Book review: Stoned


I wrote before Christmas about the new book I was about to read. Holidays made it a bit longer but I am happy to finally share this experience with you. Briefly, it was awesome. Wordily, here is why I liked it.

Stoned is more than a book about pretty things. It’s an attempt to understand history through the lens of desire, and a look at the surprising consequences of the economics of scarcity and demand.

First of all I need to tell something personal – why do I love jewelry? Aside from purely unexplainable chemistry and affection there is something absolutely reasonable about my passion – jewelry is a story that we wear. And I like stories. You may say: “I don’t have any story, it is just a 5$ pendant bought in a rush I don’t remember where”. It is exactly a story, a story about you not caring about how and what you put on yourself and what it tells to the world (may be you don’t want to tell anything, which also makes a story). The earliest known piece of jewelry – shell beads date back to 82 000 years ago (I recently wrote where to find them). Now, remembering that jewelry was always multitalented and, aside from adornments, worked as money, social, religious and war accessories, and many other things – imagine how many awesome stories it has to tell! Oh, how I wish that jewelry could talk…Luckily, there are jewelry whisperers who share with us those wonderful stories. After reading her book “Stoned: Jewelry, Obsession and How Desire Shapes the World” Aja Raden is now among my favorites.

The first and the most important thing to tell about this book is that no matter who you are – a jewelry nerd like me, a manager, a musician, an accountant, a woman, a man – it will keep you in excitement until you finish the last page. Aja, being a jeweler with a wide educational and historic horizon, tells about everything in a simple and friendly manner – tulip financial bubble and its crash in the Netherlands in 17th century, buying Manhattan island by the Dutch for a handfull of glass beads and than selling it for nutmeg (when both sides stayed happy with the deal, both times), about the successful marketing campaign behind the modern price for diamonds, many other things, and hundreds of stories around them. Moreover, all those events after reading her book seem absolutely connected and explainable. She tells us exciting stories from our history, which in different ways implicated jewelry. Many things now seem funny or silly for us (how can you sell your only house to buy a tulip bulb?!) but exactly through them she demonstrates how people create value, than idolize the real life of the imaginary value, and then rethink it.

It is not only the quality, quantity and accessibility of the material in this book that makes it great, it is also something in the energy. You feel the presence of the author. Reading this book I felt as if I was talking with Aja at some nice tea salon, we were sitting in huge comfy english armchairs, lazily drinking Earl Grey à la crème with scones, and she was telling me about Marie Antoinette, Spanish and British crown as if simply sharing some recent news and gossips from the friends.

“Stoned” will give you plenty of stories to share with your friends, that I promise you. You will have many chances to say: “Oh, did you know that…?” And then tell something exciting which they most likely don’t know. It is very hard for me not to tell you now all of them but I can’t because I want yout to fully savour the pleasure of reading and because of the copyrights, yes 

All of human history can be boiled down to these three verbs: want, take and have. And what better illustration of this principle than the history of jewelry?


Forgot to say, I LOVE when the writer has a sence of humour. Thank you, Aja, for a great pleasure that I had these days reading your book!

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