This new coffee-table book about jewelry gives readers a glimpse inside the jewelry boxes of 13 famous women including opera singer Maria Callas, pictured here on the cover. (Courtesy Thames & Hudson)
This new coffee-table book about jewelry gives readers a glimpse inside the jewelry boxes of 13 famous women including opera singer Maria Callas, pictured here on the cover. (Courtesy Thames & Hudson)

New York--Make room on your coffee table.

On Sept. 13, Thames & Hudson is releasing a tome profiling the jewelry collections of 13 stylish women of the last century.

Stefano Papi and Alexandra Rhodes’ 20th Century Jewelry & The Icons of Style uses incredible pieces of jewelry as entry points into the lives of some of history’s most exciting and notorious females.

For instance, take The Duchess of Windsor, formerly Wallis Warfield Simpson, whose jewelry went to auction a year after her death in 1987. Her collection charts the course of the twice-divorced American socialite’s romance with King Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne to marry Simpson (therefore losing his title to become the Duke of Windsor).

Before the couple was married, the lovers kept their romance discreet. Edward loved to send Simpson jewelry, often with inscriptions alluding to their romance, such as the dates of trips taken together.

Simpson returned the favor, with gifts like a gold cigarette case by Cartier, featuring a map with the routes of their trips marked in enamel and gemstones marking the destinations.



Even in the inscriptions, the couple often communicated in code, sending each other presents during the tumultuous times they were kept apart, until Simpson’s second divorce was finalized and Edward abdicated the throne so the two could be married in France.

Another of the book’s stars is the Maharani Sita Devi of Baroda, the wife of a Maharaja. Like the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Sita Devi and her husband were star-crossed lovers.

Devi and the Maharaja fell in love at first sight, but both already were married with children. To rectify this, Devi converted to Islam so she could divorce her Hindu husband, then reverted back to Hinduism to marry the Maharaja. At one point, Devi was referred to as the Wallis Simpson of India.

The couple settled in Monaco and the Maharani began her long relationship with Van Cleef & Arpels.

Devi loved to bring pieces from the royal treasury to the jewelry house to be re-set, though this later became an issue when her husband lost power, and many of the treasury’s jewels couldn’t be found in their second life as Van Cleef designs.

20th Century Style utilizes more than 475 images to illustrate its subjects and the jewelry that was so embedded in their lives and affairs.

The books subjects also include opera singer Maria Callas, actress Merle Obleron and several members of society and royalty.

For more information, visit ThamesandHudsonUSA.com.

|Subscribe >
National Jeweler

Fine Jewelry Industry News

Since 1906, National Jeweler has been the must-read news source for smart jewelry professionals--jewelry retailers, designers, buyers, manufacturers, and suppliers. From market analysis to emerging jewelry trends, we cover the important industry topics vital to the everyday success of jewelry professionals worldwide. National Jeweler delivers the most urgent jewelry news necessary for running your day-to-day jewelry business here, and via our daily e-newsletter, website and other specialty publications, such as "The State of the Majors." National Jeweler is published by Jewelers of America, the leading nonprofit jewelry association in the United States.