New York City Diamond District Review (Updated 2023)
Why buying a diamond in NYC's diamond district is not the best option
We are reader-supported. Buying through any red colored link on our site may earn us commissions. Learn More.
Why buying a diamond in NYC's diamond district is not the best option
The NYC Diamond District is a compact area that feels like a pressure-cooker when you are looking to purchase a diamond or diamond jewelry. 47th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues is packed with jewelry exchanges, storefronts, wholesalers bustling back and forth, and street hawkers trying to lure you in to a specific store. The amount of jewelry (numbering hundreds of millions of dollars worth) is staggering and overwhelming.
All the hustle and bustle creates an atmosphere that overwhelms customers looking to find an engagement ring or other diamond jewelry. It creates an environment that many of those jewelers use to exploit consumers who wander up to their booth or into their store. In this article, we discuss whether it’s a good idea to purchase a diamond on 47th street, what tricks retailers are using to make more money off of you, and tips for getting the perfect diamond ring.
Where can you find the Diamond District in New York?
Buying and selling diamonds in the NYC Diamond District
The 47th Street
The value of shopping in the NYC Diamond District
Should you buy diamonds from the Diamond District?
Tiffany & Co: Worth the detour
Some places conjure up fantastic images of grandeur in our heads. The Taj Mahal in India, the strip in Vegas and Rodeo Drive in LA all leave an indelible imprint on our minds. The New York Diamond District has a similar reputation. Just one city block of 47th street, the towering buildings whose street-level edifices are adorned with sparkling earrings, elegant rings and flashy accessories lure tourists in by the busload and even attract New Yorkers (no small feat).
As iconic as the Diamond District is, 47th Street wasn’t even the original hotspot for jewelers in NYC. In the 1800s, the jewelry hotspot was centered, coincidentally I’m sure, around Maiden Lane and Canal St, just a few blocks from Wall Street. In 1924, the New York Times stated that “the bride-to-be who could show a ring from Maiden Lane was thrice happy.”
Rising rents and other factors forced jewelers to look upwards and eventually, they settled on one long block of 47th Street between Fifth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas. Many of the buildings housed “exchanges” on the ground floors, where you can go from counter to counter looking at different offerings of gold, diamonds and other metals and gems. You could have your watch fixed on one counter, pick out a pair of diamond earrings across the aisle and have your emerald reset into a different ring two counters down.
The Diamond District in NYC has a special hold on me. My first job in the industry was working for Leo Schachter, one of the largest diamond manufacturers at the time. Our offices were on the corner of Fifth Avenue and my subway stop was on Sixth Avenue. Every day, to and from work, I would walk that street. Sure, I was a local and didn’t stop and stare, but to this day I still feel a rush walking down that street.
47th Street is a fascinating place. Most of the shop owners and workers are Hassidic Jews, Russians or Indians (three groups that dominate the diamond trade on the wholesale and manufacturing level as well). Walking down the street you will also notice plenty of armed guards for the shipping companies and police officers patrolling. And if you are thinking of pulling off a heist, there are plenty of undercover officers as well. You’ll also have people up and down the street paid to get you to visit one of the shops on the street.
Like all neighborhoods, the diamond district has had its share of ups and downs. Already back in 2008, The New York Times reported that “Though data is scarce, longtime business owners on 47th Street say the district is shrinking.” More recently online auction giant eBay announced that it was opening a luxury retail store in the district. According to JCK Online, the eBay store will have a unique model “The store lets shoppers appraise and possibly trade in their pre-owned luxury items.” and is positioning itself as an alternative to resale stores and pawnshops.
The Diamond District in New York is located on West 47th Street between Fifth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas in Midtown Manhattan. The Diamond District is one block off of Madison Avenue, famous for the iconic fashion houses’ flagship stores. It’s a stone’s throw from Times Square and is home to over 2,500 jewelry stores. Some are standalone shops while others host dozens of jewelry counters vying for attention.
The easiest way to get to the Diamond District in NY is by taking the subway. The Rockefeller Center subway stop for the B, D and F lines is steps away. You are also a 5-7 minute walk from the 47th Street 1 train stop, and Grand Central Terminal on the other side.
My favorite place to park is the Quick Park Gem garage on 46th Street. Pro Tip: If you manage to park here, there is a small door that is the back entrance to one of the jewelry exchanges and you can walk through directly instead of having to walk around.
There are plenty of cities that have diamond districts, but New York City is unique. Places like Mumbai and Ramat Gan are exclusively designed for the wholesale level of the business while Jewelers rows in Philadelphia, Chicago or London (Hatton Garden) are just there for the consumer with almost no presence of major diamond trading companies. Antwerp used to have a nice mix of both, but the diamond industry has been dying off there on both the wholesale and retail levels.
New York City, on the other hand, is one of the premier locations for consumers as well as one of the largest wholesale markets in the world. While Hong Kong has been growing in stature, the US market is still the largest, by far, for diamonds and jewelry. Virtually all of the major companies use NY as their entry point. This provides an extraordinary concentration of products in one area.
The retail and wholesale businesses seem (at least from the consumers’ perspective) to mesh together on 47th Street. The most notable quirk is the language used. I remember the first time I heard an Indian guy use Yiddish terms to describe a diamond. Chazarei (crap) and Strop (a lemon) are common terms people use for bad diamonds. And you will constantly hear the phrase “mazal u bracha” (luck and blessings) when people handshake on a deal. It certainly adds flavor to the experience.
So what does this mean to you, the consumer? I mean nostalgia of a bygone era and the multinational flavor of a street like this are nice. At the end of the day, however, your goal is to get the best deal for your money. Is it a place that gives you that bang for your buck? Is it a place where you can get screwed left and right? My amazing friend Ariella joined me for a stroll through the area.
One thing that strikes someone like me (someone who worked there for 8 years and has been visiting for the last 10 years) is how it seems to have hit hard times. I am not the only one noticing as I just noticed an article in the NY Post on the matter.
After my second secret shopping in the area, I came away with mixed feelings. To be clear, I did not find any deals that made it seem worthwhile to shop there. The few times I was shown nice diamonds, the prices did not seem to be in line with what I found on the web. I will get into specifics later, but I just couldn’t find a diamond to warrant the trip to the Diamond District for this purchase.
On the other hand, I was impressed that most of the slimy tactics I saw on hand in the past weren’t being used. The last time I secret-shopped the Diamond District, I was helping my sister get a pair of earrings. I was overwhelmed by the number of schemes people tried to pull. Virtually no diamonds had legitimate certification (I should note that I was buying large diamonds, not smaller diamonds where certification is not as important) and many of them appeared to be artificially enhanced without them mentioning it to me.
This time around, I was happy to see that district cleaned itself up. The overwhelming majority of diamonds we were shown had GIA certificates. Many of the diamonds shown to us were obviously “strops” that they were trying to get rid of. But overall the quality of the diamonds was ok.
As expected, there is very little “added value” to the experience. It’s not a luxurious experience. There is no brand recognition or upscale in-store experiences. They have one angle to sell you one: price.
What was unexpected was that the people were not as aggressive as the last time I visited the street. In fact, we were generally met with very little enthusiasm or even antipathy. Also, there were quite a few empty counters and storefronts. Even some whole exchanges seemed to have closed.
Ariella and I visited about 15 counters or shops in several of the exchanges (as well as some standalone shops). For the purpose of this article, I will focus on the three best options I found. All of them were GIA certified and excellent cuts.
The first choice was at one of the counters in an exchange. After going back and forth, they showed us a nice 1.07ct G SI2 in a pave setting for $8,500. The inclusion wasn’t particularly great (I noticed it easily and Ariella, a novice, noticed it after a little inspection), so I will try to compare apples to apples here. I found a similar setting on Blue Nile for $1,700. I added this 1.05 G SI2 from Blue Nile for comparison. Adding them together and your bill comes out to about $5,700. So you are looking at savings of more than 30% buying online over buying here.
After wandering a bit more, we ended up in a standalone store. Here we were shown a 1.53 E SI1 in a very simple pave setting for $15,800 (after some negotiating). There was a small black inclusion, but otherwise, the diamond looked fantastic. The setting was similar to this one from James Allen. Adding this comparable diamond and you’ll price out at $12,930 or about 20% cheaper.
The last shop we visited before calling it quits had some nice diamonds. The first they showed us was a 2.00 F SI1. The cut was a bit off (a little deep and the angles are off as you can see from the GIA report) but the inclusions were nice. Another issue was the medium fluorescence. The price though, was a very steep $22,000. Here is a nicer diamond from Blue Nile coming in for more than $4,000 cheaper.
The other diamond they pushed very hard was a 1.65ct H VVS2 for $16,632. This diamond was actually gorgeous. But again, the price is very high. Here is an almost identical diamond from James Allen for only $14,400.
It just seems like they don’t bring enough to the table. They are not a rip-off, but you seem to be paying a premium for no added value.
As you shop for a diamond, keep a few tips in mind to find the most stunning diamond for the best price. Head into the store confidently with these pointers.
The New York Diamond District is a great tourist place to visit. It’s a unique experience where you can people-watch and window shop at the same time. There is something alluring to the sounds of the negotiations in the exchanges. But when you get down to it, there just doesn’t seem to be much of a reason to buy a diamond there.
As we explained above, the companies were not competitive in price. Why go through the headaches of shopping around in an area that has no frills and the best deal you are going to get is still 20% more expensive than you can find online? It just seems like the best way to maximize your budget would be to shop online at a reputable retailer like Blue Nile or James Allen.
If you are in midtown Manhattan, do yourself a favor and head over to the flagship Tiffany & Co store. While I wouldn’t recommend purchasing from them (we cover that in our review of Tiffany rings). The store is truly a unique experience. I have secret shopped thousands of retail locations in my life and no place affected me as much as the Tiffany store.
Are their engagement rings overpriced? Well, we feel they are. But some people are willing to pay for the brand and luxury experience. Even if you end up purchasing elsewhere, you can still have that incredible luxury experience at their flagship store.
Before you buy a diamond, get personal buying advice from industry veterans. We'll help you get the best diamond for the money.
DISCLAIMER: We don't use your email for marketing. Period.
A diamonds’ price is determined primarily by the 4 Cs of the diamond. On the wholesale level, diamond prices are first based on a diamond shape and
When purchasing a diamond engagement ring, it’s important to find the right retailer to purchase it from. Some retailers excel at niche products li
A wide range of 1 carat diamonds exist both in online markets and local diamond jewelry stores. Not only are there significant differences in beauty
Please enter your email address to receive your 25% off coupon code:
Here is your coupon code: GFDSF3GF