All that glitters…

2011-01-05 00:00

EVEN those who are not particularly interested in reading three-hundred pages about precious stones might find themselves pleasantly surprised by this handsome, thorough study of diamonds — how and where they are formed, how and where they have been found and processed, and what is so special about them. Since these incredibly hard and potentially glittering stones were flung up from the depths of the earth by volcanic eruption, the book of necessity contains much information about geological and chemical matters (in some of which, I confess, I got somewhat bogged down). It is also full of historical and geographical information about the various parts of the world (not least southern Africa, also India, Brazil, Australia, Canada, Russia) where diamonds have been found and mined, and much fascinating detail about the many personalities (some famous, like Cecil Rhodes, Sir Ernest Oppenheimer and Barney Barnato) who pioneered the discovery and marketing of the stones. There is an abundance of ‘commercial’ history in the book. And at times, the information can become a little indigestible. But it is all there for those who want it.

One of the most attractive features of the book is its wealth of beautiful illustrations, mostly photographs (both black-and-white and colour) plus a few lovely paintings. The beauty of diamonds shines (indeed) through the book, as does the infinite variety and splendour of our planet as a whole. And although the subject of the book may seem very specialised and perhaps limited, the author (who writes with elegance) has shaped his material into an informative and superbly-presented book.

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