Jewels: A Secret History

Jewels: A Secret History

Victoria Finlay / Mar 30, 2020

Jewels A Secret History Throughout history precious stones have inspired passions and poetry quests and curses sacred writings and unsacred actions In this scintillating book journalist Victoria Finlay embarks on her own

  • Title: Jewels: A Secret History
  • Author: Victoria Finlay
  • ISBN: 9780345466952
  • Page: 276
  • Format: Paperback
  • Throughout history, precious stones have inspired passions and poetry, quests and curses, sacred writings and unsacred actions In this scintillating book, journalist Victoria Finlay embarks on her own globe circling search for the real stories behind some of the gems we prize most Blending adventure travel, geology, exciting new research, and her own irresistible charm,Throughout history, precious stones have inspired passions and poetry, quests and curses, sacred writings and unsacred actions In this scintillating book, journalist Victoria Finlay embarks on her own globe circling search for the real stories behind some of the gems we prize most Blending adventure travel, geology, exciting new research, and her own irresistible charm, Finlay has fashioned a treasure hunt for some of the most valuable, glamorous, and mysterious substances on earth.With the same intense curiosity and narrative flair she displayed in her widely praised book Color, Finlay journeys from the underground opal churches of outback Australia to the once pearl rich rivers of Scotland from the peridot mines on an Apache reservation in Arizona to the remote ruby mines in the mountains of northern Burma She risks confronting scorpions to crawl through Cleopatra s long deserted emerald mines, tries her hand at gem cutting in the dusty Sri Lankan city where Marco Polo bartered for sapphires, and investigates a rumor that fifty years ago most of the world s amber was mined by prisoners in a Soviet gulag.Jewels is a unique and often exhilarating voyage through history, across cultures, deep into the earth s mantle, and up to the glittering heights of fame, power, and wealth From the fabled curse of the Hope Diamond, to the disturbing truths about how pearls are cultured, to the peasants who were once executed for carrying amber to the centuries old quest by magicians and scientists to make a perfect diamond, Jewels tells dazzling stories with a wonderment and brilliance truly worthy of its subjects.From the Hardcover edition.

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      Published :2019-011-13T06:59:14+00:00

    About "Victoria Finlay"

      • Victoria Finlay

        Victoria Finlay is a writer and journalist, known for her books on colour and jewels Her most famous book is Colour Travels Through The Paint Box from


    554 Comments

    1. "In the course of my research I found that although, of course, some rare stones have amazing and frightening dynastic tales, every jewel, however small or flawed, has its story: about the earth that was excavated to retrieve it, the families who depended on it, the people who designed the cutting method, those who bought or were given it, and the meanings and properties attributed to it. Whole human, geological, and cultural histories are wrapped up in every stone we wear or desire, even if it [...]


    2. A couple of years ago, my aunt went into a jewelry phase. She began to take interest in not just precious gems, but in semiprecious stones, primarily because some of them were reputed to have special properties for healing and protection. She then got my mother into it, and for a while they shopped without my knowledge, mostly because I had work at the time, and moreover was more inclined to put money away than spend it. But during one summer, I started accompanying my mother on her trips with m [...]


    3. An indispensable exploration of the role jewels have played in human culture economically, socially, spiritually and decoratively. Finlay looks closely at 9 gems, starting with the soft organic amber, jet and pearl, ending with the heavy hitters of gemology: emeralds, sapphires, rubies and diamonds. Structurally, the book begins with gems that are formed by or within living matter. By the time we get to diamonds, we have gone oddly full circle, as Finlay introduces us to gems that may be produce [...]


    4. I love this kind of non-fiction - is is enjoyable, readable and informative. The combination of history, science, philosophy, travelogue and memoir in this book was fantastic. It is one of the easiest ways to learn about something which could be quite dry if handled differently. I know more about jewels than I could have possibly imagined before and not one piece of it was boring.


    5. I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Victoria Finlay is a gifted storyteller. She profiles nine different jewels (pleasingly, in order of Moh's scale). She discusses the geological origin, cultural history, historical symbolism and economics of each stone, but in a way that's entirely conversational and engaging. Her book never feels like a lecture, it always feels like a story you'd hear from a fascinating, well-traveled friend over drinks. Findlay is adventurous in her quest for detail, often going [...]


    6. Another well researched book by Victoria Finlay. With her books, you really have to read the preface to learn how she began her research, what's her resultant thesis, where the tale will take you. Her books are classic examples of a fully developed research project. Finlay organized her book using Mohs' scale of hardness for gemstones. She begins with the softest, amber, and ends with the hardest, diamonds. The book covers where they are found, what they are made of, some history of their popula [...]


    7. In her third book Ms. Finlay has mined historic literature for the mythology and mystique that surround gems of note; her debunking of the curse of the Hope Diamond, for instance, is hilarious. She also globetrots to the countries of a gems origin, at times literally descending into the mines. Her own anecdotal experiences become part of the scintillating, like being stalled in a taxi during an elephant parade in Sri Lanka (elephant parades are good for the sapphire business, as such a gem that [...]


    8. This was a really fascinating book, each chapter telling the in-depth story of the history of each particular gemstone. I would recommend it for anyone interested in jewelry and/or microhistories. Amber, pearls, jet, peridot, emeralds, sapphires, rubies and diamonds were all covered. My only complaint would be that I wish more stones had been covered; for example amethysts or citrines or really anything in the quartz family.


    9. A dense read - and surprisingly more about current events than history. Each section is based on a jewel, going by the current level of value we assign them, ending, obviously, with diamonds. The narrator traveled to a lot of areas to research the current jewel industry and all of its horrors and puts in a lot of history along the way to show how we got from past to present, but personally I would have preferred a more chronological rather than subject based approach.


    10. Love this book. History and Gemmology who could find a better introduction. Also some ripping yarns thrown in. Did I say, I love this book!


    11. I gave the book 3 stars because sometimes I got lost in the details. There were sections somewhat repetitious. She kept coming back to Cleopatra, Mark Antony, and Julius Ceasar. Roman history is not my thing, but that's just me. All in all, it was an interesting read and I like the organization of the book, chapters by gem and going from soft to hard gems. I certainly feel I learned a great deal about amber, pearls, opals, peridot, emeralds, sapphires and rubies, and diamonds. I loved the intern [...]


    12. Jewels: A Secret History This seemed to be the most referenced book in Stoned by Aja Raden. So I picked it up from the library as well. I'm glad I read Stoned first. I liked Raden's style of writing more than Finlay's. Jewels is an interesting read too, I just found it a little dry. Also I wish the book had footnotes rather than notes at the back. It was annoying to have to keep flipping back and forth while reading.


    13. way too dark and depressing for me. there was lots of interesting science but in the culture and history departments the author seemed to gravitate towards the most occult, creepy, depressing things possible rather than what she purports the book to be in the introduction, a celebration of the beauty and rich poetic symbolism held by gemstones. it felt like reading the inquirer.


    14. This book was very well written. The author made personal journeys to find out what she could about each stone profiled and met many interesting people along the way. Gem mining is a cruel world--I will never look at diamonds and rubies in the same way.


    15. Amazing, interesting read!This book caught me by surprise. I was expecting a dry tome on gems. This was a fascinating walk through the history, geography and stories of the major stones we like to wear. Easy to read and understand for a layman. Be sure to tap the little blue numbers as there is a lot of fascinating info hidden there also. This author really knows her stuff and, more importantly, knows how to tell a good story! Very highly recommend!!!


    16. Very interesting read. I am keeping this book, unless I pass it along to someone. But lots of good information and enjoyed the author's tales of her field research; sounded like fun travel.


    17. Another wonderful book by Victoria Finlay. Personally, not as easy of a read as Color, but still very much enjoyed.


    18. 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, m [...]


    19. Пару лет назад я прочитала первую книги Финли - про краски. Мне тогда очень понравилась и тема, и сама автор. Как она умеет копаться в материале, как она умеет расследовать старые тайны! Многие из них просто лежат на поверхности и ждут, когда кто-нибудь обратит на них внимание [...]


    20. Finlay’s book on precious gems is an interesting combination of social history and travelog. The various ancient sites where royalty had their subjects mine and sift for brilliantly colored stones all make appearances in the present as well: Finlay visits many of these cities and ruins and sees where that long history of wealth got them. From dusty emerald mines in the deserts of Egypt to the dying town of Peridot in Apache territory, by far the most interesting part of this book is the relati [...]


    21. Author Victoria Finlay takes the reader on a diverting rummage through the jewel box.The book is partly a travelogue and partly a micro history of the subject. It is structured in 9 chapters looking at a different type of gem in each. Broadly speaking the chapters cover the geographical sources of each featured gem, the people who mine/collect it, and the part each type of gem has played in human society, in particular how the value of particular gems has risen or fallen at different times in hu [...]


    22. BEAUTIFULLY written! You learn while you read, you get to virtually travel with her on her adventures, & you end up insanely jealous of all the fantastic experiences she had along the way! The book is organized by jewel hardness, which made complete sense to me, & the stories she has to tell are fascinating. I handed it to a friend of mine last night who's a geology major in college & said you HAVE to read this!


    23. This is the second of Findlay’s books which I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed. I was travelling at the time and found it a good book to pick up and read in snatches.This is a book about precious stones and where they come from, their history and their worth. “Travels through the jewellery box” is how she puts it.I was amazed to discover that Amber comes from the Baltic region and how many people have died harvesting it. I had just bought some pearls and it was great timing to be able to r [...]


    24. Bookcrossing 2007:It's like history/social anthropology/travel/geology all mixed up into one. It is a fascinating book, I really enjoyed it. Something I could come back to. There's just so much in it that it's hard to know where to begin to say what I liked.I think the final chapter, on diamonds, was a particular eye-opener, and I don't think I will ever look at them in quite the same way again. They do have this reputation of being the 'top-gem' and yet there are so many of them out there and t [...]


    25. This was right up my alley, a combination travel memoir/natural history/geography/geology book, and was my favorite nonfiction read from 2007. I do love interdisciplinary books that help show how complex our world isMs. Finlay traveled the world getting the stories on the geology of common gems as well as the personal stories of the people who collect/mine them. She used Moh's hardness scale as the structure of the book, with stories of her own gems given to her as gifts as the sentimental heart [...]


    26. Written by Victoria Finlay, author of "Color", "Jewels: A Secret History" is a must-read for anyone who enjoys both history and gemstones, jewelry, and/or design! I love this author because she takes a given material and go on a huge exploration of it, it's provenance, history, and uncovers a rich and complex story of how it has come to be known by us today, in the process uncovering stories and mysteries one didn't even know were there! The result is magical! In "Color" she did it with colors a [...]


    27. This non-fiction book deals with the history of precious stones and the author's journeys to the places where these stones were once mined. I found myself drawn to some of the stones such as jet which I had previously not heard of.Had I been an avid jewellery collector, I would have given this book an extra star because it was well presented as well as researched.


    28. I have had a fascination with gems and jewelry since I was a child, and I enjoy reading travel memoirs. Therefore, I thought Jewels: A Secret History would by a perfect read for me. And I did enjoy it by and large. However, it didn't hold my interest consistently. Ms Finlay chose gems to write about going up the Moh's hardness scale, and this limited the number of gems she chose. For example, she covered emerald but not the other colors of beryl. I also found what she chose to cover sometimes od [...]


    29. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a book with such a narrow focus, but this was a really enjoyable read. For each gemstone, Finlay dug into not only the history and relative value but the traditions and cultures that were shaped or influenced by the gem throughout it’s known history. I don’t think many of us stop to really think about gems, but this book provided some really interesting history of how gem popularity has changed over the centuries, how science has forever changed the valuat [...]


    30. I have to admit I don't read much non fiction. It just doesn't call out to me like fiction does. I read Victoria Finlay's colors which had the most gorgeous cover image, but as I remember the book was a bit on the dry side. Jewels, which as the author says sprang from some of the research she did for Colors more than redeems her earlier drier effort. The book is organized using the Moh's Scale of hardness of stone going from the softest to the hardest stones. Finaly look at more that just stones [...]


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