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Brilliant Effects

Diamonds are not for ever - nor necessarily are they a girl's best friend. Ranging from precious stones as raw wealth to the symbolic properties of gems whether in Antiquity and the Bible or in Victorian art and literature, this book examines how small-scale and valuable artefacts have figured in systems of belief and in political and social practice in Europe since the Renaissance. Marcia Pointon offers an in-depth study that, drawing on unpublished evidence, reveals the importance of artefacts produced by jewellers and horologists, and their significance in shaping people's understanding of the world they live in. Pointon explores the capacity of jewels - whether crimson coral or translucent pearls - not only to fascinate but also to create disorder and controversy throughout history: what is materially precious is invariably contentious, whether in religious or in secular society; when what is precious is not gold bars or bonds but finely crafted artefacts made from hard-won imported materials, the stakes are particularly high. The struggle for control of both material and meaning is paramount, whether in scientific discourse (as with John Ruskin's crystallography) or in pictorial imagery, such as Poussin's interpretation of the origin of coral. The presence of jewels can never be ignored - this was recognized by writers as varied as Pliny the Elder, the economist Adam Smith, and Gustav Flaubert. And it remains true for us today whether in the bling favoured by international sports stars or the 'rocks' borrowed for the Oscars. Sumptuously illustrated, this entirely novel book challenges the reader to reassess the importance of material things as powerful agents in human relations and in visual and verbal representation - no one reading it will ever see jewellery in quite the same way again.
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About the Author

Marcia Pointon is Professor Emeritus in History of Art, Manchester University, and Honorary Research Fellow, Courtauld Institute of Art.


"This book is brilliant cultural history, indeed." --Books & Culture Books & Culture

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