I have one more book to share with you for this week. Christie’s: The Jewellery Archives Revealed by Vincent Meylan is a treasure trove of royal jewelry secrets. The author was given permission to view Christie’s extensive archives and this book is the result of his painstaking research.
The book is cleverly divided by themes. Each chapter takes on a specific theme and then breaks it down even further by the royal, their jewelry and the history of the jewelry. For example the first chapter is titled Guillotine Diamonds and discusses Madame La Comtesse du Barry and her jewelry. The second chapter focuses on the murdered queens/kings: Mary, Queen of Scots, Marie Antoinette of France, Draga of Serbia and Ludwig II and their valuables.
There are a number of well-written and well-researched articles tracing the history of royal jewelry. The photographs are plentiful and spectacular! The author also includes plenty of illustrations, portraits and old sales receipts/slips from the auctions. It’s really a gem of a book and I’ve gotten lost for hours within its pages.
It’s hard to choose which royal jewelry book to buy, but this one really is a good choice. I’ve met many new royals (such as Draga) that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. Besides being a book about jewelry, I’d say it’s also about world history. After all, the jewelry traveled through the centuries and witnessed plenty of upheaval and revolution.
“Worthwhile, both for the sumptuous jewelry and for the stunning lifestyle photographs.”
Society of Jewelry Historians
For many centuries, collecting precious jewels was the province of kings and queens, emperors, and maharajas. But in the aftermath of the First World War, royal gems passed into the hands of a different kind of elite that included celebrities and a coterie that reveled in a nouveau riche whirl. Changes in fashion and the rise of Art Deco style led them to reset pieces or commission exquisite contemporary designs.
Authors Stefano Papi and Alexandra Rhodes explore this dazzling era via profiles of eleven glamorous women who built up astonishing jewelry collections in the mid-twentieth century. This revised and updated edition includes two new chapters that explore the lives and jewels of Ganna Walska and Hélene Rochas.
The authors reveal the remarkable stories behind the jewels and their collectors. Not only do they bring to life the worlds in which these women moved, but they also describe the gems in detail and chronicle the work of the leading jewelers of the day, including Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Harry Winston. The book is illustrated with gorgeous close-up photography of the jewels as well as drawings of the original designs, and includes portraits of the collectors by Beaton, Horst, and other leading photographers of the time.
Another book I use for jewelry research is 20th Century Jewelry & the Icons of Style by Stefano Papi and Alexandra Rhodes. This book does not solely focus on royals but that’s okay because royal jewelry tends to end up being sold, which results in women of all social strata purchasing and wearing it. This is why today’s book recommendation is another excellent one!
Each chapter in the book focuses on one particular woman, her jewelry and the history of her jewelry.
The women covered are:
Marjorie Merriweather Post
Lydia, Lady Deterding
The Duchess of Windsor
Countess Mona Bismarck
The Maharani Sita Devi of Baroda
HH The Begum Aga Khan III
As with the other books I featured this week, 20th Century Jewelry has scrumptious photographs, biographies, historic details galore and in-depth jewelry history to please any jewelry lover.
An emerald and diamond necklace, from the collection of Consuelo Montagu, Duchess of Manchester, was sold by Sotheby’s in 2015. The necklace contains 11 cushion-cut emeralds weighing approximately 28 carats. The emeralds are surrounded by old mine and rose-cut diamonds also weighing approximately 28 carats. The necklace was made circa 1860 and at one point in time was probably part of a parure.
The Cullinan Blue Diamond Necklace was gifted by Mr. Thomas Cullinan (chairman of the Premier Mine in South Africa) to his wife Annie, around 1910. (If you’re wondering about the name, yes, this is the same mine where the British royal family received their Cullinan diamonds from.)
The Cullinan Blue Diamond Necklace’s design is typical of the Edwardian era: elegant, feminine and timeless. The Cullinan Blue Diamond pendant hangs from the double-ribbon bow. It’s a natural oval-shaped blue diamond, weighing 2.60 carat.
The necklace contains 243 round white diamonds and nine blue diamonds. The diamonds are set in rose-gold and silver. It’s also a detachable gem; it can be worn as a brooch or a necklace.
Today the Cullinan Blue Diamond Necklace is on permanent display at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
Speaking of Romanovs, Rebecca Bettarini will be wearing a Chaumet tiara for her wedding to Grand Duke George on October 1, 2021. Rebecca picked a tiara that mimics the shape of a kokoshnik, the traditional headdress for Russian women. It will look beautiful on her.
Today’s tiara is rare and of an unusual design. The headpiece is made of blackened steel and bordered with circular-cut diamonds. The two scalloped edges and the bottom row’s diamond-encrusted palmettes manage to give the tiara a romantic feel, despite the black steel.
Between 1912 and 1915, Parisian workshop Henri Picq made about five of these steel tiaras for Cartier. This particular tiara was bought in 1912 as a wedding gift for the seller’s grandmother. It has managed to stay with the same family until the seller sold it via Sotheby’s in 2015. It fetched the hefty sum of CHF 538,000.
I don’t have any information on the family, but the bride must have been quite the avant-garde fashionista to have embraced and kept such a unique tiara.
An Impressive Diamond Stomacher Brooch. – This week we learned about Empress Eugénie’s elegant 19th century Diamond Bow Brooch. If you are in need of more brooch love, then check out this massive stomacher made by Maison Mellerio and exhibited at the World Exhibition held in London in 1862.
Free to Use and Reuse: Genealogy. – Not royalty related, but in my quest to figure out some royal family trees, I stumbled across free genealogy resources at the US Library of Congress. Perhaps they’ll be useful for you!
Today’s royal trinket is a gold ring that contains a miniature portrait of Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia (1759-1828). The portrait is surrounded by numerous bezel-set diamonds. Maria Feodorovna, wife of Paul I, was the owner of the magnificent Russian Nuptial Tiara and the long-lost Russian Field Diadem.
The ring is now owned by Queen Elizabeth II. The Royal Collection Trust cataloged it only in 1952. Perhaps it was lost and collecting dust within its archives. It’s not certain when the ring was created. The Royal Collection Trust gives a conservative estimate: between 1800-1900. Maria Feodorovna died in 1828. Perhaps it was made to commemorate her life. She was a much loved matriarch of her family.
Today’s bejeweled headpiece is an aigrette. An aigrette is a less formal tiara consisting of white egret’s feather and usually accompanied by a spray of diamonds. They were quite popular in the 19th century with royals, aristocrats and heiresses. This particular aigrette was made circa 1900s. The spray, which is detachable to wear as a brooch, is set with circular-cut diamonds.
Though this piece was created for a woman, men wore aigrettes too. You may have noticed that aigrettes were placed in the turbans of Ottoman sultans.
We don’t see feathered aigrettes worn by royals these days. They fell out of favor between World War I and World War II. Perhaps their usage declined since it’s not very nice to kill birds for their feathers.
What do you say? Is this headpiece a yay or a nay?