[click on picture to enlarge - taken via iPhone]
I am taking you to one of the most fascinating block of the city: 47th St. between Fifth and Sixth Aves, known officially as the Diamond and Jewelry Way, but more commonly referred to as The Diamond District. At either end of the block, two enormous diamond-shaped pylons serve as a gateway to the district. The one pictured above stands on Sixth Avenue.
The district represents 60,000 jobs: 35,000 jobs on the block itsef and 25,000 jobs deriving from its activity (security companies, delivery services, nearby restaurants, gemological institutes,...). Did you know that 95% of the diamonds imported into the United States pass through New York? And that most of them are handled and cut on this block?
This is the place to go for bargains on diamonds, precious gems, gold and other fine jewelry. The block is jammed with stores, exhanges and booths. Generally, the quality of the jewelry decreases as you approach Sixth Avenue, with the higher-end stores on Fifth Avenue.
Most dealers are Hasidic Jews for whom diamonds are the family business. And business deals between dealers are still made following ancient traditions and Talmud laws. A handshake between two gentlemen in the street accompanied by the words "mazel and broche" (good luck and blessing, in Yiddish) can seal a hundreds of thousands dollars deal worth of diamonds. Ironically, retail transactions are backed up by extensive legal paperwork (appraisals, receipts, gemological certifications, insurance forms, etc.).