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From Bvlgari’s Inspiration to a History of Love Jewels: 5 Coffee Table Books on Jewelry to Relish

Jewelry, as an adornment, has a long history, which is almost as old as time. And as time stood standstill in the past 2 years, publishers offered coffee table books on jewelry to help us enjoy, revel in delightful creations. We list some favorites

Publishing houses schedule book releases months in advance. The global pandemic was little more than a glimmer on the horizon in early 2019 as a bevy of gorgeous jewelry books were beginning to appear. The irony, if there is any in this phase of our lives, lies in the fact that during all the lockdowns, many of us sought solace and distraction in books to enliven our shut-in lifestyles. 

These sumptuous and wish-list-worthy books feature breathtaking imagery. And in fact, a couple of these books were conceived to accompany exhibitions on the same topic, but they were postponed until pandemic restrictions loosened up. Until then, these glossy tomes gave us the opportunity to appreciate the high art of fine jewelry making. 

1. Beautiful Creatures: Jewelry Inspired by the Animal Kingdom

Beautiful Creatures by Marion Fasel Rizzoli

Jewelry expert extraordinaire and well-published author on fine jewelry, author Marion Fasel’s “Beautiful Creatures: Jewelry Inspired by the Animal Kingdom” (Rizzoli Electa in association with American Museum of Natural History, 2020) was published to coincide with a fantastic exhibition under the same title at the American Museum of Natural History in New York which ended this fall. The book features spectacular beasts transformed into sparkling treasures and are organized by date, from the mid-1800s to the present, and divided into three categories.

Beautiful Creatures by Marion Fasel Rizzoli

The Legendary Starfish Pin made by Rene Boivin from "Beautiful Creatures". Image© Rizzoli

“Air” features butterflies, dragonflies, bees, birds. “Water” includes fish, seahorses, starfish. “Land” talks about snakes, panthers (nod to Cartier), tigers, elephants, zebras and more. In addition to the photos of jewelry, images of iconic personalities wearing such dazzlers is also included.  

2. Jewels that Made History: 100 Stones, Myths, and Legends

Jewels that Made History by Stellene Volandes Rizzoli

Stellene Volandes offers us a page-turning jewelry guide laced with gossip, ranging from ancient treasures, royal weddings, heists to red carpet award show stunners in her “Jewels that Made History: 100 Stones, Myths, and Legends” (Rizzoli NY 2020). This book is a glittering tour de force of historic, head-turning jewelry with dramatic tidbits that delve into the passions and predilections of some of the world’s most extraordinary personalities and coveted pieces of jewelry through the ages. The title pages and captions are snappy and witty. Archival images are mixed with excellent photography (jewelry is difficult to capture through a lens) and tell the story of the rise and fall of empires and the status of the wealthy and other gossipy tidbits to the present day. 

3. Gems

Gems by Flammarion

Gems” (Flammarion 2020) is a comprehensive textbook and reference book with show-stopping photos of minerals and gems, curated by an international team of mineralogists, scientists and specialists in natural history and in the history of jewelry, under the scientific supervision of gemology expert François Farges, a professor of mineralogy at Paris’ Museum National d’Histoire.

Gems by Flammarion

Read about this luscious blue topaz in "Gems". Image© Flammarion

This book, which is also an exhibition book (the exhibit closed in May 2021), explores the diversity of the mineral universe through an exceptional selection of geological specimens (some published here for the first time), legendary gems, and exceptional ornaments created throughout history. Raw crystals, cut stones, and jewelry are compared and contrasted, shedding light on both the natural wonders made by Earth itself and the virtuoso creations of human hands that transform them into works of art. This is a book to be coveted by anyone with an interest in gems and minerals and personal ornament.   

4. Bvlgari Roma: Travel Tales for Beauty Lovers

Bvlgari Roma Jewelry Inspiration book   

Bvlgari Roma: Travel Tales for Beauty Lovers” (Rizzoli NY 2020) takes a slightly different perspective and looks at the Eternal City’s legendary landmarks and how they have influenced some of the iconic jewelry designs made by the House of Bvlgari. Part guidebook, part jewelry book, readers will enjoy Roman landmarks that were, and are, the inspiration for the house’s colorful jewelry. Did anyone know that the iconic B-Zero ring was inspired by the Coliseum, the ultimate symbol of Rome? The book is perceived as an art book with tear-out postcards of landmarks and quotes by celebrities.  

5. (Sur) Naturel: Cartier High Jewelry and Precious Objects

Sur Naturel Cartier Coffee Table book

Another fine jewelry powerhouse, Cartier, debuted a book recently focusing on its archives of flora and fauna, which have been a significant inspiration for the house since it was founded.

Cartier High Jewelry Necklace

A Cartier High Jewelry necklace featured in "(Sur) Naturel: Cartier High Jewelry and Precious Objects". Image© Flammarion

(Sur) Naturel: Cartier High Jewelry and Precious Objects”, authored by François Chaille and Hélène Kelmachter, and published by Flammarion, is loaded with jewelry and illustrations which showcase the house’s newest high jewelry collection that put collectors on high alert to acquire.  

6. The Power of Love

Power of Love jewelry book

Finally, “The Power of Love” by Beatriz Chadour-Sampson (Unicorn Publishing), a jewelry historian, traces the significance of jewelry gifted for love through the ages. This is a delightful romp through the ages, featuring love jewelry from Western Europe. In the words of the author, “Love jewels reflect the diversity of the engagement ritual, dowries and presentation gifts involved in the wedding ceremony.

In the Power of Love Coffee Table Book

In the "Power of Love", you'll discover unique jewelry, like this couple in a gondola. Image© Unicorn

The tradition of a ring being given as a sign of commitment dates back to Roman times.” Numerous symbols of love are illustrated in this book using jewelry – from Cupid’s arrows to flowers with hidden messages and much more. Detailed historical references take the reader on a wonderful discovery of this topic through the ages.