Written by veteran French editor Fabienne Reybaud, formerly head of the jewelry and watches department of French newspaper Le Figaro for a quarter of a century, this 324-page book covers a wide range of topics for those wanting to get a head start on the world of gemstones and the designs that magnify them.
Reybaud, who wrote a similar guide for watch enthusiasts 15 years ago, said the effervescence of the jewelry market today called for “a global overview on the market,” at a time where books are either “mono-brand and ordered by the houses, or generic coffee tables about the most beautiful pieces.”
Opening with a brief history of jewelry as “small precious items [that] have mirrored the human journey” since the dawn of recorded history, the book starts with memorable examples in history and now-shuttered houses whose influence cast a long shadow in contemporary jewelry design such as Boivin, Fouquet and Jean Després.
Then it’s all about stones, before diving into an A-to-Z of 46 brands, industry heavyweights and independents alike, making their mark today in a global market worth 20 billion euros. Among these are the likes of Boucheron, Cartier and Chanel but also JAR, Messika, Lorenz Bäumer or Maison Auclert, who creates contemporary items set with antique Roman stones or Greek coins. Reybaud also name checks a handful of emerging signatures like Charlotte Chesnais or Emmanuel Tarpin.
Those who made the cut were selected based on “work well executed,” she said, as “people forget is that it is a truly technical field, where France has historically had deep know-how in high jewelry.”
“Jewelry is too often likened to an accessory. What we mustn’t forget is that unlike shoes or bags, it’s a product that is eternal by design, due to its materials, metal and stones. That’s the original characteristic [of jewels], regardless of affective or symbolic value,” she continued.
Further chapters look at important museum collections, offer insider advice on appraisals and how to start a collection at auctions as well as a glossary.
A surprising element is the prices, peppered throughout. This was particularly important to Reybaud, who felt that giving a reference point would allow clients to understand what they’re looking at. Brands likewise “should not be ashamed of putting their prices in the open,” she added.
The book includes some 250 visuals, from the modish portrait of ’60s top model Penelope Tree holding the 90.38 carats “Briolette of India“ diamond in front of her eye on the cover, to hundreds of pieces and famous faces like Elizabeth Taylor, Zendaya or Julia Roberts.
It is dedicated to Reybaud’s father, a third-generation jeweler in the South of France who once turned down a suggestion from Pablo Picasso to help him launch jewelry.
Published in English and French by Assouline, “Jewelry Guide: The Ultimate Compendium” will be available starting December for $95, 95 Euros or 70 British pounds.