For generations, Alicia Oltuski’s family has traded diamonds. In Precious Objects: A Story of Diamonds, Family, and a Way of Life, she examines her family’s history—and the diamond district’s.
For most women, diamonds prompt reveries of fairytale engagements, or at least daydreams of Marilyn Monroe. For journalist Alicia Oltuski, they connote family. Her paternal grandfather was a diamond dealer; he once traded a single stone for condensed milk, marmalade, and honey when he was a displaced person in Germany just after World War II. Oltuski’s father also dealt in gems—buying and selling antique jewelry on West 47th Street, the heart of New York City’s diamond district. In her new book, Precious Objects: A Story of Diamonds, Family, and a Way of Life, Oltuski examines the jewelry trade and some of the characters who work in it. She joined Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry to discuss Jewish predominance in the diamond business, her family’s relationship with the industry, and how the gems now represent polar positions—romance and conflict—in popular culture. [Running time: 18:26.]
At a book festival in Sicily, admiring a tranquil lifestyle and remembering a father’s bedtime stories about drunks and prostitutes, based on his time spent Irgun gun-running at Italy’s southern tip