12 June 2017

Book Review: Spectacular (2017)

Spectacular: Gems and Jewelry from the Merriweather Post Collection (Photo: The Court Jeweller)

Like most of you who read the blog, I'm an American, and I'm always excited to get to talk about a major jewel collector who was one of my fellow countrywomen. Marjorie Merriweather Post definitely fits the bill. Today, I'm reviewing a new jewelry book about her collection that totally lives up to its name: Spectacular: Gems and Jewelry from the Merriweather Post Collection.

A peek at a section on Posts's zircon jewels (Photo: The Court Jeweller)

The book is a magnificent survey of the jewels acquired by the heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post during her lifetime. She became one of the wealthiest women in America at the age of only 27, and she had a keen interest in and eye for buying jewelry. Her collection prized quality and historical importance, interests shared by many of those who are regular readers of this blog. She attended the coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in London in 1902, an event that would surely spark a love of significant jewelry in any of us.

Post's tastes ran from French and Russian imperial jewels to modern, innovative styles, spanning more than two centuries' worth of treasures. Many of her jewelry pieces are on display to the public today at both the Smithsonian Institute and Post's D.C. estate, Hillwood, so we can all enjoy what the book correctly describes as "perhaps the most formidable private jewelry collection assembled in the twentieth century."

A sample of the excellent quality of the close-up photography in the book (Photo: The Court Jeweller)

It's impossible to offer you a comprehensive list of the important royal pieces covered in the book. Written by Liana Paredes, the Chief Curator and Director of Collections at Hillwood, the book features text and images that highlight pieces like the Marie Louise Diadem and Necklace, the Blue Heart Diamond, and the Maximilian Emerald. Interspersed within the text are short pieces written by other jewelry experts, including Michael Hall and Jeffrey E. Post. Two of the most excellent of these pieces, tucked into the back of the text, focus on the Yusapov Diamond Earrings and the Napoleon Necklace.

A feature on similar pieces owned by Post and the late Diana, Princess of Wales (Photo: The Court Jeweller)

The text of the book is both informative and readable, but the real star of the show is the images. The book features a wonderful array of photographs. The close-ups of the jewels are mouth-watering, but just as fabulous are the many archival photographs of Post and others wearing jewelry from her astonishing collection. The quality of the book, which I'd describe as a small coffee table tome, is excellent. And it's an absolute bargain: the list price is $39.95, but a brand-new copy of the hardcover book is selling on Amazon.com right now for $27.16! Many of the books I review here are awfully expensive for the casual jewelry lover, so it's wonderful to experience a book that is both great and affordable.

For those of you who live in the Washington, DC area (or are visiting there soon), you've also got the chance to see some of these amazing gems in person. The book's publication coincides with a major jewelry exhibition at Hillwood, "Spectacular Gems and Jewelry," which showcases pieces from the estate, the Smithsonian, and other private collections. The exhibition opened this weekend, and it runs through January. You can read much more about the exhibition over here!

Note: I purchased this book using revenue that I received from the Amazon affiliate links on this site. I put all money that I receive from these affiliate links back into materials for review on the blog, so if you want to read more reviews, consider purchasing items through the links on this site. Thanks, everybody!