Book Review: Precious Cufflinks: From Pablo Picasso to James Bond
Engaged by the 18th century popularization of wearing birthstones as totems of good fortune and protection, it has taken a decade to search for gemstones and designs to complete my “Cufflinks of the Month” club. Therefore, I looked forward to this new work with great anticipation.
From its title, Precious Cufflinks: From Pablo Picasso to James Bond by Walter Grasser, Franz Hemmerle and Duke Alexander von Württemberg promised to be a pictorial delight and an interesting scholarly work. Written in German and English, the book follows a timeline of gentlemen’s adornment from the l700s to the present day. Regrettably, the cynics were proved correct when they say promises were meant to be broken.
The title is a tease in that publicity stills of Picasso and Daniel Craig as James Bond were placed in the book solely because both men were wearing shirts requiring cufflinks. I was expecting scholarly references to Picasso’s artistry or references by Ian Fleming to this unique aspect of gentlemen’s jewelry, but my hopes were all for naught. While the book’s stated purpose was to be a chronicle of German artistry pertaining to cufflinks, it is nothing more than a hardcover trade magazine. Advertisements from noted German jewelry firms are found at the end of the book. This would explain why so many examples of modern-day cufflinks were attributable to the advertisers. In their respective sections, the authors would reveal a bit of trivia or make a generalized statement regarding the historical aspect of certain styles or themes of cufflinks. However, these were just fleeting references, whereas cufflinks aficionados, jewelry designers, or readers with a definitive interest in jewelry history would expect stronger documentation or at the least more to support what was written.
Depicting cufflinks throughout the 19th and 20th centuries was accomplished through artful photography. Beautiful colored gemstones, exacting enamel work, and clever examples of thematic artistry associated with gentlemen of leisure are displayed so as to allow close up inspection. One pair of note, of German origin, depicted game birds engraved and painted on rock crystal quartz. A more modern pair from 1960 featured deer teeth as a hunting trophy. Sadly, careful gemological descriptions were lacking. More often than not, no references to the fineness of the metals used were given. Egregious use of misnomers for gemstones were glaringly apparent, such as referring to nephrite as “Russian Jade.”
Had the promise of the premise of exploration of artistry in German jewelry for gentlemen been better fulfilled through more in-depth analysis and explanation of the major artists of the time, this book would have been an important addition to any jewelry library. It is, however, a pleasant book to look through, and useful for gleaning a very few nuggets of information.