The Goldsmiths' Company Library
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Taking Inspiration: Eight Great Books about Historic Jewellery and Silver

Goldsmiths’ Company librarians Eleni Bide (Librarian) and Sophia Tobin (Deputy Librarian) have kindly recommended eight books and related resources about historic jewellery and silver to inspire you, whether you are a designer, maker or appreciator of beautifully made objects.

Together with their colleagues they care for the Goldsmiths’ Company’s Library and Archive. This unique collection is open to all and includes the UK’s largest specialist library for jewellery, silver and hallmarking as well as the Company’s archives which stretch back to the 14th century. 

Between them Eleni and Sophia have over 30 years’ experience of research into goldsmiths’ work, and love helping others start their research journey. We hope you enjoy their suggestions.

Eleni and Sophia's recommendations

The importance of jewellery in human culture throughout history can be traced in 25,000 years of jewelry from the collections of the Staatliche Museen Zu Berlin by Maren Eichhorn-Johannsen and Adelheid Rasche. It takes examples from around the world and explores themes as diverse as magic, religion, war and childhood. It is based on the collections of the Staatliche Museen Zu Berlin - type ‘schmuck’ into the search box for best results.

The Cheapside Hoard, found on Goldsmiths’ Company property, is an amazing time capsule of high-end jewels from the time of the Stuarts. Hazel Forsyth’s book The Cheapside Hoard: London's lost jewels illustrates some of the most spectacular examples and tells the stories of fashion, desperation, deception, and craftsmanship which lie behind them. The Museum of London focus page on the Cheapside Hoard reveals and explains some of the jewels.

Example pieces from the Cheapside Hoard

Trésors de la Peste noire: Erfurt et Colma illustrates remarkable jewellery and silver from the Jewish quarters of the towns of Erfurt and Colma, buried during the Black Death. Sacred and profane art in metal from a community with a rich history but an increasingly precarious future provides visual and emotional inspiration. 

Precious stones have always been a source of inspiration for craftspeople, but they are irresistible to storytellers too. George Frederick Kunz’s The Curious Lore of Precious Stones, published in 1913 is a classic of the genre, with chapters on crystal balls, amulets, and magic from around the world. It is a free ebook! 

In times of crisis, the Library Team often finds solace in a tiara, and there are many wonderful books on this theme. Geoffrey Munn’s Tiaras: A History of Splendour is the standard work on the subject, while the recent Chaumet Tiaras is a breath-taking visual romp through over two centuries from this renowned firm. Diana Scarisbrick’s Tiara is a beautifully illustrated introduction to the genre, and spectacular tiaras can be found in the online collections of the V&A.

Image credit: Salamander brooch, Oval cased verge clock-watch with alarm and calendar & Hexagonal emerald cased verge watch © The Museum of London