04 December 2020

Book Review: Jewels That Made History (2020)

Image: The Court Jeweller


With the holidays coming up, I know many of you are making your gift wish lists! This week and next, I'll be sharing a pair of new books about jewelry and royalty that you might want to ask for this holiday season! Today, we're starting off with Jewels That Made History: 100 Stones, Myths & Legends.


Image: The Court Jeweller


This new book about jewelry history, written by Town and Country editor Stellene Volandes, was published by Rizzoli in October. (The publisher sent me a review copy of the book.) It's advertised as "a stunning, surprising, and glittering tour of historic turning points and gem-driven drama, delving into the passions and predilections of some of the world's most interesting and extraordinary people." Organized chronologically, the book covers an ambitious slate of stories about jewels throughout history, from 1292 B.C. right up to 2019.


Image: The Court Jeweller


Those of you (like me) who follow Volandes on Instagram or read her work in Town and Country will be familiar with the style and tone of her writing, a breezy light touch over a subject that darts from point to point. This isn't a book that delves deeply into historical jewelry moments. Rather, it skims the surface, raising questions, hinting at possibilities. The book is a casual and relaxed take on the subject, but for more serious jewelry history lovers, you'll want to have your search engine and library at the ready to take a more in-depth look at the stories she presents briefly here. This one's more of a chat over coffee than a historical seminar.


Image: The Court Jeweller


There's plenty of content here for the lover of royal jewelry to enjoy. One of the best parts of the book its its photography, which is rendered in crisp colors on glossy pages. The book is smaller than your average coffee table book, but it definitely belongs to that family of texts, though it lacks the jacket you'll usually find on such a book. (That's really not a big issue, as those jackets often tend to get lost anyway, but without that extra layer of protection, my copy arrived in the mail with its corners a little worn.)


Image: The Court Jeweller


For me, the most enjoyable part of the book was probably the section covering the 1970s to the present day. Volandes's connections in the contemporary world of jewelry and design shine through here. For those who enjoy Town and Country, there will be a lot of familiarity in terms of the content in this part of the book. I prefer a little more heft in my jewelry history, but I don't mind a lighter and easier approach to present-day jewels.


Image: The Court Jeweller


The book retails for around $45 at most outlets, and I'd say that's about what I'd expect for a book of this size, content, and structure. I think it would be a lovely gift for a jewelry-lover this time of year. If you'd like to purchase your own copy of Jewels That Made History, I've included links to Amazon throughout the post. (These are affiliate links that support TCJ with each purchase.) I'll also add a link here to the book's Bookshop page if you'd like to buy it online and support your local independent bookstore.


Notes: I received my copy of the book from the publisher, but the post is not sponsored, and all views expressed here are my own. 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, 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!