In Conversation With - Aja Raden talks Desire, Treasure Chests & Jewel-Tones

Aja Raden

'All human history can be boiled down to these three verbs: want, take and have. And what better illustration of this principle than the history of jewellery.' - Aja Raden.

We were delighted to welcome author of the New York Times bestseller Stoned: Jewelry, Obsession, and How Desire Shapes the World, Aja Raden, for an exclusive behind the scenes view of the Jewellery auction in November.

Aja is an experienced jeweller, trained scientist, and well-read historian. Her scholastic expertise means she approaches jewels with both an eye to their scientific make up and pivotal role in history.  Keep an eye out for Aja's highlights featured in the printed catalogue coming soon.

We talk to Aja about her favourite gemstones, life lessons and what’s next:

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned?

Publishing is more cutthroat then jewellery! I thought my colleagues in this industry were pirates, the literary world is really ruthless.

Why do you think ‘Stoned’ has been such a success?

I hope it is because I made accessible the connections between economics, history and desire, in an entertaining way that feels very personal to the reader.

What is the quote that you live by?

‘There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.’

Do you have a favourite jewellery designer?

There are so many talented designers working right now. I love Hemmerle – he is a perennial favourite of mine. The artistic handwriting is so distinctive - you just know it the minute you see it. And he manages to work with surprising materials, without losing sight of the jewel part of jewellery.

Glenn Spiro's pieces are so clever and creative. I love the way they incorporate surprises, they twirl or open or reassemble. It's very original Faberge. But my current obsession is Nirav Modi. Those pieces are just pure sparkles you can hold in your hand.

If you had to pick your top three gemstones, what would they be?

I can't! What I really love is treasure. The idea of picking one, or three, gemstones sort of undercuts that image of a chest full of jewels you can pick up and run your hands through. That's what I really love.

And besides, they all have their own unique charm. Diamonds sparkle, pearls are luminous and mysterious and come from the bottom of the sea. Sapphires, rubies, emeralds – there's a reason those colours are called jewel-tones. They're just dazzling. Opals are like capturing a piece of a rainbow and keeping it forever. Even semi-precious gems like jet and amber are relics of ancient, primordial forests, long lost and buried in the earth. What's not to like?

Is there a piece of jewellery that you could not live without?

Yes. In fact it seems like there's a new one every week.

Who do you admire and why?

My mom. Because she's relentless. She has never taken no for an answer in her life, and she doesn't believe there's anything she can't have, or that she's arbitrarily bound by any rules or conventions. I think that's the most valuable thing she has ever given me. That certainty that I can have, or do, or be whatever I want. That and a lotta jewelry.

What is next for you?

Stoned was the first in a series of three books. I'm working on the next two in the series; Hammered and Rocked. Where Stoned was about desire, Hammered is about power, and focuses on metal. Rocked is about gems and minerals role in technology, and what really turns the wheel of progress.