This book is: a fascinating look into the relationship between the silver screen, fabulous jewels, and the celebrities who love them both.
Read it: if you love movies, jewelry in movies and on movie stars, film history, glamour, and/or incredible jewelry.
If you’ve been hanging around the jewelry world for any length of time, you probably already know who Beth Bernstein is. A wearer of many hats, Beth has left her mark on our industry in any number of ways: from writing to design and consulting, not to mention her two already published books. What you might not know is that Beth is also a serious movie buff.
In the author’s own words:
“[I] have been watching movies since I was six with my grandmother playing dress up. I loved the melodramas of the 1950s and my grandmother told me I was a drama queen. I also loved the romantic comedies of the 30s and 40s—I wanted to marry Gary Cooper, Jimmy Stewart, William Powell, and Cary Grant –in no particular order. I was a sucker for men who made me laugh—and also cry.
And then my love for jewelry translated over into the way I would tell my own life story in my memoir in 2012—“My Charmed Life” (Penguin 2012) which also gave me the idea for telling the stories behind the jewelry. Those are the real gems—the stories that relate the jewels to the experiences and most significant moments in one’s life.”
If These Jewels Could Talk has been an idea floating around in Beth’s mind for 22 years. Now it’s finally here, and it’s fantastic.
If you’re imaging chapter after chapter of celebrity’s names with jewels listed underneath them, you’ve got the wrong idea. If These Jewels Could Talk is so much more than a list of who owned what.
It is a comprehensive look at the relationship between jewelry and film industry; from anecdotes about a famous actress who baked her 37.41-carat cabochon emerald ring into a cake to tidbits about the power struggle between watch brands that decided which timepiece would be on each movie 007’s wrist.
Instead of going celebrity by celebrity or even chronologically overall, Beth opens If These Jewels Could Talk with a brief overview of famous cinematic jewels, focusing on one gemstone category at a time. The book kicks off with “Sapphire Sirens,” which leads to “Emerald Enchantresses,” and so on, each chapter taking the reader through a particular gemstone’s history in the public eye. Organizing the material by gemstone rather than by owner allows nuances of stylistic trends to emerge and allows pieces owned by less prolific collectors to have their place in the sun.
After a review of notable pieces with sapphires, emeralds, diamonds, and pearls; If These Jewels Could Talk takes on sentimental jewelry: looking at the coded inscriptions on many of the Duchess of Windsor’s collection and revealing the stories behind particular pieces in other famous collections.
You probably know about Elizabeth Taylor’s “ping pong” diamond ring, but did you know Richard Burton also bought La Liz a Van Cleef & Arpels diamond choker to apologize for not being there when she had an appendectomy?
The book also does a survey of film stars known for wearing their personal jewels on screen, which I find unaccountably delightful. If I had collections like Marlene Detrich and Merle Oberon’s, I’d want to wear them to work, too.
(Just kidding: I work from home. I wear my jewelry at work all the time. Often with pajamas.)
Later in the book, Beth spends a chapter each on the jewelry in movies inspired by real-life events (like the Verdura pieces featured in De-Lovely, below), and then movies that inspired lasting real-world jewelry trends. The juxtaposition of life-to-movie and movie-to-life is perfect and the author’s passion for both sides of her subject matter – the cinematic and the be-jeweled – lead to well-researched content that is a joy to read. I read with my Netflix queue open on my laptop to next to me; I plan to see all of the jewels I read about in action on screen no matter how long it takes me.
Not all of the celebrities featured are film stars, although they make up the vast majority. You also learn about Coco Chanel’s penchant for mixing precious jewelry with costume, and the story behind one of Michelle Obama’s favorite brooches.
If These Jewels Could Talk is an all-around pleasure to read; thoughtfully organized, written in a friendly, accessible tone, and rich with glorious archival photographs of the jewels and their owners. The photos I’ve included here are a tiny percentage of the ogle-worthy images in the full book.
If you love jewelry – which you do, or why would you be here? – then you’ll love this book. Highly recommended both for general pleasure reading and as a present for the upcoming holiday gift-giving season.
NYC jewelry lovers – Doyle and Doyle is hosting a book party for Beth and If These Jewels Could Talk on November 12th, from 6-8pm! Definitely check it out if you’re around.
Thanks to Beth Bernstein and ACC for providing me with a review copy of If These Jewels Could Talk. The book will soon be available online and in fine book stores.