Although no jewelry gift can quite compare to actual jewelry, these stunning coffee table books come close. Think of these tomes as the diamonds of the book world--they're gorgeous, beautifully crafted, and designed to last (both literally and figuratively--the incredible jewelry in these books depict will never be passé).
Like a diamond, these books are an investment. However, each one educates as much as it looks pretty sitting in the center of your living room or on your nightstand. Any one of these books would make a perfect gift for a jewelry lover--or just a treat for you!
Carol Woolton is the jewelry editor of British Vogue and an expert on historic and antique jewelry. This beautiful collection highlights the most memorable jewelry moments in Vogue and features both costume and fine jewelry. Illustrating the variety of jewelry featured in the magazine over the years, 300 pieces are organized into five sections: Show-stoppers, Rock Chick, Minimalist, Exotic, and Classical.
Jewelry historian Vivienne Becker captures the milestones of jewelry design from the last century in The Impossible Collection. From the Art Nouveau period to the pre-new millennium era, 100 pieces are showcased for their design and the fascinating stories behind them. Featured designers include Cartier, Van Cleef, David Webb, and Boivin.
Spanning centuries and cultures, Pearls traces the history of pearls' role as symbols of status and glamour--and in some contexts, purity. The book begins with a discussion pearls in the Roman Empire and concludes with a feature on pearls (and the impact of their cultured counterparts) in the modern era.
The European Renaissance is one of the most interesting periods for jewelry design. Written by Renaissance and world jewelry authority Yvonne Hackenbroch, Jewels of the Renaissance overflows with stunning images of some of the most creative pieces from this artistic period. Hackenbroch also weaves in the compelling stories behind the pieces--including tales about who wore the jewelry, who created it, and who commissioned it.
Split into three parts, Emerald celebrates the green gemstone that's reported to be 20 times rarer than a diamond. The first section features emerald jewelry worn by celebrities including Angelina Jolie, Princess Diana, and Elizabeth Taylor. This section also illustrates how emeralds have been featured in art and advertising. The second section covers historic emerald pieces--some created millennia ago, others created by the likes of Cartier, Boucheron, Bulgari, and Harry Winston. The final section discusses the emerald trade and features specially commissioned photos from four continents.
This book features 100 of the most spectacular pieces of a single Victoria & Albert jewelry collection, the Al-Thani Collection. Enjoy gorgeous photos of pieces previously owned by the great maharajas, nizams, sultans, and emperors of India from the 17th to the 20th century. Bejewelled Treasures also examines how Indian jewelry influenced theAvantee-Garde pieces of European jewelry designers (including Cartier).
Which of these jewelry coffee table books is on your wishlist?
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Opals consist of hydrated silica and occur in rock fissures. Due to their structure, opals are considered mineraloids rather than minerals. Opals are the national gemstone of Australia but are also found in Ethiopia and Virgin Valley, Nevada.
Opals have been the subject of various lore. During the Middle Ages, opals were associated with great luck and believed to carry the properties of every gem whose color matched one of the many colors reflected in the opal. Opals were also believed to bestow the power of invisibility. By wrapping an opal in a bay leaf and holding it in your hand, you could avoid being seen—or so the story goes.
Love of opals and belief in their inherent goodness dramatically changed with the publication of Sir Walter Scott’s Anne of Geierstein in 1829. The book describes a character who dies shortly after her opal comes into contact with a drop of holy water and turns black. Shortly after the book's publication, opal sales dropped by 50% in Europe and remained low for the next 20 years.
The Different Types of Opals
Black/Dark Opals are the rarest and most valuable opals. Found in the Lighting Ridge in New South Wales, black or dark opals have a naturally dark background, which allows their colors and rainbow tones to appear more vibrant. This natural layer of potch (colorless opal) on the back of the stone varies in darkness; the darker the potch, the more vibrant the colors in the stone. The more vibrant the stone, the greater its value. Most black/dark opals are cut into ovals or teardrops.
White Opals or “milk opals” are light with a white body tone (as opposed to the black/dark body tone of the black/dark opals). Mined in southern Australia in the opal fields of Coober, Pedy, Mintabie, and Andamooka, white opals are the most common opals and therefore the least valuable--but they can still be quite pretty.
Crystal Opals can be light or dark and are partially transparent. Partial transparency may enhance the color (and value) of a stone. An opal with transparency may be referred to as a “white crystal opal” or “black crystal opal” depending on its body tone.
Boulder Opals form in ironstone cavities in Queensland. They’re typically cut with some solid brown ironstone remaining on the back; the ironstone backing functions like the dark potch on black/dark opals, allowing the colors in the opal to stand out vibrantly. Found in Quilpie and Winton, boulder opals vary greatly in size and may be found as small as a pea or as large as a car. These are the second most valuable opals and are distinct for their thin, colorful veins. Boulder opals tend to have a flat or undulating surface and are almost always cut in a freedom shape, which maximizes the size the of the stone.
Matrix Opals occur as a network of veins between crevices in the host rock (usually claystone or ironstone). An andamooka matrix opal is a kind of matrix opal that has been enhanced by soaking in a sugar solution and boiled in acid, a process that deposits carbon in the stone’s pores, creating a darker background. A natural oulder opal matrix is a matrix opal in its natural state; it consists of brown ironstone with small deposits of opal.
Polished Yowan Nut Opal
Yowan Nuts are found in Yowan in Queensland. These ironstone concretions resemble nuts, which can be cracked open to reveal a valuable opal in the center.
Synthetic Opals are made in a lab with opaline silica, whose structure is similar to that of natural opal. Gilson Opals are the most well-known lab-created opals. Synthetic opals generally show brighter colors, are larger, and have a more ordered array of colors. Numerous subgrains in synthetic opals produce a delicate snakeskin pattern.
Imitation Opals are made with colored tinsel set in clear plastic or epoxy. They’re generally not convincing to the untrained eye.
Doublets and Triplets are partially man-made stones that imitate black opals. Doublets and triplets consist of a slice of opal attached to a dark backing. In addition to being attached to a dark backing, triplets have a clear quartz or glass capping to magnify and protect the stone while giving it a rounded appearance.
Looking to try your hand at metal and gem mining? While gems and precious metals are mined across the world, the U.S. alone offers a plethora of gorgeous stones. See our destination picks for some of the most sought-after treasures.