Marion Fasel

Curator; Writer; Editor; Lecturer / Jewelry Design / United States /

Books Every Jewelry Designer Should Read

A problem for jewelry designers or any fine jewelry enthusiast is finding a place to study historical work. Unlike other areas of the arts, there are not many museums with galleries devoted to jewelry. Only a few have 20th-century fine jewelry on permanent display and you will only see a small number of pieces.

Jewelry-design schools are just as rare. To be a jewelry designer is a calling. You have to actively seek an education and books are one of the best resources.

All the publications on my short list are favorites I have returned to again and again. These books open up worlds of beauty and adventure. There is everything from stories about royalty and their search for rare gems to the importance of jewels in the most humble societies, plus a lot of artistry that falls between these two extremes.

13 books
Penny Proddow
Debra Healy

Talented but little-known American jewelry designers of the early 20th century are given their due in this gloriously illustrated book.

Alexander Calder

Many artists, including Picasso, Braque, and Dali, made jewelry, but none did it as well or prolifically as Alexander Calder.

Hans Nadelhoffer

There have been many books on the history of Cartier, but this is the first and, I believe, the best. It reveals how the French jeweler created the most exceptional jewels of the Art Deco period.

Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor’s mode of collecting was the antithesis of the Duchess of Windsor’s disciplined good taste. Taylor liked everything sparkly! The brief anecdotes accompanying the pictures are a fun behind-the-scenes glimpse of the actress’s legendary life—even if several of the stories have proved to be embellished for dramatic effect.

Elsa Peretti

The only book Elsa Peretti has ever published is a work of art with loose pages decorated like a scrapbook of pictures, sources of inspiration, and brief anecdotes about her design process.

Bernard Morel

There is a lot of drama, as one might expect, in the history of the French crown jewels. This exhaustively researched publication covers it all, including the sale of the collection. Members of the Third Republic believed any family who had worn the jewels might suddenly claim them—and the political power they represented—if the jewels remained in the French treasury. American jewelry kingpin Charles Lewis Tiffany bought most of the French jewels for his Gilded Age clients.

Henri Vever

An Art Nouveau jewelry designer, artist, and author, Henri Vever produced this seminal book over 100 years ago in French, but it has been translated into English only relatively recently. It reviews masterpieces from the turn of the century at the time when this revolutionary work was created.

Dyfri Williams
Jack Ogden

Like so many aspects of ancient Greece there is an impossible beauty to the gold jewelry. No one is quite sure exactly how the craftsmen created it and no one is capable of recreating the techniques in the same way today.

Harold Newman

I don’t know of any other book that defines jewelry terms as comprehensively as this publication.

Charlotte Gere
Judy Rudoe

This 552-page labor of love covers a vast array of jewelry and the symbolism of various styles during the Victorian era.

Victoria Finlay

A delightful narrative nonfiction highlighting the history of gems, contemporary stone dealers, and hard-core rock hounds.

John Culme
Nicholas Rayner

Possibly the greatest fine jewelry collection in the world. The Duchess of Windsor worked closely with designers to come up with stylish pieces. The jewels chart her love life with the Duke of Windsor—for example, the melodramatic inscription on her engagement ring, “We are ours now.” She received the ring before the Duke (Edward VIII) abdicated the British throne. The quotation and date of the inscription mark the occasion of the future Duchess’s divorce proceedings from her second husband, Ernest Simpson.

Oppi Untracht

India imbues jewelry with more meaning than any other culture. This book covers everything from Mugal diamond styles to base-metal bangles.

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