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The fabled New York Diamond District


The fabled New York Diamond District, centered on 47th Street in Manhattan, probably has more diamond dealers per square foot than any place on earth. For a couple of bustling blocks, the streets are teeming with diamond sellers, practically hawking their wares as if they were selling hot pretzels. The diamond trade here is dominated by hastening figures who lend the place an unmatched mystique as they shuttle between cutting houses and shops, carrying hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of diamonds in their pockets and satchels. But is this a good place to buy a diamond?

It is probably the most difficult place in America to get a good deal on a good diamond. You have a better chance of winning the lottery or getting hit by lightening than getting a good diamond deal on 47th Street.

The whole place is attitude and hustle. They employ a kind of reverse psychology – here; the dealer doesn’t trust the customer! The dealers give you the impression they haven’t really got the time or the inclination to deal with you. “You really want a diamond? Okay, hurry up and pick something out, pay me, and please leave. I have more important things to do than sell you one measly diamond. Certificate? Guarantees? Whaddya want, papers or diamonds? You want to buy it here, take it. You don’t want to buy, try the guy down the street, maybe he have times to deal with papers, I deal with diamonds!”

I brought a diamond on 47th Street one day, dressed in a business suit, I went shopping, settled on a dealer, and asked for a one-carat, VSI-G. I was given a stone that was said to fit my specs. When I ask for paperwork, the dealer gave me something that fudged on the grades, that said the stone was “VS,” but not “VSI, and “G-H” not G. Two days later, dressed in jeans, I return to the same dealer. He didn’t recognize me. When I show him the stone and told him what I’d paid for it, he immediately started berating me: “You got taken! You pay too much for this diamond! You should have come to me in the first place!” When I pulled out the receipt and reminded him I’d brought the stone from him two days ago, he practically pushed me out of the store.

Everyone in New York “knows a guy on 47th Street” who will allegedly give you the diamond deal of a lifetime if you mention the right name. Friends, it ain’t that easy.

I have found that if you get above street level on 47th Street, up to the dealers on the higher floors, you can get a decent deal on a diamond if you are a shrewd buyer. Even up there, above the hustle and bustle, dealers pressure you to move quickly on a purchase. Take your time, examin your stone closely, pay by credit card (never cash) and get an independent appraisal immediately. Every major city has its diamond center, and some of them are excellent places to purchase diamonds if you shop for the right dealer and ask the right question. But the New York Diamond District? Toughest place I know to buy a diamond.

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