Navigating the NYC Diamond District – History, Tips and Warnings March 5, 2019 – Posted in: Jewelry Blog
Your Guide to Navigating the NYC Diamond District – Understanding the History, Tips, and Warnings
If you’re planning to visit New York’s famed Diamond District, you’re in for an unforgettable experience. Nestled in Midtown Manhattan, West 47th Street offers more than 4,000 wholesalers and retail jewelers. When combined, the area brings you more glitz and glitter than you could ever imagine in a single location. While the adventure will leave you breathless, it’s essential to prepare yourself for going.
A Brief Overview of the Diamond District
Though the foundation of the Diamond District dates back as far as the 1920s, the world-famous stretch of Manhattan we know and love today didn’t begin to take shape until a couple of decades later. It now covers the street running parallel to West 46th and 48th Streets and is boxed in by Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue.
At present, an estimated $500 million trades hand each day on this single street. In total, as much as 90 percent of the nation’s diamond trading starts in this little cluster of stores and kiosks before filtering down to other hubs across the country.
How to Get to the NYC Diamond District?
The good news is that the Diamond District is one of the most accessible places in New York. It is located in mid-town and all modes of transportation cross through.
For Subway (our top recommendation): The B, D, M, and F trains all stop at the 47th Street Rockefeller Station which is 6th Ave entrance of the Diamond District. The N, R, and W trains also run through 49th Street. The E train is a little further out but is close enough to walk. It arrives at 5th Ave and 53rd.
For Buses: 5th Avenue has non-stop buses that run up and down the Avenue throughout the entire day.
For Taxi, Uber, Juno, Via, and Lyft: Every driver will know where the Diamond District is and they’ll drop you off on 47th Street.
If you want to drive into the City it will be virtually impossible to park on the street without getting a ticket. We recommend parking at the Icon Parking that is one street over on 46th between 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue. Click here for the directions straight to the Icon Parking. Please be aware that the parking is a little costly.
What time does the Diamond District open?
The Diamond District typically opens later than other commercial districts in New York. The shops and booths will typically open at 10:00 am and close at 5:00 pm. Some stores will be open earlier and close later, but in general, these are the best times to come and visit the Diamond District.
If you’re not from New York, try to avoid lunch time as many locals will be visiting the street during their lunch.
During December you can expect the stores to open earlier and close later. Don’t forget to factor in the traffic and additional pedestrians during the winter months.
What You Need to Know before Visiting the Diamond District
First off, research and education are the keys to jewelry success. Learn all that you can about jewelry before hitting the road or setting foot on a plane. Remember the four Cs in particular.
Here is a list of the topics that we recommend researching before heading out to the Diamond District:
- The 4’c of diamond grading – Carat, Color, Clarity, and Cut (Read More)
- The Anatomy of an Engagement Ring (Read More)
- Jewelry Eras and Styles – Art Deco, Edwardian etc… (Read More)
- The Differences between the Precious Metals (Platinum, Gold, and Silver)
- The Kimberly Process (Read More)
- Styles of Engagement Rings (Read More)
All these elements come together to determine a diamond’s quality, how much it’s worth and, most importantly to some, what type of reaction it gets from onlookers. These are just the basics. To learn more about jewelry and diamonds, click here.
Warnings: What to Look out For?
As wonderful as the Diamond District is, there are many pitfalls for those who aren’t careful. Trying to list them all would be impossible, but we tried to compile a list of the most important things to look out for.
- [Most Important Tip] Make sure to only buy from a seller with lots of positive reviews. Please note that if the company don’t have any Google or Yelp Reviews they probably deleted their accounts in order to prevent you from seeing their negative reviews
- Don’t buy jewelry without documentation
- If a jeweler isn’t happy to answer jewelry questions (even general knowledge) there is something suspicious
- Do not interact (buy or sell) with the jewelers (hawkers) who approach you on the street
- Only buy jewelry from a company with a proper return policy and warranty
- Never buy from a company that tries to rush you into the purchase, even if they offer you a great price to buy on the spot
- Make sure that everything you agree upon is stated in writing on your invoice or receipt
- If you have a bad feeling about the person selling to you, walk away
The above list all contain hard rules of what to avoid and what not to do. The list below are some suggestions that will help improve your shopping experience.
- Try and schedule appointments with the jeweler in advance. If they’re prepared, you will get more time. Also, most reputable jewelers will only see you if you made an appointment
- Avoid the shops or booths that face the street. Those premium stores may look appealing, but the prices are generally very overpriced. The offices and boutiques above the ground floor are usually where you will find better deals
- Come to the appointment with a good knowledge of the jewelry industry. The more you know, the less likely that any jewelry will try and play any tricks. We strongly recommend using our jewelry blog to improve your general knowledge. We have 200+ high-quality articles on all topics related to jewelry.
- Prepare questions in advance so that you don’t forget to ask
- Peruse the companies online Terms and Conditions to ensure that everything stipulated is logical and reasonable
Ask for a Diamond’s Grading Report before Making a Purchase
Though most wholesalers and retailers are entirely legitimate, some aren’t on the up and up. This issue isn’t exclusive to New York’s Diamond District; it’s true of cruise port jewelry sellers in the Caribbean, vendors in London and Paris and everywhere else across the globe.
Don’t just take the vendor’s word when it comes to the quality and value of a diamond. As a consumer, you have every right to see a grading report before handing over your credit card. GIA and AGS, the American Gem Society, set the industry standards as far as grading goes.
Several diamond certifiers provide sub-par grading and official-looking reports for the benefit of the seller, so beware of imposters. Some of them are difficult to distinguish from the real deal. Don’t be shy about asking for a report, and check it out thoroughly. Honest and authentic vendors won’t hesitate to oblige.
Pick Your Shops in Advance
We always recommend planning your stores in advance. Don’t go to 47th Street unless you know which stores you plan to visit. Do research on the store before visiting them.
Again, this tip doesn’t apply only to the Diamond District in Manhattan. It’s a global scenario. If someone meets you on the street and tries to usher you into a specific store with a lot of smooth words and flashy deals, just resist. When a vendor talks fast in order to lure in customers, something is amiss.
If you are looking for vintage jewelry or vintage engagement rings, feel free to book an appointment with Estate Diamond Jewelry. We are only available by appointment. You can also reach us at 212 265 3868.
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Shop around, but Be Realistic
As is the case with any major purchase, there’s no shame in seeking out a better deal. Having said that, don’t go through the NYC Diamond District looking for the bargain of the century. You’re bound to find a lower price somewhere else, but rates shouldn’t vary drastically from one shop to the next when it comes to diamonds of equal quality.
If a one-carat flawless diamond costs $25,000 at one store and one represented as having equal value only costs $5,000 through another vendor, the cheaper option is probably too good to be true.
Understand the Return Policies
Never purchase a diamond without being well aware of a store’s return policies.
A handful of shops operate on the “all sales are final” premise while some allow only returns. If a store doesn’t have a proper return policy, don’t buy from them.
With an investment like this, you don’t want any unpleasant surprises after the fact. Be sure to ask about vendors’ return policies, and get them in writing. If you don’t have a paper trail, you could easily find yourself out of luck should something go wrong.
Places to Eat in the Diamond District
Shopping is exhausting. Jewelry shopping is even more tiring.
There aren’t many places to eat within the Diamond District itself, but there are a few:
- Sushi Fussion – A Fantastic Sushi and Fish Restaurant. (26 W 47th Street)
- Taam Tov – An Uzbeki Restaurant known for their mouth-watering delicacies. (41 W 47th Street)
This list will be updated with the rest of the restaurants.
As with all places where money is involved, people will try and take advantage of those that don’t know better. The actual street of 47th Street has people who may approach you and try and get you to buy or sell jewelry. Ignore them. Any person who doesn’t have a store or a reputation that can be effectively tracked is not someone who you want to do business with.
Jewelry Appraisers in the NYC Diamond District
It is very important to ensure that any diamond or jewelry that you purchased is genuine. If your seller doesn’t provide you with an appraisal, we strongly recommend bringing all purchases to get appraised. In addition, for insurance purposes, you will need an appraisal. The NYC diamond district has a few appraisers on 47th street who will accept walk-ins and give you proper service.
Here are some of the appraisal companies that we recommend:
1. Universal Gemological Lab (Our Top Pick)
71 West 47th St #1002
Phone Number: (212) 921-3324
The Universal Gemological Lab (UGL) is open from 10:30 am – 5:30 pm. Their service is fantastic and everyone is so friendly, but more importantly, they are experts. They’ve all been trained by the GIA and their assessments and appraisals are accurate.
Another notable advantage of the UGL is the proficiency with vintage jewelry. We send so many of our vintage rings to them due to their expertise in all things old.
2. Gemological Appraisal Industry
30 West 47th St #505
Phone Number: (212) 575-2071
The Gemological Appraisal Industry (GAI) is also located in the center of 47th street (closer to 5th Avenue) and will be able to assess your diamond or jewelry.
3. Gemological Appraisal Laboratory of America
580 5th Ave #2906 (entrance located on the corner of 47th Street)
Phone Number: (646) 606-2769
The Gemological Appraisal Laboratory of America (GAL) is located in the 580 building. They have a great reputation and produce fantastic appraisals.
New York’s Diamond District is a sight to behold whether you make a purchase or just spend a day or two window shopping. Arm yourself with knowledge about diamonds as well as the retailers and wholesalers offering them along West 47th Street.
Aside from empowering yourself with knowledge of diamonds themselves, take matters a step further. Research the vendors in NYC Diamond District that you’ll be visiting. Take your smartphone with you, and check out their online reviews as well as their statuses with the Better Business Bureau.
Stick with vendors who have upstanding reputations and a track record of customer satisfaction, and take the time to take it all in before making a final purchase. If you shop by these standards, you won’t walk away disappointed.