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Precious Objects: A Story of Diamonds, Family, and a Way of Life

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3.28 of 5 stars 3.28  ·  rating details  ·  165 ratings  ·  39 reviews
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 i ...more
Playaway, with earbuds
Published November 15th 2011 by Dreamscape Media (first published July 19th 2011)
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Liz
The writing was good, but I found the narrative kind of random and not very interesting. I'm not sure what I was expecting--some kind of intrigue or drama, I guess. But the book is more about the business history of diamond companies and traders, some diamond chemistry, odd uses for the stones (diamonds as a keepsake of the deceased?). The author discusses repeatedly how she knew from a young age that she wouldn't follow her father into his line of business, and seems to keep hoping that readers ...more
Vivian
Interesting tid-bits, but an oddly organized book. It was never a 'story', just bits an pieces of autobiography and diamond information.
Mary Ronan Drew
When I used to go to NY City often I would sometimes cross from 5th to 6th Avenues on 47th Street. In the late 1960s and early 70s that block was crowded with Hasidim, heads together, mumbling, passing manila envelopes to one another, shaking hands, and saying, “Mazel.” I had stumbled onto the NY City Diamond district.

Alicia Oltuski’s grandfather bought and sold his first diamonds immediately after the end of World War II when he was AWOL from the Russian army and hiding out in the American sec
...more
Steve
Disclosure: I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads. Thanks to the publishers for the opportunity to read this book for an unbiased review.

Who isn't interested in diamonds? Who isn't interested by stories of ordinary men walking on the street, flying in coach, meeting with strangers, with millions of dollars worth of gems strapped to their bodies or carried in nondescript bags?

In the Literary Journalism style of Tracy Kidder and John McPhee, Alicia Oltuski combines personal p
...more
L_manning
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 t ...more
Karen
In the summer of '85 I worked at Michael C. Fina, which was then on 47th St and Fifth Ave. (Handwritten receipts and pneumatic tubes to propel orders to the cashier!!!) Book's tone shifts between reporting and memoir, which is a bit awkward, but it was interesting to read about the human stories behind the storefronts I passed.
Lee


Mistakenly I ended up with this audio book and I decided to see what it was about. Read by the author, I learned much about the diamond industry. Apparently 90% of all diamonds in America pass through the diamond district known as 47th Street. Ms Oltuski writes of her family's history, from Siberia, through Germany and then settling in America and as far back as she can remember their involvement in diamonds. Have to admit I really enjoyed listening to Ms. Oltuski, although some repetition tend
...more
Gabrielle
I give it a 3.5. I enjoyed it, learned a lot about the diamond culture in NYC, but I read it as vignettes which made up for the lack of flow between chapters
Janeal
Interesting. I listened to it on a long car drive. Something I never would have picked up but I learned about something I knew nothing about.
Allison
This book was a really interesting look at the diamond trade in the United States. I was hoping for more of a personal bent to the stories, and while she certainly included some, the book was more journalistic than I originally expected. Her explanations of the diamond trade were easy to follow and interesting, though, so I can't really complain.

The only thing I was truly disappointed in was the way she treated the issue of conflict diamonds. Maybe it's to be expected from someone whose family m
...more
Amy
A behind-the-scenes look at the diamond industry. The author’s family connections give the book a certain warmth. For example: “My grandfather’s history came to me through his stories, which, like the Torah, involved walking long distances.” And diamonds are, for sure, fascinating. “Life is that indefinable quality of a diamond, after all its tangible qualities have been tallied up. It is the measurement of its temperament, and those who work in diamonds know that they have temperaments.”

Overall
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Hava
I downloaded this from Overdrive and listened to it on my Nook as I did chores around the house. At first, I had a hard time with it - I didn't particularly care about the author's personal family history, and that's where she started off. She kept going back and forth between her family's dealings in the diamond world, and the diamond world as a whole - its beginnings, the major players in the industry (hint: they're not related to the author), and some of the negative aspects of the industry, ...more
Florence
I have always been curious about the diamond trade in New York conducted by mostly orthodox and Hasidic Jews. Much of the trade is carried out by mutual understanding of tradition rather than by binding legal contract. Valuable diamonds are transported around the district and loaned out to potential buyers almost casually. And sometimes the tiny stones can be lost in a carpet or a crack in the floor. The stress level must be unbearably high.

Ms. Oltuski also delves into the history of the diamo
...more
Betty
Alicia Oltuski grew up in one of the diamond dealer families in the Diamond District in NYC. In her delightful book, she tells a bit about the history of diamonds, how diamonds are cut, how the price is determined, etc. She explains the issue of the "blood diamonds", or "conflict diamonds". She also goes into how diamonds are being "grown" in laboratories. Something that really surprised me was the trend now for diamonds "made from your loved one". Using some of the carbon from the deceased a di ...more
Nikki P
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was a great inside look into such a hidden community and simultaneously one of NYC's well known districts. Since my interests are more culture than the science and politics of diamonds it got a little dense into detail for me but the author always balanced a 'diamond fact' chapter with a human story chapter so I never skimmed.
Would definitely recommend this book to jewelry aficionados (I learned SO much!!) and any fans of NYC or anthropology & culture.
Appreci
...more
Rose
I think that my issue with this book was that the title to me is a misnomer when it says "a story" I thought it meant that there would be more of a narrative thread. Instead, it contains some interesting facts and history about the diamond trade, especially as it relates to Judaism and the diamond district, but not much in the way of a plot. It does contain a few interesting anecdotes but for me the book dragged and I felt like for what it was it should have been shorter. That said, I did feel l ...more
Tracy
Non fiction account of working in her family diamond shop in NYC. I actually only read a few chapters. She starts off with an anecdote about traveling with thousands of dollars worth of diamonds on the streets of NYC and then backtracks to the history of the diamond industry in Africa, which is where I got kind of bored and stopped reading.

I think this book would appeal to some people (Cathe B) who have an interest in learning while they read, but I was looking for a more entertaining, narrative
...more
Jennifer
3.5 stars. It is a long story how I ended up reading this, but it was enjoyable. I liked Alicia Oltuski's writing style and was drawn to the parts about her family history and the history of the diamond trade. But I'm not big into jewelry and got a little lost in the details about diamonds. I also had to skim through some of the final chapters since the book was due at the library. Certainly I had heard of the diamond district, but previously knew nothing about it. Good to learn a few new things ...more
Donna
I won this in a Goodreads giveaway. For anyone interested in the history of diamond sales, the mining involved, the diamond district in New York, and some inside information on various jobs in the industry, this book is for you. The author writes with the family knowledge of her subject, and gives this field the respect it deserves. She includes the dangerous side of the business as well. I know a whole lot more about the origins of the sparkling stone many of us cherish.
Phil
So, maybe should be 3 1/2 stars. A nice inside look at New York's diamond business, and to some degree the world's diamond business. The author's father and grandfather were "in the trade," so it's more personal than just a random investigative look at the business. Worth reading - short and to the point.

Recommended by a fellow traveler in the Galapagos Islands - never know where you'll find a "good read."
Jeanne
Have you ever wondered about the journey of a diamond from the mines to jewelry stores? I've read books about the "blood diamonds" so I knew something of that part, but I never really knew (or thought much about) the diamond merchants and their families. This is the story of Alicia Oltuski, a woman in the family of the very secretive diamond merchants. Makes you look at your diamonds in a whole new sparkle.
Megan
The book was definitely more than meets the eye. It combines the history of the diamond business, the history of the diamonds themselves, and family history into one elegant novel. I felt as if I myself was walking through the diamond district in NYC and encountering all of the people that appeared in the book. Wonderful read and one that I will definitely be suggesting to others.
Joan
Let me preface by review by saying that I am not interested in jewelry. I usually keep on walking past jewelry stores and don't wear a lot of jewelry.

I learned so much about the diamond industry. Sometimes the detail became a bit much for me. That said, this book would be a great primer for someone interested in jewelry or thinking about getting into the jewelry business.
Gail
Oh boy, I stopped reading the book at page seven. That's pretty bad. What stopped me in my tracks was the excessive use of similes. In one paragraph, alone, there were three right after one another. They are not necessary if the writer is sure of himself/herself and only add endless filler.
So, I didn't get to learn about the author's life growing up surrounded by diamonds.
Linda Books
Entertaining, but disjointed and somewhat dyspeptic, view of the New York City (and global) diamond industry from the vantage point of one of its daughters (not Hassidic or even Orthodox). However, it well depicts the blood diamond controversy and its good and bad guys, as best I could ascertain. The writing is not fabulous, but it moves quickly.
Jessica
Even if you have no interest in diamonds or the diamond district, this book is captivating and gets better and better as you read. Oltuski is an exquisite writer, and she deftly blends her insider's knowledge of the business with an outsider's fascination of the diamond business's mysteries.
Allyson
This was a pretty good read. Oltuski is adept at bringing the characters who inhabit the world she writes about to life. The book raised many questions for me; I am looking forward to posing them when she comes to speak at our local book festival in a few weeks! :)
Kristen
I learned so much from this book! It is part memoir - part biography (of diamonds). It reads as a narrative and flows quickly enough to keep a reader-of-fiction like me interested all the way to the end. I felt like I really know Oltuski's family well, too.
Dara
Interesting background on the insular culture of the diamond trade, but with little insight or depth. The lack of a real narrative is also problematic. The writing is sometimes quite clean and readable, but other times a little overwrought and 'workshopy'.
Barbara
I picked up this book because the cover looked interesting and entered into a world I knew nothing about. Alicia Oltuski really gave me a sense of being part of a very unique world.
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