The 47th Street Diamond District is the epicenter of dazzle.
Michael Grumet, Executive Director of the 47th Street Business Improvement District (BID), invited us to learn more about the 24.2 billion dollar industry which includes diamonds, sapphires, rubies, emeralds, pearls and other gems.
New York City is the center of American jewelry and the district is made up of wholesalers, manufacturers, polishers, facet cutters, and other skilled workers.
Over 70% of the district’s employees are women and minorities. Even without degrees, they earn high incomes by learning a valuable skill, running their own small businesses that are often passed on to their children. The industry is a great economic engine for the city and the state. It is also the largest manufacturer in New York State and the largest exporter of diamonds and gold.
Two Board members of the BID also spoke: Michael Oistacher of Manhattan Gold and Silver, and Sammy Abramov of AA Pearl & Gems Co. Inc. Michael talked about the purity of gold which varies according to country. American gold is usually 18-karat, while China’s is 24-karat. Higher karats are more valuable – 24-karat being the purest.
Sammy spoke about natural pearls and cultured pearls, the latter invented by the Japanese company Mikimoto in 1893. Cultured pearls are created manually, which allows them to be produced more quickly and makes them much more affordable. He also talked about black pearls, fresh and salt water pearls, odd shapes and weird colors.
Michael said prospective buyers should go to www.diamonddistrict.org for tips on smart shopping. You’ll learn diamonds are judged by cut, clarity, carat weight and color. Blue, red and pink diamonds are worth more because they’re rarer than the white and yellow ones.
Michael also shared gems of history. It is said, in a show of conspicuous consumption – and as part of a bet with Marc Antony – Cleopatra took a huge and expensive pearl from her earring, crushed it into a glass of wine and drank it!
We had one last question for Michael: Is haggling acceptable at the Diamond Exchanges? “You bet your sweet sapphires,” he said, “everything is negotiable.”
For more information, please visit www.diamonddistrict.org.