The Bling King

William Grimes reviews The Essence of Style: How the French Invented High Fashion, Fine Food, Chic Cafes, Style, Sophistication and Glamour by Joan DeJean, in the New York Times:

Louis_14_1In “The Essence of Style,” her effervescent account of the birth of French chic, Joan DeJean returns, again and again, to the idea that virtually everything associated with the high life today can be traced back to one man, whose tastes and desires transformed France into an international luxury brand. Today, the diamond reigns supreme among gemstones. But it was not always so. Throughout the Renaissance, it was the pearl that symbolized wealth and beauty, while the diamond, in treatises of the time, ranked only 18th in importance. In the 1660’s, however, Louis developed a taste for the colorless stone that a French jeweler named Jean-Baptiste Tavernier began bringing back from India. In 1669, the king spent the equivalent of $75 million on diamonds, propelling the stone to the pre-eminent position it has enjoyed ever since, and establishing Paris as the world center for fine jewelry. The Sun King was also the bling king.

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