If you’ve ever watched the Adam Sandler film Uncut Gems, then you’ve gotten a pretty good glimpse at the intense energy of the NYC Diamond District. This famed area of Manhattan has a rich history and is surprisingly resilient in a city that is constantly changing. It also happens to be an area where you can find just about any piece of diamond jewelry you’re looking for.
What Is the Diamond District?
The Diamond District is the world’s largest shopping district for diamonds. In fact, over 90 percent of the diamonds that come into the United States go through New York first, mostly through the Diamond District. There are wholesalers and retail jewelers, and thousands of independent jewelers.
This is one of the premier diamond centers in the world, with over 4,000 wholesalers and retail jewelers crammed into a few city blocks. And while it might sound like this is the place you want to be if you’re shopping for an engagement ring, the truth is that it can be incredibly overwhelming. You need to prepare yourself before you stroll into the NYC Diamond District—here’s exactly what you need to know.
“In New York’s Diamond District, you can find vendors buying and selling diamonds, color gemstones, pearls, gold, and other raw materials, as well as every style of finished fine jewelry,” explained Dana Fiddes and Laura McCurdy, co-founders of Park & Lex. “As a retail buyer, you can find antique, vintage, custom, and ready-made designs for sale on the block.”
Meet the Expert
Dana Fiddes and Laura McCurdy are the co-founders of Park & Lex, a Manhattan-based fine jewelry brand in Manhattan that was launched in 2015.
But the Diamond District boasts more than just engagement rings and fine jewelry. There, Fiddes and McCurdy say, “You can find artisans to repair a beloved antique, sell a broken gold bracelet for cash, or buy a diamond and create the custom engagement ring of your dreams. If you can imagine it, you will find it on 47th Street.”
Where Is the NYC Diamond District?
While it sounds huge, the Diamond District actually doesn’t take up much space. It runs on 47th street between 5th and 6th Avenue in Manhattan. “You cannot mistake the ‘entrance’ as you walk on 5th Ave. Two giant diamond motif street lights flank the crosswalk, signaling you have come to the right place,” the jewelers say. “The energy is palpable; people rush up and down the street buying, selling, and making deals.”
Even the Gemological Institute of America, which is the world’s foremost authority on diamonds, gemstones, and pearls, resides there. However, the District wasn’t always in Midtown Manhattan. According to the Smithsonian, it began on Maiden Lane, four blocks north of Wall Street, from the mid-19th century until the 1920s. Then, wealthy banks increased rents in the area, subsequently forcing the District to 47th Street.
Tips for Shopping in the NYC Diamond District
Shopping the District isn’t as simple as walking into a store and picking something you love. Well, it could be, but you’re really better off preparing before you go. Here are six things to know:
Do some research.
The District is so full of jewelers that it can be overwhelming to figure out who to go to first. Dan Moran, a private jeweler, recommends doing plenty of research before you go. “More than shopping for a ring, you’re shopping for a jeweler,” he says. “Find someone you can trust. Check reviews, read up on the company you are going to see ahead of time and ask yourself if you’re dealing with someone knowledgeable, candid, and honest.”
Meet the Expert
Dan Moran is a private jeweler and the founder of Concierge Diamonds.
If you have your heart set on a specific jeweler, then Moran says you should call and try to make an appointment instead of just showing up. Most designers and dealers will allow you to do this. Not only does this ensure you’ll see who you want to see, but it also helps prevent you from getting sidetracked.
Set some expectations for yourself.
In other words, know what you’re looking for before you start shopping—it will make the experience a little less stressful and leave you feeling like you have a goal. Moran recommends knowing exactly what you’re shopping for, making note of the criteria that matter to you, and setting a budget.
Don’t buy too quickly.
“Just like shopping for a home, don’t buy the first thing you see,” Fiddes and McCurdy warn. “Shop around, compare prices, and trust your instincts.” You should make sure your diamonds are GIA certified. “Vendors will have a certificate for each stone authenticating its value,” explain the jewelers.
Get ready to haggle.
You don’t always have to pay the price you’re told—you might be able to get a better deal. “Know that there is often a little room to negotiate price,” Fiddes and McCurdy say. Your best bet is to know what you’re looking for and research it before you go so you feel confident that you know what you’re talking about.
Be prepared for aggressive sellers.
Just browsing? Not interested in purchasing anything? That might change once you’re in the District. Sellers can be extremely pushy and convincing. “The Diamond District is a highly competitive marketplace, which will encourage aggressive behavior (both honorable and shady!) from those who seek to sell to you,” Moran explains. He compares the experience of shopping there to “taking a sip from a fire hose.” He adds, “Remember, the strongest and best dealers like to sell, are happy to sell, but don’t need to sell. If the salesman seems desperate, RUN.”