It makes you positively giddy. Walking up and down the 47th Street Diamond District, you see the most breathtaking array of precious stones: diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, every gem imaginable. And let’s not forget the lustrous pearls and shining gold jewelry.
Learning about the district was just as much fun at 580 Fifth Avenue. Michael Grumet, Executive Director of the 47th Street Business Improvement District (BID), was there to dish, while serving us breakfast that was dazzling in its own rite: bagels, eggs, lox, rolls, coffee, even sushi!
The district is the smallest of all 71 city districts since it is only one block. All BIDS are non-profit, funded by the area’s real estate, and they take care of marketing, cleaning streets, and providing security, among other tasks.
Jewels are a $28.2 billion industry. The district has approximately 3000 businesses and 28,000 employees. It is the first (diamonds) second (gold) and third (jewelry) largest exporter in the country.
As overwhelming as the street may seem, Michael assured us the prices were much lower than retail stores, if you’re educated. You become educated by going to www.diamonddistrict.org and finding recommended jewelers. You also make sure to get a Gemological Institute of America certificate for anything you buy.
The district is the essence of the American Dream. People of all backgrounds, often with no education, come here and learn a trade such as polishing, cutting or setting. They’re well-paid and they have great benefits. 70% of workers are women and minorities and they pass their businesses on to their children.
Two board members spoke with us about their areas of expertise; Sammy Abramoff specializes in pearls, and Michael Oistacher specializes in gold and silver, both of whom inherited their businesses from their fathers. Sammy told us if you rub pearls against each other and get a gritty feel, the pearls are real. Michael said pink gold is pink because it has copper in it.
As we left the building, Michael took us to exchanges on 47th Street where we tried on jewelry, drooling all the while. We were not happy campers when we had to say goodbye to Michael and the real glitterati.