The House of Boivin, purveyor of sumptuous jewelry to the world’s wealthiest, created three ruby and amethyst starfish brooches in the uncertain years preceding the Second World War. The pieces have moved beneath the surface of public awareness ever since, bought and sold in the utmost secrecy, spoken of but seldom seen. Diving for Starfish is journalist Cherie Burns’s intimate chronicle of these three legendary artifacts, the secrets they have held in the 75 years they have adorned the high societies of New York and Paris, and the larger-than-life personalities who feature in their tale: among them a brilliant French jewelry designer, an American Standard Oil heiress and fashion icon, and an Academy Award-winning star of stage and screen.
Burns’s pursuit of these ruby brooches, considered among the most important jewels of the twentieth century, carries us along through the romantic passions, intrigues, squabbles—and sometimes bedrooms—of everyone who ever owned or sold one. Her hunt for these histories reveals that in the unregulated, swashbuckling world of jewelry collection, the transparent cases in the showrooms bear no resemblance to the mysteries of the backrooms, where fortunes are lost and made.