This introductory chapter explores what diamonds mean, how those meanings come about, and what our interactions with these stones can tell us about ourselves and our relationships with material culture, especially mass-marketed, mass-produced, and mass-consumed commodities. It examines the way people relate to diamonds in order to gain an insight into the way we make sense of all kinds of commodified goods, the kinds of feelings and even self-understandings they evoke, and the way cultural contexts—like advertising strategies and historical narratives—influence our engagement with ordinary objects. Drawing from the works of philosopher Charles Peirce, the chapter and the text demonstrate how one apparatus of the Peircian theoretical toolbox—what is known as the Second Trichotomy (icon-index-symbol)—can be fruitfully employed in the study of material culture in general, and applied in the case of diamond consumption.
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