Enduring Change on 47th Street
Sequestered within the heart of a cosmopolitan city is an exotic world—a place where diamonds, astronomically priced, are bought and sold on the strength of a handshake, and business disputes are resolved according to ancient Jewish principles of arbitration. Yet it is also a modern industry facing the same fundamental global changes affecting all businesses today.
In Diamond Stories, Renée Rose Shield leads us into the unexamined realm of wholesale diamond traders in New York. Related to several well-respected traders, she had unprecedented access to a society normally closed to outside inquiry. Here she deftly blends her personal relationship and her anthropological training to provide an insightful exploration of this tradition-bound industry, the new challenges it faces, and the ways both industry and individuals adapt to and endure change.
Shield begins with a fascinating history of diamond mining, combining the story of the De Beers cartel, the role of Jews in the trade, and the part diamonds have played both in war and liberation. Throughout, she incorporates commentary by current diamond traders. Succeeding chapters explore the evolving nature of both the global trade and the New York diamond district. Shield takes a close look at the increasingly complex ethnic makeup of the district, illuminates the rarely documented work done by women, chronicles the resilient system of arbitration, and reveals the ways in which many traders work well into their eighties and nineties. Their long lives of work, cushioned by the trade's social environment, offer hints for successful aging in general.