"THE NECKLACE," by Cheryl Jarvis, Ballantine Books, 210 pages, $24

Diamonds are said to be a girl's best friend: cold and hard and very much about the one individual they belong to. But is it possible that the gems could have the opposite effect — uniting an eclectic group of women and creating a close-knit friendship?

"The Necklace," by Cheryl Jarvis, tells one such real-life story.

In 2004, Jonell McLain walked past an eye-popping display at Van Gundy & Sons jewelry store in Ventura, Calif. Resting on black velvet, a $37,000 diamond necklace glittered up at her.

McLain knew she could never afford such an extravagant piece, but she inexplicably felt drawn to the simple tennis-style necklace, returning a number of times to look at it and try it on.

Before long she had a plan. The diamonds could be purchased if 12 other women agreed to go in on the deal with her. They'd share the necklace in a co-op of sorts, each woman taking ownership for a month at a time.

Linked together through Jewelia — named in honor of famous chef Julia Child — the women discovered the power, freedom and confidence a single necklace can bring.

Soon, the experiment that many said would fail had become much more than a chance to look flashy. Seeing Jewelia's positive influence in their own lives, the women began sharing with people outside of the group, bringing joy to friends and strangers alike.

In the years since Jewelia's purchase, the women have taken on causes, raised money and offered support, and all the while, the diamonds have been there in the background.

"The Necklace" follows each of the "Women of Jewelia," as they call themselves, with each taking center stage in a chapter of her own.

Jarvis should be commended for not turning this story into an overly sappy "heartwarming tale." The women are not portrayed as perfect — problems in their personal lives and within the group are not shied away from. In fact the women are quite honest about all aspects of their lives, including the role Jewelia has played in the bedroom.

Written in two styles, both past and present tense, "The Necklace" could easily have been confusing, but in this case it works. Background information followed by quotes and accounts from each of the woman take on a conversational tone that reads fast and easy.


E-mail: jharrison@desnews.com