A Story of Diamonds, Family, and a Way of Life
By Alicia Oltuski
Scribner Book Company, Hardcover, 9781416545125, 356pp.
Publication Date: July 19, 2011
List Price: $24.00*
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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.
“In the end, Ms Oltuski’s book is an honest look at the diamond trade. And in telling this story, it is obvious the real precious objects in the book are not the diamonds, but her family members and the other men and (few) women who inhabit New York’s diamond district.”
-Gems & Gemology
"[A] fascinating book...a multifaceted portrait of a New York city-within-a-city, bound by custom and religion and, for some, by obsession with the beauty of diamonds." --Maureen Corrigan, Penn Gazette
“Oltuski has paid fond, affecting and informative tribute to the world of her fathers.” –The Washington Post
“At once global and local, impersonal and intimate, the ins and outs of the diamond industry are grist for the writerly imagination. Oltuski is up to the challenge. The daughter and granddaughter of men in the business, she brings an insider’s perspective to the proceedings as well as a keen eye for the telling incident and quirky personal trait.” --The New Republic
“She writes most fascinatingly about the strange characters that clutter the streets.” –New York Post