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Diamond [Paperback]

Matthew Hart
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 28 2007
For centuries, diamonds have symbolized wealth, prestige and love; however, behind those symbols lies a world of deceit, monopoly and war.

Hart follows the diamond trail around the globe, from the basement room where Gabi Tolkowsky, the world's greatest diamond cutter, faced the 599-carat Centenary diamond, to the fogbound smugglers' paradise of Africa's Diamond Coast. He records the heroic struggle of the 24-year old woman who discovered a multibillion dollar diamond mine on the Arctic Circle and describes the company that feared her most, masterminds of the great and shadowy diamond cartel.

Combining history, science, business, and adventure, Diamond captures the essence of this priceless gem and the world that surrounds it.

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"Diamonds are forever," goes the familiar refrain, and we take the truth of that statement for granted just as we take for granted the inherent value of the much sought-after object. That phrase, though, was actually coined in the 1950s by a copywriter named Frances Gerety working on an ad campaign for the biggest diamond company in the world. That's just one nugget of information contained in Diamond, Matthew Hart's exploration of diamonds and the industry that has grown up around them. The Toronto-based journalist journeys from the wilds of South American to the barren Arctic landscape of Canada, the jungles of South Africa, and the back streets of India. Stops along the way include geologists' digs, a jeweller's cutting room, dealers' backrooms, and the boardrooms of industry titan De Beers. Some of Diamond, like a chapter in which a group of small-scale miners unearth "a large pink" on the Rio Abaete in Brazil, reads like first-rate airport fiction. Or a passage in which a diamond-cutter goes to work on a 599-carat "top-white" discovered in South Africa: "Gabi Tolkowsky studied the Centenary diamond for a year, discovering the magnitude of the challenge. As he scrutinized the larger cracks with a microscope, he saw, at the deepest point of penetration, networks of much tinier cracks and... a bubble. It was these infinitesimal bubbles that frightened Tolkowsky most." By the time the cutter has finished his examination, made models, and decided on the shape the diamond should be, three years have gone by.

Not all of Diamond glitters--those whose eyes glaze over in the presence of too many numbers and dollar signs may find the backroom shenanigans a challenge, and one dig in particular in the Canadian wilderness seems to go on, well, forever. But the nuts and bolts of locating the mines, the actual cutting and shaping, the ultimate fate of the larger ones, methods of theft, and the creation of a demand for an essentially useless item ("Within three years of Gerety's late-night inspiration, 80 percent of American marriages were starting with a diamond ring") make Diamond a fascinating read for anyone with more than a passing curiosity about these bits of carbon that have become synonymous with both love and money. --Shawn Conner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Any book that details the diamond trade must contend with the brilliance of Stefan Kanfer's 1993 gem, The Last Empire. And Hart's book picks up roughly where Empire left off. When Hart (editor of the New York trade magazine Rapaport Diamond Report) traces the diamond frenzy that struck Canada in the 1990s, his writing is as polished and fiery as when Kanfer re-created the machinations of Cecil Rhodes and Barney Barnato, the Romulus and Remus of the South African diamond cartel. But when the two mine the same territory, Hart's book looks like indicator minerals in comparison: Hart is less successful when he depicts De Beers's origins, the creation of the company's monopoly, and Ernest Oppenheimer, who turned De Beers into a profitable company. Hart, however, has a good eye for intriguing figures in the industry, including a part-wolf sled dog named Thor who was suspected of espionage. In the end, the author expertly takes readers into theft-riven African mines, the back rooms of Brazilian dealers, the polishing rooms in both midtown Manhattan and India's slums, and the sorting rooms in London.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Story of a cold blooded love affair June 6 2004
By Megami
This is a good general account of the modern day diamond business, with the right mix of technical detail and story telling. The reader learns about how diamonds are formed, found and exploited, as well as the romance and large personalities behind the trade. As with most accounts of the gem-trade, the story inevitably revolves around the Goliath of the industry - the de Beers cartel, but Hart goes a long way to explaining how they rose to eminence and how they manage to exert so much control, even if this control is now waning. He also includes interesting details on the differing stages of diamond sales, from the selling of 'rough' to the marketing of the finished article that most of us associate with diamonds.
Hart is to be commended for including a section on conflict diamonds, and how the trade in these is effecting the lives of thousands for the worse. He is cynical about how much the industry will do to stop the trade of these tainted gems, but the reader gets the feeling that his cynicism is not misplaced - much of his story is taken up with the greed and backstabbing involved in the search for and trading of this precious commodity. This definitely is a cold blooded love affair. But Hart manages to tell it as it is, leaving the reader to decide if diamonds really are worth the trouble and money that they currently command.
There are few complaints about this book, only minor quibbles. One is very partisan - I would have liked to have read more about the Argyle diamonds of Australia, and how they have been attempting to make brown diamonds (champagne and cognacs to be more romantic) fashionable. I also would have expected more on the trading houses of Antwerp and Tel Aviv, but Hart was obviously more concerned with the swashbuckling nature of exploration. But as stated, these are minor quibbles - this is still a fascinating read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Something shiny in the rough... May 17 2003
There is a type of stone which, when polished, refracts more light than other stones. All the world wonders about it.
This is an interesting overview of diamond history and business. It details the history of humankind's fascination with one of the rarest of gems-the carbon tetrahedron. From the jungles of South America, to Canada's arctic north, to the Siberian tundra, to South and Central Africa, to the west coast of Africa, the Australian outback and elsewhere humans have searched for the mother lode-the diamond kimberlite/lamproite pipe-one of the rarest of geological formations, but also one of the richest of treasures-many billions of dollars worth in the richest pipes. And of course, where there is money, there is every breed of deceit, vulgarity and excess. In Africa, (and elsewhere), many have died from civil wars or have been murdered from the lust which seems to spring from this crystal refraction.
The major players are outlined-eg DeBeers, BHP, and a long list of wily rogues and speculators who make and break their fortune on the flippancy of billion year old crustal pressure distribution. The process of diamond formation is described- from the formation of kimberlitic/lamproitic magma deep within the earth, to their eruptive surface craters, which are, incidentally, quite rare in geological time.
Diamond indicators -purple 'G10' garnets, and green diopsides-indicate to geologists where diamonds may be found. Kids played with shiny bright stones, and diamonds could be picked out of the walls of brick farmhouses in 19th century South Africa, before the fantastically rich Kimberly and Premier pipes were found. Mine managers laughed when thousand-carat gems landed on their table, and threw them out the window in disbelief.
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This book was a real eye-opener for me. I had no idea of just how much treachery, deceit, betrayal, and bloodshed can be laid at the feet of many in the diamond industry over the years. Author Matthew Hart regales many such tales in this very well written and well researched book. We learn about switching, a common sort of theft, in which diamond sorters seek to replace a higher-value stone with a lower value which he or she has brought to work, done to take advantage of a universal practice, the control of diamond inventories often primarily by weight. More common though is outright theft, which takes place anywhere from the diamonds mines to the massive diamond sorting and sale houses in London, Antwerp, and Tel Aviv. The tales of diamonds that have been smuggled out of mines are particularly interested, which have been moved out in gas tanks, have been tapped into ears, even taken away by homing pigeons and hollow arrows fired over the fences that encircle the mines. It is a common belief in the diamond industry that if a person can touch a diamond he or she will try their best to steal it; Hart chronicles the often extraordinary lengths to which the industry seeks to keep them away from human hands.
Unsavory actions often occur with diamonds even before they are found. Hart tells of prospectors who switch allegiances, finding potential diamond pipes in a particular region for one company, than going private or working for someone else when a mine is discovered (or in some cases being sold out by their employer once their use had ended).
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A good book that makes you want to know more
After reading "Diamond", I wanted to know more. More about what the diamond trade has done for (and to) the people of Africa, about what the search for diamonds has done... Read more
Published on March 31 2004 by Thomas Bonar
3.0 out of 5 stars loosely strung theme
First, this book can be read in two sittings. With that in my mind, most of its flaws can be forgiven. Read more
Published on Jan. 26 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars And overall great read
Hart left out Israel. This is my only complaint with "History..." Other than that omission, the book is satisfyingly complete, covering all major contributors to the... Read more
Published on Aug. 20 2003
2.0 out of 5 stars I'm disappointed by this book
I'm disappointed by this book. I expected a history of power, influence, and science relating to diamonds, or perhaps an expose on a ruthless and unethical industry. Read more
Published on Aug. 17 2003 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Story of Power and Greed!
This book is an excellent historical and geological overview of the mystique surrounding diamonds and the lengths people will go to obtain them. Read more
Published on July 19 2003 by D. Buxman
5.0 out of 5 stars Cold-Blooded Ice
This book is fascinating and beautifully written, a great example of the new style of investigative journalism in which the observer leaves his own peculiar tracks, thereby dumping... Read more
Published on March 26 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars It Is All Perception
At one point in the book there is a brief description of the opening remarks at an international gathering of diamond merchants. Read more
Published on Sept. 16 2002 by taking a rest
5.0 out of 5 stars Diamonds from Top to Bottom
At a conference on diamonds in 1997, a speaker expressed his confidence in the diamond market. It was founded on two supports, he said: vanity and greed, and humans could be... Read more
Published on May 16 2002 by R. Hardy
4.0 out of 5 stars Everything you wanted to know about Diamonds but....
After hearing a bit about the cable-based feature exposing the incredible monopolistic hold De Beers has on the diamond industry and the associated corruption, crime and cruelty... Read more
Published on May 5 2002 by R. Shaff
4.0 out of 5 stars A tale of carats, cartels, and "Conflict Diamonds"
There are various different levels of appeal with this book. Persons interested in the hard surface of the science in this business will enjoy reading about mineralogy, how to... Read more
Published on March 17 2002 by Amazon Customer
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