Brilliance and Fire: A Biography of Diamonds

Rachelle Bergstein. Harper, $29.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-232377-4
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)
Reviewed on: 04/25/2016
Release date: 06/01/2016
Compact Disc - 978-1-5159-0964-4
MP3 CD - 978-1-5159-5964-9
Ebook - 400 pages - 978-0-06-232379-8
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-0-06-232378-1
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