England's Victoria and Albert Museum, specializing in the decorative arts, has one of the finest jewelry collections in the world. This oversize volume draws from that collection to celebrate jewelry from the last 500 years, from the Middle Ages to the modern and avant-garde styles. The book is divided into three sections. The first part describes the materials used in jewelry making; the second offers a chronological history of jewelry pieces; and the third covers manufacturing and distribution, including hallmarks. The text is very informative, but, of course, it is the photographs of the jewelry that most capture the reader's attention. Although the paper stock and binding are not of the quality of some coffee-table books on the topic, the photographs are well reproduced, and the range of jewelry shown makes the volume useful both for browsing and as a survey of the field. From medieval religious pieces, including a skeleton in an enameled casket to wire-art jewelry made from oxidized silver, there is something here for everyone to covet. Ilene Cooper
About the Author
Clare Phillips, a leading authority on jewelry who has written widely on the subject, lives in England.