Helen Molesworth’s Precious pre-empted by Transworld

Oct 19, 2021

Transworld has pre-empted a “spellbinding” work on gemstones by Helen Molesworth.

Susanna Wadeson, publisher for non-fiction, acquired world rights to Precious: The Mystery and Meaning of Earth’s Most Dazzling Treasures from Adam Gauntlett at PFD. North American rights were snapped up by executive editor Susanna Porter for the Ballantine list. Publication is scheduled for winter 2023/24.

Molesworth has worked in the gem and jewellery industry at auction and jewellery houses as well as holding academic posts. The publisher says her book will “trace the journey of gems from their first recorded history in ancient Egypt through to the auction houses of the modern day” and will “reveal the charmed lives of the world’s most precious stones, the unlikely stories of survival that have seen some treasures preserved for centuries, and how beliefs around their meaning and magic have persisted for millennia, retaining the same power today”.

Wadeson said: “This is a thrilling acquisition for Doubleday/Transworld. Helen’s experience and the breadth of her expertise is unique and her subject is so rich. This is fascinating, brilliant storytelling drawing on science, archaeology, art, trade, money and power, fashion and society — all of human history. Every jewel has a human story attached and these stories reach from Colombian mines to Qatar penthouses and stretch back thousands and thousands of years. Suddenly any piece of jewellery you own or covet is a piece of living history that changes the way you understand the world.”

Porter said: “My colleagues and I are thrilled to have acquired this exciting, character-driven narrative. Helen’s diverse background makes her uniquely able to describe the wide variety of worlds that tell the story of gemstones. And reading about the huge emerald that Richard Burton gave to Elizabeth Taylor, and the blue quartz bracelet that was made for Wallis Simpson is especially fun!”

Molesworth added: “I’m absolutely delighted that both Susanna at Doubleday and Susanna at Ballantine, have acquired Precious. I cannot wait to share my insights and experience into this magical world, and tell the tale of the history of gems, their cultural significance, and their place in society. Ultimately, jewels tell a human story, and the history of jewellery and gemstones – as an exploration into a multitude of cultures across the world over millennia — is also a history of mankind.”