Brilliance and Fire: A Biography of Diamonds (Hardcover)
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.
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.
“Engrossing and delightful... 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.”
— Booklist, starred review
“Across oceans and centuries, citizens and kings, the diamond has reigned as the lion of jewels. The reasons why, and how, sparkle—with intimate, historical, authoritative detail—all through Bergstein’s sweeping tale of the destructive and restorative powers of beauty, and our love affair, even obsession, with this enigmatic rock.”
— Sam Wasson, author of Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.
“Ms. Bergstein…has a great ear for an anecdote and “Brilliance and Fire,” her cultural biography of diamonds, has an exotic cast of inspired entrepreneurs, brazen chancers and misguided millionairesses…exhilarating reading…Ms. Bergstein enjoyably captures the daring ”
— The Wall Street Journal
“As prismatic as a brilliant cut diamond…. This exhaustively and comprehensively researched book becomes more like a story rather than a lesson in the history of diamonds.”
— New York Journal of Books
“The love affair between Americans and diamonds has been going on for centuries…. From the Hope diamond to blood diamonds…apartheid to beneficiation…Harry Winston to Hip Hop bling, Brilliance and Fire takes a comprehensive look at the highs and lows of the diamond industry.”
“Fascinating.... informative, well-written, and entertaining.”
“A look at how the world became transfixed with a rock whose queenly status is largely a result of monopoly and marketing. The diamond industry probably doesn’t want you to know this, but the Sears & Roebuck catalog of 1894 included diamond rings priced from $4.50 to $121.50.”
— Sacramento Bee
“Captivating…. 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.”
— Publishers Weekly
“A captivating look into the world of diamonds that will be of interest to all readers.”
— Library Journal
“A fleet-footed social history.”
— New York Times on Women from the Ankle Down
“A lively look at the history of stilettos, sneakers and sundry other leather- and rubber-soled objects of swoon.”
— USA Today on Women from the Ankle Down
“If style defines the woman, and shoes a woman’s style, then ooh la la, here’s the definitive history and guide—everything from Chinese bound feet to Ferragamo, from Hollywood favorites to running up one’s credit card on the sine qua non of fashion and inventiveness of the people behind Tiffany, Cartier, Bulgari and others as they made a very common gemstone into the most coveted rock in the world…Ms. Bergstein’s cheerful, chatty approach is refreshing..”
— Mireille Guiliano, author of French Women Don't Get Fat, on Women from the Ankle Down