Five Sparkling Reads
By Amber Michelle - Chief Curator & Storyteller

What could be better than reading a book about jewelry? The fascinating stories of designers, the history of diamonds and lots of gorgeous pictures are all part of  jewelry books. Here are a few of my favorites that are not only must-haves for your personal library, but make lovely gifts as well.


Three Russian brothers — Oscar, Nathan and Harry — all of whom had apprenticed for the House of Fabergé, immigrated to America in the early 20th century. In 1912, they founded Oscar Heyman & Brothers in New York City. Over the years, three more brothers joined the family business, each bringing a distinctive skill set to the art of making jewelry. The firm continues its tradition of designing extraordinary jewelry today, as the second and third generations of the Heyman family manage the company.

Oscar Heyman: The Jewelers’ Jeweler is a history of Oscar Heyman & Brothers. Throughout its history, Oscar Heyman has made jewelry for such notable names as Cartier, Tiffany & Co., Harry Winston and Van Cleef & Arpels, among others. An easy to hold size, this book tracks the firm from its inception to present day as three generations of the family maintain the highest technical skill combined with artistry and fabulous gemstones. The result was jewelry that was dynamic and sophisticated and that changed in response to the times and to consumer desire. The book is filled with archival illustrations, photos of pieces made during different periods of the firm’s history and some of the famous women who wore these amazing jewels.

Published by The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Oscar Heyman: The Jeweler’ Jeweler is written by Yvonne J. Markowitz, who is the Rita J. Kaplan and Susan B. Kaplan Curator Emerita of Jewelry at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Elizabeth Hamilton, an independent writer and researcher.


If you love history, Brilliance and Fire: A Biography of Diamonds by Rachelle Bergstein is for you. Although it’s a factual look at the early development of the diamond mining industry and its continued impact today, this book reads like an adventure novel. It’s filled with the stories of flamboyant and often unexpected characters who have given diamonds their coveted status in the modern world. The book chronicles diamond history from the influence of Cecil Rhodes — an Englishman in Africa in the late 1800s, who organized the diamond industry in a way that continues to shape the market now — to the start of Tiffany & Co. Brilliance and Fire takes us from the development of the slogan, “A Diamond is Forever,” to the impact of music superstars on creating diamond desire. Well-researched and filled with entertaining anecdotes, Brilliance and Fire is a compelling read.

Brilliance and Fire: A Biography of Diamonds is Rachelle Bergstein’s second book. She is the author of Women from the Ankle Down, a look at the history of shoes. Bergstein works as a lifestyle reporter for the New York Post.


If you prefer looking at stunning images to reading, then you will love Jewels and Myths by jewelry designer Michele della Valle. It is a pictorial, autobiographical journey through della Valle’s career as he takes you into an extravagant, lush world of nature portrayed in vibrant gemstones. The book beautifully showcases his jewelry in oversized photos that capture the artistry and bold, bodacious color combinations that characterize della Valle’s work. The coffee-table book is sprinkled with photos and quotes from celebrities, writers, philosophers and politicians who have inspired his jewelry. One of the most celebrated contemporary jewelry designers in the world today, Michele della Valle’s work is coveted by both collectors and connoisseurs.


One of the most acclaimed jewelers, both currently and in history, is the subject of Résonances De Cartier: High Jewelry and Precious Objects. The tome honors Cartier’s special ability to showcase a gemstone by setting it in such a way that it becomes a piece of wearable art. This 296-page coffee-table book is filled with sumptuous images of extraordinary jewelry. The book takes you on a tour of the jewelry by pairing the pieces with images of sculptures that inspired the designs and shows you the renderings that the finest Cartier craftspeople use to bring the pieces to life. The book is written by art and decorative arts historian François Chaille, who is an expert on Cartier. In addition to this book, published by Flammarion, he has also, through the company, published other books on the design house, including The Cartier Collection (Jewelry, Timepieces and Precious Objects); Cartier: The Tank Watch: Timeless Style; Cartier Royal and Cartier Magician.


A passion for rubies is revealed in Ruby: The King of Gems by Joanna Hardy, who has spent her career in the jewelry industry at De Beers, Sotheby’s and Phillips. Hardy follows the path of rubies as they were traded along the Silk Route and then takes you on her travels to the ruby mines. She discusses her visits to the famed mines in Burma, Mozambique and everywhere in between, reviewing the differences in the gems from each source and giving practical advice on how to buy a ruby. Microphotography that shows the inside of gemstones is used liberally to illustrate explanations about the gemological and geological characteristics of the stone. Hardy takes a look at rubies worn by royalty and Hollywood celebrities as well as ruby jewelry made by famous design houses. The book is filled with photos of famous women bejeweled in rubies as well as unique ruby jewelry and objects. It also includes never-before-seen pieces from private and royal collections.