three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
24-Sept-Oct-2006
By: 
Tom Zoellner
user_rating: 
0

A Journey Through the World of Diamonds, Deceit, and Desire

A-HeartlessStoneThe Heartless Stone was born of thwarted ambition—in this case, Zoellner’s attempt to get married. When his fiancée returned her diamond ring (and rescinded her marriage promise), the journalist endeavored to find out more about the precious stone, hopping continents in pursuit of his story. What he discovered was disheartening: a monopoly created and sustained by a brilliant marketing scheme; violent war economies; the indifference of laborers who sell stones for hundreds of dollars; and technology able to mimic diamonds so well that it reduces prices to just dimes a carat. Zoellner concludes that "the belief in a diamond’s power is its power."
St. Martins Press. 304 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0312339690

St. Petersburg Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Even as flawless cultivated diamonds are manufactured in the lab, the many-faceted legend of diamonds still dazzles. … With a sharp narrative style and wealth of detail, The Heartless Stone cuts through the sparkle and marketing to show us that a rock is what you make of it." Philip Herter

Oregonian 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Zoellner … interlaces lively reporting with a narrative of the ring returned by his ex- fiancée. Ultimately his Heartless Stone is a search for meaning that finds none, save a mythology of the diamond placed upon it by those with the most to gain." J. David Santen Jr.

Rocky Mountain News 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The more you learn about diamond mining, its connection to violence, and the clever marketing that sparks massive diamond sales, the more likely you’ll feel guilty about having been duped into buying those shiny yet essentially worthless rocks." Verna Noel Jones

Salt Lake Tribune 3.5 of 5 Stars
According to his book, diamonds fund civil wars in Africa, get polished by underaged boys in India and are sold in American stores at grossly inflated prices. … In one of the book’s most disturbing chapters, Zoellner visits the perilous mines of Angola, where gun-toting thugs slice open the stomachs of impoverished laborers to search for swallowed diamonds." Brandon Griggs

Wall Street Journal 3 of 5 Stars
"Though a fine storyteller, Mr. Zoellner is no geologist. … Still, he makes a good run at explaining the arcane world of diamond makeovers." Russell Seitz

Critical Summary

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 to the British Isles in pursuit of the gem whose exclusivity is based only on the tight control of a few greedy individuals. That little blue Tiffany box might never look the same.