victoria finlay: jewels, a secret history

Jewels: A Secret History, by Victoria Finlay, takes us deep into the glittering, scintillating hearts of gemstones, their history, what they are, and where they come from. She tackles ten different stones and arranged the chapters according to Moh’s scale of hardness of minerals.

The hidden wonders of pearls, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires are revealed. Do you recall the story of how Cleopatra was said to have dissolved a pearl in vinegar and drunk it before Caesar to show off her wealth and power? Finlay experimented with a river pearl, and the results are surprising.

I loved the chapters on jet and amber, since they are almost unknown here in the Philippines.

Reading about these precious materials brings to mind a friend I had in UP, Mona Caccam, whose dad was a mining engineer and actually owned, or had shares in, a jade mine. Mona said that the Philippines is rich in mineral wealth, but strict and obstructive laws make it difficult for mining companies to be profitable.

Meanwhile, us ordinary folks will have to content ourselves with gazing into jewelry shop windows and reading books to enjoy the world of gems and minerals.

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  1. [...] or where people obtain the pigments and dyes used throughout history. I loved her second book, Jewels: A Secret History, and this book is just as [...]

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