Sparkling Books for the Holidays

The next best thing to dripping in diamonds: devouring them—in the form of a book, that is.

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Every year around the holidays, publishers release a coveted selection of reads, and we’ve had the privilege of previewing some of the very best having to do with our favorite topic, jewelry, of course. Ranging from the friendly and charming to the serious and historical, each is covetable in its own unique way. In other words, your seasonal wishlist is about to shine a whole lot brighter…Happy holidays, everyone!

Andrew Grima: The Father of Modern Jewellery

By William Grant ACC Art Books, $85

Anyone who feels lightheaded in the face of stunning jewelry should properly prepare themselves to leaf through this mega-book on Andrew Grima, who is, without question, the father of modern jewelry. The British gent, in his bespoke attire and ever-present pipe, was a man who applied geometry to gold in the most unusual and fresh ways. So, too, was his treatment of diamonds, peridots, tourmalines, citrines, aquamarines, sapphires and the like. Remarkably, the thoroughly modern pieces attracted some particularly traditional-minded clientele, famous among them Queen Elizabeth and her sister, Princess Margaret. The book is rich with archival drawings, and ephemera such as notes, editorial and fashion photos, plus family memorabilia. This delightful tome is unquestionably a reason for celebration and a must for everyone who loves jewelry.

Beautiful Creatures: Jewelry Inspired by the Animal Kingdom

By Marion Fasel Rizzoli Electa, $35

Admirers of Marion Fasel’s The Adventurine have plenty to enjoy in her newest book, a knowing look at the animal kingdom depicted in gemstones and gold. In this friendly, intelligent romp through creatures that crawl, swim and fly, Marion pays homage to many-a-gilded creatures from renowned houses such as Cartier and Schlumberger, as well as anonymous makers throughout history. This darling book was done in association with New York’s American Museum of Natural History to mark the refurbished Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals. Marion’s choices are smart and fun, and include many of jewelry’s most iconic creatures.

Chaumet Tiaras: Divine Jewels

By Clare Phillips and Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni Thames & Hudson, $125

Worked from home in sweats for one too many months?  This Chaumet book is the glamorous lift you need. Open it, and be instantly transported to the world of tiaras, diadems and aigrettes.

Though the extraordinary invention of Chaumet tiaras dates back to the mid-1800s, this dive through history boasts an unexpectedly modern design, which is further elevated by the informed writing by Clare Phillips, a curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Philips’s journey through the stories of many tiaras—some of which work double-duty as brooches—is seamlessly accompanied by photos, and arranged by two broad themes: nature (wheat, flowers, leaves, and water) and sky (the sun, stars, moon, and birds).  Spoiler alert: it’s impossible to choose just one favorite.

Coveted: Art and Innovation in High Jewelry

By Melanie Grant Phaidon, $89.95

Coveted is a challenge to the Commandments, for it’s hard not to want many of the bejeweled beauties in this lavishly published book. Throughout a handful of chapters, the author offers running commentary on the history of jewelry from around the world and its makers. The all-stars of the jewelry world are here, however emphasis skews to contemporary designers, both well known and under-the-radar. The gorgeous printing especially excels at bringing to life the art side of jewelry.

Diamonds Across Time

Edited by Usha R. Balakrishnan, with contributions by Usha R. Balakrishnan, René Brus, Derek Content, Hugo Miguel Crespo, François Farges, John King, Jack Ogden, Stefano Papi, Ruth Peltason, and Diana Scarisbrick World Diamond Museum/ Antique Collectors’ Club, $125

For dedicated jewelry mavens, diamonds offer serious pleasure. Page for page, Diamonds Across Time is a richly illustrated valentine to the history, lore, appeal and style of diamonds. Bursting with tales of powerful women, rulers and royals—including the Romanovs, the French and the British—and their coffers brimming with diamonds from India, Borneo, Portugal and beyond, here famous diamonds get plenty of attention. Among the featured beauties: the Nizam, the Beau Sancy, as well as countless tantalizing colored diamonds.  As the 6th century B.C. Greek poet wrote, “Diamonds are eternal.” That’s true, but the hand of history and ownership offer another kind of truth, expressed by Elizabeth Taylor, a great and passionate collector, who said, “we are only temporary custodians of beauty.”

Dior Joaillerie: The A to Z of Victoire de Castellane

Texts by Olivier Gabet; illustrations by Victoire de Castellane Rizzoli, $150

“As a child, I loved dictionaries,” and so begins this spirited book, a sort of autobiography in words and pictures of Victoire de Castellane.. de Castellane, who has been designing jewelry for the House of Dior for more than 20 years, offers bon mots, musings and sage advice in a riff on the alphabet. A is for asymmetry, which “is much more difficult than  symmetry”; T is “trompe l’oeil, which “proves that realism does not prevent imagination,”; and perhaps best of all, N is for “no”: “A word I never heard in our jewelry ateliers for everything is possible there.”

There follows a word-free display of de Castellane’s rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings—jewelry in all its colorful musings and imagination. At no surprise there is a feeling for texture and movement in her personal collection, a fitting nod to Dior’s importance and legacy. de Castellane fuses gemstones with fashion in a way the great couturier would doubtless embrace.


Edited by François Farges Van Cleef & Arpels / Flammarion, $45

Gems has plenty to offer for rock nerds and jewelry nuts. In fact, it may well be the only book that celebrates and studies the relationship between fine jewelry and the extraordinary minerals found in the Earth. If you’ve ever wondered why there are so many shades of tourmaline, for example, or what makes malachite look, well, like malachite with its ribbon-like hues of green, the answers are all here. This fact-filled compendium was made in association with the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle  in Paris and showcases minerals from the museum’s superb collections alongside amazing jewels from the vast Van Cleef & Arpels collection. Read it, and next time you look at your diamond earrings or your star sapphire ring or your gold chain necklace, you can take comfort in knowing that you’re a dedicated devotee of Earth’s most spectacular offerings.

Jewels That Made History: 101 Stones, Myths, and Legends

By Stellene Volandes Rizzoli, $45

If there were campfire talks about jewelry, Stellene Volandes would be the ringleader of choice. Her enthusiasm and passion for jewelry are well known, and like most of us, she not only wants to peer inside every jewelry box, she wants to know who made what and what was given to whom and when. If that sounds like a whodunit, it’s actually the premise of this merry book, a selection of stories that are bound to charm jewelry fans. It’s a friendly romp through the ages, from 1292 B.C. to the present. Included are stories of betrothals, plunders, heists, revolution and space exploration, and characters from royals to celebrities and newsmakers. Whew! Serve up the egg nog and settle down for a cozy read.

Once Upon A Diamond: A Family Tradition of Royal Jewels

By Prince Dimitri Rizzoli, $85

This perfectly named book will astonish even jewelry connoisseurs. Presented here are Prince Dimitri’s Russian ancestors’ diamonds and other bejeweled treasures, one more iconic than the next. The descriptions are straightforward, mostly touting the gemstones and who wore what when. Dull? Never! Not when you’re treated to the jewels formerly owned by, say, the Grand Duchess Vladimir (Today many of those, courtesy of marriage and strife, reside in the coffers of Queen Elizabeth II).  . Among the beauties: the Kokoshnik Tiara, the Pearl and Diamond Devant de Corsage and the ethereal Collier Résille, a net of diamonds made by Cartier for Queen Alexandra. Images of the jewelry alongside archival photos are sublime. So is the thoughtful presentation and design. The icing on this gemstone cake?—Prince Dimitri’s own jewelry, which is wonderfully fresh, original, joyous and downright gorgeous.