"A diamond is forever." Who among us doesn't recognize this slogan and, with it, the fascination that diamonds hold in our collective imagination as emblems of royalty, glamor, and eternal love? Rachelle Bergstein's cultural biography illuminates the enticing, often surprising story of our society's enduring obsession with diamonds - and the people who have worked tirelessly to ensure their continued allure. Whether in the gilded ballrooms of New York City at the end of the 19th century or on the red carpets of today, diamonds have retained their coveted status throughout history. Along the way, they have also become our culture's abiding symbol of true love and marriage (with more than a little help from an advertising agency, hired to accomplish just that).
From the South African mines where most diamonds have been sourced since the late 1890s to the companies that have fought to monopolize them; from the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and Kanye West, who have dazzled in them, to the people behind the scenes who have carefully crafted our understanding of their value - Brilliance and Fire offers a glittering history of the world's most coveted gemstone and its greatest champions and most colorful enthusiasts.
Diamonds have always left me puzzled. I've watched in wonder as diamond-loving friends stood rapt in admiration over crystallized carbon bling, never quite getting it. (To the bewilderment of all, I chose a Colombian emerald for my engagement ring, remembering the words of a wise Welsh lady: "Who wears an emerald all her life shall be a loved and happy wife." I've not regretted my choice).
In this season of joyful new engagement announcements, I still don't understand the persistence of the belief that "It must be a diamond!" (Well done, de Beers).
The author of BRILLIANCE AND FIRE, on the other hand, gets this fascination all the way down to her toes. This is a diamond-loving lady if ever there was one, and her passionate interest informs and enlivens the story throughout.
I've read at least a dozen books on diamonds, and honestly, they can be a bit dry and heavy. This one is not. Bergstein brings social, business, and jewelry history to the table, along with science, gemology, and current trends in a story that is sure to delight every diamond diva.
The narrator stumbles a bit over foreign pronunciations, but her voice is pleasant and her pacing is pleasing, so I'd say she did quite well.
If you love diamonds, or are simply fascinated as you wonder why other people do, you're likely to enjoy this book.
It was my Boxing Day treat while I forced myself to organize the studio, and it made the time fly.
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