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The NYC Diamond District at 47th Street, (also known as Diamond Jewelry Way) runs between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue in the Borough of Manhattan, New York City. The entire street is made up of jewelry stores and jewelry exchange shops, offering a plethora of gemstones, diamonds and fine jewelry.
Established in the 1920’s, the area is steeped in history and remains one of the primary centres of the global diamond industry as well as one of the most popular areas for jewelry shoppers.
Buying from the NYC diamond district can indeed be an exhilarating, all-encompassing experience, but it is essential that you are well informed before taking the plunge. Your average bricks and mortar store may try some hard sell tactics and white lies in order to close a sale, but the diamond shark-tank of 47th street takes risky buying to a whole new level. Based on my own experiences, I have compiled a comprehensive guide to shopping at the NYC diamond district, so you can weigh up the pros and cons and decide if the experience will be for you.
This may seem like I am stating the obvious, but being informed about diamond buying goes beyond knowing the Four C’s. You need to be armed with an understanding of certification, price brackets, additional performance reports and of course, thorough details pertaining to the quality of the diamond. Be sure to ask questions and probe the sales advisor, but also be cautious of their replies – they are trying to close a sale after all. Ultimately, you cannot expect a salesperson to condense an entire diamond education into their sales spiel, so the onus really does fall to the buyer to ensure they have done their research. As a minimum, be sure the seller offers legitimate and internationally respected grading reports (such as The GIA and AGS) and practice viewing diamonds through a 10x magnification jewelers loupe. This can be a challenge when you first start, but after viewing a few diamonds with varying degrees of inclusions, you will soon learn to spot any unsightly flaws that will diminish the beauty of your diamond.
Set a Budget
…And stick to it. If you give the salesperson the impression that you can be swayed to pay more, then you can expect to have the rest of your experience dominated with attempts at an up-sale. You do not necessarily have to share your exact budget with the seller, if anything give them a lower figure to start off with, but whatever you have decided is your limit try not to exceed this. Make sure you emphasize that quality is the most important aspect to you, and remember that a more expensive diamond does not necessarily mean a better-looking diamond.
The Golden Rule: If a Deal Seems Too Good to Be True, It Is!
This is something a repeat a lot to prospective diamond buyers and it is perhaps more relevant in the NYC diamond district than anywhere else. There is no such thing as a cheap diamond, so if the deal seems too good to be true, it is. Lack of proper certification means diamonds can be advertised as having a much higher color, cut and clarity grades; this is a red flag and you should avoid diamonds carrying anything other than an AGS or GIA certificate.
Beware of Pushy Sales Tactics
The salespeople of 47th street are notoriously pushy and if you have not experienced this kind of approach before, it can be easy to become pressurized into making a purchase and regretting it later. Buying a diamond takes time and a genuine salesperson will understand this and want you to have as much information as possible before taking the plunge. The sellers of the NYC diamond district want a fast turnover, so if they don’t get the impression your ready to part with your money straight away they will either push you to make a decision or move you swiftly out the door. Here are some of the most commonly used sales tactics to try and rush a decision or manipulate a potential buyer:
- Creating Urgency: To create urgency the seller will tell you that the diamond is being looked at by someone else, is the absolute last of that clarity/size/color in the store, that it will be gone by the end of the day…essentially anything that will make you believe that if you don’t buy it on the spot, you will miss out.
- One-Time Offer: If you buy it now, you can have $200 off…but only if you buy now. The seller offers a ‘one-off’ deal. The same deal they will offer to everyone and the same one that they would offer if you visited the store three days later.
- The Impossible Deal: Expect to see a perfectly-staged phone call to the ‘big-boss’ as your seller pleads to wrangle you the deal of a lifetime. A well-rehearsed act that can really lure buyers into believe they are getting a very special treatment and pressure them into committing to buying.
Don’t fall for the deceptions. It is true that if you go away to think about a ring, there is a small possibility someone will walk in and buy it while you’re still weighing up your options, but it is better to have a slightly longer, better informed search than making a snap decision. One leads to a well-priced, beautiful diamond, while the latter results in buyers regret.
With over 4000 jewelry stores, the NYC diamond district can be an overwhelming place to shop. Resist the temptation to buy the first diamond you see in the first store you visit. It is essential that you shop around to compare prices and quality. You are likely to be amazed at the huge disparity from store to store.
The Wholesale Myth
If a store is advertised as selling diamonds at wholesale prices, please know that this is entirely untrue.
Many of these companies are in violation of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as it is illegal to call yourself a Wholesaler, when in fact you are a retailer - Beware!
Watch out for mark up, to mark down sales - many of these so called wholesalers inflate prices before reducing them to give the impression of a deal.
Certification is Everything
I cannot push the point of proper certification enough. The NYC diamond district is overrun with sellers offering diamonds that are only accompanied by an instore appraisal or a diamond report from an unreliable lab. These reports are complete misrepresentations of the diamond being sold and give overinflated grades; this ultimately leads to a buyer paying more for a lower quality diamond. IGI, GAI, GALA…these are just a few of the questionable reports you may run into during your time in the NYC diamond district. Only certificates from the GIA or AGS are reliable and will give you an accurate representation of the diamond you are buying. You can find an in-depth look at GIA and AGS certification here.
Read the Small Print
One of the many advantages of buying a diamond online is the small print is there in black and white, ready to be read over and over until you are fully informed and happy with the finer details of your purchase. When shopping in the NYC diamond district, this luxury does not exist. Make sure the details regarding refund are crystal clear before you even think of parting with your money. I would suggest that a 30-day return period is fair and this is adopted by most reputable diamond vendors. If the seller only offers an exchange, I would suggest shopping elsewhere. If you are unhappy with your purchase, it is unlikely you will want to exchange it for an item from the same store. A fair and clear return policy shows that a seller has confidence in their product, and an avoidance of this suggests the opposite. Insist that the terms of the sale are given in writing before you buy and always read the small print.
Hawkers are hired by some stores on 47th street to tout for business using banners, leaflets and smooth talk. Some people enjoy the bustling, market-vibe that hawkers bring and it is true that they add energy to the diamond district, but before falling for the coercive chatter of a hawker, remember that you are buying an expensive, luxury item and not a bag of apples. Hawkers can lead you to the lesser establishments of the district and ultimately distract you from your goal of finding a beautiful diamond. Reputable stores do not need to drum up interest using street tactics, so give hawkers a wide berth if you are looking to make a serious purchase.
Beware of Scammers
One of the most common horror stories of the NYC diamond district is a diamond being shown with a specific certification, only for the buyer to later find that the diamond was switched and bears no resemblance to the lab report. Safeguard against this by checking the diamond with a microscope or jewelers loupe and match the inclusions you see with those started on the lab report. Fake papers or doctored diamond reports have also become part of the con-artist repertoire in the diamond district. You can also check GIA and AGS reports online to certify that they are real deal, so be sure to do this before making a commitment. A paper trail is also important and could avoid additional trouble should something go wrong. Make sure you have all the terms of sale and proof of purchase in writing. Any receipts should display the date, name of the store and the amount paid. Keep hold of all paperwork.
If you feel any excessive pressure, or if your salesperson is refusing to answer your questions, walk away. There are some genuine sellers in the district, you just have to be vigilant in order to find them.
Pay with Cards
It is likely that you will be encourage to pay with cash but my advice would be to pay on a credit card. This gives you additional support should things go wrong and you want a refund.
Is the NYC Diamond District for Me?
The harsh reality is that 47th street is a minefield for first time buyers with traps set to ensnare unassuming customers into big purchases with little prior knowledge of the product. If you consider yourself to be a slightly more experienced buyer, you may be able to dodge the deception however the most experienced buyers will know that an excellent quality diamond at a good price can be hard to come by in the diamond district.
Visit for the buzz and the unique atmosphere that the NYC diamond district delivers, take a look around and ask some questions, but keep your wallet firmly in your pocket. The rise of e-commerce means that the best priced diamonds will always be found online where reputable vendors are able to sell quality diamonds without the mark up of a traditional bricks and mortar store. As human beings, we are fooled into thinking that dealing with someone face to face means a more authentic and reliable shopping experience, but when it comes to buying diamonds, that could not be further from the truth. Avoid sales patter, manipulation and a rushed decision by taking your time and choosing a trusted online vendor.
Only retailers live and die by their reputation, so will usually get a much better service. I highly recommend Whiteflash for their customer service and quality, also consider James Allen and Blue Nile.