You can find a diamond store in just about every city around the world. In New York City, in the US, diamond stores are not just present throughout the 5 boroughs, but have a rich history and compelling story in the birth of the world-renowned Diamond District.
Today the Diamond District begins at the 47th street in Manhattan, the heart of New York City, but this was not always the case. Roots of the Diamond District trace back to the Centuries-Old Hasidic Community from Eastern Europe; particularly in Antwerp, Belgium, which was and remains the Diamond Capital of the world.
During the 15th Century, the Jewish Community forged an exclusive and distinct relationship with the diamond industry. The social and economic structure at the time afforded Jewish people limited work choices. One of the choices available was to take up trade in diamond industry. The dominant Christian culture across Europe disapproved of the handling of goods and money, and as a result, the Jewish community took up these essential roles necessary to sustain commerce.
Persecution of Jewish people throughout Europe has a long and arduous history. Innumerable incidents of Jewish members of communities large and small being sought out and exiled took place in Eastern & Southern Europe; forcing mass-migration north, with many seeking refuge in Belgium.
The outbreak of WWII in Europe caused catastrophic upset in the Jewish community, which greatly affected the diamond market in Antwerp. Those Jewish refugees who succeeded in emigrating to and entering the United States arrived with just a handful of their belongings, and a great depth of knowledge and understanding of the diamond industry.
Diamond stores in New York City began to migrate from what was once Maiden Lane, to the 47th street area of Manhattan, New York. This area, once known as the Garment District, was dirty and derelict until the influx of the diamond store repopulated it. The establishment of the Diamond District in Manhattan, literally speaking, is a rags-to-riches tale. The establishment of clusters of diamond stores in this area of New York City, and the institution of stone and metal artisans around them has cultivated the heralded Diamond District of New York, which has become North America’s Diamond Capital.
Anthropologist and author Renee Shield writes in, Diamond Stories: Enduring Change of 47th Street; “The diamond, a pebbly object transformed into a twinkling, astronomically priced jewel, has allowed Jews to transform themselves from rejected refugees of one country to respected businessmen of another.“
Today, the second and the third generations of those immigrants are continuing their family’s legacy in the diamond stores of 47th street in New York City. If you were to visit the street and you are a keen observer, you may catch sight of a handshake that is believed to be a “diamond exchange”. The handshake signifies trust that is distinct to the Jewish community. In the diamond trade today, credit-based exchanged do not exist as we know them in common terms, rather a “trust-based exchange” occurs, and credit is issued on the basis of personal integrity rather than monetary buying power.
A visit to the Diamond District is worthy of a special trip. This is where the largest selection of fine jewelry, diamonds, watches and gemstones in a wide array of styles and cutting edge designs are available for view, trying on, and purchase. Prices for diamonds and fine jewelry are typically lower when in proximity to the Diamond District when compared to department and jewelry chain stores outside of Manhattan. As set foot to pavement in the Diamond District you’ll find thousands of independent diamond stores in New York City with expert purveyors ready and willing to cater to you. Whether you are a regular customer or making a one-time purchase, it would be their greatest pleasure, and yours, to allow them to assist you.