Shen London Blog


February 8, 2017 10:09 am

The Royal Jewels by Suzy Menkes 1985

A wonderful thing happened when we got this book down to photograph it for this blog. Some press clippings from the Telegraph Sunday Magazine 1988 fell out! They were an article by Leslie Field talking about her work on the book The Queens Jewels, which after 4 years of research, showcases Her Majesty’s private collection. We felt transported right back to shoulder pads and big hair & it put it right in the mood to talk about this mid-80’s tome!

This book, The Royal Jewels written by Suzy Menkes, when she was Fashion Editor of the The Times (now Vogue International Editor), is dedicated to the jewels of the British Royal Family.

Written in the mid-80’s and now well thumbed and a tad fusty, is a delicious book – packed with gorgeous photographs, images of hand written ledgers, invoices, sketches and artwork.

It’s filled with revealing anecdotes and intriguing (sometimes surprising) insights into the private side of the Royal family leading up to and including the mid 80’s – all centred around majestic jewellery of course. We get lost in the tales of ‘Majestic’ Mary’, revel in the Wallis Collection and of course, get to learn all about Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mothers gifts from the Indian Maharaja’s & the Cullinan diamond (Granny’s Chips’ as Her Majesty The Queen calls them!). We can’t travel into the 80’s and not mention Princess Diana & it was from this book that we learnt that the famous Sapphire & Diamond engagement ring by Garrard was in fact chosen from 8 presented at Windsor by the then Crown Jeweller – we wonder what happened to the other 7? This is especially pertinent as it is this single item of jewellery which inspired the creation of the Shen London label! An 11-year old Sheena knew immediately that it was something very special.

What we love most though about this book is the way it is written. There is evidently atonne of research gone into it and is set in a narrative that is accessible and readable, littered with fun anecdotes and tales. Showcasing the journey of one piece of jewellery adorned through the ages by Queens and Princesses alike captures the importance and favouritism of some of these treasured heirlooms. We can follow the story of these pieces and imagine the splendour in which they were worn – by different personalities at different times in their lives.

It’s an older book for sure and one we picked up in a charity shop some years ago and have picked up many times over the years. Strange, wondrous and a tad mysterious that we’d never seen the press clippings before…