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

Booklist Reviews 2011 June #1
Oltuski's fascinating look at the diamond industry weaves together an intricate, comprehensive study of the origins and future of the trade and a family narrative. Oltuski's father is a veteran jeweler in New York's Forty-Seventh Street Diamond District, one of the major centers of the industry. Here deals based on reputation and connection are haggled over, and transactions closed by spoken word. Oltuski explores the intricacy of such negotiations as well as the nature of the industry, from its deep history to such more current controversies as those concerning conflict or blood diamonds and the effect of list pricing in the marketplace. Oltuski also covers basic diamond science and how emerging technologies are changing the way the precious gems are manufactured. Throughout, she highlights a variety of persons who rely on diamonds for income, including her father, and how the ever-changing industry, rooted in old traditions, poses threats to their livelihoods. An inclusive, intimate account of a complex business. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2011 May #1

A polished young guide takes us on an insider's tour of the recondite world of diamonds and garnishes it with an introduction to her family.

Oltuski sees the business from a favored vantage. Her father, an experienced dealer in precious stones, is based in New York's diamond district on 47th St. There, in little booths, dusty factories, locked offices, appraisal labs and on the busy street, fabulous deals are made with one Hebrew word and a handshake. The industry is still founded, as it has been for generations, on good names and reputations for honest dealing. As ever, the value of those precious stones, often passed hand to hand in little paper packets, depends on carat weight, color, clarity and cut—the four Cs. Eye appeal counts, as well. Oltuski summarizes with authority how the hard little pebbles become valuable and attractive objects of romance, and the author recounts the story of De Beers and "the syndicate," of distribution and marketing. She writes of geology and gemology, of cleaving and cutting, polishing, setting, selling, the physical properties of the gems and the anxieties of dealing in them. She touches on security measures, blood diamonds and the industry's efforts to deal only in "kosher" diamonds. In forays away from 47th St., we travel uptown to an upscale auction house and to shows in Las Vegas and Switzerland. The author notes that the real estate of the street is shifting, and younger dealers are scarce. Carbon-based gems, she writes, are formulated in laboratories, and she relates the odd fact that the remains of loved ones, once carbonized, may be permanently transformed into precious diadems and rings.

Clear, colorful reportage.


Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2011 September #1

In this combination history, investigative report, and memoir, journalist Oltuski illuminates the secretive diamond industry from within. As the daughter of a Manhattan diamond dealer, Oltuski has access to the tightly knit community that handles most of the diamonds coming through the United States. She weaves together a broader history of the industry, such as the founding of the De Beers diamond company in South Africa and the more recent controversy over African "blood diamonds," with personal stories of her family's beginnings in the gem trade and her grandfather and father's work in Manhattan's 47th Street diamond district. She highlights the unexpected juxtaposition among the traditional, religious world of New York's predominantly Jewish diamond dealers and the memorable characters, oddities of pricing and deal making, and threats of danger that are all endemic to the international diamond business. Only someone with Oltuski's insider's vantage point could provide such a comprehensive and colorful look at the many facets of a trade that has a broad public impact yet is largely hidden from view. VERDICT A distinctive and personal work that will captivate readers curious about the secret life of jewels.--Elizabeth L. Winter, Georgia Inst. of Tech. Lib., Atlanta

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 March #3

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)

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