Senior Curator in the Metalwork Collection and Jewellery Gallery at the V&A Museum
‘In the lovely gay
Years before the Crash
Never asked for cash’
sang the Children of the Ritz in Noel Coward’s Words and Music in 1932. Their high-living days were over, but a later generation recognizes the brilliance and the virtuosity of the jewellery created in Paris, New York and London for the Children and their contemporaries.
This book celebrates the imagination and surpassing excellence of the great jewellery houses and their designers, goldsmiths, enamellers, engine-turners and lapidaries who made the vanity case the successor of the boxes and nécessaires of earlier ages. The cases of Lacloche, Van Cleef and Arpels and Cartier stand in line of descent from the boxes of Jean Ducrollay and Johann Christian Neuber created in eighteenth-century Paris and Dresden. The finest cases are pinnacles of Art Deco design and miracles of precision manufacture.
Yet the book is also a celebration of a personal collection born out of love. As the prologue will reveal, the collection brings together a musician of genius and a collector whose mission to honour the memory of her brother has been matched by her keen eye and a sure trust in a dealer who shared her vision.
The jewellery collections now displayed at the Victoria and Albert Museum began with purchases from the Great Exhibition of 1851, including Berlin ironwork and a bracelet by Froment-Meurice. Later the V&A bought Art Nouveau direct from Paris. But Art Deco jewellery has mainly come to the V&A long after its creation. There are some magnificent pieces, but much more is needed to tell the full story.
This superb collection is a gift of astonishing generosity and will be transformative. It is of international significance, and we hope that its display will bring as much pleasure to its inspirational donor as it will to the V&A’s visitors.
Sarah Hue-Williams is a freelance gemmologist, jewellery historian and lecturer. Winner of the Anderson Medal for Gemmology, she is a Fellow of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain, the Gemmological Institute of America, and author of Christie’s Guide to Jewellery.
Peter Edwards has a jewellery shop in London and specialises in the works of the Master Designers of the first half of the twentieth century.
For further information please contact Sarah Hue-Williams: firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 (0) 7850 859 883.
As small but sparkling commentaries on the world around them, precious objects express their era in succinct and dazzling style. Each has its seminal moment, and the jewelled masterpieces featured in this book have the power to transport us back to the impossibly glamorous era of the Roaring Twenties, when makeup boxes and vanity cases came into their own.
Designed by jewellers to carry a lady’s cosmetics, cigarettes and all that she needed while out and about, they were regarded as indispensable, indulgent accessories for sophisticated lives lived in the fast lane. Magical in their design, manufacture and exquisite decoration, many were crafted by the top jewellery houses of Paris or by innovative artist jewellers, each taking hundreds of hours to complete using sumptuous materials: precious metals, lacquer and enamel, gemstones, mother-of-pearl and jade.
The unrivalled workmanship and imagination that went into these portable beauty kits, to say nothing of the feats of ingenuity that were involved in their interior fitments, will never be recreated. With a timeless modernity they survive as astonishing reminders of high times and great opulence, as true icons of elegance and as symbols – almost a century after their creation – of the essence of Art Deco style.
Accompanied by images and vivid descriptions that evoke the era when they were made, the 48 cases shown in this captivating book tell the story of the 1920s, and provide a suitably glittering insight into the history, fashion and style of the Golden Age of Glamour. They all come from an exceptional private collection formed by Freddie Mercury’s sister, Kashmira, as a special tribute to his love of beautiful things. As well as being one of the most successful musicians of the twentieth century, Freddie was an accomplished artist and would no doubt have taken great joy in these jewelled creations. Roger Taylor has kindly allowed the use of ‘A Kind of Magic’ for the title of the book.
Freddie would also have been delighted that his sister has promised the collection as a gift to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, where everyone will be able to enjoy it. All profits from the sale of the book will be donated to the Mercury Phoenix Trust.