• Antique Animal Jewelry

The Best Jewelry History Books to Fuel your Antiques Obsession: Part II

In last week's Wednesday Blog, we brought you Part I of AAJ's recommended jewelry books. This week, without further ado, we will finish where we started with Part II of this page-turner. Focusing on books about collections and guides to understanding jewelry, this post will give you all the literature you need to choose your next jewelry research adventure.

Rings I and II: Alice and Louis Koch Collection by Ann Beatriz Chadour (1994)

Best for: All serious collectors and dealers; it's an encyclopedia of rare rings that everyone wishes they could own

This absolute AAJ fave is a bible for rings. With 1980 rings within the two volumes of this beautiful book, the Alice and Louis Koch collection is cataloged here with incredible detail. The Koch collection is perhaps the biggest collection of rings aside from that of the British Museum’s, with pieces spanning over 4000 years of jewelry making. As well as displaying the enormous collection in full color with multiple angled views, these pages are filled with context about history, religion, and social customs surrounding the rings. All the most unusual and beautiful rings are in this book, including micro ivories, gimmel rings, cameos, rings that squirt water, sundial rings, telescope rings, watch rings... the list is endless. This is a must-have for any serious collector and dealer. The set is very hard to find and very expensive, but if you find it anywhere, snap it up!

AAJ's Must-Have-o-Meter: ★★★★★

The Beverley Collection of Gems At Alnwick Castle by Diana Scarisbrick, Claudia Wagner and John Boardman (2016)

Best for: Intaglio and cameo rings, beautifully photographed.

This impressive but little-known collection was begun in the early eighteenth century and grew to such renown that the Empress Catherine of Russia was said to be envious. This book details the widely varied collection, ranging from Greek to Roman to Etruscan, and even includes a notable jewel that inspired Michelangelo’s painting of Adam in the Sistine Chapel.

AAJ's Must-Have-o-Meter: ★★★★

Understanding Jewellery by David Bennett and Daniela Mascetti (1989)

Best for: A great resource book for jewelry lovers and dealers alike, looking for a good understanding of jewelry from the late 18th century to the late 20th century.

This book is a wonderful introduction to the practicalities of understanding jewelry. A large portion of the book details gem identification techniques, however, the book also provides an overview of jewelry’s history as well as just being a feast for the eyes with its stunning images and presentation. The New York Journal of Books describes it as ‘a delightful and presentation worthy coffee table book’ as well as ‘an inviting educational tool with exhaustive encyclopedic explanations of jewelry.’

AAJ's Must-Have-o-Meter: ★★★★★

Looking at Jewelry: A Guide to Terms, Styles and Techniques by Susanne Gänsicke and Yvonne J. Markowitz (2019)

Best for: Concise knowledge about makers’ terms and techniques.

Largely practical, this volume is geared toward jewelry makers, scholars, scientists, students, and fashionistas alike. It opens with a cultural history of jewelry and its production, before moving onto a detailed catalog of concise explanations of jewelry terms and techniques.

AAJ's Must-Have-o-Meter: ★★

The Art of Jewellery: Flora, Fauna, and Figures & Faces by Patrick Mauriès and Évelyne Possémé (2017-18)

Best for: A chance to see some of the collection from Musée des Arts Décoratifs: not much text but lots of images.

This three-volume set surveys the collection at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. After the Louvre, this museum has the largest collection of jewelry in France. The volumes are separated by genre, with Flora focusing on floral imagery in jewelry, Fauna focusing on the symbolism of animals, and Figures & Faces focusing of course on the human figure. These books are made up of small, digestible sections, each exploring the symbolism and themes of various figures in Jewelry.

AAJ's Must-Have-o-Meter: ★★

Le Grand Frisson: 500 Years of Jewels of Sentiment by Diana Scarisbrick (2008)

Best for: True Romance.

Published as a companion to the 2008 exhibition of the same name at Chaumet Paris, this edition is available in French and English. The notes were written by the esteemed Diana Scarisbrick (prior to translation by Isabelle Lucas for the French version). The book itself is stunning, with full-color illustrations. Beautifully organized and instructive, this book is another must-have for all sentimental jewelry lovers.

AAJ's Must-Have-o-Meter: ★★★★★

Diamonds: The Collection of Benjamin Zucker by Diana Scarisbrick (2019)

Best for: A detailed look at Benjamin Zucker's magnificent diamond collection.

This book accompanied an exhibition at Les Enluminures, New York. Cataloging the collection of Benjamin Zucker, ‘the king of gems’, and a famous historical jewel dealer, this survey has an impressive collection of diamonds and precious stones, with stunning photography. A chance to lust after rare diamond pieces that mere mortals would never be able to afford!

AAJ's Must-Have-o-Meter: ★★★

Kunstgewerbemuseum der Stadt Köln: Schmuck I & II by Anna Beatriz Chadour Sampson and Rüdiger Joppien (1985)

Best for: Serious dealers and collectors.

These two volumes, written in German, survey the collection of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Cologne. Mostly in black and white, these books are a meticulously detailed catalog of the museum’s various jewelry pieces, and Volume II is even entirely dedicated to rings alone. These volumes are invaluable for jewelry research.

AAJ's Must-Have-o-Meter: ★★★★

Rings by Rachel Church (2014)

Best for: Fabulous photographs of the V&A's ring collection, at an affordable price.

This book tells the story of rings via the V&A’s extensive collection. The pieces and eras covered span medieval to art deco gems, as well as including a section on contemporary design.

AAJ's Must-Have-o-Meter: ★★★★

An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry by Harold Newman (1987)

Best for: A great encyclopedia of Jewellery terms; a useful reference book.

This dictionary focuses on terms related to jewelry making processes, gemstone descriptions and classifications, and some brief biographies of key historical jewelry designers. It is illustrated with black and white photographs and some line drawings.

AAJ's Must-Have-o-Meter: ★★★

Schmuck 1780-1850 by Brigitte Marquardt (1983)

Best for: Brilliant researching, especially regarding romantic 18th-century German jewellery.

Unless you are a German speaker, you will need to translate this book. However, it's totally worth the effort. This hardback features 578 images in chronological order, lots of side by side comparisons and beautiful original jewellery drawings and sketches. There are extensive sections on Berlin Iron Jewellery, German Biedermeier jewellery, micro ivory rings and pendants, ouroboros earrings and other wondrous pieces from the late 18th to early 19th century. A great reference book!

AAJ's Must-Have-o-Meter: ★★★★★

See Antique Animal Jewelry's beautiful antique jewelry collection for sale here.

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