Monday, November 9, 2009

Jewels: A Secret History by Victoria Finlay

I just finished reading a good book!  I read another Victoria Finlay book a couple of years ago called Color: A Natural History of the Palette, which I enjoyed very much. Color was a wonderful introduction into the world of pigments, with each chapter discussing the history of a different chemical that has been used to color our world. The research for both of the books took her all over the world, and her writing style is so friendly, I couldn't help but imagine myself exploring right along with her. Jewels: A Secret History is comprised of nine chapters, which are ordered from softest to hardest according to the Mohs Scale of Hardness. The minerals discussed (in order) are: amber, jet, pearl, peridot, emerald, sapphire, ruby, and diamond. I have to say that I had never even heard of "jet" before opening this book, and really I learned a lot about all of the included gems. Jewels really are a fascinating and relevant part of human history, but I seriously doubt that the average person knows that emeralds, once the most desired gem in the world, were only found in Egypt, or that to wear even a single pearl in ancient Rome would have been a display of tremendous wealth. Her report spans from ancient opulence to modern poverty, and begs you to reconsider the way you look at pretty, sparkly things.

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