All throughout my childhood, I was fascinated with spy novels. One of the early books I read was ‘Diamonds are Forever’. It was a strange title which my 12-year-old brain could barely comprehend. As I grew up, I came to understand that it referred to the permanency of the gemstones held in contrast to other aspects of the story, particularly love and life. Now that I’m an author myself, I would add to that statement and say that there is one more thing which is permanent and that is books.
Natural diamonds are fascinating for most of us. For some, it is perhaps because of their visual appeal – the play of lights is undeniably hypnotizing. For others, this precious stone epitomises love, harmony, creativity and even prosperity.
Whatever be the reason, there is no denying the fact that artists have been fascinated with diamonds. For as long as I can remember painters, filmmakers, musicians or sculptors, creative souls have often turned to diamonds for inspiration. Of course, authors are nowhere to be left behind. Diamonds have been a recurring theme which has appeared in tens of historic bestsellers, in one way or the other.
Let’s talk about some famous books, fiction and nonfiction, inspired by natural diamonds.
1. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins One of the first books about diamonds I had come across was The Moonstone By Wilkie Collins. Written in 1868, it is widely considered to be the first modern English detective novel. The story of a divine Indian natural diamond that was stolen from a young heiress! The action begins on her 18th birthday when her uncle, who once served in the British Indian Army, gifts her a beautiful natural diamond. Soon we realise that three Hindu priests have dedicated their lives to recover it. When there is a diamond at the center of it, fantastical stories are so much easier to believe.
Some records say that the story took inspiration from the famous Koh-i-noor diamond. The central plot had me hooked as well. An epic adventure takes place as a search ensues to return the diamond to its rightful owners.
2. Diamonds Are Forever by Ian Fleming It’s only fitting that one of the best-known fictional characters has one of his most known stories to be centred around a diamond smuggling racket. In ‘Diamonds Are Forever,’ Bond is entrusted with the job of infiltrating this nexus and discovers a system spanning continents, not just countries.
What fascinates me about this story is how it uses the tantalizing nature of the idea of owning a natural diamond and teases the reader with juicy descriptions of diamonds. Garnished with the usual elements of a bond epic, the story moves at a fast pace and keeps the readers stuck to the edge of their seats. This book is one of my favourites from Ian’s collection of the cult classic espionage thrillers.
3. Master Of The Game by Sidney Sheldon Sidney Sheldon, the master of twist in the tale, also could not resist the lust of writing a story with diamonds at its core. Sheldon’s ‘Master of the Game,’ one of his best-known works, is about a family which built its empire on natural diamond trade, starting right where it all began, in the 1860s.
Lost in the fast-paced pages, this classic thriller keeps you turning pages, until it’s over. For me this tale was the perfect concoction of intrigue, suspense and passion.
4. The Crown Diamond by Arthur Conan Doyle While researching famous plays, I stumbled across a play written by Arthur Conan Doyle. Being a huge fan of his work, I was intrigued. The creator of Sherlock Holmes, is known for writing short stories and novels. But when inspiration struck him about a natural diamond, he chose a different medium. He instead wrote a stage play, ‘The Crowd Diamond.’ The play was later adapted into ‘The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone,’ and even there, he broke many of his usual tropes.
While most of his other books are from Dr Watson’s point of view, taking us through the antics of Sherlock Holmes, this one is in third person. In this book, Doyle created his own diamond thief, who Sherlock is pursuing. Brilliant and deadly, the chase that unfolds in the book left me wanting more…
Although it made for a wonderful reading, actually watching a screening of it would have made me ecstatic. Someday, I will!
5. Koh-i-Noor: The History Of The World’s Most Infamous Diamond by William Dalrymple It’s not just fiction authors who have been inspired by diamonds. We all know William Dalrymple’s dedication to document all things Indian history. He was inspired by one of the most celebrated and mythologized natural diamonds of all times: The Koh-i-noor. He is an author whose works I have followed for decades. So when he announced a book about the Koh-i-noor, I started counting days to the release date. And not just me, a lot of my friends, who aren’t even readers, were waiting for it. That is the feeling that the Koh-i-noor evokes in Indians.
Starting from 1849, the book chronicles the journey of this diamond and how it changed hands over the decades. A story of deceit, murder, blood and all things exciting; it ends in the crown of the British queen, where it currently resides.
Going through the pages, I could feel a mix of emotions being stirred up in me, like most Indians – after all, having grown up with countless stories about this natural diamond, it’s always wonderful to come across stories we might have missed during history class!
The fact is that diamonds make for great stories. Be it a lover proposing to his beloved going down on a knee or a heist which has set the whole police machinery moving in one direction, they have enthralled us for centuries.
Be it movies or books, writers will continue to weave stories around them, capitalizing on our fascination with them. One can only wait for what we are going to read next on this theme.