Beautiful imagery and fascinating stories lie behind the many new books on offer this year that explore the history, the creative process, pioneering techniques and ultimately the remarkable creations of the people behind the finest jewels and timepieces in the world.
Geoffrey Munn: a Touch of Gold(ACC Art Books £25)
A witty autobiography of Fabergé expert and Antiques Road Show jewellery specialist Geoffrey Munn, who arrived in London in the 1970s to work at Wartski, the renowned dealer in Fabergé objets d’arts. He recounts delightful memories, some told at his own expense, of encounters with royalty, Hollywood icons, thespians and designers. The time when 19-year-old Munn didn’t recognise the King of Greece visiting Wartski, was one; or discovering Fabergé pieces that had been stolen from Bing Crosby in a Jermyn Street antique shop. And the American collector so eager to get his hands on an Imperial Egg having just visited Malcolm Forbes’s collection and wondering whether $5 or $10 million dollars would do it.
Francesca Amfitheatrof: Fantastical Jewels(Rizzoli £90)
The jewellery world is rooted in the art of storytelling, not with the written word, but with the finest and rarest jewels. Francesca Amfitheatrof’s beautifully illustrated book is not so much about elegant prose as an enthralling scrapbook of the creative process that Louis Vuitton’s inventive master jeweller draws her reader into. From the personal photographs of things that inspire her, to the earliest sketches of an idea, the gouaches; understanding the sensuality of her curvaceous forms to the choice and cut of a gemstone, to the finished jewel when modelled, Amfitheatrof reveals the journey of some of her most significant and extraordinary jewellery.
The Art of David Webb: Jewelry and Culture(Ruth Peltason, Rizzoli New York £90) Cover photo ©Ilan Rubin
David Webb, who lived from 1925 to 1975 is considered one of the most iconic and collectible of American jewellers. The man from North Carolina wrote a manifesto in 1963, the only article he published, called “Why Not Hang Gems?” sharing his view that jewellery while more personal than a painting should be seen as a magnificent art form. Perhaps that declaration motivated museums to subsequently collect. Art was certainly one of Webb’s greatest sources of inspiration, and Peltason’s richly illustrated book juxtaposes the jeweller’s lush naturalistic and abstract jewels with artworks, carvings and wildlife photography, making strong visual pairings between inspiration and creation.
Chaumet: Drawing from Nature(Gaelle Rio, Thames & Hudson £65)
Drawing might once have been considered a tool for research and preparatory studies, but in the 19th century pen on paper became recognised as an art form. In the early days a jeweller simply made mounts for gemstones, but when clients started commissioning jewellery, they wanted to see ideas that suited their tastes, and jewellers needed drawings to steer their artisans. Chaumet’s archives are bursting with artist studies, drawings and gouaches (coloured drawings to suggest gemstones), which are shared in the pages of this book. They feature flowers, trees, birds, reptiles and the universe, ideas that reveal the botanical heritage rooted in the Maison since the 1800s.
Bulgari: Beyond Time(Text by John Goldberger, Assouline £195)
Bulgari’s first wristwatch was made in the 1920s and it is hardly surprising that it was for women, for there is no other luxury watchmaker that has roots in the world of Italian high jewellery. Bulgari officially began producing watches in the 1970s and its horological achievements include high jewellery timepieces, Bulgari Roma, “Bulgari Bulgari”, the Serpenti, Octo and the grand complications. Author John Goldberger’s real name is Auro Montanari, one of the great connoisseurs of vintage-watch collecting, who has many acclaimed horological books to his name. Here he has gathered essays from artist Marina Abramovic, Olympic athlete Carl Lewis, conductor Lorenzo Viotti and others to discuss time, jewellery and breaking records for an entertaining read.
Lydia Courteille: a Jeweller’s Odyssey(Juliet Weir-de la Rochefoucauld, ACC Art Books £45)
A stone’s throw from Place Vendome is a Parisian jeweller whose bold fantasy jewels and eye-catching stones are remarkably distinct from that of her neighbours. The former biochemist moved by chance into jewellery design and the fine arts attracting a clientele of collectors like Karl Lagerfeld, Tom Ford and Beyoncé to her creations. She has a mind that soaks up ideas from distant travels to ancient cultures, myths and mysterious customs which are expressed in such original jewels that they might be regarded as art pieces. Weir-de la Rochefoucauld’s book vividly explores the travels and stories behind Courteille’s astonishing jewels.
Jewelry Guide (Text by Fabienne Reybaud, Assouline £85)
The perfect companion for jewellery enthusiasts, the Jewelry Guide is a visual feast of photography, original sketches, and images from inside artisan ateliers. Reybaud begins with a history of jewellery and a quote from Elizabeth Taylor, a lifelong enthusiast who believed that we are only custodians of jewellery, and here to enjoy them. He dips into the stories of important creators like Lalique and Boivin; famous jewels; the gemstones and artisans’ techniques; before an extensive round-up of famous brands and significant independent designers from Chopard and Hemmerle to JAR and Solange Azagury-Partridge. There is also a glossary of the best museum collections and advice on buying antique jewellery.
Rolex: The Story Behind the Style(Rachael Taylor, Studio Press £12.99)
An unofficial and unauthorised guide to the world’s most famous watch brand, Taylor’s visual compendium of Rolex is packed with snippets of history and information to delight watch lovers. Short, beautifully illustrated chapters provide not just brief histories of Rolex’s most significant models and pioneering innovations but also wonderful stories about some of the famous people who wore them and where. For instance, the experiment in 1960 when the inventor of the bathyscathe, Jacques Picard, took the Deep Sea Special timepiece to the bottom of the Marianna Trench, the deepest part of the ocean. There are the films, sports collaborations, celebrities and holy grails of Rolex design, and even the watch that went to the summit of Mount Everest.
Faberge the Twilight Years(Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm, Unicorn Publishing Group, £45)
This is an incredible album of rare drawings from Carl Fabergé’s leading workshop in St Petersburg, that were discovered by chance in the National Archive of Finland where they had lain unnoticed for a century. The Finnish-born silver and goldsmith Henrik Wigstrom was one of the most important Fabergé workmasters working with him from 1903 to 1918 and this album contains beautiful watercolour drawings of objects produced for Fabergé between 1914 and 1918. The drawings give a completion date and so have set the antiques world on a treasure hunt for the finished items. Many have been found and are illustrated next to the drawing, but there are still pieces out there waiting to be discovered.