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Precious Objects: A Story of Diamonds, Family, and a Way of Life Hardcover – July 19, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (July 19, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416545123
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416545125
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #661,161 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“With revealing observations on the centuries-old link between Jews and the diamond industry, and sparkling accounts of her familial ties to the business…. Oltuski, daughter of a diamond dealer, brings clarity in this study of the industry.” –Publishers Weekly

"A piercing, intensely readable book. Ms. Oltuski guides us through New York's diamond business, one of the world's most fascinating and hard-to-penetrate communities, with great aplomb." -Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story

"Alicia Oltuski is an intrepid journalist able to write with precision and insight about the big issues in the diamond trade and the intimate details of life on Forty-Seventh Street." -Tony Hall, U.S. Representative

"Beautiful and thrilling, Precious Objects, sparkles with life. Alicia Oltuski tells both the story of her family, as glittering as the gems they sell, and the story of the diamonds that have taken them all over the world and across the generations. A fascinating and gripping read." -Jennifer Gilmore, author of Something Red

“A warm and detailed tour of a fascinating culture that hides in plain sight. You'll never see a diamond twinkling on a woman's finger without remembering the remarkable characters in Oltuski's book.” -Dan Baum, author of Citizen Coors

"Epic in scope and wonderfully personal, Precious Objects is an impassioned, insider's take on a complex industry. What's most dazzling are Ms. Oltuski's characters, who are vivid, outrageous, and never without some glimmers of wisdom." -Beth Raymer, author of Lay the Favorite

About the Author

Alicia Oltuski received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and an MFA in writing from Columbia University, where she was awarded a David Berg Foundation Fellowship. Her work has appeared on NPR’s Berlin Stories, in The Faster Times, The Bulletin in Philadelphia, and other publications. She has taught at the University of the Arts and lives in the Washington, D.C. area with her husband.

More About the Author

Alicia Oltuski's first book, Precious Objects (Scribner 2011), was named a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection. Her one-act plays were included in Ensemble Studio Theatre's festival, and other work of hers has appeared or is forthcoming on NPR's Berlin Stories, in the Financial Times, W Magazine, The Faster Times, The Penn Review, Prairie Margins, Peregrine, and other publications. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University, where she received a David Berg Foundation Fellowship, and a BA and MA from the University of Pennsylvania. She has taught at the University of the Arts, Politics & Prose, and the Bethesda Writers Center, and was a reader at The Paris Review. Interviews with her have appeared on CBS Sunday Morning, Marketplace Radio, Ireland's Newstalk Radio, Vox Tablet, and several newspapers. Visit her website at alicia@aliciaoltuski.com

Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/aliciaoltuski

Become a fan of her facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Alicia-Oltuski-Writer/180505738643494

Customer Reviews

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This was a very interesting and informative book.
Amy Nislow
I knew next to nothing about the jewelry industry before, and now that I've finished the book I feel like an insider.
J. Margulies
Heard an interview with author on NPR: seemed like a fascinating story and it is!
BossLady

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover
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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By J. Margulies on July 31, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My favorite non-fiction books teach me something new on every page while telling a story in an engaging and enjoyable way; Ms. Oltuski's portrait of the jewelry industry easily passes this test. I knew next to nothing about the jewelry industry before, and now that I've finished the book I feel like an insider.

Ms. Oltuski found fascinating characters through which to tell her story: a pair of crime-fighting brothers who work to prevent and solve robberies to karmically avenge their own family's jewelry business; the real DeBeers family, who walked away from a fortune because it was ruining their nice farm; a mogul who made his money creating a product that the diamond industry simultaneously hated and found themselves needing to use; and a group of Ms. Oltuski's own family members, both lucky and tragic.

Before I read this book I didn't think I had any interest in how jewelry was found, made, and sold. To me, jewelry was an overpriced rip-off, and it was enough to know I just shouldn't spend a lot of money on it. Now, I still think jewelry's a rip-off, but I'm glad it exists: The fact that these products have very little practical use or intrinsic value has created a unique world of fascinating characters and unique behaviors that just aren't necessary in normal markets. It makes me want to go to 47th Street and haggle.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By C. Amari on November 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover
To say that Alicia Oltuski pulls back the curtain on the secret world of New York's diamond district is, for me at least, disappointingly incorrect. 47th Street is first and foremost a market. Nothing about the book reveals the fundemental economics of the business of a typical member of the Diamond Dealers Club. By reading the book, you will not really understand how participants in this market make a living. Presumably they try to buy diamonds low and sell them high. But how? From whom do they buy and to whom do they sell?

In the author's defense, she, in contrast to many of her reviewers, only promises "A Story of Diamonds, Family, and a Way of Life," and her anecdotes add up to something quite enjoyable and touching. I only wish that Oltuski approached the mysterious world of 47th street from an economic as well as a sociological perspective.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By CTJ on April 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a 47th Street Diamond Dealer, I can personally tell you that this book is without a doubt a jaded account of the diamond business!
The author forgets to write about all of the illegal activities, money laundering, fake diamond certificates, diamonds falsely graded, preying on tourists, male dominated, mafia ridden low life characters that make "The Diamond District" the "Diamond District".

This book is a fairy tale, not reality. The author paints the diamond business as a wonderful place. She fails to include the cut throat environment of con men looking to cash in and make a quick buck.

I'm not saying families such as hers don't exist, however, they are certainly few and far between. The inner workings and behind the curtain of 47th Street is not always a pretty place to be! Also people walking through 47th St are looked at as nothing more than a piece of meat, money for the taking!

A+ for effort, but the author really needs to shed a little more honesty on the true situation!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By billyspargo on August 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book was a vivid reminder why I got out of the diamond business: in the good old days before Rap, Certs, and Bloods (not what you think); and don't forget Yehudas! It was good to remember the many close relationships I developed (even though I'm a goy), some only over the phone. I recall mentioning to one dealer that I was looking for a Micky Mouse watch for my young son: one week later there was one in my mailbox, the invoice marked "paid in full". Then there was the time I contacted the wife of a dealer for help in finding a specific stone: "you walk by me on the street but you remember my engagement ring!": both diamonds in question were heart shapes. And the time that I was sure I was talking to a golf pro until his wife walked up: 1.04 ct. Rb. IVS1, Ideal cut: the man worked for FedEX. And don't forget my wife's constantly-changing "personal" jewelry collection. This book is also a comprehensive update of all of things I've missed since my departure: Some I can't believe: cremains into diamonds?! A wonderful trip down memory lane for me, a fascinating behind the scences look for the casual reader, an important industry overview for the scholar, and a heartwarming story of family and friendship for everyone. Ms. Oltuski: M&B!
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