Stoned: Jewelry, Obsession, and How Desire Shapes the World
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As entertaining as it is incisive, Stoned is a raucous journey through the history of human desire for what is rare, and therefore precious.
What makes a stone a jewel? What makes a jewel priceless? And why do we covet beautiful things? In this brilliant account of how eight jewels shaped the course of history, jeweler and scientist Aja Raden tells an original and often startling story about our unshakeable addiction to beauty and the darker side of human desire.
What moves the world is what moves each of us: desire. Jewelry—which has long served as a stand-in for wealth and power, glamor and success—has birthed cultural movements, launched political dynasties, and started wars. Masterfully weaving together pop science and history, Stoned breaks history into three categories—Want, Take, and Have—and explains what the diamond on your finger has to do with the GI Bill, why green-tinted jewelry has been exalted by so many cultures, why the glass beads that bought Manhattan for the Dutch were initially considered a fair trade, and how the French Revolution started over a coveted necklace.
Studded with lively personalities and fascinating details, Stoned tells the remarkable story of our abiding desire for the rare and extraordinary.
either. The revenue from cultured pearls was so vast that the ever dramatic Mikimoto once romantically claimed that he would “pay compensation for the lost war with [his] pearls.”* By 1935, there were 350 pearl farms in Japan producing ten million cultured pearls annually. Japan is, to this day, the largest exporter of pearls in the world. For the first time in history, Mikimoto Pearls had effectively democratized a gemstone. The cost of pearls may have diminished with abundance, but they are
diamond bracelet. It was a thick, golden bangle bracelet, prominently displaying a triptychlike golden box. The center of the three triptych squares holds a large diamond, which is set in a flowering of golden petals. On either side, the central square is flanked by two smaller boxes, with more elaborately diamond-inlaid flowers backed by black enamel. The entire bracelet is covered in and surrounded by ornate swirling golden swags and is held in place by similarly Belle Epoch golden curls. The
Great Tales. * The same Calais that the English had, ironically, lost under Philip’s military leadership decades before. * In fact, the British royal family still half jokingly refers to itself as “the Firm.” * Finlay, Jewels. * Toby Faber, Fabergé’s Eggs: The Extraordinary Story of the Masterpieces That Outlived an Empire (New York: Random House, 2008). * Victoria Finlay, Jewels: A Secret History (New York: Random House, 2007). * John Andrew, Fabergé Heritage Council member, in
jewelry, overall demand has continued to grow.”* Moreover, from a retail perspective, De Beers managed to create a product that has never, ever lost its value since they took control of the industry eighty years ago. That’s an incredible statement, given that all goods, even real necessary goods, are subject to tremendous market fluctuation. Who is De Beers now? No one. A lot of people. De Beers comprises multiple companies operating under various names—the CSO, the Syndicate, the Diamond
soon convinced him that she was part of the queen’s inner circle of girlfriends and could, perhaps, arrange the reconciliation he sought. And, of course, there was something in it for her—money here, a favor or two there. At least so the cardinal believed. But her con was a long one. The cardinal became ever more disarmed by the charming la Motte and hopeful about his future reconciliation with the queen, all the while la Motte was working an elaborate plan to steal the giant necklace and leave