Brilliance and fire A biography of diamonds

Rachelle Bergstein

Book - 2016

"Sheds new light on the enticing, often surprising, story of our society's enduring obsession with the hardest gemstone, offering a fascinating history of its origins and revealing its greatest champions and most colorful enthusiasts. 25,000 first printing,"--NoveList.

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Subjects
Published
New York, NY : Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers [2016]
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
xvii, 375 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 323-352) and index.
ISBN
0062323776
9780062323774
Main Author
Rachelle Bergstein (author)
  • The buyers : how the American rich came to love diamonds
  • The seekers : how one sickly Englishman took over the diamond industry
  • The lovers : how young women came to expect diamond rings (part I)
  • The show-offs : how a single stone bewitched its owners, and captivated America
  • The optimists : how the industry survived two world wars and the Great Depression
  • The sellers : how young women came to expect diamond rings (part II)
  • The queens : how Wallis Simpson earned her diamonds
  • The stars : how an advertising agency got diamonds ready for their close-up
  • The winners : how Elizabeth Taylor learned to speak Italian
  • The meddlers : how little stones got big
  • The inventors : how to make a diamond (and provoke De Beers)
  • The illusionists : how the magicians protected their tricks
  • The masters : how the Australians democratized diamonds
  • The stunners : how tough guys started wearing diamonds
  • The critics : how a global crisis changed the meaning of "forever"
  • The innovators : how to sell diamonds in a (more) enlightened world.
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* In this engrossing and delightful history of the diamond, Bergstein (Women from the Ankle Down, 2012) reveals the careful image-branding and tenacious market maneuvering that transformed the gem from a ubiquitous piece of carbon into one of the world's most quintessential luxury products. Beginning with the first mines in South Africa in the 1870s, Bergstein charts the diamond's evolution by portraying a varied cast of players in the industry. The founder of the famed diamond company De Beers, Cecil Rhodes, was merely a sickly English boy when he bought the land that made his fortune. Evalyn Walsh was an American socialite and owner of the Hope Diamond. Harry Winston was one of the first diamond jewelers in New York, and Frances Gerety was the lowly copywriter who penned the immortal slogan, A diamond is forever. Though Bergstein's admiration for the diamond industry's entrepreneurs is evident, she also touches on the dark side, including harsh realities about South African apartheid and the "blood diamonds" of Sierra Leone in the late 1990s. While this isn't the first diamond exposé, Bergstein's purview is so broad and her writing so accessible that her compelling exploration of fashion, greed, and the dawn of American consumerism should find a broad readership. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Bergstein (Women from the Ankle Down: The Story of Shoes and How They Define Us) chronicles America's love affair with diamonds in order to understand the cultural fascination with these specific gemstones. The story begins in the Gilded Age, explaining how the diamond industry changed once plentiful jewels were discovered in South Africa. Profiled are famous people connected to the business, including mining magnate Cecil Rhodes and jeweler Harry Winston, along with accounts of notable stones and other acclaimed jewelers. Winding throughout the narrative are the continued machinations of the famed diamond syndicate De Beers, which has used its considerable power to control the diamond market. In fact, Bergstein shows that De Beers has applied its advertising prowess to shape American taste and purchasing habits, including the establishment of the diamond engagement ring tradition. The symbiotic relationship among De Beers, jewelers, and celebrities is featured prominently. Later chapters address conflict diamonds as well as synthetic and imitation gems. VERDICT A captivating look into the world of diamonds that will be of interest to all readers.—Rebekah Kati, Durham, NC [Page 109]. (c) Copyright 2016 Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Bergstein (Women from the Ankle Down) explores the allure of the diamond business and the nefarious rise of the De Beers corporate empire. This captivating journey through recent history features intriguing characters such as Elizabeth Taylor, whose legendary extravagance is epitomized by the purchase of a 69-carat diamond in 1966; Helen Ver Standig, deemed the queen of imitation diamonds; and designer Jacob Arabo, who tapped new markets by transforming the diamond into a hip-hop social status symbol. The De Beers story begins with the shrewdly ruthless machinations of Cecil Rhodes, and continues through the wholesale invention of the modern engagement ring by the brilliant women of N.W. Ayer advertising. Bergstein outlines the thoroughness of the ad campaign—Ayer employed a "resident lecturer" for a high-school circuit tour to indoctrinate teenagers—and the establishment of the two months' salary guideline for the cost of an engagement ring. In addition to the De Beers story, she narrates the rise of slightly less corrupt industry notables such as Tiffany & Co., Cartier, and Harry Winston. Bergstein's account weaves disparate elements, including celebrity gossip, South African apartheid, and global economics, into a highly entertaining product, and her criticism of De Beers is significant, balanced, and diligently researched. (June) [Page ]. Copyright 2016 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Sheds new light on the enticing, often surprising, story of our society’s enduring obsession with the hardest gemstone, offering a fascinating history of its origins and revealing its greatest champions and most colorful enthusiasts. 25,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Sheds new light on the story of societys enduring obsession with the hardest gemstone, offering a history of its origins and revealing its greatest champions and most colorful enthusiasts.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

"Sheds new light on the enticing, often surprising, story of our society's enduring obsession with the hardest gemstone, offering a fascinating history of its origins and revealing its greatest champions and most colorful enthusiasts. 25,000 first printing, "--NoveList.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

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.

Review by Publisher Summary 5

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.