From a sociological perspective, I would label New York City's Diamond District "an urban micro-economic subculture".
Walking down 47th Street, the glitch and glamour of glistening jewels perched in the storefronts up and down both sides of the street is mind boggling. And what we're seeing is really just the tip of the iceberg: the end result of the efforts of craftsmen, merchants, and dealers in the layers of offices above, below, and around the glow of street level.
Since starting the business four years ago, I've learned a bit about how to navigate my way around. With Ann's help, we've found wonderful stone dealers, diamond cutters, "findings" suppliers (the metal parts and pieces we need to repair and make jewelry), designers, and metal casters, to name just a few. This is the supporting cast for the production of the jewelry you wear.
For example, one time we needed a small diamond baguette to replace one missing from an antique ring. We first had to search for a close matching diamond from a small dealer in one building, and we then had to travel through a labyrinth of hallways to a tiny office where a husband and wife team could cut the diamond to the precise dimensions we needed.
I remember being amazed by the large number of various tradesman housed in small offices up and down the floors. The Diamond District is and has been the center for all facets (pun intended) of the jewelry industry. My understanding is that 90% of all diamonds entering the United States touch base at some point on 47th St. Amazing.
Ever been to a fast paced bazaar?
The District is fast moving, fast talking, all hustle and bustle. You have to ramp up the speed when you're there. Things are bought, borrowed, and bartered at lightening speed.
It also seems old world, in that it seems a man's world. I sometimes get the distinct impression they expect me to be buying jewelry rather than making it.
I believe NY's Diamond District has been the point of entry for skilled jewelry professionals from all over the world for generations The diamond merchant I refer to above is from India, the husband and wife cutters are from China, and our most favorite designer is from Turkey. Could it be that generations of skilled immigrants start here and migrate to other parts of the county once they're established?And who are all those people hanging out on the sidewalk in front of the stores? They aren't shoppers because they stay put. I know some are employed to try to get you in a store or to see if you want to sell gold. I assume some are employed as "runners", people who carry items back and forth between businesses. Some must be Security. Security is TIGHT! Feels a little unwelcoming, but that's what it's like when you are surrounded by a lot of very valuable items.
Visiting the Diamond District is a necessity in our business. I'm thankful we are close enough to be able to travel down. It never ceases to amaze I feel like I'm in another world, albeit a glistening and happy place.