November 30, 2016

How to Shop NYC Diamond District and Not Overpay

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Thinking of shopping for a diamond in the New York diamond district? This is a must-read guide before you go so you don’t get ripped off.

Diamond District NYC
Diamond District NYC © Achim Hepp (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr

New York is a dazzling city home to an iconic skyline. You'll find some of the world's top museums, famous landmarks, and the nation's top diamond district.

The Diamond District can be a very taxing experience. It is, unfortunately, notorious for touts and hustlers. Many shoppers feel completely overwhelmed and "preyed upon."

But it is possible to find your perfect engagement ring too. You just have to be informed so that you don't get ripped off. We hope this guide will help you have a good, memorable experience.

In this guide:

A Diamond District with History

Diamond District at night
Diamond District at night © Lisa Larson-Walker (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr

The world-famous New York Diamond District is made up of just one city block. Yet it's a major financial powerhouse for the State.

Visit Midtown Manhattan, on the bustling 47th Street between 5th and 6th Avenue. You'll find over 2,600 businesses specializing in diamonds, gemstones, fine jewelry, gold, watches, and estate jewelry. Some are individual stores, while some are in large exchanges where up to 100 jewelers sell under one roof.

This district has an interesting history. Jewelers started setting up there in the 1920's because rent was more affordable. It really bloomed in the 40's when Orthodox Jews in the diamond business in Belgium and the Netherlands fled to New York to escape the Nazi occupation. Most settled in NYC and thus the Diamond District was born.

Today, the New York Diamond District is the gateway to the world's largest consumer diamond market, with about 90% of the diamonds imported into the U.S. passing through it first. Diamonds are the state's largest export and this district alone generates over $24 billion in annual sales. The GIA lab in New York is also located right in the heart of the district.

Getting There

220714-190 CPS
220714-190 CPS © Chris Sampson (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

  • NY subway: This is New York! So how else are you going to get there besides taking the subway?!

    The closest subway stop is 47th-50th Streets - Rockefeller Center, which is part of the IND Sixth Avenue Line. You can get there on the D, F, B, and M lines (B & M only on weekdays). This stop is just 2 blocks from 47th St. & 6th Avenue.

  • By car: New York is notorious for expensive parking rates (with most upwards of $30), so we really don't recommend that you drive and try to navigate the NY traffic. But if you must, here are a few nearby structures for around $30 for a day:

    • Icon Clarity 47 Parking: 145-155 W 47 St (between 6th Ave-7th Ave)
    • Edison ParkFast: 50 W 44 St (between 5th Ave-6th Ave)
    • Icon Astor Parking: 224 W 45 St (between Broadway-8th Ave)

    Before going, use an app like Best Parking to find a structure and reserve your parking spot.

What You Should Know Before You Go

The New York Diamond District has a bad rep for sleazy salesmen who'll push you into making bad quality purchases at inflated prices. Unfortunately, this happens. There is no harm in going to take a look at diamonds and try on some styles, but make sure you do your homework before going. We can't stress it enough!

The number 1 rule is to never go unprepared. You don't have to walk into a store a complete expert, but if you sound like a total newbie, you may as well have a huge red target painted on your forehead.

At the very least, spend some time to:

  • Learn about the 4C's. To not get ripped off, it's important you learn a little bit about diamonds and what drives diamond prices. This is a good place to start for beginners. We break down each C (carat, cut, color, and clarity) and explain its level of importance, what you should prioritize, and what you can "sacrifice." We also show you how going up and down grade levels for each C affects the price of the diamond.

  • Research pricing online first. Even if you want to buy your diamond from a store in person, start your search with online retailers first. Play around with different settings for each of the 4C's to get an idea of how much a diamond costs with certain characteristics.

    James Allen and Blue Nile are both great places to start to get a feel for prices and what you can expect.

  • Make a list of what stores to visit: Of the over 2,600 shops on the block, there are unfortunately more bad ones than good. So you really can't just wander around and hope that you manage to stumble into the perfect store. Do thorough research beforehand and read reviews.

To help you out, we've listed a few stores with good reputations below. But you'll also want to do your own research too in case you're looking for something specific.

Shops to Consider

The good shops are the ones that'll spend the time to understand your budget and style, compare diamonds with you with professional tools, and won't ever pressure you into making a purchase.

So how do you find the honest jewelers in the sea of hustlers and solicitors? To give you a starting point, here are some stores that have established a strong, trusted reputation in the New York Diamond District:

  • Designs by Kamni: Kamni truly enjoys connecting with her customers and helping them custom design the perfect ring within their budget. What makes her stand out is that she takes the time to educate her customers so that they feel completely comfortable with the purchase. She personally handpicks each diamond and all her stones are conflict-free and GIA certified.

  • R&R Jewelers: This family-owned store by brothers Rami and Robert has been in business for over 30 years. Their goal is to make each customer feel valued, appreciated, and acknowledged. They have a large inventory of handpicked loose diamonds and designer jewelry, and are also happy to do custom designs.

  • Ben Moses Jewelry Designer: Now a father-son duo, this store is 3 generations of jewelry and ring design that started back in Europe. They are talented designers and truly take pride in their craftsmanship to make unique rings for customers. If you have more specific or vintage tastes, they may be just what you're looking for.

  • Sashka Jewelry: Owned by Issac and Gina, a husband and wife team, this small store provides a comfortable and welcoming environment for customers free from pressure. They also have a large assortment of other gems if you're looking for something alternative.

  • Jangmi Diamonds: Easily the most popular store in the New York Diamond District. But this store deserves the hundreds of 5-star reviews; it's had over 30 years of trust and credibility. The Kims and their staff are all highly knowledgeable and patiently help customers find their dream ring. All their diamonds are GIA certified.

Tips for Shopping at the New York Diamond Center

The New York Diamond District can be described as a high-pressure zone. You'll see a lot of salesmen out on the sidewalk luring you in to show you their "great deals" and "lowest prices" on diamonds.

Hopefully, after reading this, you'll know not to fall for these traps. Here are some final tips to keep in mind in order to have a happy experience:

  • Know where to go: Generally speaking, the shops closer to the 5th Avenue side are higher in quality. There are less hawkers there and the rent is higher. The 6th Avenue side has a lot more flashy exchanges and solicitors preying on unsuspecting customers. Stay away from those and don't be lured in!

  • Never feel pressured into making a purchase. And never feel uncertain about a diamond or the price. If you had spent some time learning about the 4C's and diamond prices, then you should have some idea of what to expect.

    If you're at a store and feel like the salesperson is pushing the hard sell or is using shady tactics (such as "This awesome deal only lasts today. Normally the price is $XXXX, so I'm giving you a good deal!"), then walk out. You should always feel comfortable and happy about the purchase. And deals on diamonds don't exist.

  • Ask to examine the diamond. A good store will let you examine the diamond with a professional jeweler's loupe and even light performance tools. If a store does not let you examine and compare diamonds, and claims that their diamond is high-quality without any proof, that doesn't sound very trustworthy. Take your business to another store that does not try to hide information.

  • Make sure you get a certification from a reliable lab. We recommend only buying diamonds graded by GIA or AGS, as these two labs have the highest standards, and more importantly, are reliable. Other labs may not grade to the same standards. So a diamond graded as having a color of H by one lab may in actuality only be a J by GIA or AGS.

  • Understand the store refund policy and warranties. A lot of stores will offer a full refund within 14-30 days. But some stores may only offer store credit (which is useless, because why would you spend your money there again if you didn't like it the first time around?). Be very, very clear about the store's policy before handing over any money. Also ask about their other policies such as warranty and diamond trade-up.

  • Use a credit card for purchase protection. We don't mean that you should charge the ring if you don't have the cash (because ideally, you should only spend what you can afford). But a credit card does give you certain protections, such as if the item you received is not what was promised.

  • Get a receipt and have all agreements/policies written down. This is very important. After you have made a purchase, make sure the receipt clearly states the store name, address, item (including details of all the C's), purchase amount, and date of purchase. In addition to that, have the store rep write down all verbal agreements and the refund policy, just in case a less-than-reputable store tries to go back on its word later.

CONCLUSION

If you're not careful, the New York Diamond District can be a very overwhelming and stressful experience, almost designed to ensnare shoppers into its glittery web. We cannot stress it enough: research, research, and research. Learn about the 4C's and diamond prices, and read reviews of stores you may want to visit.

Just remember, you should feel comfortable every step of the way. Don't ever feel like you're being pressured. If a salesperson is making you tense, just walk out. There are hundreds of other stores you can visit instead. We hope we gave you a good starting point in our shortlist.

And lastly, are the prices at the New York Diamond District really cheaper? In our opinion, not really. Of course they're cheaper than prestigious branded stores, but for the most part, prices are on a par with online stores such as James Allen. So if you like being able to look at diamonds in person, you may find better prices compared to high-end stores, but don't expect outrageous deals either.

Have fun and good luck!

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy financial decisions. Our free online service is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content.

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