Holiday gift books (Part 2): “Pearls”

New from Abrams/V&A in time for holiday gift giving, is Pearls by jewelry historian Beatriz Chandour-Sampson and Hubert Bari, curator at the Qatar Museum authority. Meant to accompany the exhibition of the same name (on view through January 2014), this survey of pearl jewelry spans both time and the globe: from the Byzantine Empire to Jackie Kennedy to the present day.

Ceremonial Glove, Palermo, Sicily, before 1220: Red Velvet, gold, enamel, niello, pearls, amethysts, garnets, rubies, sapphires, spinels. Possibly for the coronation of Frederick II of the Staufer dynasty, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weitliche Schatzkammer, Vienna

Beautifully illustrated, Pearls utilizes the Victoria & Albert and other museum collections to good effect. The text is both sweeping and detailed, which helps keep this volume petite by packed with information. Eight chapters (or essays) detail the global history and importance of pearls as jewelry.

Covering both its natural (and unnatural) history, as well as their historical context the chapters are basically chronological. While the book primarily covers the history of pearls in the western world,  the introduction, first, and concluding chapters explore the global aspects of pearls: their trade, their creation, and their particular role in eastern cultures.

Chrysanthemum Brooch, Tiffany & Co, New York, c1904, Gold, platinum, diamonds, pearls. The pearls are from Mississippi, Tiffany & Co Archives.

Not surprisingly, I’m interested in the twentieth century section of the book, and it does not disappoint in its representation of Belle Epoch, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco examples from makers and designers such as Cartier, Schiaparelli, Chanel, Tiffany, and the like. Photographs of royalty, socialites, film stars, and political figures pepper the pages of this chapter, providing context to significant pieces.

All chapters utilize a wide range of museum collections, high quality images, and very well written text making Pearls a marvelous gift for jewelry enthusiasts and historians alike.

Icon with Virgin and Child, Ivan Nikolaev Mnekin, Moscow, 1886. Gilded Silver, oil mainting on metal, enamel, freshwater pearls. Cyrillic maker's mark 'iM'" the pearls are from Russia. Qatar Museums Authority, Doha

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