It’s no secret that our little block in Midtown does big business. As we’ve noted before, 90% of the diamonds that are imported into the United States visit the block. Some 4,000 businesses employ approximately 30,000 people. On a busy day, the sidewalks are bustling with every member of the jewelry trade.
With all that in mind, it’s easy to see why a trip to the Diamond District can seem intimidating. Perhaps you have looked up an address for a jewelry store, only to find that it is one of many businesses hidden on the ground floor of a large jewelry exchange. Or, hurrying through a swarm of hawkers causes you to inconveniently shoot past the building of your destination.
But, there’s a reason why we’re here. It’s the epicenter of the New York, and the country’s, jewelry trade; it’s the place to be! Once you start walking the block every day, you get used to the rhythm of the street and it becomes vastly less overwhelming.
To have you navigating the block like a pro, we’ve compiled a few tips to help pavé your way and find what you need.
If there is something in particular you are looking for, be it new diamond, a watch dealer, or for antique pieces (our favorite), you don’t want to be flying blind. Make a list of places you’d like to visit, and have a general sense of where they are: odd numbered buildings are on the north side of the block and even numbered buildings are on the south side. Building numbers run upward, heading west from Fifth Avenue to Sixth Avenue. If you look like you know where you’re going, it’s less likely that you’ll be bothered by hawkers.
Let’s talk about those guys. Loud but harmless, hawkers are paid to drum up business off the block and into their shops. They are found in greater numbers on the Sixth Avenue side of the block, so if you are just coming to visit and take a look around, we recommend starting on Sixth Avenue and heading east to get them out of the way. Those that haven’t done their homework sometimes get trapped into conversation when asking a hawker for directions; again, a little bit of research can save you a big hassle. Most importantly, don’t let yourself be pressured by them.
That said, don’t be afraid to browse. Shops with window displays represent a tiny fraction of the treasure housed in a jewelry exchange. All different kinds of businesses mingle on the same floor: gemstone dealers, jewelry sellers and bench jewelers might be neighbors. Browsing the halls of the exchanges could introduce you to new styles and is neat for people watching. If items in a case catch your eye but you don’t see exactly what you’re looking for, ask the sales associate for help. You never know what might be hiding in plain sight. A good dealer will answer your questions and work with you to find something you really love!
Not only is the Diamond District a unique and quirky place to visit, it’s the best place in the country to find something unique and special!