TWO former Blackburn College students and lifelong friends have helped create a gem of a book.

Christine Marsden and James Whittaker collaborated on the 500-copy Dream of Diamonds.

Ms Marsden and her partner of 38 years Alastair Laidlaw took the photographs of some of the world’s most spectacular and valuable diamonds and diamond jewellery.

Mr Whittaker provided the words for the limited edition of volumes, worth £2,000 each.

He and Ms Marsden, who have never forgotten their roots, are to present a copy of the book with 72 illustrations to Blackburn Library to go with two already given to the college.

Mr Whittaker, 63, brought up in Whalley Range, and Ms Marsden, also 63, originally from Mill Hill, both studied fashion, and he later designed swimwear in the Far East.

Ms Marsden and Mr Laidlaw developed a specialist niche photographing diamond jewellery for glossy publications such as Vogue.

To cement the East Lancashire connection, the two models in the book are her niece and nephew Ygraine and Oliver Alcock, from Langho.

Other copies are to be found in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum and Washington DC’s Smithsonian Institution, while number 60 has been given to the Royal Family

The young Oliver is pictured with the Cullinan Heritage Diamond, the largest flawless brilliant-cut diamond in the world.

Ms Marsden and Mr Laidlaw, shortly moving to the Ribble Valley, took the photographs in conditions of high security and designed the book,

She said: “It was a labour of love.

“James and I have never forgotten our Blackburn roots and he in particular spent a lot of time in the town’s library.

“When we came to create the book, he was the natural choice for the words.

“We hope the copies of the book in Blackburn will inspire others.”

The three will be presenting the book, published by The House of Laidlaw Marsden, to the library at 7pm on February 28.

Mary Painter,community history librarian, said: “This is a wonderful act of generosity.”

The event is free but tickets are required.