Reviewing ‘Jewelry Guide: The Ultimate Compendium’

March 30, 2023  |  Phyllis Schiller
An image from a campaign by Messika, featuring its gold and diamond jewels; Jewelry Guide: The Ultimate Compendium. (Isabelle Bonjean/Messika; Assouline)

This wide-ranging book covers everything from history and gem properties to big brands and buying tips.

Jewelry offers “the promise of eternity,” gifting the wearer with both “adornment and beauty,” writes Fabienne Reybaud in the introduction to her new book. Jewelry Guide: The Ultimate Compendium aims to illuminate the facts behind the fantasy and offer a comprehensive look into the world of jewelry. Copious color illustrations present some of the world’s most storied gems, while the text covers subjects that will interest both beginning and experienced jewelry aficionados. Having previously written Watches: The Ultimate Guide to provide “the most complete perspective possible” on timepieces, Reybaud decided to do the same with jewelry “because there’s no similar book in the jewelry industry,” she tells Rapaport Magazine.

Passing along knowledge

Since she wanted to cater to both beginners and experts, Reybaud began writing each chapter by asking herself two questions: “What would I want to know if I knew nothing about jewelry?” and “What else new could I learn if I were a jewelry connoisseur or collector?” To help answer those questions, she drew on her family heritage. 

“My father taught me how to recognize jewelry’s size, ergonomy, volume and harmony,” she says. “He had studied at Van Cleef & Arpels before having his own workshop at my grandmother’s jewelry store. I spent my childhood watching him design jewelry and work with gold.… He was knowledgeable about stones, colors, origins and quality. This was really useful in the chapter about gemstones.”

The book starts with the history of gems — their role as symbols of power and wealth, as well as the sentimental value that transcends the sum of their precious parts. Reybaud goes from the pierced shells of the Paleolithic era to royal families’ crown jewels and modern-day high-jewelry collections. 

Along the journey, she moves through the Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Modernism periods, and profiles some of the bygone houses that influenced Western jewelry design — Lalique, Maison Fouquet, Jean Després, Boivin, Verdura, Suzanne Belperron and Jean Vendome. She also covers four legendary diamonds: the Star of the South, a cushion-cut, 128.48-carat stone with a rare pink color; the 140.61-carat Regent, which was once part of the French crown jewels; the 69-carat, blue Hope Diamond; and the cushion-cut, canary-yellow Tiffany diamond, which weighs 128.54 carats. 

Colorful exploration

The second chapter kicks off with exploring the “club of five” — diamonds, sapphires, rubies, emeralds and pearls — and continues with amethysts, aquamarines, opal, peridot, spinel, tanzanite, topaz and tourmaline. The author shares the lore and legends surrounding these gems, as well as how they form and where one can source them. The chapter also delves into fancy-color diamonds, the 4Cs, the topic of natural diamonds versus synthetics, and the cutting-edge techniques for enhancing colored gems in today’s market.

Rounding out the guide are listings of “essential” jewelry brands, up-and-coming designers worth following, and nine of the world’s best museums for seeing jewels. Reybaud closes with a helpful guide to buying, whether at auctions or from antique dealers, and a comprehensive glossary of jewelry terms.

Jewels “are inspired by the past and the future, by what is imaginable and what is impossible,” the author reflects. Much of the jewelry world is “still quite unknown,” she adds, and she wants to help readers find their way as they explore it.

Jewelry Guide: The Ultimate Compendium by Fabienne Reybaud was published by Assouline in December 2022.

Names to Remember

In Jewelry Guide, Fabienne Reybaud singles out 46 noteworthy global brands, including diamond-centric names like De Beers, Graff and Harry Winston; fashion houses such as Chanel, Dior Joaillerie, Hermès, Gucci and Louis Vuitton; international brands like Germany’s Hemmerle, the UK’s Moussaieff Jewellers, India’s Viren Bhagat, and Hong Kong’s Wallace Chan; and individual icons such as JAR, David Morris, David Yurman, Dinh Van, Fawaz Gruosi and Fred. She specifically chose brands that used natural stones and 18-karat gold or higher in their collections. Here are three of the brands she highlights.

David Webb
Reybaud gives David Webb the moniker of “fantasy jeweler” for his iconic animal bracelets, his bold cocktail rings with carved stones, and his luxuriant sautoirs, all of which, she says, gave American jewelry “the touch of originality it was missing.” Webb founded his company in 1948 and designed for it until his death in 1975. With an archive of over 40,000 designs, today’s output continues his distinctive style, from lacquered zebra cuffs to hammered-gold and diamond necklaces — all of it as fashionable in the 21st centurycas it was in the 20th.

The iconic Italian jeweler opened its first shop in Rome in 1884. Its boldly hued, vibrant style yielded “classy, sensuous pieces” that could be worn day or night, the author relates. Its Monete pieces, which feature ancient coins, and its Serpenti line of snake-themed designs share the jewelry landscape with more modern iterations like its B.Zero1 collection, which takes inspiration from the
Roman Colosseum.

Founded in Paris in 1858, this “modern rebel” of a company became known for its “extravagant and sensual jewels,” Reybaud writes. It has managed to continue innovating over time, producing “more urban and straightforward” pieces in recent years while keeping to founder Frédéric Boucheron’s vision. 

Image: An image from a campaign by Messika, featuring its gold and diamond jewels; Jewelry Guide: The Ultimate Compendium. (Isabelle Bonjean/Messika; Assouline)


An image from a campaign by Messika, featuring its gold and diamond jewels; Jewelry Guide: The Ultimate Compendium. (Isabelle Bonjean/Messika; Assouline) Reviewing ‘Jewelry Guide: The Ultimate Compendium’

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