Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Review: Precious Objects by Alicia Oltuski

Title:Precious Objects
Author:Alicia Oltuski
Publisher:Simon & Schuster
Pub. Date:07/19/2011
ISBN:1416545123 (ISBN13: 9781416545125)

In the middle of New York City lies a neighborhood where all secrets are valuable, all assets are liquid, and all deals are sealed with a blessing rather than a contract. Welcome to the diamond district. Ninety percent of all diamonds that enter America pass through these few blocks, but the inner workings of this mysterious world are known only to the people who inhabit it.

In Precious Objects, twenty-six-year-old journalist Alicia Oltuski, the daughter and granddaughter of diamond dealers, seamlessly blends family narrative with literary reportage to reveal the fascinating secrets of the diamond industry and its madcap characters: an Elvis-impersonating dealer, a duo of diamond-detective brothers, and her own eccentric father.

With insight and drama, Oltuski limns her family’s diamond-paved move from communist Siberia to a displaced persons camp in post–World War II Germany to New York’s diamond district, exploring the connections among Jews and the industry, the gem and its lore, and the exotic citizens of this secluded world.

Entertaining and illuminating, Precious Objects offers an insider’s look at the history, business, and society behind one of the world’s most coveted natural resources, providing an unforgettable backstage pass to an extraordinary and timeless show.

(Summary and cover via Goodreads)


In Precious Objects, Alicia Oltuski gives an insider's look into the world of diamond dealing. Her father works in the diamond district of New York City. It's a different world there, entrenched in tradition and religion. Through good times and bad, the dealers have formed their own code of ethics and way of doing business. They are a unique family of sorts, but things are slowly changing with new technologies and new generations of dealers. The allure of the sparkling stones will never change though.

This book does a very thorough job over covering many different aspects of diamonds. From their usage throughout history to their important role in shaping the political and economical structure of many parts of Africa, diamonds have never been just jewels. The author does a fabulous job of keeping things from ever getting too dry. I learned so many different things about diamonds, both about their physical characteristics and the more esoteric traits that have made them so highly desirable. More than this though, I felt like I really got to know the dealers of these jewels. You get a real sense of their passion for their trade and the diamonds themselves. They understand the gems like no one else can, and this allows them to understand each other in ways no one else can.

I thought this was a very enjoyable book. Anyone with an interest in diamonds will find something of interest in here. More than that though, I think this book is a fabulous study of the dealers themselves. They are some unforgettable characters, and they seem like a bit of a dying breed. Things may be changing for the dealers, but they will forever be immortalized in a beautiful way in this book.

Galley provided by publisher for review.

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