Even before opening this book I am hooked: it is bound in dark suede with a small diamond embedded in the cover. The small format is deceptive, the pictures do not feel cramped. The design has allowed them to breathe, sometimes across two pages, occasionally over gatefolds.
Opening with the miners of Angola, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the book shows their unforgiving lifestyle on rough tactile paper. There are portraits of miners with short testimonies about their 28km walk to work or the rarity of finding a diamond. Interspersed with the pictures are articles telling us about the background behind the science of the precious stones or the running of a particular mine.
Van Lohuizen has also photographed the diamond markets and local dealers in Africa. This is the beginning of the long line of middlemen who make money on the backs of the miners. A trader in Congo is photographed in a smart suit talking about his new BMW and his bodyguard. As we move through the global industry we see the hierarchy repeated. Workers badly paid in bad conditions while the managers begin to make money.
The last third of the book centres on the dealers of Antwerp, Paris and New York. The back rooms where values are judged and deals made and the glittering velvet-lined shop windows of the exclusive shopping streets. The final picture on the back of the book, simply captioned “Jet-set party, London”, shows a woman with diamonds glittering from her ears and the front of her dress.
Taken over the last couple of years, this beautifully designed book charts the world’s obsession with the allure of diamonds. Different paper stock is used throughout to harmonise with the pictures. Rough tactile paper at the beginning, through subtly increasing grades to the high gloss of the back page.
This is a thought provoking and informative book that puts a different perspective on the most precious of jewels.