The down and dirty on diamonds, part 2

In Part 1 of this series, I covered some of the natural history of diamonds — how they come to be, where they are found, the properties that make them unique and why, in turn, that makes them valuable to people. In this part, I’ll start to take a look at the human history of diamonds.

Rembrandt: The selfie-made man

perhaps no one pioneered the selfie quite like Rembrandt van Rijn, the most famous of the class of painters known as the “Old Masters.” Over his career from the early 1620s to his death in 1669, he is known to have created more than 90 self-portraits. These include full-size paintings, sketches, etchings and several cameo appearances in many of his famous works.

So what gives? Was Rembrandt simply smitten with himself? Or was he using himself as a character study?

An origin story in old Amsterdam

If it seems strange that a group of Jews from Portugal wound up in Amsterdam in the 1600s, it helps to understand what started in Spain a little more than a hundred years earlier. In 1478, a Dominican friar convinced Queen Isabella of Spain that Jews who had converted to Christianity were still secretly practicing their old beliefs. The queen and King Ferdinand petitioned Pope Sixtus IV to start an inquisition.