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Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond?: And other Investigations of the Diamond Trade (Short-form Book) Paperback – December 4, 2013

3.4 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Edward Jay Epstein is the author of fifteen books. He studied government at Cornell and Harvard and received a Ph.D from Harvard in 1973. His thesis on the search for political truth became a best-selling book, Inquest: The Warren Commission and the Establishment of Truth. His doctoral dissertation on television news was published as News From Nowhere. He is the recipient of numerous foundation grants and awards, including the prestigious Financial Times/Booz Allen & Hamilton Global Business Book Award for both best biography and best business book for Dossier: The Secret History of Armand Hammer. He has written for Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, and the Wall Street Journal. He lives in New York City.
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Product Details

  • Series: Short-form Book
  • Paperback: 92 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (December 4, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1494372215
  • ISBN-13: 978-1494372217
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,889,602 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I studied government at Cornell and Harvard, and received a Ph.D from Harvard in 1973. My master's thesis on the search for political truth ("Inquest: The Warren Commission and the Establishment of Truth" and my doctoral dissertation ("News From Nowhere") were both published as books. I taught political science at MIT and UCLA. I have now written 14 books. My website www.edwardjayepstein.com)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
This title attracted me because I actually have tried to sell a diamond, one that my father paid over $14k for as a gift to my mother. The well-regarded, locally owned store that sold it (and just coincidentally appraised it at ~$14k) wouldn't even make me an offer on it after my parents both passed and the diamond came to me. In fact, the nice man seemed anxious to get me quickly and quietly out of the store. I did get a couple of ballpark guesstimates from upscale consignment shops in the $2k to 3k range (before commissions). I eventually gave it to another family member.

Your friendly third or fourth-generation hometown family jeweler (or the faceless chain store at the mall) is just as much a part of this lucrative game as De Beers. Sapphires, emeralds and other "precious" and "rare" shiny things happily ride those diamond coattails and are no more rare or precious. The smiling, well-dressed lady or gentleman helping you with your purchase in that elegantly appointed showroom likely knows that and is likely doing quite well, thank you. Hey, everybody's gotta make a living and the marketing had fooled me completely, just like it had my dad, until I tried to sell that diamond. And I used to think that cars depreciated rapidly!

This is a worthwhile read to find out where it all started, but it's not really a story of just the past, or just diamonds, or just De Beers. Next time you're at the mall, glance over at the folks shopping the jewelry store. This is still a profitable industry and there's nothing wrong with that. Uninformed consumers - like my dad and countless others - are going to pay too much. In this day and age, that's the fault of the uninformed consumer.
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By sheer force of advertising, De Beers managed to convince roughly everyone that a diamond is the best token of affection and that diamonds are a good investment. You might think that what constitutes the best token of affection is something that was determined long ago but, to Epstein's (and my) surprise, this is a relatively new idea, so recent that it was possible for Epstein to find out how it was done. The notion that big companies are able to control something as intimate as what a man gives a woman to show his love might be straight out of Orwell except that the story told here is considerably more detailed than anything Orwell imagined -- and is true.

To me it is a story about how we can be made to believe something not because the belief has a basis in fact but because the belief would benefit someone (in this case, the De Beers company). Now the belief in diamonds as a great investment seems to be coming to an end, as the last chapter in the book describes. I can't think of another book that so clearly shows how and how much our beliefs can be controlled.
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It's... odd to see a takedown of the diamond industry, dating back to the early '80s. A lot of the information in it is still applicable today, especially the part about trying to resell diamonds - you'll NEVER get back what you paid for it, much less make money on it.

As another reviewer pointed out, it's badly edited, with sections duplicated, sentences breaking off and resuming a couple of paragraphs later and the like.

Still - it's an interesting look at an interesting subject, and a cautionary tale - don't invest in diamonds. Buy them if you want because they're sparkly and pretty and your significant other will love you for it, but the idea you'll make a killing on them as an investment is a fool's hope.
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Format: Kindle Edition
That's really what comes to mind whenever I think of De Beers: one of the few true longstanding monopolies in history, battling to maintain their stranglehold. If you're interested in a primer on the "Diamond Invention," I can't think of a better place to start than Epstein's concise and illuminating investigation.
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A reasonably interesting account of how De Beers created and manipulated the diamond market, but the presentation is very unorganized and haphazard. Spelling and punctuation errors abound, but the bigger problem is that entire paragraphs are misplaced; literally cut from where they belong and inserted several pages away. Obviously this was rushed into publication before it was properly edited and formatted for Kindle.
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In terms of substance, the texts in this book are all well-written, well-researched and interesting. Occasionally, I would have liked to have a few footnotes with sources so those who want to take a closer look at a particular aspects learn about other resources to turn to; I understand, however, that this is not intended as an academic publication, so one shouldn't be too nitpicky when it comes to citation standards. The individual texts are well-structured and provide good insights into the diamond industry and what Epstein calls "the diamond illusion" which keeps this industry going. It's also reasonably up-to-date; even though the main parts of the book date back to the 1970s, some more recent chapters delve into current developments which could shatter the diamond illusion, as well as De Beer's counter-strategy (such as the fight against blood diamonds, which plays into De Beer's hands).

In terms of editing, however, this book is terrible. It is merely a collage of chapters which have already been published elsewhere. Not even an attempt at linking them together with bridge passages or placing them into a coherent whole has been made. It leaves the nasty taste in your mouth that this was simply a book copied-and-pasted together from existing texts to make an extra buck. And the copy-and-pasting was poorly done indeed: There are numerous typos, and occasionally even entire paragraphs are duplicated word-by-word because the person doing the copy-and-paste didn't bother to clean up afterwards. This book would sorely have needed an editor doing at least a basic quality check. This diminishes the impression so much that I can't think of giving more than three stars, even though the content covered is, in fact, intriguing.
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