Monday, December 2, 2013


For a time collections of precious jewels was only the province of kings, queens, emperors and maharajas.  However, the years following World War I brought about many changes and one of them was the ownership of jewels once belonging only to royalty.  Or, perhaps the new owners may be thought of as royalty of a different kind - celebrities, socialites, and the newly wealthy.

20th Century Jewelry and the Icons of Style focuses on 11 woman who amassed the most incredible, eye-popping personal collections of precious gems imaginable.  Obviously, their financial resources were great, and also clearly they loved their jewelry because they often redesigned their pieces so they would always look fresh.  It goes without saying that they patronized only the best jewelers and also expected the jewelers to offer them only the finest gems.

This gorgeous volume not only treats us to 398 photographs of these collections but also gives us a bird’s eye view of the way these women lived, their lifestyles, habits and preferences.  For instance, when Daisy Fellowes acquired a 17.27 rose-pink diamond the fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli (whose clothes the stunning Daisy wore) created the color Shocking Pink to complement the color of the stone.  This amazing diamond believed to have been owned by Catherine the Great was stolen in 1939 and has not yet been found.  You see, 20th Century Jewelry and the Icons of Style is not only visually beautiful but also fascinating reading.

Among the 11 women featured along with Daisy Fellowes are Marjorie Merriweather Post, Lydia, Lady Deterding, the Duchess of Windsor, Countess Mona Bismarck, Barbara Hutton, Merle Oberon, the Maharani Sita Devi of Baroda, Maria Callas, H.H. The Begum Aga Khan III, and Nina Dyer.  Just imagine a party with all of these ladies present wearing their most amazing pieces of jewelry!

Stefano Papi has worked as Senior European Specialist in the jewelry departments of both Sotheby’s and Christie’s.  Co-author Alexandra Rhodes is a Senior Director of Sotheby’s and a Senior International Specialist of the jewelry department based in London.  Together they have given us a one-of-a-kind volume sure to be returned to again and again.

- Gail Cooke

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