Any day now writer and journalist Beth Bernstein will be celebrating the launch of her third book about jewelry.
“If These Jewels Could Talk: The Legends Behind Celebrity Gems,” is part academic research, part a behind-the-scene look at celebrity and part emotional journey. With all of it involving jewels.
The book’s main focus is the glamour and glitz of Hollywood stars and their personal relationship with their gems and jewels primarily in the 20th Century, beginning at about the 1920s. However, political figures and others who celebrate the same style of the times also make their way onto the pages, including Coco Chanel, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Michelle Obama (a 21st Century figure). The book is filled with pictures and illustrations of jewels and their famous owners.
The book also looks at the impact of jewelry brands and their international growth and power in the high jewelry and fashion industries. They include Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Bulgari, Tiffany & Co, Harry Winston, David Webb and Verdura. The book’s cover shows the ruby, diamond, gold and platinum “Sash Heart” brooch, 1941, created by Verdura. It was commissioned by actor Tyrone Power for his wife, Annabella, for Christmas.
“Throughout the 20th Century the world’s most fabulous jewels have held tremendous sentimental and symbolic value, as they are linked to the most significant moments and memories of Hollywood ‘royalty,’ aristocracy and international icons of style,” Bernstein says.
The time period is important because it is when the world became a more connected place through the introduction of modern travel and communication. The cultural influences of the Hollywood film industry spread to Europe while European style made its way to the US through the proliferation of magazines, movies and later television. This was the time that small European jewelry houses became international businesses with a huge influence on fashion. And it was the beginning of the influence celebrity fame and culture throughout the world. Stars and what they wore had a direct influence on mass appeal (as they do today) and the smarter and better-connected jewelry houses did their best to adorn these influencers with their jewels.
Bernstein—a jewelry journalist for various publications and author of two previous books, and a jewelry historian—provides the personal tastes, anecdotes and the stories of the women who wore and collected the pieces. They include Elizabeth Taylor, the world’s most famous jewelry collector of the period, and socialite Helena Rubinstein who went out and bought her own pieces after arguments with her husband, dubbing them her “quarrel jewelry.”
Wallis Simpson’s love story was told through her jewels. Grace Kelly’s emerald cut Cartier engagement ring appeared with her in the film, “High Society.” Marlene Dietrich was a collector who wore her jewels in several of her films.
There are also examples of jewels being a major influence on the plot of the film, such as the Cartier diamond bracelet in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Lifeboat” and the Harry Winston diamond necklace in “Notorious.”
The hardcover book, published by ACC Art Books, is $95 and will be available in the coming days. A launch party for the book will be held Thursday at Doyle & Doyle in New York, which specializes in vintage, antique, and estate jewelry.
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