Saturday, February 21, 2009

Diamond District

Yesterday I got to go on a run to 47th Street. My boss had some collections of jewelry and watches that needed to be returned to the vendors we'd borrowed them from, and our regular errand guy is on vacation, so I was sent, along with our security guard, to return the goods. 47th Street, particularly the area between 5th and 6th Avenues, is known as the Diamond District because it is nothing but jewelry stores. And they aren't regular jewelry stores--some of them are huge complexes full of small numbered "booths" where individual dealers display and sell their wares. The street is full of Orthodox Jewish men in black brimmed hats, while less religious men stand in the doorways of the shops and call to passersby to come take a look at their wares or sell their jewelry and watches. If you have gold to sell, now is the time--gold is almost $1000 an ounce. 47th Street is the place to sell it. On my run I also got to see the place where my boss sends old gold jewelry and watches to be scrapped. Sometimes scrapping is the best option, because these days you never know how long something is going to sit on the shelf and not sell. Sometimes it makes more sense to have the cash, even if it means scrapping a hundred-year old pocket-watch that was given to someone's grandfather upon retirement. There is little sentiment on 47th Street. There, jewels are lined up in windows like soldiers, meant to dazzle the eye, not capture the imagination. Everyone is intent on the business at hand, the buying and selling and constant exchange of goods. With stocks slumping and loans defaulting, some people are calling for a return to the gold standard. In a time of ephemeral security, the tangible nature of gold and gemstones is reassuring. Diamonds are forever, and gold is pure. The line at the gold-scrapper's shop was long. The people want money.

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