Nonfiction Short Take: Brilliance and Fire – Rachelle Bergstein

Bergstein is the author of a very well received cultural history of shoes, Women from the Ankle Down. This new book is a examines the meaning and economy of diamonds–from the dark, “blood diamonds” story we are now all familiar with to the ongoing fascination with diamonds and the manipulation of our understanding of them in billion-dollar marketing campaigns.

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’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

Brilliance and Fire: A Biography of Diamonds (9780062323774) by Rachelle Bergstein. $29.99 hardcover. 6/7/2016 on sale.

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