Throughout history the desire for jewels has made and destroyed individual, families and even empires. Today, despite our ability to manufacture synthetics, gemstones still hold their appeal. Victoria Finlay investigates why in her extraordinary journey to uncover the hidden world of precious stones. The starting point is a sapphire given to her ...
Throughout history the desire for jewels has made and destroyed individual, families and even empires. Today, despite our ability to manufacture synthetics, gemstones still hold their appeal. Victoria Finlay investigates why in her extraordinary journey to uncover the hidden world of precious stones. The starting point is a sapphire given to her by her parents that was harvested, not by a miner as she had imagined but by men in muddy loincloths trawling a warm stream in Sri Lanka. The extraordinary travels in JEWELS: A SECRET HISTORY take her cycling along the Baltic Amber Route, down the emerald mines of Afghanistan. As we learn from a ruby trader in Burma, the more precious a jewel, the greater the human cost of acquiring it, and JEWELS: A SECRET HISTORY also explores the human histories of gemstones. Along the way we learn from Victoria, a qualified gemologist, how to grade a pearl, what New Age 'crystal therapy' is about, and why one of the rarest sapphires in the world is orange. Victoria Finlay's unique blending of travelogue and narrative history ensures that this book, the first for the general reader, will be as unforgettable as the stones themselves.
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This book contains a lot of information that I did not know. This book was a slower read as the information did not flow as easily as that in Finlay's book, Color.
I won't likely read any more work of hers.
Nov 26, 2007
Entertaining and informative
Few writers can make nonfiction as entertaining as Victoria Finlay. This book has one chapter on each of ten of the most famous and valuable gemstones throughout history: from amber and pearl to ruby and diamond. (In trying to pick a a way to order the chapters, Finlay chose to order them by hardness). Each chapter contains a potpourri of entertaining information on the formation of the gems, their place in history, and how they are brought from their source to the people who use them. Finlay's stories are entertaining and her facts well-researched and clearly presented. One of the most entertaining non-fiction books I have ever read.
Publishers Weekly, 2006-05-29 Gems seem to be moving to the literary forefront, with The Hope Diamond out in May and The Heartless Stone: A Journey through the World of Diamonds, Deceit and Desire due in August. In her follow-up to Color, Finlay looks at diamonds and eight more of the world's most coveted gemstones. In each chapter, she discusses the jewel's history and travels to the stone's place of origin: abandoned emerald mines in Egypt, working opal mines in Australia, a pearl-fisher's home in Scotland and an Apache reservation that holds most of the world's supply of peridot. Finlay is also fascinated by the lengths to which people will go to fabricate jewels: one company manufactures diamonds from cremated human remains. While each journey holds its own charms-Finlay's trek to Sri Lanka to uncover the pedigree of a family heirloom sapphire is particularly enjoyable-they don't fully gel into a cohesive whole, and detailed stories about, say, the way one Japanese entrepreneur transformed the world's pearl market are juxtaposed with historical trivia. Still, Finlay's winning personality may well be enough to keep readers turning the pages. 8 pages of color and b&w illus. throughout. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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