The Heartless Stone, by Tom Zoellner

Want to know all about diamonds? You can find out by reading this book. You get more . . . a lot more, if that’s what you want (maybe you don’t).

The author tells how diamonds develop, how they’re mined, how they’re sold and marketed, and how artificial diamonds are made. He does not take a chronological approach. This is not a history of diamonds. Instead, each chapter focuses on an area of the world where diamonds are sold or marketed: Brazil, South Africa, Canada, etc. This causes some repetition of basic background facts.

What is a bigger problem is the author’s choice of the notebook dump approach to fact gathering. Instead of going to a location, interviewing knowledgeable people, digesting his notes, and writing a description based on his work, he makes his work the story. He doesn’t just gather facts from Vicki the Canadian geologist–he has to tell you what clothes she was wearing, when she was engaged, what she thought of diamonds for herself, etc. Some readers, I suppose, will like the author’s approach. For me, what is acceptable in a long magazine article became very tiresome in a book. I have said nothing about his motif of his own failed engagement and the saga of his useless rejected engagement ring.

Really, though, if you can bear that kind of thing, there is much useful information here. I read this book because I heard a recent interview with the author about his new book, Uranium, which I also intend to read.

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