Argenzio is a retired Denver jeweler who knows a great deal about the world's most universal status symbol -- whether the modest 1/2 carat engagement ring or the Cullinan which at 3106 carats was the largest ever found. And though his prose lacks the razzle-dazzle of his rocks, this is a creditable account of the blood and romance which surround the biggest, flashiest and most expensive diamonds in the world: the Kohinoor which the East India Company presented to Queen Victoria after generations of Indian Shahs killed each other to possess it; the Hope, a steel blue beauty which brought bad luck to all its owners; the Regent given to Marie Louise by her husband Napoleon; the Orloff, pride of the U.S.S.R., once bestowed on Catherine the Great by a discarded lover. And after the fabulous legends there's some modest, nontechnical advice on how to buy, appraise, and care for your own humble, flawed specimen. It comes down to an injunction to know your jeweler since the four C's -- color, clarity, cut and carat weight -- are hard for the layman to judge. ""There are few bargains in diamonds"" Argenzio counsels though many real steals ended up in kingly coffers. Look at the photos of these spectacular sparklers and eat your heart out.