The Best Jewelry and Watch Coffee-Table Books of 2014

Three weeks ago, I moved to a two-bedroom apartment in the same complex I’ve lived in since February 2010: a groovy collection of terraced duplexes known as Monroe Manor and located on Beachwood Drive, the canyon street that leads straight to the Hollywood sign. (Fun fact: Joey Tribbiani, the Friends character played by Matt LeBlanc, lived in the complex in the popular sitcom’s 2004 spinoff, Joey.)

I finally unpacked my books this past weekend. As I stacked the coffee-table tomes in tiny towers around my new living room, I stopped to admire some of the new titles I received this year, a collection of glossy odes to our industry. If you’re still shopping for holiday gifts for someone enamored with the jewelry and watch business—or you’re feeling generous enough to give them out as a gift with purchase (classy move!)—you can’t go wrong with one of these.

Sevan Biçakçi

Not for nothing is the Turkish-Armenian jeweler Sevan Biçakçi known as the “problem solver of the Grand Bazaar.” The technical mastery displayed in his award-winning creations—including a collection of carved gemstone rings blooming with tulips, crowded with cupolas, or bearing the likenesses of his favorite sultans—is unparalleled. See for yourself in this gorgeous $165 doorstop written by Vivienne Becker and published by Assouline.

Loaded with brilliantly shot photographs of Biçakçi’s beloved Istanbul, the book has plenty of narrative backbone to satisfy the readers among you. I was hooked from the first sentence:

“His name means ‘bladesmith,’ and his story has become a legend of our time: an epic saga of toil, tribulation, and triumph, of heartbreak and heroism, of the passion, power, and glory of gold and gems; a tale that might once have been told by a wandering troubadour roaming the towns and villages of the mighty Ottoman Empire.”

Courtesy Assouline

Assouline’s oversize luxury edition of Sevan Biçakçi

Terra Garnet

Vladyslav Y. Yavorskyy is a Bangkok-based gem dealer with a serious eye for stones. A few years ago, he published a mesmerizing book devoted to spinel, Terra Spinel. This year, he followed up with another coffee-table book that combines travelogue, gemological esoterica, and luscious color photography to acquaint readers with the wide world of garnets.

“Mention the word ‘garnet’ and most people think of an inexpensive red gem,” writes gemologist Richard Hughes in an introductory note to the book. “In truth, while many garnets are red, the family contains a cornucopia of colors that include sun-kissed oranges, emerald greens, and even color-changing chameleons that put many alexandrites to shame.”

From the 1853 discovery of demantoid garnets in the Ural Mountains of Russia to a 1999 find in Nigeria that uncovered bright orange mandarin garnets, the book details the most important garnet varieties of all time, setting the stage for a year that should see the gem reach new heights. That’s because now that Pantone has christened reddish-brown Marsala its color of the year for 2015, expect garnet—especially the inexpensive red variety—to take its turn in the spotlight.

Courtesy Garnetbook.com

Terra GarnetVladyslav Yavorskyy’s ode to the family of gems that ranges from the lowly pyrope garnet to the vaunted demantoid

Cartier in the 20th Century

To coincide with its well-received exhibition “Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century,” which runs through March 15, the Denver Art Museum has partnered with the Vendome Press in New York and Thames & Hudson in London on a beautiful volume that includes a sweeping history of the maison from 1900 to 1975. It features plenty photos of dazzling eye candy interspersed with astute observations—by the likes of global style director Pierre Rainero, among other contributors—about Cartier’s place at the intersection of 20th century art, culture, and history.

Courtesy Cartier

The cover of Cartier in the 20th Century

The World’s Most Expensive Watches

As founder of ABlogtoWatch, a popular blog about timepieces, Ariel Adams has had a front-row seat to the spectacular rise of collecting culture in the watch trade since the turn of the millennium. He documents the craziest watches to have resulted from that phenomenon in this coffee-table book, which starts with watches priced around $200,000 and goes up—way up—from there. 

Courtesy A Blog to Watch

Ariel Adams’ take on the richest examples of watchmaking

The Impossible Collection of Watches

At $695, this Assouline title written by the British author and historian Nicholas Foulkes is perfect for the hardcore watch collectors in your midst. Foulkes shares the stories behind 100 iconic timepieces, including the 1915 Omega Lawrence of Arabia aviator chronograph, the 1962 Breitling Cosmonaute, and the 1985 Ulysse Nardin Astrolabium Galileo Galelei, all the while weaving a tale of progress, mechanical innovation, and craft in this oversize luxury edition. 

 

Courtesy Assouline

Assouline’s The Impossible Collection of Watches