If These Jewels Could Talk: The Legends Behind Celebrity Gems, by Beth Bernstein.
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.)