2600-2500 B.C.E. Servants of Sumerian nobility are buried alive in their wealthy masters’ tombs in order to tend to them post-mortem. 40 B.C.E. Cleopatra drinks a pearl earring dissolved in vinegar to show Mark Antony the extravagance of her culinary tastes.
15th Century Exotic chic reigns as wealthy Europeans rush to buy commodities from distant corners of the world. Water-lily ointment proves a hit.
1720 Englishman John Law convinces the French treasury to switch from gold coins to paper money. Investors in his company, who get wealthy and spend the banknotes lavishly, are dubbed “millionaires.” 1935 Parker Brothers releases Monopoly in the middle of the Great Depression. It’s an instant success: anyone can now afford Boardwalk property. 1940s Howard Hughes sets the standard for the eccentric, reclusive rich. His diet consists of milk, Hershey’s Milk Chocolate, pecans and bottled water ritually presented in a paper bag.
1960s-early 1970s Canadian National Exhibition’s annual display of $1 million in cash draws more than 1.5 million visitors a year to the Toronto exhibit.
circa 1990 Tobacco heiress Doris Duke stages a coming-out party for two camels.
1994 Bill Gates books every hotel, car and camping site on Hawaii’s Lanai island and all helicopters on neighbouring Maui to ensure a private wedding to Melinda French.
2001 Shaquille O’Neal calls the L.A. Lakers’ NBA championship rings “bling-bling,” taking mainstream a term first used in a song by rap group Cash Money Millionaires. Hip hop stars take to sporting large chains, diamond-studded teeth caps and other jewellery as allusions to the gold adornments worn by African kings. SARAH EVERTS
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