Shen, Fiona Lindsay

This is a beautifully illustrated account of pearls through millennia, from fossils to contemporary jewellery. Pearls are the most human of gems, both miraculous and familiar. Uniquely organic in origin, they are as intimate as our bodies, created through the same process by which we grow bones and teeth. They have long been described as an animal’s sacrifice, but until recently their retrieval often entailed the sacrifices of enslaved and indentured divers and labourers. While the shimmer of the pearl has enticed Roman noblewomen, Mughal princes, Hollywood royalty, mavericks and renegades, encoded in its surface is a history of human endeavour, abuse and aspiration – pain locked in the layers of a gleaming gem.

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Reaktion Books, September 2022.  288 pages, hardcover, 107 colour photos and colour illustrations, 19 black and white photos and black and white illustrations