A Secret History
By Victoria Finlay
(Random House Trade Paperbacks, Paperback, 9780345466952, 496pp.)
Publication Date: August 14, 2007
Other Editions of This Title: Hardcover
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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.
Victoria Finlay studied social anthropology at the University of St. Andrews and the College of William & Mary, Virginia, before working for Reuters in London and Scandinavia. She spent twelve years as a journalist in Hong Kong, five of them as arts editor of The South China Morning Post, where she also presented a weekly radio program. She now lives in Somerset in southwest England, and divides her time between researching her next book and working for an international environmental charity, www.arcworld.org. Jewels is her third book.
Praise for Victoria Finlay’s Color
“The writing elegant and precise, and with at least one new and fascinating revelation on every single page . . . I could not be more enthusiastic.”
–Simon Winchester, author of A Crack in the Edge of the World
“Color is the essence of landscape, of mood, of our whole perception of the physical world. Victoria Finlay has traveled through Iran, Afghanistan, and other places to investigate the origin of all those tantalizingly sensual ochers and reds and blues. What a creative idea for a book!”
–Robert D. Kaplan, author of Imperial Grunts
“In this engaging travelogue, a rainbow of hues determined the author’s choice of destinations. . . . By the time you read ‘Violet,’ you will have traversed much of the world, sharing Finlay’s contagious fascination with color.”
–Condé Nast Traveler
“A rainbow of stories . . . even casual natural history fans can enjoy Finlay’s conversational style and her enthusiasm.”