Monday, 10 September 2012

New books: Jubilee diamonds

Hugh Roberts’s The Queen’s Diamonds is not the only book accompanying the current exhibition of Queen Elizabeth II of Britain’s diamonds at Buckingham Palace. In addition to that monumental book there is also the smaller Diamonds: A Jubilee Celebration by Caroline de Guitaut, curator of decorative arts at the Royal Collection.
While Roberts’s volume is the definite account, de Guitaut’s book aims at a more general audience. While Roberts’s book gives the detailed history of 74 items of jewellery, there are only 22 included in this book, but the selection is varied and representative of many different sort of diamonds, types of jewellery and historical epochs. The items included in de Guitaut’s book are those which are also included in the exhibition.
de Guitaut’s book also includes some items from the diamond exhibition which are not included in Roberts’s book, most of them not Queen Elizabeth’s personal property: Queen Victoria’s small diamond crown, Queen Alexandra’s coronation fan, a snuff box once belonging to King Friedrich II of Prussia and two jewelled swords.
It opens with a short general introduction to the history of diamonds and their association with the English/British royal family. Like Roberts’s book it is well illustrated, both with close-ups of the jewels and photos of them being used. However, there are some mistakes in the captions which appear unnecessary: Lord Snowdon is certainly not 119 years old, although a caption says he is born in 1893; the King of Norway’s name is not Harold, but Harald; and a photo of Queen Mary wearing the tiara and necklace made for the Dehli Durbar in 1911 cannot possibly show her “as Princess of Wales” in 1910, as the jewellery had not yet been created by then.
Caroline de Guitaut’s book can well be read on its own as an introduction to the British royal diamonds, but also as a useful supplement to Roberts’s larger book.

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