New York City’s Diamond District, also known as Diamond and Jewelry Way, is located on 47th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. The United States is the largest consumer market for diamonds, and over 90% of the diamonds that enter the United States come through New York, many of them through dealers in the Diamond District. It’s hard to believe, but the area is home to over 2600 diamond businesses, many of which are located inside of the street’s 25 jewelry exchanges. Each exchange is home to about 100 different merchants, each independently owned and operated, but there are also larger stores along 47th Street for shopping as well.
In New York’s Diamond District, you can discover any sort of fine jewelry you wish, which makes it a great place to shop, and prices can be as much as 50% off of retail. The shops cater to both wholesale and retail clients, but you’ll have the best success shopping if you’ve done your research and know what you’re looking for. Spend some time learning about diamonds before you go shopping to be sure you are an informed consumer and are able to understand the terminology that the sellers will use. The 47th Street Business Improvement District’s website also has helpful information for educating yourself about diamonds, jewelry and precious stones. This is also a great area to sell gold and jewelry, get broken jewelry repaired or have custom work done.
With so many vendors located in such close proximity, you have the advantage of competitive pricing, and the ease of comparison shopping. The area is also very safe (although you should always be aware of your surroundings) because of the number of merchants and their desire for additional security and police presence.
Some places conjure up fantastic images of grandeur in our heads. The Taj Mahal in India, the strip in Vegas and Rodeo Drive in LA all leave an indelible imprint on our minds. The New York Diamond District has a alike status. Just one city block of 47th street, the towering buildings whose street level edifices are festooned with sparkling earrings, elegant rings and flashy accessories lure tourists in by the busload and even attract New Yorkers (no small feat).
As iconic as the Diamond District is, 47th street wasn’t even the original hotspot for jewelers in NYC. In the 1800s, the jewelry hotspot was centered, around Maiden Lane and Canal St, just a few blocks from Wall Street. In 1924, the New York Times stated that “the bride-to-be who could show a ring from Maiden Lane was thrice happy.”
Rising rents and other factors forced jewelers to look upwards and eventually they settled on one long block of 47th street between Fifth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas. Many edifices boarded “exchanges” on the ground floors, where you can go from stand and counters looking at diverse gold, diamonds jewelry and other metals and gems. You could have your watch fixed on one counter, pick out a pair of diamond earrings across the aisle and have your emerald reset into a different ring two counters down.
47th Street is a fascinating place. Most of the shop owners and workers are Hassidic Jews, Russians or Indians (three groups that dominate the diamond trade on the wholesale and manufacturing level as well). Walking down the street you will also notice plenty of armed guards for the shipping companies and police officers patrolling. And if you are thinking of pulling off a heist, there are plenty of undercover officers as well. You’ll also have people up and down the street paid to get you to visit one of the shops on the street.
There are quite a number of cities which have the diamond districts, but New York City is really matchless and exquisite. Places like Mumbai and Ramat Gan are exclusively designed for the wholesale level of the business while Jewelers rows in Philadelphia, Chicago or London (Hatton Garden) are just there for the shopper with virtually no existence of any foremost diamond trading companies. Antwerp has a great blend of both, but the diamond industry has been fading off there on both the wholesale and retail stages.
New York City, is one of the leading places for buyers as well as one of the biggest wholesale markets in the world. While Hong Kong has been growing in stature, the US market is still the largest, by far, for diamonds and jewelry. Virtually all of the major companies use NY as their entry point. This provides an extraordinary concentration of product into one area.
The retail and wholesale businesses seem (at least from the consumers’ perspective) to mesh together on 47th street. The most notable quirk is the language use. Even Indians use Yiddish terms to describe the diamond. Chazarei (crap) and Strop (a lemon) are common terms people use for bad diamonds. And you will constantly hear the phrase “mazal u bracha” (luck and blessings) when people handshake on a deal. It certainly adds flavor to the experience.