Stoned: Jewelry, Obsession, and How Desire Shapes the World

Stoned: Jewelry, Obsession, and How Desire Shapes the World

by Aja Raden


View All Available Formats & Editions
Members save with free shipping everyday! 
See details


As entertaining as it is incisive, Stoned is a raucous journey through the history of human desire for what is rare, and therefore precious.

What makes a stone a jewel? What makes a jewel priceless? And why do we covet beautiful things? In this brilliant account of how eight jewels shaped the course of history, jeweler and scientist Aja Raden tells an original and often startling story about our unshakeable addiction to beauty and the darker side of human desire.

What moves the world is what moves each of us: desire. Jewelry—which has long served as a stand-in for wealth and power, glamor and success—has birthed cultural movements, launched political dynasties, and started wars. Masterfully weaving together pop science and history, Stoned breaks history into three categories—Want, Take, and Have—and explains what the diamond on your finger has to do with the GI Bill, why green-tinted jewelry has been exalted by so many cultures, why the glass beads that bought Manhattan for the Dutch were initially considered a fair trade, and how the French Revolution started over a coveted necklace.

Studded with lively personalities and fascinating details, Stoned tells the remarkable story of our abiding desire for the rare and extraordinary.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062334701
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 11/29/2016
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 144,628
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Aja Raden studied ancient history and physics at the University of Chicago and, during that time, worked as the head of the auction division at famed House of Kahn Estate Jewelers. For more than seven years, she worked as a senior designer for Los Angeles–based fine jewelry company Tacori. Raden is an experienced jeweler and a trained scientist. She lives in Beverly Hills, California.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Part I Want: Desire, Delusion, and the Scarcity Effect

1 Keep the Change: The Beads That Bought Manhattan 3

2 Precedents Are Forever: The First Diamond Engagement Ring 33

3 The Color of Money: The Emerald Parrot, and the Making and Unmaking of the Spanish Empire 65

Part II Take: Obsessions, Possessions, and the Mechanics of War

4 The Importance of Being Famous: The Necklace That Started the French Revolution 111

5 Hello, Sailor: How Sibling Rivalry and a Really Big Pearl Shaped the Fate of Nations 163

6 The Old Shell Game: The Golden Eggs That Funded the Soviet Start-up 215

Part III Nave: Industry, Innovation, and the Light at the End of the Tunnel

7 The Boss's String: Pearl Culture, Cultured Pearls, and Japan's Race to Modernity 273

8 Timing Is Everything: World War I and the First Wristwatch 313

Afterword: Valuables 351

Acknowledgments 354

Customer Reviews