Dealers on 47th Street don't always agree on what it takes to get ahead. Manhattan's Diamond District can be a fiercely competitive place. But the businesses that survive and prosper here for decades are usually run by smart people with a reputation for being reliable and fair.
Fima Kandinov maintains straight shooting is the key to survival in the Diamond District. “Honesty and integrity are the keys to any business,” Kandinov says, and business conducted on 47th Street is no exception.
Many dealers on 47th Street take a somewhat more cutthroat approach. But Kandinov, primary appraiser and founder of Luriya, is not the only one to reach this conclusion.
Diana Singer launched her career as a vendor on the block and now runs a thriving jewelry brokerage firm. She believes her success has a lot to do with building a solid reputation and developing long-term relationships.
Manhattan's Diamond District along 47th Street (photo courtesy BridgeandTunnelClub.com)
Sharing insider secrets of selling jewelry on 47th Street is something for which Singer has become famous as a speaker at gem and jewelry conferences all over the country - most recently at the Northwest Jewelry Conference. I first heard her speak about 47th Street protocol years ago at the Antique Jewelry & Art Conference, aka Jewelry Camp, where she will be presenting again next year.
When she was preparing her presentation, Singer said she asked other 47th Street dealers what they considered to be the protocol of the block. Many scoffed at the idea that there was any protocol in the Diamond District, but when pressed, they all had clear ideas of what constituted good and bad behavior on the street.
For those who live in the NYC metropolitan area, the Diamond District is known as the place to go if you’re looking to sell outdated jewels or an inherited watch you never wear, to trade in gold for cash, or to sell unique estate jewels at (hopefully) a fair price.
To begin with, if you bring valuables here, don't walk into the first door you see that advertises “Best prices on diamonds!”
“It’s always a good idea to know who you are about to do business with,” Kandinov says. “A customer should check out the buyer’s website, reviews, accreditations, and affiliations.”
Among the most important things to verify before you approach a dealer: how long they’ve been in business and what their customers say about them. The web should supply the first answers, but it's always a good idea to ask around. Find out where friends and acquaintances have bought and sold and what kind of experience they had.
Unlike jewelry districts in smaller cities, the jewelry business along 47th Street often feels more like a financial district. “In any industry where there is too little product and too much market, you’re going to have people behaving incorrectly,” Singer says. “In the jewelry business, the emphasis is not on jewelry, it’s on business. And this business can be just as cutthroat as any other.”
As with any business, a dealer's customer base grows with his or her reputation. Take advantage of people and word gets out. Likewise, if you plan to do business there yourself more than once, now's the time to start building relationships and establishing a reputation as a good customer.
Here are some basic tips to keep in mind if you hope to get a fair deal on 47th Street.
1. Sift the honest dealers from the dishonest ones first. “It’s very hard to spot a dishonest dealer, since the customer is not a jewelry expert and maybe be easily misled as to the value of his pieces,” Kandinov says. “That’s why it’s always better to deal with an established and reputable dealer that has been in the business for a long time.”
2. Beware the bum rush. “One of the most common signs of a dishonest dealer is rushing the customer into making a deal and not allowing you to think it through,” Kandinov says. “Also be cautious of aggressive and forceful behavior and tone.”
3. Don’t interrupt. If you approach a counter where a dealer is working with a private client, it is bad form to walk up and announce yourself. “Dealers always prefer to make a private sale because it usually means a better profit,” Singer explains. “So allow them to finish their business before you introduce yourself.”
4. Ask for a description of your goods. If you have jewelry to sell, always ask for a detailed description of your valuables, including whether or not something is a brand-name piece. “You should always ask the dealer to identify the type of metal or gem stone, the weight and quality,” says Kandinov. “These are the most important factors when determining price.”
5. Don’t pretend to be in the business. If you're there to buy, most dealers don’t mind selling at trade discounts to people outside of or new to the industry, as long as they have a resale number. But if you aren’t in the business, don’t expect special deals.
6. Don’t pretend to know more than you do. “There’s nothing wrong with not knowing how to do something and learning how to do it. That’s how people start,” Singer says. “It’s in our interest to sell you something that you can make money on. But if you’re new to the business, don’t pretend that you’re experienced when it’s obvious that you’re not.”
7. Establish your street cred. If you’ve dealt with someone else on the block in the past, let the dealer know that and invite him or her to check this out. “This will instill confidence in you,” Singer says.
8. Read contracts carefully before signing. If you're have jewelry to sell, a dealer is required by New York State law to get a signed document confirming ownership of the valuables and the dollar amount of the transaction. The customer must also provide a copy of a valid picture ID.
9. Beware of dealers who don’t ask for ID, offer written agreements, or ask for confirmation of ownership of your valuables.