Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Precious Objects: A Story of Diamonds, Family, and a Way of Life” as Want to Read:
Precious Objects: A Story of Diamonds, Family, and a Way of Life
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

3.33  ·  Rating Details ·  213 Ratings  ·  47 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)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Precious Objects, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Precious Objects

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 490)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Petra X
Briefly. All-inclusive, from cutting diamonds is the only work we are allowed to do (historically), through diamonds are forever (but you need to be an expert to actually tell the difference between a cubic zirconia and a diamond) to the completely obscured beauty of blood diamonds from Angola, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Congo and ZImbabwe (it seems every country with diamonds is busy exchanging them for weapons wherever).

I can't write a proper review of this book. It is about a very n
Mary Ronan Drew
Aug 01, 2011 Mary Ronan Drew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 07, 2011 Liz rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Interesting tid-bits, but an oddly organized book. It was never a 'story', just bits an pieces of autobiography and diamond information.
Aug 16, 2012 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
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
Jul 19, 2011 L_manning rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jun 17, 2015 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've walked through the Diamond District of 47th Street in New York City to view the glitter and gems in the windows and showcases, many, many times so I found Alicia Oltuski's book about her family's business so very interesting. This book certainly deals with more than the three "C's" of diamonds: cut, color, and clarity. Over the years, I've been "educated" about diamonds and gems from my favorite jewelers in Monsey, NY--Jewelry by Esther, but "Precious Objects" really expanded upon my knowle ...more
May 10, 2015 Mindy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book primarily because I took a class with Alicia Oltuski at Politics and Prose bookstore....she is a wonderful teacher, and I will be taking another short story class with her this summer!

The book was a very erudite, interesting, and detailed study of the diamond industry (and her family's connection with it), and the only reason I didn't give it a higher rating was because I'm just not that interested in diamonds (although I've been married almost 40 years, I don't have a diamond r
Nov 19, 2011 Karen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
I literally plucked this audiobook off the library shelf with no prior knowledge or preconceptions. What an unexpected gem (pun only sort of intended)!! The author’s family has been involved in the diamond trade for at least two generations and this work, while centered around the “Diamond District” of 47th Street in New York, covers a HUGE amount of territory. The narrative reads like a really fascinating conversation and covers the role of diamond and gems in Jewish history (gems are a very po ...more
Apr 14, 2014 Lee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

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
Nov 02, 2011 Gabrielle rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookclub
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
Oct 20, 2012 Janeal rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 18, 2012 Allison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 28, 2011 Amy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.”

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
Apr 24, 2015 Justin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mazal! I thought, especially going along with my current reading of overall Jewish history, this book was very entertaining and was a great overview of not only the diamond district in New York City, but of the entertwining of that district and the sale of diamonds worldwide with the Jewish culture. A very entertaining and interesting read.
John Stieven
Apr 13, 2016 John Stieven rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
if you are at all interested in precious gems, diamonds in particular, then this rather whimsical book it for you. Enough history and personal history to make it quite interesting -- I do recommend ti.
Aug 07, 2015 Betty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tbi-book-club, jewish
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
Arlene Shulman/Lichtman
Since I'm familiar with the diamond exchange in NYC, I found the book fascinating. The author goes behind the scene and tells you the insistory of the diamond trade. It's filled with historic facts and interesting real life characters. Any person who has shopped for a diamond ring or has any jewelry with diamonds would really enjoy this book.
Nikki P
Jul 15, 2014 Nikki P rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 08, 2014 Rose rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
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
Dec 28, 2011 Tracy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Includes great information about both the history of diamond mining and the international diamond industry, especially how it impacts the author's family.

The writing is a little "all over the place," and she makes sure we know that her father knows she wasn't destined for working in the industry by telling us a number of times.
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
Jul 29, 2012 Donna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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."
Nov 28, 2012 Jeanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 04, 2012 Megan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 16 17 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Damn Yankees: Twenty-Four Major League Writers on the World's Most Loved (and Hated) Team
  • Masada: Herod's Fortress and the Zealots' Last Stand
  • The Hanging
  • Coppermine
  • In Hanuman's Hands: A Memoir
  • The Zenith
  • Brave Dragons: A Chinese Basketball Team, an American Coach, and Two Cultures Clashing
  • The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro
  • Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture
  • Shaggy Muses: The Dogs Who Inspired Emily Brontë, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Emily Dickinson, Edith Wharton, and Virginia Woolf
  • Dark Mirror: The Medieval Origins of Anti-Jewish Iconography
  • Soil and Sacrament: Four Seasons Among the Keepers of the Earth
  • Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza
  • Gabriele D'Annunzio: Poet, Seducer, and Preacher of War
  • Yarn: Remembering the Way Home
  • The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter
  • Circling My Mother: A Memoir
  • Everything I Ever Needed to Know about Economics I Learned from Online Dating

Share This Book