Jewellery research is not just looking at beautiful jewellery, but involves a lot of desk study, too: looking for parallels, tracing provenance, finding out more about cultural context and meaning…Which is why I love books about jewellery just as much as jewellery itself, and so I was thrilled to visit the library of DIVA Antwerp: with 23,000 titles on jewellery, this is an incredibly important resource!
Antwerp has been a center of the diamond trade and expertise for centuries, as well as a major hub for silversmithing and jewellery creation. The DIVA museum showcases that history, serves as knowledge center and is a springboard for young designers. A visit to the museum is a treat in itself: each room is carefully designed with its own look & feel and focuses on one aspect of the diamond and jewellery history. From ancient Egyptian objects and their Art Déco counterparts, Moghul splendor from India and religious objects in silver and gold to shining tableware and dazzling parures, each of the six rooms in the museum has its own theme and stories to share.
And behind it all is an even larger treasure: the library. Here, you will find books on everything jewellery related, from archaeological works to modern designers, cultural significance of jewellery, art historian approaches, and related fields in the applied arts. Special care is given to auction house catalogues and even newspaper clippings that will help identify the provenance of jewellery items. Through these becomes possible to trace the journey of a certain piece through repeated auctions and sales. The emphasis of the collection is on Belgian jewellery, notably silver and diamond, but you will find plenty of books on other jewellery fields and geographical areas, too.
The library does not only house books, but other materials as well. Glass negatives, complete archives of designers and traders, model books, sales registers…the antique design drawings I was shown are works of art on their own. A special treat are the antiquarian volumes on jewellery making, which somehow survived the centuries and contain recipes for soldering, technique descriptions and overviews of gem cutting. All of these are carefully stored in custom made boxes, old drawings and prints are carefully restored, so as to survive the next few centuries as well.
The library is more than a static space filled with books, but is a vibrant knowledge hub. Design students come to find inspiration in the collection, regular talks share the many stories in this library with a larger audience, the reading room offers an airy, bright space to sit and enjoy the volumes of your choice. Whether that is to work on your school project or your dissertation, the librarians are happy to help. I definitely will be spending more time here to discover more!
I was shown around the library as a personal gesture by the librarian, with no obligation to write a blog. I am just enthousiastic about this large research library and wanted to share this treasure with you.
More places to go or books to read about jewellery? Explore my suggestions and reviews here!
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Sigrid van Roode
Sigrid van Roode is an archeologist, ethnographer and jewellery historian. She considers jewellery heritage and a historic source. She has authored several books on jewellery from North Africa and Southwest Asia, and on archaeological jewellery. Sigrid has lectured for the Society of Jewellery Historians, the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden and the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center, among many others. She curates exhibitions and teaches online courses on jewellery from North Africa & Southwest Asia.