Review by Carolyn N. Davis
I have certain expectations of a jewelry book. When I started collecting 13 years ago, I didn’t know much about jewelry. I joined the former Vintage Fashion and Costume Jewelry (VFCJ) club and volunteered to write a column. I believe one should know what one is talking about before opining or reporting to others. And, since reading is a great way to learn, I have accumulated a small library of these books.
So what’s my first expectation? Primarily, it’s that a book will teach me something new. I certainly don’t claim to know it all, but isn’t learning exciting? This is especially true if it is about a subject we all dearly love. A book should also be arranged in such a way that you can find a piece, maker or style of jewelry by looking through the table of contents or index. Some books showcase hundreds of pieces of beautiful jewelry over dozens of pages but it’s very difficult to reference the one piece you want to find. It also helps that the jewelry is in full color and photographed so that you can see the details of materials and construction. I want to see the color radiating in artful stones, the brilliance of enamel, and the richness of metalwork. Estimated values should reflect the current market; not an inflation of an author’s collection. Basically, I’m looking for relevant guides for buying and selling.
One of the books in my library is Warman’s Jewelry, 3rd Edition by Christie Romero. Many knew Ms. Romero as a jewelry historian and this book covered three centuries of both fine and costume jewelry. A book of this encyclopedic nature should be in every jewelry collector’s library. Sadly, Ms. Romero passed away last year and her talents and knowledge are missed. I wondered who would be courageous enough to step into her shoes and continue to educate us with another edition of this book. Kathy Flood did just that, and she has given us “Warman’s Jewelry, 4th Edition”.
When I received my copy of the book, I enjoyed hearing the spine crackle as I fanned the pages and the printing fumes wafted from within. (I love books; no e-readers for me.) Beginning my perusal, I first looked at all the pictures of the wonderful jewelry included and noted pieces I have not seen before. There were a number of them. Next, I wanted to know what Kathy wrote in her introduction; why did she write this book and how did she write it? I learned that she wrote it because she loves jewelry and she wanted to learn more about it. I was amused that she expects much the same from a jewelry reference as I do. She described the reasons more concisely, each of which guided her writing style. She also states that her edition is different from Ms. Romero’s because “every author has to make her own way.” If you are looking for a fourth edition continuation of the first three, you won’t find it here.
What you will find is refreshing, just not as exhaustive as past Warman’s editions. Ms. Flood writes like a storyteller and reveals her uncertainties about cameos and period jewelry in the chapter titles. The chapters unfold like a journey as she tells us what she has learned along the way. She also tells us about the people she’s met including the famous, historical figures, artists, and fellow collectors. There are also little stories, facts, lists, definitions, interviews, questions, and answers that punctuate each chapter. The prefix section called “Chapter Previews” serves as supplementary content to the chapter subjects. Three hundred years of jewelry are discussed, in addition to materials (as in pearls, diamonds, beads, and silver) and style periods. At the journey’s end, I found an enhanced appreciation of the jewelry covered.
All in all, I found this book to be educational. There are people whom I haven’t met in other vintage jewelry books including the founder of the Pearl Society and an avid jadeite collector, among others. There are also new facts and tidbits about familiar subjects shared here. The index provides a thorough reference to locate people in the book, while the table of contents is better for locating jewelry. The jewelry photographs, for the most part, are large enough to examine details. However, reverse construction views are absent and would have enhanced the reader’s ability to examine some of the jewelry further. The values are in bold and the costume jewelry prices reflect the current market. Some of the fine jewelry prices are eye-popping, but so are the pieces!
I enjoyed this book because my expectations were met. I think you will too.