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Thursday, 27 March 2014

New York: The best place to buy diamonds: Part II

Our last article dealt with the way in which the deals are done for the stones that finally end up as the showstoppers in your favourite jewelry. We also read up about how the Diamond District in New York came about. This article will look to find the main reasons why NYC is the best place to buy your diamond jewelry.

Why NYC is the best place in the world to buy diamonds?

There are few places on earth that can go toe to toe with the Big Apple on any and all parameters. If Paris is the gateway to European trends and fashion, Milan is the cutting edge fashion capital of the world and Berlin is where the avant-garde resides… NYC is by far the most cosmopolitan, stylish and all encompassing city of them all. Little wonder then that NYC is one of the world’s top shopping destinations.

Saks 5th Avenue, Barney’s and Sears are just some of the most iconic shopping meccas in the world. The Upper East Side and the Village are hubs for the uber stylish to attend the latest in gallery openings. Not to mention the culture and art scene characterized by Broadway and Manhattan. Why then would this not be the perfect place to buy diamonds.

1) You are always assured of new styles: NYC is one of the trendsetters in world fashion, by default then, if there’s something particularly offbeat and eye catching you seek, this will be the best place to get it! Fashion stylist Anne Bryce, has this to say, “when you think about style and fashion, there are few places that compare to New York. With a vast majority of diamonds in North America passing through NY’s diamond district and the sheer number of establishments dealing in fine jewelry, it is almost assured you’ll find the best pieces here!”    

2) There’s something for everyone: New York has something for everyone, in every sense of the word. If you have a good time in mind, you could easily dine at the some of the world’s best restaurants here, if you have the budget for it. Or you can simply grab a hotdog in Central Park or Riverside. This is true in the case of diamonds as well. Whether you want your lady to have a rock that will bowl her over and make her the envy of her friends, or you’re looking at a modest sized stone, the diamond district will have something for either end of the budgetary spectrum.

3) It is called the Diamond district for a reason: If you’re thinking about range, picture this, almost 2600 establishments, from the uber chic to the family owned jewelry businesses, to firms that specialise in estate jewelry, the Diamond district has them all! It is after all called the Diamond District!

Things to beware of when shopping for diamonds in NYC
      Bright light makes everything white: Examine the diamond in the natural light of day, outside the store to be sure of its true colour
      Heavily marked down prices: If the price of a diamond is too good to be true, it probably isn’t, beware of heavily marked down prices
      Always ask to see the GIA certification of the diamond: GIA certified diamonds are worth the price, because you’re paying for what you can see in writing
      Beware of fake, artificial or lookalike stones

We hope these tips will help you buy right and avoid being duped. Do let us know your feedback in the comments section below.

Monday, 24 March 2014

The Big Apple: New York’s Bling Connection: Part I

New York. One word that brings to mind all the sights it is famous for, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and the famous Rockefeller Centre. Little does one know that this city of nearly 13 million people is also one of the world’s leading centres of the diamond trade. Along with Antwerp in Belgium, London, Paris and Munich, New York is one of the leading cities in terms of buying and selling diamonds. Before exploring the city’s diamond district, it would be quite beneficial to understand the way in which the diamond business functions.

From the mine to the bourse:
We all know that diamonds are nothing more than carbon atoms that have withstood tremendous pressure for millions of years. Now for the more ‘practical’, business part of the transaction. De Beers is one of the world’s largest diamond manufacturers and the foremost diamond mining and supply house. Commercial jewelers and others purchase their diamonds from wholesalers like De Beers. Most of the world’s rough diamonds pass through bourses in Antwerp. This is where representatives of most of the commercial jewelry houses seek out traders and settle business with them. The entire transaction takes a short time and is completely based on the rapport a representative shares with a trader.

From the bourse to the polisher:
Once purchased, rough diamonds need to be polished and cut in order for them to be set in pieces of jewelry. Most of the world’s diamonds are cut and polished by skilled artisans in Surat, India and some other places in Europe. Surat is one of the world’s most precise and sought after diamond processing hubs, because of the high level of skill and finesse of its artisans. It is said that the fashioning of a diamond into a gemstone is a science and an art, that is handed down from one generation to the next here.

From the polisher to the jeweler:
Once polished the diamonds are dispatched to jewelers who fashion stunning ornaments for the consumer. Based on trends, popularity, demand and customer requests, design of the jewelry is determined. The rarity of the diamond, its size, the clarity and cut of the stone and its carat weight, determine the price of the piece of jewelry.

New York’s diamond district:
New York City's Diamond District, also known as Diamond and Jewelry Way, is located on 47th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. It's hard to believe, but the area is home to over 2600 diamond businesses, many of which are located inside of the street's 25 jewelry exchanges. Each exchange is home to about 100 different merchants, each independently owned and operated, but there are also larger stores along 47th Street for shopping as well. In the Diamond District, you can find just about any type of fine jewelry you desire, which makes it a great place to shop, and prices can be as much as 50% off of retail. The shops cater to both wholesale and retail clients, but you'll have the best success shopping if you've done your research and know what you're looking for.

History of New York’s Diamond District:

New York's first diamond and jewelry district was actually located on Maiden Lane, beginning around 1840. Today, the Diamond Dealers Club, the largest diamond trade organization in the U.S., is headquartered on 47th and Fifth Avenue. Originally located on Nassau Street, membership grew after World War II as many diamond dealers immigrated from Europe, necessitating a larger location, and thus its move uptown to 47th Street from its original downtown location. The move established 47th Street as New York's Diamond District, where businesses handle everything from the importation of rough diamonds to production and sale of fine diamond jewelry.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Shiny pieces of eternity: Part II

The romance of jewelry is a well documented love affair. Do you remember watching a movie, in which the protagonist does not propose marriage to his beloved with a diamond? Jewelry, people say, helps us express those emotions, that we cannot express with words. How though, did this trend come to be? In our first part, we examined the evolution of jewelry from the ancient to the middle ages. This part will continue that trend and also answer the question, who invented the trend of proposing with a diamond ring?

In the medieval times:

The medieval times were among the darkest times in human history. Also known as the dark ages, they were a time of religious persecution and oppression. It was also at this time that the world got its first taste of quality jewelry. The Turks having conquered Constantinople, in 1453, had barred the land trading route between Europe and Asia. This fuelled the era of  European seafaring, in the hope of finding an alternate route to the Indies and Asia. It was around this time that Christopher Columbus accidentally discovered the continent of America and with it, her vast untapped mineral reserves became available to the Europeans for the very first time.

From the ‘new’ world came vast quantities of gold, newer unexplored minerals and stones like jade and rubies. This led to a boom of sorts, where newer and more intricate jewelry started being fashioned for the wealthy, those of aristocratic leanings and for kings. The story of how Louis XIV had his royal jeweler fashion a new cut of diamond shaped like his amour’s lips is legendary. So was the Russian Royal family’s obsession with the famed Faberge egg.

But probably the most famous of all the royal associations is that of the British Royal family’s with the Kohinoor. Arguably the most famous gem in the world, the Kohinoor was acquired by Queen Victoria, after the Queen’s proclamation of 1858, that formalised British rule in India. The Kohinoor was part of the reparations the Indians were levied with for inciting and participating in the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. A list of the owners (erstwhile) of the gem is a virtual who’s who of world history, from Nadir Shah, to Shahjehan and then the Queen of England.

In modern times:

Jewelry has evolved to being more of a style statement today. “Diamonds and rap have become almost synonymous. The bling tradition, where the more ice you have on your person means the higher your social standing is a direct correlation between hip-hop and diamonds,” says Lydia Dunham, a celebrity stylist, “Some of the biggest consumers of diamonds are the modern royalty, like movie stars and A-list celebrities.” Today, you aren’t in love until and unless you are displaying a one-of-a-kind diamond ring. This trend was popularised by the De Beers Diamond Company. Likening diamonds to eternal love was a marketing masterstroke. Infusing popular culture with diamonds saw the golden age (pun intended) of the trade come into being. The line, “Diamonds are forever”, changed the way we perceive diamonds.

Jewels in popular culture have been celebrated as the ultimate symbols of love. So much have they pervaded our lives that we’ve named movies, books and even children after them. The use of jewelry these days is, as a unique reflection of your personal. There may have been wars fought to secure jewels, but for one thing, they will always remain an intensely personal experience!

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Shiny pieces of eternity - Part 1

Jewelry has always been synonymous with emotions. Take for instance the wedding band, always a sign of commitment, love and togetherness, it symbolises the coming together of two souls in the bond of holy matrimony. After man’s three basic needs of food,clothing and shelter were met, the emotional bonds that tied us together, needed to be symbolised and eternalised, at its very core, that became the function of jewelry. In our upcoming series, we will trace the origins of jewelry until the modern day and examine the style, the ethos and symbology of jewelry over the ages.

In the ancient times:

Jewelry has its roots in the ancient times. Millennia before the birth of Christ, bead jewelry in the cave systems of Europe and Africa have been unearthed. While most of these civilizations have long since vanished the very fact that they existed, is proven by the unearthing of their jewelry. Among the more civilised cultures of the Orient, metallurgy was practised and in combination with precious stones and pearls, jewelry, in the form of necklaces, rings, anklets and other ornaments (which are still in vogue today) were made.

In fact such was the prowess of the jewel smiths of India and China, that even Alexander the Macedon was captivated by their craft and is said to have commissioned a number of ornaments for his concubines and mistresses. Some historians believe that Alexander was among the first non-Westerners to have carried some of these designs home, from where the trend of jewelry is said to have spread to Europe.

While jewelry in India and China was widespread and even the common folk had some access to these baubles, jewelry was the prerogative of the wealthy in the Egypt. The Ancient Egyptians seemed to have taken jewelry to a whole new level. Their fascination towards ornamentation bordered on the obsessive. Many statues of the Gods and Pharaohs (who themselves became ‘Gods’ posthumously) were ostentatiously bedecked and swathed in ornaments of different metals and precious jewels.

Another important contribution of the Egyptians to jewelry was the custom of trading wedding rings. It is said that when an Egyptian of high birth took a woman to be his wife, he would gift his spouse a circlet of any metal (according to his status) and she in turn would do the same. This custom was then adopted by the Romans, who through their conquests spread this aspect of culture across Europe.

By the time of the decline of the Roman Empire, the practise of exchanging rings had become an accepted social custom which the Church gave credence to by blessing the rings of a couple on the altar before they were exchanged by husband and wife.

The Middle Ages:

The decline of the Roman Empire, saw Europe in chaos. By this time, many of the noble families in the region were great patrons of jewelry. Gold and diamonds from India, were regularly ferried to Europeans by the Arabs who had become the ideal go-in-betweens for this burgeoning trade. The Church in particular had become rich and jewels for the purpose of studding religious artefacts was a common practise. This practise gave rise to a class of artisans, who in turn were the modern precursors of jewelry design houses like Tiffany and Cartier.

We hope this post has shed some light on the evolution and distribution of jewelry over the ages. Do let us know about what you thought of it, in the comments below!    

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