books, jewellery history, Uncategorized

Five of the best books on sentimental jewellery

Image of Cupid and cat standing by a cage holding a captive bird. Design from the Emblemata Amatoria, 1618.
Emblemata Amatoria, 1618

Love makes the world go round and this is particularly true of jewellery! When I was giving a talk recently, someone asked me to recommend books on love jewellery. So, I thought it would be useful to round up some of the best books on sentimental jewellery.

Most general books on historical jewellery cover sentimental jewels to some extent. However, the books listed below will be useful to anyone who wants to learn about it in greater depth.

Sentimental Jewellery, Ann Louise Luthi

Cover image of Sentimental Jewellery by Ann Louise Luthi
Published by Shire Books, second edition, 2001

Ann Louise Luthi was one of the great names in sentimental jewellery. She was an avid collector (she bequeathed her jewels to the British Museum in 2019) and a great researcher.

Sentimental jewellery is a slim little book from Shire Publications. First published in 1998, it’s very fully illustrated and tells the story of sentimental jewellery through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The text covers both love and mourning jewellery – many objects shared a similar design language or wearers repurposed them, perhaps from a wedding ring to a mourning one.

It also includes a useful short bibliography and advice on collecting and caring for antique jewellery. As a short introduction to the subject, it’s a great choice.

Sentimental Jewellery, Shirley Bury

This is another short little book, now out of print but easily found second-hand.

Shirley Bury ran the Victoria and Albert Jewellery section for many years. The book is mostly based on the V&A’s exceptional collection, supported by contemporary designs and paintings. Although short, it is soundly researched and supported by footnotes.

Starting with a useful section on emblems and devices used in jewellery, it moves on to love and mourning jewellery. The book finishes with a chapter on hair jewellery.

Cover image for Sentimental Jewellery by Shirley Bury, 1985.
Published by H.M.S.O., 1985

The Triumph of Love: Jewelry 1530 to 1930, Geoffrey Munn

Cover image of The triumph of love, Geoffrey Munn, 1999
Thames and Hudson, 1999

The Triumph of Love is a much more substantial publication. Written by Geoffrey Munn, the former jewellery expert from the BBC show, The Antiques Roadshow, it’s a very readable, expert account of sentimental jewellery.

The book covers jewellery from the Renaissance, through the romantic eighteenth century up to Art Deco and the mid-twentieth century. It explores the legends and social history behind jewellery and is illustrated with wonderful pictures from public and private collections.

Again, it’s out of print but it’s easy to find reasonably priced second hand copies.

The Power of Love: Romance, Jewels and Eternity, Beatriz Chadour-Sampson

This is the most recent book on the list. It’s a gorgeously illustrated book which covers love jewellery from the ancient world to the twentieth century.

If you want to know about the history of wedding rings, the importance of mourning jewellery or the jewels of Grace Kelly, the Duchess of Windsor or even Lady Gaga, this is the book for you.

Cover image of The Power of Love by Beatriz Chadour Sampson
Unicorn Press, 2019

Diamonds and the Power of Love: the diamond engagement ring, a commitment to love over the centuries

Cover image of Diamonds and the Power of Love
The Diamond Trading Company, 2002

Although this one has the longest title, it’s another short book. It was put together for a touring exhibition by the Diamond Trading Company in 2002 and is specifically based on the history of the diamond engagement ring.

It’s a nice mix of social and design history from the Roman period to the late twentieth century. It’s well illustrated, with a full list of image references at the back and a brief bibliography.

For more book recommendations, click here for selected books on brooches and on rings.

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