jewelry collection, screen star Elizabeth Taylor treats us to a first look at her jewelry, in gorgeous actual-size photos and in personal photos-some never before seen publicly-of herself wearing them. Taylor reminisces about the occasions when these pieces were given to her by the men in her life. The two greatest loves of Taylor's life, movie producer Mike Todd and actor Richard Burton, gave her some of the most famous jewels: Todd presented a stunning Belle Epoque diamond necklace, diamond girandole earrings, and a diamond tiara, while Burton made world headlines when he gave Taylor the famous 33-carat Krupp Diamond ring. Every piece in Taylor's collection has sentimental meaning, some as poignant as the gold charm bracelet celebrating the birth of her children. This stunning book is more than a catalog of Taylor's jewelry; it serves as a very personal autobiography that will delight both Taylor's fans and lovers of fine jewelry.

Elizabeth Taylor came from the generation of movie actress where they owned the jewels they wore to premieres and other types of events rather than just borrowed from stores and designers, like they do nowadays. When she died her children auctioned off her possessions, including her jewellery. This fabulous collection made a fabulous price, due both to the intrinsic value but also the Taylor provenance, and achieved $115.9 million, the most valuable jewelry auction in history. Seven new world auction records were established.


Interestingly, Taylor bought some of her own jewellery from the estate of Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor. Poor, besotted Edward VIII who abdicated for love and then showered his wife with fantastic jewels for the next 40 years. The Sothebey's auction of her estate raised over $45 million which went to charity. The flamingo brooch, the Cartier leopards, the charm bracelets, the Prince of Wales feathers will all be recognizable as her jewellery for years to come

Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor by Rayner, Nicholas


Of course there is Hollywood royalty, divorcée royalty and then there is REAL royalty and no one can do it better than Queen Elizabeth II.

Dressing the Queen the Jubilee wardrobe by Angela Kelly: When The Queen appears in public, she is naturally the centre of attention. What lies behind her unfailing sense of style? Here are first-hand accounts of those directly responsible for The Queen's wardrobe. Learn the process of creating the wardrobe for The Queen's Diamond Jubilee, and the many months spent in planning and working to deliver this special, historical year.


There are several books on the British crown jewels as well as the jewellery of Queen Elizabeth. There's even one DVD, The Royal Jewels with copies you can borrow.

  Diamonds A Jubilee Celebration by Caroline de Guitaut: From jewelry of the highest quality and finest craftsmanship to gemstone-laden tiaras and diamond-encrusted swords, this accessible volume presents a visually stunning selection of diamonds from among the Royal Collection's awe-inspiring array.

The British royal family are not the only royals with substantial jewellery. In addition to Michel, Prince of Greece's, Crown Jewels there is also:

Royal jewels : from Charlemagne to the Romanovs : A spectacular celebration of European jewels, from Charlemagne to Louis XIV to Catherine the Great.

Although the Romanov dynasty does not rule in Russia, their jewellery is still quite amazing.

The Jewels of the Romanovs Family and Court:The Romanovs ruled Russia from 1613 to 1917, when the Revolution brought their reign to an end. The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were a time of elegance and extravagance for the tsars and the wealthy families with whom they were linked by marriage, and nowhere are these lavish tastes more apparent than in the imperial jewels.


And no discussion of Russian Imperial jewellery or bibelots would be complete without a nod to Fabergé eggs and also the other items of value and wonder they created. 

  Fabergé and the Russian master goldsmiths: Peter Carl Fabergé (1846–1920) is deservedly the most famous creator of the stunning gold, silver, and jewel-studded treasures of imperial Russia. Perhaps because of the popularity of his Easter eggs, Fabergé’s skilled competitors have been largely overlooked. Fabergé and the Russian Master Goldsmiths tells their story and features their masterpieces as well as Fabergé’s. Today, the creations of the Russian master goldsmiths are dispersed throughout the world. A broad sampling of masterpieces from the great Russian collections, as well as from private and public collections, are depicted here in nearly 300 full-color illustrations, a number of which are published here for the first time.   Fabergé Revealed: The exquisite objects created by goldsmith and jeweler Peter Carl Fabergé and his studio in the late 19th and early 20th centuries for the aristocracy and nobility of imperial Russia are considered to be some of the most refined examples of the jeweler's art of any age.nbsp; Of greatest fascination are the extraordinary Easter eggs created as special commissions for the Russian imperial family and other notable patrons - works that remain unparalleled in their ingenuity of construction and sheer beauty.

I don't want anyone to feel that Europeans have a monopoly in luscious jewellery.

Maharajas' Jewels by Katherine Prior: The fascinating stories of Indian princes and their jewelry and precious stones are brought together in this sumptuously illustrated narrative tracing the rise and fall of India's leading royal houses through the dramatic fortunes of their crown jewels. Famed since antiquity as a supreme source of diamonds, rubies, and sapphires, the Indian subcontinent afforded untold symbols of power and prestige to its many kings. From the sixteenth century forward, these stone were sought with unscrupulous avidity by the crowned heads of Europe, but even the rapacity of the British Empire failed to devour all of India's treasures. In the twentieth century, in a final flowering of regal splendor, many maharajas traveled to the West to have their jewels reset by the most prestigious jewelers of Paris, London, and Rome. It is this encounter between Indian princely magnificence and the best of European jewelry design that forms the book's centerpiece. The authors offer a fresh, vigorous text drawing on original material from a wide range of government and private archives, and featuring many hitherto unpublished pictures alongside more familiar ones. From Sanskrit dramatists extolling the riches of India to the finest of modern Europe's jewelers crossing Asia in search of royal clients, a broad gamut of real voices and resplendent images brings to life the story of India's royal gems.


Treasures from India Jewels from the Al Thani Collection: "Treasures from India presents 60 iconic works from the world-renowned Al-Thani collection, accompanied by a text that introduces readers to their significance within the history of Indian jeweled arts. Included are some of the earliest pieces created for the imperial Mughals in the 16th century, others made for Maharajahs of the 18th through 20th centuries, and later Indian-inspired works created by Cartier in the 20th century. These examples represent the range and scope of the finest expression of the jeweled arts in India, and stand among the highest expressions of Indian culture and artistry."--


And nor do I want anyone to think it's only stones like diamonds that are of value. The pearl was long the precious commodity in jewellery across many cultures.

Pearls: For millennia pearls have been associated with royalty, glamour, and status, and treasured for their exquisite beauty. Pearls traces the history of these coveted gems over the centuries and across cultures from East to West, from the Roman Empire right up to the present day. Historical portraits and contextual material explain the social and cultural significance of pearls, exploring the changing fashions in how pearls were worn, whether as signs of luxury and status or as attributes of the Virgin Mary, representing purity and chastity. Pearls brings together an impressive range of jewelry, from Renaissance-era pearl necklaces that made history with their intricate stories and intrigues, to the pearl drop worn by England’s Charles I when he went to the scaffold and a brooch given by Prince Albert to Queen Victoria on their third wedding anniversary. From the late 19th century, luxury brands such as Chaumet, Garrard, Cartier, Tiffany, and Bulgari came to the fore, and with the introduction of cultured pearls in the early 20th century, pearls, formerly a symbol of privilege, became a more popular and affordable adornment

And of course there is the lovely Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's pearls.

Tiffany pearls: Tiffany Pearls, the latest in Abrams' line of books for and about Tiffany & Co., tells the dazzling history of pearl jewellery at Tiffany, from the mid 19th century to the present. Long cherished as symbols of purity and perfection and assoicated with elegance and affluence, pearls are among the most coveted of all gemstones, and those designed by Tiffany are among the finest. Tiffany Pearls is lavishly illustrated with archival photographs, paintings of famous pearl lovers throughout history (including Queen Elizabeth I, Catherine de Medici and Mary Todd Lincoln), sketches and drawing of Tiffany's designs and contemporary photography of their spectacular pearl pieces.


It is hard to finish this blog - so much jewellery - so little time. But I would like to leave you with the words of my Baba (grandmother) “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” Some attribute this quotation to Coco Channel. Wrong. You never met my grandmother . . .

  World of LES BIJOUX DE CHANEL Chanel Fine Jewelry: Coco Chanel's passion for fabulous jewels, for exceptional stones, and for improbable marvels produced pieces that were unparalleled in their insistence on luxury and refinement. Drawing inspiration from tradition, Chanel was never the slave of everyday formulas or market values. Yet she reinvented tradition in the most arresting and modern jewelry pieces, based on her love of color and her assured command of austere classical beauty. Chanel was a creature of contrasts: there was the Chanel of sumptuous baroque, of rococo mirrors and dazzling, playful, unrestrained jewelry; and there was the Chanel of the utmost restraint, of classicism a la fran#65533;aise. Out of this dialogue between ostentation and austerity, the jewelry that Chanel created throughout her long career has been celebrated in many revivals of her exceptional taste. From the direct re-creations of the 1932 Collection to the newest interpretations of comets and stars, plumes and feathers, and Chanel's signature flower, the camellia, this book is true to the spirit of her enterprise. Classic images from the archives combine with exciting new photography to bring old and new together.