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.