From the author of Women from the Ankle Down comes a lively cultural biography of diamonds, which explores our society’s obsession with the world’s most brilliant gemstone and the real-world characters who make them shine.
“A diamond is forever.” Who among us doesn’t recognize this phrase and, with it, the fascination that these shiny gemstones hold in our collective imagination as symbols of royalty, stars, and eternal love? But who gave us this catchphrase? Where do these gemstones and their colorful legacies originate? How did they become our culture’s symbol of engagement and marriage? Why have they retained their coveted status throughout the centuries?
Rachelle Bergstein’s cultural biography of the diamond illuminates the enticing, often surprising story of our society’s enduring obsession with the hardest gemstone—and the people who have worked tirelessly to ensure its continued allure. From the South African mines where most diamonds have been sourced since the late 1890s to the companies who have fought to monopolize them; from the stars 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.
Brilliance and Fire is illustrated with 16 pages of color photographs.
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About the Author
Rachelle Bergstein, the author of Women from the Ankle Down, works at a literary agency in New York. She lives with her husband and their son in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Table of Contents
1 The Buyers: How the American Rich Came to Love Diamonds 1
2 The Seekers: How One Sickly Englishman Took Over the Diamond Industry 19
3 The Lovers: How Young Women Game to Expect Diamond Rings (Part I) 41
4 The Show-Offs: How a Single Stone Bewitched Its Owners-and Captivated America 57
5 The Optimists: How the Industry Survived Two World Wars and the Great Depression 79
6 The Sellers: How Young Women Came to Expect Diamond Rings (Part II) 99
7 The Queens: How Wallis Simpson Earned Her Diamonds 117
8 The Stars: How an Advertising Agency Got Diamonds Ready for Their Close-Up 135
9 The Winners: How Elizabeth Taylor Learned to Speak Italian 157
10 The Meddlers: How Little Stones Got Big 173
11 The Inventors: How to Make a Diamond (and Provoke De Beers) 193
12 The Illusionists: How the Magicians Protected Their Tricks 213
13 The Masters: How the Australians Democratized Diamonds 229
14 The Stunners: How Tough Guys Started Wearing Diamonds 247
15 The Critics: How a Global Crisis Changed the Meaning of "Forever" 267
16 The Innovators: How to Sell Diamonds in a (More) Enlightened World 293