Sasha's Reviews > Jewels: A Secret History

Jewels by Victoria Finlay
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Jun 22, 12


In this cute book - part travelogue,part encyclopedia - Victoria Finlay tells a story about jewels, their history, where do they come from and our perception of them. As one of the characters in the book said, "you can't eat them, you can't read them, you can't shelter under them" and still people seems to be obsessed with them to the point they lose lives in order to get them. Finlay travels far and wide to get informations about Amber,Jet,Pearl,Opal,Peridot,Emerald,Sapphire,Ruby and Diamond, meeting all sorts of people along the way, some friendly,some greedy,everybody full of fantastic stories - from little girls in Burma's mines who are keeping Rubies in their mouth to historical stories about old roman obsession with Opals, how fashion for Jets have made and destroyed little english town of Whitby, how cultured Pearls were invented and so on. Finlay actually goes deep into the earth and crawls in mine pits (where permitted) to see with her own eyes legendary places were Emeralds were mined for Cleopatra, fights the bureaucracy in Asia and heat in Australia in her search for good story and informations how jewels are found, cut, sold and people involved in the process. What could easily be boring list about geology turns into real-life adventure because Finlay is brave (crazy?) enough to poke her head into dark corners and in her charming way she is like Indiana Jones continent-hopping and sometimes putting herself into real danger, bribing officials, paying guides trough the mountains and visiting ordinary people won't even think of. The book ends with fascinating story about Diamonds, the reality behind scary myths and how today they can be man-made out from anything, including peanut butter or - if you are inclined so - ashes of cremated loved ones. The last information sound bizarre but it makes sense somehow, if you think what it means to somebody to wear a ring made of father's ashes, like all jewelry it's all about sentimental value more than anything else.And I won't even go into everything I learned about faking the jewels. Fascinating.
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