Summary and book reviews of The Heartless Stone by Tom Zoellner

The Heartless Stone

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

by Tom Zoellner

The Heartless Stone
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  • First Published:
    May 2006, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2007, 304 pages

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Book Summary

A journey across six continents to uncover the secrets behind one of our most luxurious and costly status symbols. Diamonds are not particularly rare in nature. Nor do they have any intrinsic value. So how did they become the birdcages for our deepest feelings of romantic love and commitment? The answers will surprise you, as this book takes a probing journey around the globe and into the human heart.

The first book to offer a panoramic and unflinching look at the modern diamond industry, The Heartless Stone is a journey across six continents to uncover the secrets behind one of our most luxurious and costly status symbols.

The book takes you inside illegal mines in Brazil, diamond smuggling rings in Africa, exploration rigs above the Arctic Circle, the sweltering polishing shops of India. You will meet De Beers executives in London, high-tech tunnel drillers in Australia, advertising gurus in Japan, starving soldiers in Angola, chemists in Siberia, dealers in Belgium. They are all part of a vast economy which supports the most sustained, expensive and successful advertising campaign in history.

Diamonds are not particularly rare in nature. Nor do they have any intrinsic value. So how did they become the birdcages for our deepest feelings of romantic love and commitment? The answers will surprise you, as this book takes a probing journey around the globe and into the human heart.

Chapter One
Dying Stars
Central African Republic

They had come across the river that morning, he said, as he took the stones from his pocket.

He set them in a line on the patio table. They looked melted and yellowish, as if someone had put them to a blowtorch. The smuggler and his three friends studied me as I held one up to the sunlight and tried to peer into it.

We’re going to have to make this quick, said the man who owned the house. The police could come in, and then we’d all be in jail. He smiled vaguely at this thought. Across the alley, birds roosted in the broken-out window frames of a government building.

The smuggler watched me handle the rock. He said something in French to his friends. One of them tapped out a quick rhythm in his hand with the butt of his cell phone. Another glanced at the door to the alley and fingered the edge of the jacket he wore, even though it was a warm day.

You brought these from the Congo? I asked.
...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Diamonds are not particularly rare in nature, nor do they have any intrinsic value, so how did they become the symbol of our deepest feelings of romantic love and commitment? Tom Zoellner ably answers this question by taking the reader on a fascinating journey around the world to reveal the bloody story behind the shiny gem found in the jewelry collections of 7 out of 10 American women.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews

Library Journal

His book is part personal travelog, using the return of his own proffered diamond engagement ring as the starting point, and part investigative journalism (although he compiles information more than he discovers new facts). The end result? A gem.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Sparkling debut from adventuresome journalist Zoellner, who traveled the world to tell the dirty, glorious and sometime bloody story of diamonds. .... Lives up in every way to the power of its almost magical subject.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The author is expert with vivid prose ... This is a superior piece of reportage

Author Blurb David Plotz, Deputy Editor of Slate magazine and author of The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank
The Heartless Stone is like a diamond itself: clear, brilliant, and sharp as can be. Tom Zoellner has been everywhere and seen everything in the world of diamonds, and has come back with extraordinary stories of how this humble stone drives men to madness, deceit, corruption, and cruelty.

Author Blurb Charles Bowden, Contributing editor of Esquire, and author of fourteen books including Blood Orchid: An Unnatural History of America.
This wonderful book takes us to the heart of the meaning of life and for many of us this heart beats in a cold gem that can slow the speed of light and whisper love with dollar signs. Diamonds mean so much because they are empty of any meaning save our hungers. My God, I would do nothing but read if all books were this honest and clean and true.

Reader Reviews

Valerie

A new way to look at diamonds
This book is an engaging and enlightening read. I normally read fiction, so for a non-fiction book to hold my interest it has to be good. This is very good! It will change the way you look at diamonds forever.

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Beyond the Book

Tom Zoellner has worked as a contributing editor for Men's Health magazine and as a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. He is also the co-author of An Ordinary Man, the autobiography of Paul Rusesabagina, whose actions during the 1994 Rwandan genocide were portrayed in the movie Hotel Rwanda. Zoellner lives in New York City and is at work on a third book.

More about diamonds:
Global Witness is an NGO that works to expose the link between natural resource exploitation and human rights abuses. Their website ...

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