This is a beautiful and unusual book, unlike any I have reviewed before. It has some of the attributes of a coffee-table book, in that it has a large format and is illustrated lavishly. But it has a depth and range of content, mineralogical, geological, geographical, social and historical, which make it rather special. It is so full of interest, in so many different ways, that I found it difficult to write a systematic review, as one does for conventional textbooks. It seemed to me that the flavour of many of the chapters was best given by example.