cover image Precious Objects: A Story of Diamonds, Family, and a Way of Life

Precious Objects: A Story of Diamonds, Family, and a Way of Life

Alicia Oltuski. Scribner, $24 (368p) ISBN 978-1-4165-4512-5

The diamond trade has long been as shrouded in mystery as the precious gem itself. Oltuski, daughter of a diamond dealer, brings clarity in this study of the industry, with a special emphasis on New York's diamond district, the small neighborhood that handles 90% of the diamonds entering the U.S., its ties to the Hasidim and their unique bargaining vocabulary. Hers is a workmanlike account of the various aspects of the trade—its South African origins, the intricacies of mining and grading, and the growing online commerce in stones—sparked by her own desire to better understand her father's business. Oltuski diligently covers the darker side of diamonds—how the brutal conflicts in Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, and Angola were financed by and fought over the gemstone—leavening it with precisely observed accounts of the delicate, almost balletic haggling among the New York dealers. Oltuski makes a commendable effort at literary journalism, with revealing observations on the centuries-old link between Jews and the diamond industry, and sparkling accounts of her familial ties to the business. (July)