It's hard to imagine what one did to learn about the jewelry collection, state and personal, of British royalty before this book. Reading Suzy Menkes' preface give you an idea: you research it and write a book. And that is what she did. This book is scholarly, it's interesting, it's personal. It answers so many questions: what jewelry is owned by the royal family, and what belongs to the UK? Why does the queen wear some jewels and not others? What are those little portrait brooches on ribbon? What happens to all the jewels give the royal family? How did they acquire the jewels that they now wear? The royal jewel collection is richer and more vast than you'd ever guess from just tracking the jewels you've seen the queen and her family wear in the last few decades, and much of it was acuired from Queen Victoria's reign and onward. Up until Victoria and the spoils of British Empire, kings or queens would have to hire jewels to put in their crown frames when they needed to attend some regal function --their own coronation, for example. Suzy Menkes has done a fantastic job of finding out the history and use of the most magnificent jewel collection in the world. The paintings and photographs show many of the jewels on the original recipient or acquirer (Queen Mary's avid, avaristic jewel-buying is reponsible for the much of the jewel wealth the family now possesses) and how they've been reset by subsequent owners. In spite of being scholarly, The Royal Jewels is not at all dry. Menkes has gleaned a lot about the personalities of the wearers. And the politics!! Who gets what, and when they get it, the curiously paltry amount jewels Princess Diana (still living at the time of the latest edition of this book) and the Duchess of York received from their in-laws. An amazing book, essential to anyone interested in jewels, the British Royal Family, even history.