03 May 2018

Starting Your Royal Jewel Library

Photo: The Court Jeweller. Do not reproduce.

I get lots of requests for a post about my favorite books about royal jewels. Today, I've boiled it down to the essentials: six of the books from my jewel library that I reference most often!

Please note that many of these books are on the pricier side, so if you're looking to start your own collection, don't be afraid to scour second-hand stores or websites to see if you can find a lower price. (But don't forget: any purchases made through these affiliate links support the purchase of review books for the blog!)

Photo: The Court Jeweller. Do not reproduce.

(Anna Keay, Thames and Hudson, 2011)

While most of the jewels that we discuss here on the blog are personal pieces intended mostly for accessorizing, any royal jewel library worth its salt starts with a book on crown jewels -- the symbolic jewels worn for coronations and other state occasions. My favorite volume on this subject is Anna Keay's The Crown Jewels, a massive book on the British crown jewels, published in collaboration with the Royal Collection and Historic Royal Palaces. The photography is sumptuous, the text is informative, and Keay does a wonderful job tracing the complicated history of some of the oldest pieces of regalia in Britain.

For those interested in the crown jewel collections of other nations, my library also includes Crown Jewels by Prince Michael of Greece. It's a little older -- I own the 1986 edition -- but it covers crown jewels from all over Europe.

Photo: The Court Jeweller. Do not reproduce.

(Hugh Roberts, Royal Collection Publications, 2012)

The jewelry collection of the British royal family is the biggest draw for people to this blog, and Hugh Roberts's The Queen's Diamonds, published to coincide with the Diamond Jubilee, is basically the British royal jewelry bible. With stunning photographs and carefully researched text, the book covers the major diamond pieces in the Queen's personal collection, including jewels dating back hundreds of years. I'm still waiting for a companion volume covering the Queen's colorful jewels!

Those looking for even more on Queen Elizabeth II's jewels will also enjoy Leslie Field's The Queen's Jewels, which is a bit dated but features many jewels not written about elsewhere. Angela Kelly's Dressing the Queen, also published in 2012, gives a more personal look at the jewels.

Photo: The Court Jeweller. Do not reproduce.

(Geoffrey Munn, Antique Collectors' Club, 2001)

For tiara lovers, Geoffrey Munn's Tiaras: A History of Splendour is a holy grail. Written as an extensive companion to the landmark tiara exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the book is massive, covering tiaras from various royal collections and numerous different jewelry firms. There are gorgeous photographs here that you won't find anywhere else, and it remains one of the most-consulted books from my entire library.

A smaller, but still helpful, addition to any tiara-focused library is Diana Scarisbrick's Tiara, which was published in 2000 as a companion to a tiara exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The photographs are unfortunately quite small, but the text is very informative, especially for those interested in tiaras by Chaumet. Scarisbrick's Timeless Tiaras also centers on Chaumet's collection.

Photo: The Court Jeweller. Do not reproduce.

(Stefano Papi, Thames and Hudson, 2010)

When I'm researching the jewels of the Russian imperial family, I nearly always find myself reaching for the second edition of Stefano Papi's Jewels of the Romanovs, an enormous book with fantastic photographs and helpful captions. The book covers the imperial crown jewels, as well as the personal jewels of the Romanovs and many of their relatives. Papi also helpfully traces many the journeys of many pieces post-revolution.

For those interested in non-British royal jewels, I'm also constantly consulting Bjarne Steen Jensen's Juvelerne i det danske kongehus. The book has some flaws, and it's in Danish, but for those fascinated by Scandinavian jewels, it's one of the best resources out there. (It's also out of print, so you'll need to hunt down a used copy!)

Photo: The Court Jeweller. Do not reproduce.

(Vincent Meylan, Antique Collectors' Club, 2016)

Books covering the archives of museums and major auction houses can be incredibly helpful resources for those interested in royal jewels. Vincent Meylan's Christie's: The Jewellery Archives Revealed features wonderful photographs and images from the archives, including pages from auction catalogues. Several prominent royal jewel auctions are highlighted.

Hidden Gems, also published in 2016, gives a behind-the-scenes look at some of these major Christe's auctions. It's also packed with amazing photographs. Both books helped to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the auction house.

Photo: The Court Jeweller. Do not reproduce.

(Vincent Meylan, Antique Collectors' Club, 2011)

You can probably tell that my bookshelf is pretty Vincent Meylan heavy! For those looking to expand their collection of books on specific jewelry firms, Van Cleef and Arpels: Treasures and Legends is an excellent addition. As always, it includes great photographs, and it focuses on pieces owned by major collectors, both royal and non.

Also great for those who want jeweler-focused books: Hans Nadelhoffer's classic book on Cartier is a fabulous choice, and Meylan has a new book out on Bulgari's archives.