Diamonds are Forever

The Moonstone is a richly detailed mystery novel that features a massive diamond as the centerpiece for the heist. I was surprised given this the time period this novel was written in, that a gemstone took such a prominent place in the plot line. A fantastic article circulated just a little over a year ago exposing the scandal that is the psychology surrounding Diamond fanaticism. Published on the Pricenomics blog and then on Business Insider the article can be found here.

Given the way that we can be compelled to believe the hype created by a marketing campaign, driven to pay outrages sums for a lump of pressurized charcoal, valueless carbon, we seem to posses a wholesale lack of criticality. Yet, Collins understands the stickiness of certain artifacts, and creates a backstory for the diamond that was being stolen. He preempts the sentimental values that diamonds attained in the 20th century.

The motif of a valuable diamond with a storied and bloody past crops up often for it to bear further analysis. The Pink Panther for thematic example, along with the Heart of the Ocean in Titanic. One realization is that despite the renewed marketability of diamonds, they have long been valuable and have captured our imaginations. H.G. Wells’ short story The Diamond Maker experiments with the possibility of creating artificial diamonds in order to enjoy new avenues to wealth.

But what is it that makes gems, and diamonds so particularly fascinating. What makes them perfect subjects for mysteries time and time again? Feel free to hit me with your thoughts. What makes certain artifacts so interesting, and diamonds in particular. Please avoid the connotations it has with weddings and longevity as those seem to be newer connotations.

Some more on Diamonds in poetry. and in literature

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5 thoughts on “Diamonds are Forever

  1. kelsey214

    There’s the commonly thought idea of longevity behind the want for diamonds and gems. I however think that the want for diamonds because they’re “rare” is far more different then the want for other rarities such as stamps or signatures. The connotation of wealth comes along with diamonds; the bigger/more the better. Perhaps it’s the time and effort put into making that specific object that creates a quality of neediness, but most of the people out there wearing loads of diamonds do it to be showy. It’s funny how in the novel, Rachel doesn’t seem to care about the fact that the moonstone is an heirloom, but rather just that it’s known and wanted by everyone.

  2. mlfiloramo

    That’s a very thought-provoking question!

    I think one reason we have put so much value on diamonds, particularly in mystery stories, is because of the diamond’s sheer flawlessness and perfection in form. A perfectly cut and polished diamond, aside from its inherent rarity and wonderful creation, symbolizes perfection and beauty; part of the reason, I believe, that they are subjects in stories such as “The Moonstone” is because they are regarded as physical manifestations of this perfect beauty — the mysteries themselves aren’t just about people stealing diamonds, but people seizing for themselves such an immaculate object of beauty and perfection. It’s like owning an extremely rare bird or flower. It’s more than just the owning of it that strikes everyone’s fancy — it’s the idea of owning something so awesome.

  3. Katryna

    There are many mysteries which include diamonds. I think maybe diamonds are used because of the story that is behind them going missing, or what will be done with the diamond, and the difficultly of obtaining one sometimes. Like in The Moonstone many people are involved with information because they knew about the diamond. People also attach meaning to gems and diamonds making them hold more than value.

  4. Laura Gonzaga

    As I walked to work this morning, I was engaged in thought and wondered why we ascribe worth to certain objects. I was thinking about what kinds of things have intrinsic value and what kinds of things have extrinsic value. Your question on the value of diamonds seems so relevant to my meditations of this day that I can’t help but respond! Diamonds are rare and form beneath the earth and have to be removed out of the ground (often by very strenuous mining processes). The more something is rare, the more value it has. If diamonds were found in abundance and could be easily formed we probably wouldn’t ascribe as much value and mystery to it as we actually do. Ultimately, I personally don’t see a diamond as holding intrinsic value, especially because we don’t need it to survive. Its value comes from what people attribute to it because of its rarity and aesthetic appeal.

    Here is a pretty neat illustration of diamond formation.

  5. Jason Tougaw

    I love the phrase “stickiness” of certain artifacts. What makes them stick? It’s a great question. I don’t think this is the answer, but there is a way in which the facets of a cut diamond can be read as a metaphor for the epistemological questions that drive mystery stories. Meaning changes depending on where and how you look. In this case, the Moonstone is also a symbol of British colonialism. Diamonds have to come from somewhere, and in this case that somewhere is a British colony. Few of the Brits involved show any respect for the religious and cultural traditions the stone represents.

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