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The Heartless Stone: A Journey Through the World of Diamonds, Deceit, and Desire

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  415 Ratings  ·  65 Reviews
In 2000, Tom Zoellner purchased a diamond engagement ring and proposed. His girlfriend said, "yes" and then, suddenly, walked out of his life making Tom the owner of a used engagement ring. Instead of hitting the self-help shelves of his local bookstore, he hit the road travelling to diamond mines in Africa, Canada, India, Brazil and Russia to discover the true worth of th ...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published April 1st 2007 by St. Martin's Press (first published May 30th 2006)
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Feb 02, 2015 Barb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I lounged in a stuffed armchair, transfixed by Daphne Du Maurier’s novel, Jamaica Inn, when I was startled to attention by a sparkly stone hurtled from the staircase. It skimmed over my head, landed on the living room hearth, and skittered into the cold brick, fireplace.
My parents never divorced but they had some epic battles. Dad swore like the sailor he once was and Mom threw things. Today’s battle was memorable because my mother had recently switched from breakable objects, like my sister’s
Nov 17, 2012 Ms.pegasus rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ms.pegasus by: reading of his book, A Safeway in Arizona
Shelves: nonfiction, history
Zoellner's journey is historical as well as geographical. He guides us through the career of the ruthless imperialist, Cecil Rhodes, who planted the seeds of apartheid in South Africa, the rise of the DeBeers cartel, the Portuguese rape and abandonment of Angola, the game changing discovery of the Argyle mine at Barramundi Gap in northwestern Australia, the shift of the diamond polishing industry from Amsterdam and Antwerp to Surat in northern India, and the technology developed in Russia to pro ...more
Jun Wen
Aug 28, 2012 Jun Wen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading one of Tom Zoellner's books often feels like travelling - travelling around the world, and also back and forth in time.

The Heartless Stone is no exception. In this engaging book, prepare to discover how much you didn't know about diamonds and just how amazingly much of what we think we know is actually myth or simply assumptions that were created for us.

The countless interviews with people span the globe, and take in every perspective that you can glean without actually hopping on a pla
Feb 25, 2008 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was completely mesmerizing. It goes from country to country and examines the corruption of the diamond trade. There's a chapter for each country. The author tells stories, so the book feels like a series of short stories more than a non-fiction book. The author, a Utah native, also includes some of his personal history with diamonds and a failed engagement. At the time I began reading this, I was doing research for a screenplay. The screenplay changed directions, but the book remained ...more
Jan 16, 2009 Ginger rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very fascinating and thought-provoking look at our love affair with diamonds. I promise that you will never look at a diamond in the same way again! Each chapter is centered on a different country and issue involved in the diamond trade; each chapter stands alone. The first chapter along with chapters about Japan (marketing, cultural practices of engagement, WWII), South Africa (DeBeers, Cecil Rhodes), India (polishing and setting, child labor), and Russia ("cultured" diamonds) are absolutely fa ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

The dirty secret of diamonds has been out for some time, and with good reason. It's got all the requisite ingredients of intriguing journalism: greed, sex, gaping economic disparities, and glamour. It's too bad it took a failed engagement to prompt this book, but Zoellner has risen from the romantic ashes with Heartless Stone. As The Wall Street Journal points out, he's no geologist, but he is a careful reporter. He doesn't miss a stop on the diamond road, hopping from Africa to South America t

Sep 19, 2008 Penny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Note: this book was published before the movie "Blood Diamond" made its appearance) Wow. This is an excellent exploration of the world of diamonds. History, lore, mining, advertising, cartels, new discoveries that threaten De Beers... from South Africa to Brazil, India, Japan, Siberia and the Great White North of Canada, the author covers the globe in an compelling and interesting fashion.
Apr 09, 2008 Naisargishukla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This book brings all aspects of the diamond industry to light from clean Canadian diamonds, mining in South America to the polishing in India. A bit dry but the subject itself is eye-opening. The diamond cartels have undertaken a brilliant marketing campaign to dupe consumers into linking diamonds and love. A must read!
Sep 04, 2008 Andy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I work in the diamond and jewelry industry and didn't know many things in this book. Especially the diamond histories of various countries from Russia and Canada to Angola and the Central African Republic. Things are not as good as the Kimberly Process makes it seem.
Oct 14, 2007 Ellen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anyone who to read and also loves diamonds and gems MUST read this. It will make you feel horribly guilty but you should at least know what you are buying into...
Jan 22, 2014 Anthony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested about the modern history of diamonds and the countries involved
Recommended to Anthony by: library
The author's journey to understand the precious stone that stirs so much emotion within humanity takes him from a broken relationship in the United States to dusty allies in Central African Republic, Botswana, and South Africa, frigid conditions in Canada/Russia, humid streets of India, to the desolate Outback of Australia, ultra modern streets of Japan, to the diamond districts of Antwerp, Israel, and NYC.

I learned so much about the history of the diamond industry, how DeBeers became a cartel,
Muneer Uddin
May 04, 2013 Muneer Uddin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jan 19, 2011 Erica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mining, geology, diamonds
A good solid 4.5 star book. I really like Zoellner's writing and style. This book aims more at the heart of people involved in the diamond trade - the smugglers, the third-world diggers, the warlords, the cutters/polishers, the distributors, and the engaged couples... A really interesting look at how propaganda has enticed entire populations to turn to diamonds as a matter of due course. And even though I never wanted a diamond, and never bought into the propaganda about them...this book did hav ...more
Fascinating. Country by country from their being dug, smuggled, advertised, brokered, and adored this book tells a very interesting history about that diamond (or diamonds, as the case may be) on your left finger. It does discuss very sad facts about diamond mining and polishing and yet, (and maybe I'm callous) I don't feel that bad about having one myself and it doesn't change my feelings about still wanting to own more for purely sentimental reasons as the seasons of my life change. The brilli ...more
What is with this whole "reading two non-fiction books in a row" thing I've got going on?! Anyway, the subject of this book--the international diamond trade--is so fascinating that it's almost impossible to write a BAD book about it. The author travels all over the world and describes the impact of the diamond industry on every continent except Antarctica--lots of information I didn't know, particularly about mining operations in South America and Canada. One flaw: Zoellner was apparently inspir ...more
Amanda Gibson
Tom had purchased a diamond engagement ring for his girlfriend. When he proposed to her she said yes but then suddenly walked out of his life leaving him with the ring. Instead of returning the ring Tom traveled the world seeking out answers toward why a diamond is so precious to people. He winds up discovering just how much deceit really is associated with diamonds. This is a good book to read for business students because it shows a good example of how some products are purchased and traded th ...more
Cathy Wrotny
An interesting overview on the world of diamonds. Each chapter is different with some dealing with geographic areas and the history of them - who would have thought the US has a diamond vein! Also, the history of DeBeers was fascinating on how they manipulated the diamond market. One chapter dealt with chocolate diamonds - which I am now seeing advertised heavily. One area that I did not enjoy was the author's bringing up his broken engagement several times - he still seems to be carrying the to ...more
Sep 18, 2013 Caroline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This was a surprisingly interesting book. I started it thinking I would find a "short" summary of the diamond industry, maybe with a few anecdotes thrown in. What I got was the exact opposite. Zoellner managed to make an enormous, billion-dollar, global industry personal. He never focused on companies; he focused on the people within the companies, and he tied it all together with his own story. The only negative thing I have to say was that it was biased, but the title gave that away from the s ...more
May 01, 2008 Cory rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2007
Tom does a great job in weaving his personal story into the history and current practice of the diamond industry.

It could have been a bit more pointed regarding the manipulation of the market, and how people have been duped into:
1. thinking diamonds are rare (false)
2. believing that 2.5 - 3.5 month's salary is what a man should pay for his fiancee's ring (nice way to enforce a sliding scale price)
3. not questioning why a diamond ring is even purchased (brilliant marketing campaign, pun intended
Sharon Anne Beers
Nonfiction. After his engagement ring was rejected, the Kansan author embarks on a journey of discovery of the history, mining, and marketing of diamonds. He covers the globe researching the treasured, romanticized gem and finds that it begins with misery, intrigue and greed. He explains the smuggling involved as well as the diamond cartels that fix the price. Very interesting - you won't quite view a diamond in the same way after reading this.
I'm going to be fair to the author and not rate this book so as not to bring his rating up or down. I picked up this book in my quest to read as much as my library has about the Congo. Therefore I really only read the chapter that related directly to the DRC. Interesting to read as much as I did on how diamonds are produced, exported, and sold, though not a book I would ever pick up and read typically.
Very interesting and long, about the diamond industry, different chapters loosely based on the different nations impacted. A little too much about how his fiancée left him. Reiterated part of that twenty-year-old article I read in December about how the diamond industry manufactured a demand for their stupid product. Talked about the impact that mining has had in Africa, and the potential for mining in Canada or lab-creating diamonds. Pretty up-to-date, too. A fairly captivating read.
Aug 08, 2010 Jeanne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book about the history of the diamond industry. Written in a very readable/interesting style. DeBeers has controlled the industry for over a hundred years and has artificially kept prices high by warehousing diamonds to keep them scarce. deBeers created a "mystique" and appeal around diamonds and a need for something artificial and unnecessary.
Apr 26, 2015 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
I knew a bit about the diamond trade going into this, but certainly learned a great deal. Zoellner covers a wide variety of countries and aspects of the trade, exploring the truths behind the myths created around this stone which is nowhere near as rare as the industry wants you to think it is. Excellent writing about and interesting topic.
Sep 22, 2007 Molly rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Sorry sis - I couldn't get through this book. The writing is really dry - the author is constantly referring to his failed engagement and the diamond he still has (which didn't fit into the story and was a little annoying) - and the book is all over the place (jumping from Africa to the United States to Japan to Brazil). I stopped at Brazil - 100 pages into the book.
May 18, 2009 Lauren rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stopped-reading
This book jumped around too much for my taste. I only read the first bit (the Kindle sample). I'm switching to "The Last Empire: Diamonds, DeBeers, and the World" by Stefan Kanfer. I read this book about 6 years ago, and I remember it as a well-written non-fiction piece. Big focus on South Africa.
Sep 01, 2008 Jenny rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I must admit I skipped most of the traipsing through the diabolical diamond mines described in the book. What was fascinating, however, was the detailed discussion of the DeBeers cartel and their influence on price fixing and market infiltration - one of the greatest marketing coups of the modern world! The section on Japan alone made this a worthwhile read.
Nov 23, 2010 Richard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great insight into the closed world of the diamond industry controlled by the DeBeers cartel. It reads like a thriller with an overlay of history of the diamond mining industry and the cultural implications of the diamond ring in America versus other parts of the world where it is nothing more than an object of commerce.
Feb 21, 2007 Michelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book begins with the author looking for meaning in a returned engagement ring, driving him to trace the mostly rotten diamond industry from dust to dust -- mining to marketing and Angola to the Canadian subarctic. Like many of my favorite nonfiction books, it's personal and political at the same time. A powerful, well-written account on an important subject.
Aug 21, 2011 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
A fascinating and thorough look at the diamond industry and its far-reaching effects on society. The author's personal story gets a little worn out and sappy, but overall a very interesting and worthwhile read.
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Tom Zoellner is the author of popular nonfiction books which take multidimensional views of their subject and show the descent of an influential object through history. His work has been called "genre-defying" and has been widely reviewed and translated. He is an Associate Professor of English at Chapman University.
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“...Her boyfriend gives her a Mercedes, [her friends] say, 'Oh, that's nice.' But her boyfriend gives her a diamond, they say, 'Oh, he's serious.' It's not just the gift of love-it's the gift of commitment. She's not jumping up and down because she got a diamond ring but because she got a guy! There are those who say you don't need diamonds. I say they're right. Just like you don't need sex.” 4 likes
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