My Husband Won't Buy Me a Tiara for Valentine's Day. Sad!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Where would we be though without the most famous name in jewellery, Cartier!
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.
The sleek look of Cartier jewellery leads us more broadly to Art Deco jewellery.
I also note some of the other firms and designers we have books on including:
- The jewels of Jean Schlumberger
- Jewels by JAR
- Artistic luxury: Fabergé Tiffany Lalique
- Boucheron: four generations of a world-renowned jeweler
Enough you say, of simply beautiful books about jewellery.
What about the rich and their ostentatious displays of wealth?
What about the beautiful people wearing jewellery?
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
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.
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:
Although the Romanov dynasty does not rule in Russia, their jewellery is still quite amazing.
I don't want anyone to feel that Europeans have a monopoly in luscious jewellery.
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.
And of course there is the lovely Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's pearls.
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 . . .