The House of Boivin, purveyor of sumptuous jewelry to the wealthy of the world, created five 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 five 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 three ruby starfish, considered among the most important jewels of the twentieth century, carries us along through the romantic passions, intrigues, squabbles—and sometimes even bedrooms—of everyone who ever owned or sold one. Her hunt for these histories reveals that on the unregulated, swashbuckling frontier of jewelry collection, the transparent cases in the showrooms bear no resemblance to the mystery and intrigue of the backrooms, where fortunes are lost and made.

Diving for Starfish from Cherie Burns on Vimeo.

Cherie Burns is the author of SEARCHING FOR BEAUTY: The Life of Millicent Rogers (St. Martin’s Press, 2011) and THE GREAT HURRICANE: 1938 (Grove/Atlantic, 2005). Her writing has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, People, Glamour, The Huffington Post, New York Magazine, Sports Illustrated, and The Wall Street Journal.