The Diamond District in New York, just like it’s cousin Hatton Gardens in London, conjures up magical and luxurious images. The New York Diamond District is located on a block of 47th Street. Walk down and you’ll be dazzled by shop fronts sparkling with rings, earrings and necklaces. Tourists flock there. It’s so alluring that even New Yorkers pay it a visit.
But this wasn’t the original location of jewelers in NYC. Way back in the 1800s, the jewelry district was located around Maiden Land and Canal St, right next to Wall Street.
Sadly, increased rents force jewelers out of the area and they came to congregate on 47th Street between 5th Avenue and Avenue of the Americas. On the ground floor of many of the buildings were exchanges where you could compare different offerings of gems and gold. It was a bazaar of sorts where you could have your watch repaired at one counter and find an engagement ring at the next.
The area is dominated by Hasidic Jews, Russians and Indian. These three groups dominate every level of the industry. You’ll also notice loads of armed guards (unsurprisingly) and police officers. Pulling of a heist is near impossible.
A Dual Purpose
New York is actually unique in the diamond industry. Where as in hubs like Mumbai, you exclusively have wholesalers, and in other hubs like Hatton Gardens, you exclusively have commercial shops, only in New York to you have a true mix of wholesale and retail. It is the largest consumer and wholesale market in the world. As such, almost all of the major players are in NYC, making it one of the best places to find a diamond in the world.
A passerby would barely notice the difference between retailers and wholesalers, they mesh together so seamlessly. Only an industry expert would even notice the different language used between the stores.
Buying as a Consumer
The allure of the diamond district is certainly appealing. And I would urge anyone to take a stroll down the block when they visit New York. But if you are buying a diamond, you want value for money. Does the Diamond District offer it to you?
Not in my opinion. After several trips, I am yet to find any deals to make it worthwhile. What’s worse, I could barely find a diamond that had a legitimate certificate and I suspected many tricks were being pulled on unsuspecting customers. This appears to be changing and more and more diamonds are being offered with certificates, however. That’s not to say that value has increased.
What you’ll notice here, however is the lack of upscale stores. There isn’t a buying experience, so to speak. The sellers are only interested in offering you one thing: price.
Do you get Value?
Not really, no. As we have said before when buying a diamond in person, you are paying a premium. Having looked at diamonds in the district and compared them as close as possible to similar ones online, you are looking at savings of about 30%. That’s not to say that these stores will rip you off, however. But there is little difference in buying from one of these stores than buying from your local jeweler.
The Bottom Line
The Diamond District in NYC makes for a great tourist attraction. It really is a unique experience and I believe everyone should make an effort to visit it. But not if you are interested in buying a diamond. Because when you compare what is available there to what is available online, there is no added value.
If you’re really looking for a diamond, we recommend you shop online at Blue Nile, or even better, our preferred engagement ring vendor.