An Engagement Ring Shopper's Guide to the New York City Diamond District

Here's how to navigate the intimidating stone exchange.
Ultimate Guide to New York City's Diamond District
Photo: Levon Avagyan / Shutterstock
Elle Cashin headshot
Elle Cashin
Elle Cashin headshot
Elle Cashin
The Knot Fashion Contributor
  • Elle writes for The Knot online with a focus on fashion, covering gown design trends and shoppable accessories.
  • Elle is a contributor to wedding publications across the country, including Brides, The New York Times Vows and Modern Luxury Weddings.
  • Prior to shifting to weddings, Elle covered lifestyle, culture and celebrity across Chicago as the editor of the Chicago Tribune’s SPLASH magazine, where she interviewed cele...
Updated Nov 13, 2023

If you're in the market for an engagement ring, chances are you've caught wind of New York City's famous Diamond District. It's something out of an urban fairy tale: A sometimes gritty and always glittery home base for retail shops and merchants, craftsmen, artisans and diamond experts, appraisers, importer, and more. Everywhere you look, it's lit with that special type of fluorescence that makes gems sparkle brilliantly. And most importantly, it's home to billions of dollars worth of diamonds and gemstones.

The Diamond District, in concept, has been around since the late 1700s, originally located on Maiden Lane at the southern tip of Manhattan. It expanded and shifted, moving steadily toward Midtown over the course of 200 years, and settled in at its current location on 47th Street in the 1940s. Today, it's a community all its own, full of jewelers who have known each other for decades and do business together often, and consumers on the hunt for the perfect piece of jewelry.

For further insight—including how to navigate the at-times intimidating area—we turned to Mike Jamgotchian, assistant sales manager for Diamond District mainstay Lauren B Jewelry. Lauren B began as a modest booth in the district in 1980, and has grown and evolved to become a leader in custom engagement ring design. Let's dive in.

In this article:

What Is the NYC Diamond District?

Though countries like India do a large diamond trade, and cities like Antwerp, Belgium have bustling gemstone industries, New York City's Diamond District is the world's largest and densest region for diamond exchange. "The Diamond District in New York is the biggest jewelry district in the world and more than 90% of diamonds pass through before going anywhere else in the U.S.," says Jamgotchian. "It is a mix of buildings—some with street-level storefronts full of different vendor booths, and some doorman or security buildings with entire floors or suites belonging to specific and famous diamond retailers." The district is also home to the Gemological Institute of America's (GIA) New York campus (the organization is the nationwide standard-bearer for gemstone quality assurance and education).

Where Is the Diamond District in NYC?

Centrally located in Midtown Manhattan, the Diamond District officially stretches along 47th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, just a few blocks from Times Square in one direction and Rockefeller Center in the other. You'll know when you arrive as a gateway of two Art Deco diamond-shaped lampposts marks the entrance to the area. "The Diamond District is one city block that is always busy, always crowded, but somehow still seems small," Jamgotchian says. "Most people who work in the Diamond District know each other, so while it might seem chaotic to an outsider, it's actually just one place where everyone who works in the diamond industry is located."

Tips for Engagement Ring Shopping in the NYC Diamond District

For an outside, the Diamond District can be difficult to navigate. Here, we offer tips for how to prepare, and what to ask when you get there.

Educate Yourself

"Before any couple goes engagement ring shopping, they should educate themselves on the four Cs: cut, clarity, colo, and carat," Jamgotchian advises. "Having a baseline diamond education will not only help you find the best engagement ring option for you, but it will also help guide you in what you are looking for and what you're not looking for."

Set Realistic Expectations, and Negotiate

"Probably the most common misconception about the Diamond District is that anyone shopping on 47th Street is paying a wholesale price for diamond jewelry," Jamgotchian says. "Vendors in the Diamond District might be able to price their pieces more competitively since they could be sourcing their stones directly or have a lower overhead, but their prices are still not 'wholesale.'" With that in mind, buyers should be wary of any vendors who are marketing their prices as wholesale. All of that said, no marked price is set in stone (pun intended). Use the density of options to your advantage: Comparison shop and then be willing to negotiate and haggle a bit.

Leave No Stone Unturned

If it's a lower price you're in search of, do the research to find stores within the Diamond District that appeal to you, even though you may not have heard of them before. "Name brands can price their pieces higher since customers are also paying for branding; most jewelers in the Diamond District don't have to add that additional fee to their pricing," Jamgotchian says. Read reviews and learn about other buyers' experiences with various vendors.

Make an Appointment(s)

While some jewelers do offer walk-in hours, almost all would still recommend an appointment; it guarantees there will be someone there to walk you through the process—and with a purchase this significant, that extra attention is paramount. For example, "At Lauren B, we first like to go through the essentials: education on diamonds and gemstones to make sure our clients are making the best choice for them," Jamgotchian explains. "Then we walk them through our custom design process, from choosing a center stone to designing the setting." If a client decides to go with the jeweler, it often takes a second appointment or follow-up call to make sure everything is just right.

Go Custom

While the Diamond District is awash with incredible ready-to-wear options, if you want to create something custom there's no better place to do it with seemingly infinite master craftsmen and experts right there at your fingertips. Clients can work with jewelers to hand-select the loose diamonds (at Lauren B, they even offer a custom-cutting service for truly one-of-a-kind stones), then decide on settings, metals, engravings, and other details.

Check for Authenticity

Most jewelers are completely above board—but if that's something you're worried about, it's important to do your homework. "There are a few ways for a consumer to tell if a diamond is authentic," Jamgotchian says. "Compared to moissanite, diamonds will have more fire and brilliance and emit more of a rainbow shine. Cubic zirconia will look a bit more plastic-y and have dull, rounded edges where diamonds have sharp faceting." Don't trust your eye? Look for a number on the girdle (that perimeter line that marks the widest point of a diamond, between its crown and lower portion); if the diamond has been certified by the GIA, it will have its certification number laser inscribed there. (You can also buy testing pen kits online, Jamgotchian adds—though beware, they come with a major price tag.)

Trust Your Intuition

The process of finding the perfect diamond is as personal and complex as finding the perfect partner. "Go with your gut," Jamgotchian says. "If you feel uncomfortable or unsure about a ring or a diamond, don't force yourself to settle. Sales shouldn't have to be forced on a person, especially when it comes to something you're going to wear for the rest of your life."

FAQS About the NYC Diamond District

If you're looking for the perfect engagement ring, you're certainly in the right place in NYC's Diamond District. But, you may still have questions. Here, we answer a few frequently asked ones.

Do you need an appointment for the Diamond District?

Not necessarily, but we—and most jewelers—highly recommend one. Either way, be sure to check the hours of your preferred stores in advance of your trip; some are by appointment only on certain days and have walk-in hours on others. If you're going the custom route, that's even more reason to book time.

What stores are in the NYC Diamond District?

Even with the unlimited content space of the World Wide Web, we couldn't name all the stores in the NYC Diamond District. "The estimated number of businesses is actually in the thousands," Jamgotchian says. "More than 2,500 to 3,000!" You'll find retail shops and name-brand jewelers, craftsmen, artisans, diamond experts, appraisers, importers, and more. Sound a little overwhelming? Start at The Knot Vendor Marketplace to sift through New York City jewelers both in and out of the famed Diamond District.

Is it worth going to the Diamond District in NYC?

If for the experience alone, we say absolutely. There's a reason a whole movie was made about the place. Uncut Gems shows the grittier side of the Diamond District but beyond the experience, you're certain to find the engagement ring of your—or your partner's—dreams among the expansive inventory within the district.

Will you find a better deal in the Diamond District?

Yes and no. While vendors may be able to price diamonds lower by cutting out the middlemen and other overhead costs in the Diamond District, the concept of "wholesale" is largely a myth. "Again, be wary of people who are marketing their prices as wholesale," Jamgotchian cautions. "This is just a marketing technique to pull you in." Explore your options, compare pricing, and go with your gut.

Can you find lab-grown diamonds in the Diamond District?

Conflict-free stones are on the rise, especially in the form of lab-grown diamonds, which have seen a surge in popularity over the last few years. You can find such eco-friendly gems in the Diamond District, right alongside naturally mined diamonds. "The Diamond District primarily sells natural and lab-grown diamonds, but there are some vendors and retailers that sell moissanite engagement rings," Jamgotchian says. "There are also some retailers that sell cubic zirconia jewelry." See above for how to tell the difference and happy hunting.

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