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The Heartless Stone: A Journey Through the World of Diamonds, Deceit, and Desire Hardcover – May 30, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0312339692 ISBN-10: 0312339690 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (May 30, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312339690
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312339692
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #603,313 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. After his fiancée dumps him and he's left with a diamond ring to unload, Men's Health contributing editor Zoellner crisscrosses the globe unlocking the mystique of this glittering stone "that brings misery to millions of people across the world." Zoellner probes how "blood diamonds" are used to fund vicious civil wars in Africa; how De Beers, seeing new markets to exploit, linked diamonds to the ancient yuino ceremony in Japan and played on caste obsession in India; and how India is pushing Belgium and Israel out of the gem trade. The author is expert with vivid prose: Australia's Argyle deposit is "shaped a little like a human molar"; impoverished urchins in the diamond-smuggling haven of the Central African Republic get high on bread-and-shoe polish sandwiches; and a Brazilian miner finds a rich concentration of river diamonds but fritters away much of the loot on prostitutes and booze, and eventually is ruined by a dishonest money changer. Politically conscious consumers can now avoid African and Brazilian mines teeming with human rights abuses. Canada pulls $1.2 billion worth of rough diamonds out of the tundra every year while enforcing tough environmental laws, and a Florida company uses Siberian high-pressure chambers to create low-cost chemically perfect diamonds. This is a superior piece of reportage. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Historically, the workings of the diamond industry, heavily controlled until recently by the De Beers cartel, have been filled with clandestine meetings and covert operations, and its mythos even pervades popular culture. Zoellner has traveled the globe learning about the remarkably large supply of diamonds both mined and manufactured for industrial cutting and the jewelry trade. In the countries where they are mined, they represent both auspicious wealth and abject poverty. The citizens have long been exploited by international corporate investors and bloodthirsty local warlords anxious to supply the public with a token of eternal love. Teens may be surprised to learn that the must have diamond engagement ring is the result of a brilliant 1930s De Beers marketing strategy, which sought to influence the thoughts, tastes, habits, and fashions of Middle America. Heavy promotion and forced scarcity continue to fuel our inclination for the gems. Readers will be alternately fascinated and reviled by this exposé, which is equally well suited to casual reading and research.–Brigeen Radoicich, Fresno County Office of Education, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Tom Zoellner is an American author and journalist. He is the author of popular nonfiction books, described as "genre-defying," which take multidimensional views of their subject and show the descent of an influential object through history. These boosk have been praised as "dazzling" (Entertainment Weekly), "mesmerizing" (Booklist), and "enchanting" (New York Post). He is an Associate Professor of English at Chapman University and lives in downtown Los Angeles.

Customer Reviews

Buy a colored diamond.
GadgetChick
This book makes you want to throw away any diamonds you own and never, ever buy another.
Amazon Customer
Read this book if you love to learn.
J. Martens

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 52 people found the following review helpful By J. Jessup on December 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I purchased this book on Friday and sat in the parking lot of the book store reading it until I realized two hours had passed.

The authors engaging narrative and extraordinary depth in terms of reasearch for each topic he covers related to the diamond trade is remarkable and so addictive, the book is virtually impossible to put down...which is why I devoured it in one night.

The author relates his experiences in such a way that even though the subject matter is mostly horrifying, there were moments of such outrageous hypocrisy and incredulity that I found myself laughing at the some of the more benign incidents because if I didn't laugh there would be no recourse but to cry myself into a fetal position while hiding under the bed.

The revulsion began when the author related the children eating sandwiches made with shoe polish, the people in Africa whose limbs were amputated to keep them from voting, the miners who were evicerated because thugs dressed as police thought they had swallowed a diamond.

But the waves of nausea that were induced by those repulsive revelations were NOTHING compared to the uncontrollable wretched gagging created by the documented evidence of the greedy machinations perpetuated by the De Beers Diamond Cartel.

I never thought about diamonds the way the De Beers corporation seems to think I SHOULD think about them. As in I should hate myself if I don't have one.

The putrid aggressive marketing campaign related to diamonds was shocking to read about ESPECIALLY when the author relates how De Beers were able to change an entire culture just with a simple but aggressive marketing campaign. The chapter dealing with De Beers shoving diamonds down the throats of Japanese was appalling in the extreme.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Aileen on June 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Tom Zoellner goes here there and everywhere to learn how diamonds get from out of the ground and onto your finger. His prose is sharp and his eye misses nothing. Zoellner has a deep, human respect for his subjects, be they in the boardroom or the bottom of a mine. His empathy makes the cold reality of the diamond trade all that much worse to know about.

I'll bet Zoellner has scared the diamond industry to death. No diamond for me after that read.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Bohdan Kot on August 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Everything you wanted to know about diamonds but wish you didn't (especially for the would-be diamond engagement ring shopper) is cogently reported in the expose, "The Heartless Stone" by former "San Francisco Chronicle" reporter, Tom Zoellner. The author's journey ignites when his fiancee returns his diamond engagement ring; he begins to muse more about the diamond's origin. Zoellner's zigzagging adventure traverses fourteen nations on six continents (South Africa, India, Siberia and Arctic Canada are some of the researcher's sites).

In a self-effacing manner the writing unearths the history of diamonds, most notably the past century where De Beers of South Africa has had a choke hold monopoly on the hardest mineral on earth (a 10 on the Mohs Scale). Besides the physical properties of diamonds (not rare in nature, but rare in the world), the reader will be treated to the marketing history of diamonds and its current campaign by De Beers to encourage women to buy right hand diamonds; "blood diamonds" of Africa; the child stone-polishers of India; the recent improvements of technology in the making of man-made diamonds; and the newly discovered diamond mines of Canada that are not held by De Beers and attractive to social consumers for their environmental protective infrastructures and for the fifth C of diamonds - "conflict-free."

"The Heartless Stone" is a dense travelogue full of didactic stories that are easily digested for the entertainment, historical and social value. Zoellner leaves no stone unturned in discussing the often mysterious business of diamonds. The writing is clear as a D-colored diamond and helps illuminate the story of a gem that has proved to be expensive, a must-have luxury item, bloody, corrupt, ruinous and numerous other adjectives fastened upon a rock that has clearly lost its heart.

Bohdan Kot
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Donna Watson-Formaneck on August 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover
As a current student at GIA, this book gives a total different story about diamonds and the diamond industry. He's fair, honest and meticulous in his explanations. This book is funny, sad, scary and you feel as though you are on a journey with him through the many areas of the world where mining occurs. Makes you really think about other world industries when a little rock can be the difference of whether you live or die. Excellent read, awesome author.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Philip W. Henry on July 13, 2007
Format: Paperback
The Heartless Stone: A Journey through the world of diamonds, deceit and desire
-- By Tom Zoellner

I've been discovering, or rediscovering, some of the best non-fiction around this year. By any standard, Tom Zoellner's "The Heartless Stone" is one of the best. A good writer, and Zoellner is one, can take a single topic....salt (` Salt: A World History" by Kurlansky or the spice trade ("Spice: The History of a Temptation" by Jack Turner) and weave a vivid, entertaining story around it.

Zoellner takes us to the impoverished nation (if one can call a collection of ragged children and corrupt officials a "nation") of The Central African Republic and travels to the diamond mines, watching his back for highwaymen and paying off corrupt officials as he goes .These are the "blood diamonds", extracted from the backs of slave labor and used to finance coups d'etats and revolutions. He takes us north to the Arctic Circle, where the discovery of diamond-bearing "Kimberlite" (the soil produced by volcanic eruptions) has fostered a huge investment by multi-national corporations to extract diamonds from the permafrost. His writing is intelligent and graceful...and at times philosophical.
He extracts nuggets of knowledge from those involved in the diamond trade, just as they extract diamonds from the earth. No substance known to man is more concentrated than the diamond. It is portable, easily concealed and sold on the black market. The Diamond's only value is what humans ascribe to it. It is a "Tabula Rasa" on which dreams are etched.

"A Diamond is a philosopher's stone of the existential variety," he writes.
For it is like the world itself, spoken into existence only through whatever meaning we choose to assign to it.
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