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Book Title: Diamond: The History of a Cold-Blooded Love Affair|
ISBN 13: 9780452283701
The author of the book: Matthew Hart
Date of issue: August 27th 2002
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 7.12 MB
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Reader ratings: 4.2
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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). Several of these type practices were referred to in the author's excellent chapter on the rush for the diamonds of Canada's Arctic Barrens region, where prospectors often sought to claim lands ahead of other prospectors based on pure rumor, laid out false maps that were to be "found" and lead prospectors on wild goose chases, even acting out fake conversations in bars that were meant to be overhead, all to lead away the competition.
All of this unfortunately pales in comparison to the sad state of affairs that is conflict diamonds, a horrible stain, almost a scarlet letter, on the industry, a problem De Beers and others are still tackling with. Conflict diamonds, products of such war-torn African nations as Angola, have gone from being a side product of such civil wars and revolutions, something used by one side or the other to finance their activities to the very reason such wars are fought in the first place. With thousands of Africans having died in the fighting over these diamonds, both solider and innocent civilian, the civilized nations of the world have been increasingly reluctant to have anything to do with these diamonds and sometimes diamonds in general. And as diamonds from one source are sometimes difficult to distinguish from those of another source, the whole industry has had to come to grips with finding and dealing with those who deal in conflict diamonds, lest governments and the consumer do it for them. The sections on conflict diamonds are gripping and worth the price of the book alone.
In large part the book is the history the De Beers, a juggernaut of a cartel that for decades has controlled the sale, distribution, and price of diamonds worldwide. Hart chronicles the often Byzantine politics within De Beers and the industry as a whole, noting the rise and current possible decline of De Beers, which has within a decade went from a control of 80 percent of the rough market to around 50 percent. Increasingly sources outside the old cartel are offering alternatives to consumers and stiff competition to De Beers, which has been frustrated in attempts to control, discredit, or destroy such sources. They range from Russia, long uncomfortable with its partnership with De Beers and seeking its own way now; to Canada, rich with possibility in the newly discovered Arctic fields; to India, king of the small diamonds, specialists in producing huge volumes of affordable diamonds, able to polish to jewel-like quality diamonds once relegated to industrial use; to Australia, whose Argyle mine has produced a flood of diamonds, many of which are vital to the Indian diamond industry.
Hart does not forget the beauty of diamonds, nor the skill of the diamond cutter. An entire chapter is spent on the art and science of diamond cutting, with the author detailing the process by which the magnificent Centenary diamond was cut, an impressive stone with 247 facets that took 3 years and specially designed equipment to produce.
I liked how throughout the book Hart introduced many arcane terms about the diamond industry, many of which I had never heard before, ranging from sightholders (diamond buyers with a good standing in the trade, invited by De Beers sales of rough or "sights" ten times a year at the Diamond Trading Company or DTC in London) to boxes (selling mixtures of rough put together by De Beers and sold to clients at a price set by De Beers) to gletzes (a word of Dutch origin, meaning a fracture in a diamond) to knots (places inside a diamond where the structure alters, where there different orientations in the planes of the crystal) to makes (if a stone is cut so that is a brilliant as it can possibly be, it said to be the best "make").
This was a fascinating book; I highly recommend it to anyone.
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Read information about the authorMatthew Hart was an experienced newspaper and magazine reporter when he wrote Golden Giant, the story of a 1980 gold rush and staking battle on the north shore of Lake Superior. Ten years later he was hooked by another mining rush, this time diamonds. His award-winning Diamond: the History of a Cold-Blooded Love Affair, recounted the 1990 discovery and staking rush that uncovered the world’s third richest diamond field under the frozen lakes of the Arctic’s forbidding Barren Lands.
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