Pearl: Nature's Perfect Gem (Hardcover)

Pearl: Nature's Perfect Gem By Fiona Lindsay Shen Cover Image

Pearl: Nature's Perfect Gem (Hardcover)


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From their creation in the maw of mollusks to lustrous objects of infatuation and conflict, a revealing look at pearls’ dark history.
This book is a beautifully illustrated account of pearls through millennia, from fossils to contemporary jewelry. 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 as 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 laborers. 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 endeavor, abuse, and aspiration—pain locked in the layers of a gleaming gem.
Fiona Lindsay Shen is an art historian and director of the Escalette Permanent Collection of Art at Chapman University in California.
Product Details ISBN: 9781789146219
ISBN-10: 1789146216
Publisher: Reaktion Books
Publication Date: December 5th, 2022
Pages: 256
"Pearl is a book that takes you on a journey of discovery, amazement, and reflection, with the lustrous pearl as your guide. . . . A must-have book for pearl and jewelry lovers . . . that looks at pearls, not only as a precious gem, but as a historical and cultural icon that has shaped world events. . . . Shen’s crisp and succinct writing has a lyricism that makes you want to mark certain passages and read them again and again. . . . Additionally, the book features beautiful illustrations that bring alive the text. If you plan to read just one jewelry book this year, let it be Pearl."
— Culture of Pearls

Pearl elaborates on subjects regarding pearls that I had not seen in previous books. Most publications I have read on pearls focus heavily on the science, formation and localities of pearls. This book discusses those subjects, but it also details in an original way the sociological and historical impacts of pearls and the pearl trade on humanity and global culture. . . . I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in pearls, if only for its unique perspective on how pearls and the pearl industry have influenced both ancient and modern culture. This book is well researched, and offers copious chapter notes and an excellent bibliography. It is also richly illustrated with historical paintings, modern photos and other images that enhance the text.”
— Journal of Gemmology

"Look into the milky rainbow of a pearl and the pearl looks back. In this extraordinary volume Shen tells the story of this beautiful accident of nature and all its consequences: the dangerous lives of pearl divers, the secret ministrations of oysters, the obsessions of scientists, the passion of merchants, and the vivid layers of metaphor, fashion, and literature that elevate this tooth-sized orb to the altar of humanity’s desire. The pearl is a tiny oracle for what it reveals about those who chase them. An intimidatingly good book."
— Tom Zoellner, winner of the 2020 National Book Critics Circle Award for "Island on Fire"

Pearl offers a plethora of information, combining knowledge of the biology of pearl molluscs with well-researched historical facts and a discussion of pearls both as cultural heritage items and present-day objects of adornment. A selection of breathtakingly beautiful photographs further adds to making this book a source of inspiration.”
— Elisabeth Strack, Gemmologisches Institut Hamburg, author of "Pearls"