Stoned | Aja Raden

Summary of: Stoned: Jewelry, Obsession, and How Desire Shapes the World
By: Aja Raden


In ‘Stoned: Jewelry, Obsession, and How Desire Shapes the World’, Aja Raden leads readers on an exploration of how desire influences human behavior and the perceived value of objects. From a historic pearl that impacted world history to the tulip mania that crashed the Dutch economy, Raden provides engaging anecdotes that demonstrate how scarcity and perception influence our actions. The book also delves into the world of cultured pearls, revealing the effects of real and perceived scarcity on value, and the successful marketing strategies of De Beers that created the concept of the diamond engagement ring. These fascinating stories reflect the ever-changing nature of value and the power of desire in shaping our world.

The Power of Desire

Desire, as Plato once noted, is a potent motivator. The history of La Peregrina, a white pearl, is a testament to this. This famous pearl has been owned by many influential people, including Elizabeth Taylor. The pearl’s history also reveals how Elizabeth I’s desire for it led to a new law and, ultimately, the destruction of the Spanish Armada.

Tulip Mania and the Psychology of Desire

In the 1630s, tulip mania struck the Netherlands and destroyed the economy. The demand for tulips became so high that a single bulb cost more than some people’s homes. However, the bubble eventually burst, and the economy collapsed. This highlights how quickly our perception of value can shift. Studies show that scarcity increases desirability and that the desire for something can even affect us physically. When something we want becomes harder to get, we become agitated, unable to focus, and lose the ability to assess the situation properly.

The Story of Mikimoto’s Cultured Pearls

The summary tells a tale of how the invention of cultured pearls by Kokichi Mikimoto affected the value of pearls on a global scale. Mikimoto’s process of culturing pearls, which was historically regarded as biologically impossible, led to a surge in pearl production that threatened the market and reduced their value. In the face of Western criticism, Mikimoto became an excellent marketer, proving his pearls to be superior. Today, the story of Mikimoto’s cultured pearls lives on as his company stays one of the world’s top pearl producers.

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