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The Heartless Stone: A Journey Through the World of Diamonds, Deceit, and Desire First Edition, 4th printing Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0312339692
ISBN-10: 0312339690
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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.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition, 4th printing 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 (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,438,683 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A VERY WELL WRITTEN AND ENJOYABLE TO READ BOOK. IT TAKES YOU ON A JOURNEY ALL AROUND THE FAR CORNERS OF THE WORLD FROM WHERE DIAMONDS ARE MINED ALL THE WAY TO THE WALMART STORE WHERE THEY ARE SOLD. MOST DIAMONDS ARE ABOUT 100 MILLION YEAR OLD SO WHAT ONE SECOND IS TO THE LIFESPAN OF A HUMAN BEING IS THE SAME AS COMPARING THE LIFESPAN OF A HUMAN TO THE AGE OF A DIAMOND.
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Format: Paperback
Diamonds are an illusion. Tom Zoellner proves this in his engaging account about the diamond trade. The book's chapters are divided by geographical location. This format helps make each chapter stand on its own, like a series of essays. But, Zoellner ties the narrative together by talking about his engagement and break up with Anne, his former fiancee. It is through describing the joy that Zoellner and his erstwhile fiancee experienced when the diamond was first given that he frames the insanity and obsession that diamonds can elicit. In the chapters exploring the seedier side of the business, the stories shift to the when relationship begins experiencing turbulence and its ultimate breakup. Zoellner finally conducts his own post mortem on it in the chapters talking about the rise of synthetic diamonds, a perceived challenger to the DeBeers hegemony. These personal anecdotes give the already interesting narrative a glue that really ties everything together.

The main character of this book is the DeBeers cartel. Like the Smoke Monster in Lost, DeBeers permeates every facet of the business, exerting a grip that is total and astonishing in its casual brutality. DeBeers dispatches agents wherever diamonds are found. The beginning of the book shows how certain countries have buckled, the middle shows how other countries are cautiously trying to branch out from DeBeers' control, and the last few chapters profile the mavericks who are attempting to spectacularly break free and bring some transparency to the industry. That DeBeers has been able to operate a worldwide monopoly and pumped up the value of a gem that is not all that rare through the creation of artificial scarcity and bully tactics is breathtaking to behold.
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