05 July 2017

Book Review: If These Jewels Could Talk (2015)

If These Jewels Could Talk: The Legends Behind Celebrity Gems (Photo: The Court Jeweller)

While royals and heiresses dominated the world of jewel collecting in the nineteenth century, the twentieth century saw the rise of the celebrity collector. Film stars and actresses became some of the wealthiest and most glamorous women in the world, and they started collecting and wearing major jewelry both on and off screen. Beth Bernstein's If These Jewels Could Talk: The Legends Behind Celebrity Gems (2015) celebrates the stunning jewels worn by some of these celebrity women.

Princess Grace's real jewels presented beside Nicole Kidman's film replicas (Photo: The Court Jeweller)

For royal jewel devotees, the book does include brief mentions of jewels owned by Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Diana, the Duchess of Cambridge, and the Duchess of Windsor. It also devotes significant time to the woman who lived at the intersection of real and Hollywood royalty: Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco. The text isn't divided by collector, though; it's thematically organized, with chapters focusing on specific gemstones, on jewels worn on screen, and on jewels with sentimental histories, for example.

Elizabeth Taylor, the Duchess of Windsor, and the Prince of Wales Feather Brooch (Photo: The Court Jeweller)

The text breezes from anecdote to anecdote, hopping from the star sapphire rings beloved by '30s starlets to enormous modern celebrity engagement rings, from sentimental charm necklaces and bracelets to the watches of famous men. As you might expect, lots of pages feature the jewels owned by Elizabeth Taylor. Audrey Hepburn appears frequently; so do Merle Oberon, Marlene Dietrich, and Gina Lollobrigida. There's also a fascinating section on the newer practice of loaning jewels to film productions.

View of the book's back cover (Photo: The Court Jeweller)

The book includes some beautiful photographs, but the quality of the images is a bit uneven, and my copy had some faint ink transfer from page to page when images with lots of black ink were included. The dust jacket of my brand-new book was also marked up a bit and had significant creasing and wear at the edges. Overall, the quality of the book is not quite as good as some of the others I've recently reviewed here, but the book does include numerous lovely images of jewels, both photographed individually and worn by their owners.

The list price of the book is an astonishing $95, and I absolutely think that's too much to ask for this book. But Amazon sells new copies right now for under $55, and used copies can be had for less than $30 -- I think that's much more reasonable for the quality and content of the book. If you're a fan of celebrity gems, I think you'll really enjoy this fun, casual overview of numerous pieces of jewelry. If you're looking for a more scholarly jewelry book, I think you might select something else.

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!