Brilliant Effects

A Cultural History of Gem Stones and Jewellery

Marcia Pointon

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In a broad-ranging and exceptional work of cultural and art history, Marcia Pointon explores what owning, wearing, distributing, and circulating gems and jewelry has meant in the post-Renaissance history of Europe. She examines the capacity of jewels not only to fascinate but also to create disorder and controversy throughout history and across cultures.

Pointon argues that what is materially precious is invariably contentious. When what is precious is a finely crafted artifact made from hard-won imported materials, the stakes become particularly high—evidenced, for example, by the political fallout from Marie-Antoinette's implication in the affair of the stolen diamond necklace. Prodigiously rich in its range of reference and truly interdisciplinary in its approach, this book challenges the reader to reassess the importance of material things as powerful agents in human relations and in visual and verbal representation.

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


'Brilliant Effects challenges our perceptions of jewellery and makes this highly esoteric study potentially relevant to every reader interested in the broader implications of Western cultural history.' — Matthew Dennison, World of Interiors

'Sumptuously illustrated, this lovely and fascinating book, which took ten years to research, is a total delight, dealing as it does with a subject which clearly concerns us all. Having read it I confess I shall never see jewellery in quite the same way again.' — Richard Edmonds, Birmingham Post

"Pointon keeps materials and their histories fastened together."—Louise Purbrick, Journal of Design History

"This book is a considerable achievement…. It’s fresh approach marks it out as an important contribution to the subject."—Eleni Bidle, Jewellery History Today

"I for one will look on gems and jewellery – both valuable and merely decorative – with fresh and eager eyes."— Annabel Freyberg, Art Quarterly

“Marcia R. Pointon’s Brilliant Effects is a major work….She cites an astonishing range of source material and provides notes that are treasure troves of information. The accompanying reproductions are stunning.”—Susan L. Siegfried, History Workshop Journal

Winner of the Historians of British Art Book Prize in the British Art by a Single Author Post-1800 category given by the Historians of British Art
ISBN: 9780300142785
Publication Date: March 30, 2010
Publishing Partner: Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
368 pages, 9 1/2 x 11 1/2
100 b/w + 150 color illus.
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