Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

List of Figures

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pp. ix-x

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Preface: The Emptiness of Diamond

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pp. xi-xvi

My grandmother, whom we called “Nonni,” used to wear a ring adorned with a big, winking diamond. I liked to touch that gemstone, given to her by my granddad after they were married in the 1920s; I remember being fascinated by its rainbow lights. She always called it a “friendship ring,” to distinguish it from her engagement ring, ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xvii-xx

This has been a long project in the making and would never have been completed without a great deal of generosity, guidance, and help from many people. First of all, I would like to thank those who shared with me their diamond stories, both during the period of intensive fieldwork and ever since. ...

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Introduction: Little Rocks

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pp. 1-26

In one sense, diamonds are just little rocks. But they are extraordinary rocks, jam-packed with value and significance. This book explores what diamonds mean, how those meanings come about, and what our interactions with these stones can tell us about ourselves and our relationships with material culture, especially mass-marketed, mass-produced, and mass-consumed commodities. ...

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1. From Rock to Gem

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pp. 27-56

Once they are cut and polished, diamonds are quite valuable—especially considering how small they are. But how do we get from “just a rock” to “such a gem”? Where does a diamond’s value come from? How is its value defined, produced, and recognized? What is “value” anyway? ...

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2. Valuing Diamonds

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pp. 57-76

How are differences in price orchestrated and maintained when, to look at them, most diamonds look virtually identical? What’s the difference between an investment-grade stone and “junk”? The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) creates meaningful discriminations through a highly contrived grading system that is then mapped onto a grading sheet called a “certificate.” ...

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3. A Diamond Is Forever

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pp. 77-104

As ever more diamonds have been mined over the last seventy-five years, the industry has needed to develop a market willing to absorb new stocks (while making sure that there was little or no resale value). To achieve this, De Beers has spent millions of dollars each year on advertising through its marketing arm, the London-based Diamond Trading Company (DTC), ...

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4. Diamonds and Emotions

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pp. 105-128

I met Corinne, an educational psychologist in her early thirties, through a mutual friend. When she sat down for our interview she immediately said, “Oh, diamonds, humph. I think diamonds are strange.” When asked to elaborate, she began talking about her husband, Brent, and her family in relation to diamonds. ...

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5. Diamonds and Bling

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pp. 129-157

This is a chapter about ostranenie (from the Russian остранение), or defamiliarization. Normally a poetic device associated with literature that forces us to see everyday, ordinary things from a new perspective, ostranenie makes them seem unfamiliar or strange, thus reframing our experience of them. ...

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6. Diamonds and Performance

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pp. 158-178

Carla and Gene, successful thirty-somethings, live uptown. Carla writes children’s books. Gene is a novelist. Carla and I scheduled a meeting to talk in a bar in downtown Manhattan. She arrived wearing a suit and lugging a briefcase overflowing with papers. After some small talk, Carla told me that when she and Gene were first married, ...

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Conclusion: The Fullness of Diamonds

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pp. 179-190

When I started doing research for this project, I was surprised by the variety of ideas, images, and metaphors in consumers’ stories that diverged from the ad-based associations with class and romance that I had expected. Going far beyond those symbolic associations, people treat diamonds as if they have personalities, ...

Notes

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pp. 191-198

Bibliography

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pp. 199-210

Index

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pp. 211-216

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About the Author

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p. 217

Susan Falls teaches anthropology at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia.