Ever since I first carried those stones, though, I’ve watched the diamond men and women closely, knowing that each one could be wearing a scintillating treasure beneath an unremarkable outfit. I’ve come to understand that once you’ve worn a chest pack, you act as though you’re wearing jewels always. And I’ve realized that the reason there are so many flashing signs in a district full of gems is that, on this block, the glints of diamonds are not enough to attract attention—there are just too many of them. And yet at the same time, I’ve learned that after you’ve been looking at diamonds for so long—in all their limpid intensity—everything else feels hopelessly unvarnished.
Oltuski’s chronicle of her time in the Diamond District, Precious Objects: A Story of Diamonds, Family, and a Way of Life (Scribner), is out July 19.