07 October 2020

Review: Prince Dimitri's Once Upon a Diamond (2020)

Image: The Court Jeweller

In September, I added a new book to my ever-growing royal jewelry library. Once Upon a Diamond: A Family Tradition of Royal Jewels is the new coffee table book written by Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia, a jewelry designer whose heritage links him to great royal jewels of the past. Here's a peek inside the new book!




Image: The Court Jeweller

The book is essentially divided in two sections: one on the grand jewels worn by Prince Dimitri's ancestors, and another on the jewels he has designed himself. (The cover emphasizes this, with an Indian-inspired jewel of his own design juxtaposed over a photograph of Princess Olga.) The prince's family tree is too extensive to dwell on in detail here, but quickly, we can link him to several of the women we often feature here at TCJ. Prince Dimitri's grandmothers were Princess Olga of Yugoslavia and Queen Marie-Jose of Italy, which means he is a direct descendant of, among many others, Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia (better known to us as Grand Duchess Vladimir), King George I and Queen Olga of the Hellenes, Queen Margherita of Italy, and Queen Elisabeth of Belgium. The book treats us to photographs of jewels worn by all of these royal women and many more of Prince Dimitri's royal relatives -- including his mother, Princess Maria Pia of Savoy, who is still alive today.


Image: The Court Jeweller

The historical section of the book isn't meant to be a comprehensive catalogue; instead, it's a rather breezy selection of jewels from the various European royals to whom Prince Dimitri is related. The text is also not meant to be a scholarly historical discussion of the jewels in the same way that other royal jewelry books (like Sir Hugh Roberts's The Queen's Diamonds, for example) have been. Prince Dimitri offers quick descriptions of the various historical jewels, sometimes tracing their chain of ownership, sometimes merely describing how and when they were worn. The pages featuring his own jewelry generally don't include text or descriptions; a labeled index of sorts is added as an appendix.


Image: The Court Jeweller

The physical materials of the book change with each section. The pages devoted to Prince Dimitri's own jewelry designs are glossy, with high-resolution, close-up photographs of the various jewels. The pages dedicated to historical jewels are printed on rougher paper, with lower-resolution photographs. (Many of the close-up photographs of the historical jewels that are included were taken by auction houses ahead of their sale.) I was a little disappointed that the entire book wasn't printed in the higher-quality manner, but the change in paper type does help to provide a stark difference between the old and the new, the traditional and the modern.


Image: The Court Jeweller

My favorite section of the book was a rather unexpected treat: a small "book within a book" that is featured in the historical part of the text. It's a partial facsimile of an illustrated inventory of the jewels that belonged to Prince Dimitri's great-grandmother, Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna of Russia (later Princess Nicholas of Greece and Denmark). It's a fun way to peek into a royal jewelry box, and the illustrations are charming.


Image: The Court Jeweller

Overall, I think Once Upon a Diamond would be perfect for anyone interested in the jewelry collections of Prince Dimitri's family, or for anyone who loves his jewelry designs. If you're looking for a scholarly, historical text, this doesn't really fit the bill. But it's an extremely pleasant book to page through and enjoy casually, and I imagine I'll return to it that way in the future.



Note: Some links on this website are Amazon affiliate links. I put all money that I receive from these affiliate links back into materials for review on the site (including the book discussed in this post), so if you want to read more reviews, please consider purchasing items through the affiliate links in this post and throughout the site. Thanks, everybody!