Diamonds: Cleaning Up New York’s Diamond District & More



Radiation Warning

On July 26, the Jewelers Vigilance Committee issued an unpleasant wake-up call to retailers that sell irradiated diamonds: They may be unknowingly breaking the law.

According to the JVC, diamonds that have been subjected to radiation can only be imported into the United States by entities licensed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. JVC therefore recommends that jewelers who sell those diamonds receive warranties from suppliers assuring compliance with all licensing requirements, just as most now do with irradiated blue topaz.

“Some people may be misinformed as to whether or not irradiated gemstones fall under the NRC provisions,” JVC executive director Cecilia Gardner tells JCK. “They do.”

Still, she adds that the level of radiation in the irradiated stones is low and presents no health risk.

Word on the Street

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New York City’s 47th Street Diamond District is at a “critical moment,” threatened by overseas competitors and crippled by an aging workforce, according to a study released Aug. 1 by the 47th Street Business Improvement District (BID).

“The industry has received little acknowledgement and support from government,” the study says. “[It] is at a crossroads, in which both decisions and investments need to be made.” The report suggests that if young people don’t enter the diamond business in New York City, overseas centers will continue to grow at the city’s expense.

“The workers here are aging out,” says 47th Street BID executive director Michael Grumet. “The only way we can retain this industry is by getting a new generation of cutters and polishers.”

The study also notes that many business owners are concerned about the street’s appearance: “Owners commented on the lackluster facades, exchanges falling into disrepair, scaffolding, and cracked sidewalks.”

Grumet is calling for a giant face-lift of the street, including a new self-cleaning photocatalytic sidewalk. “The street’s appearance ought to reflect the quality of the goods sold there,” he says.

The study also advises that 47th Street be marketed as a tourist destination, including a stop for tour buses. It closes by taking on a thorny subject: the hawkers who approach passersby. (Many denizens of the district feel they give the neighborhood a bad image.) The authors note that the hawkers present a “complex legal issue, given the constitutional protections afforded to commercial speech,” and proposes the BID continue to work with local businesses to halt the practice.

The report was prepared for the 47th Street BID and the Empire State Development Corporation by the Pratt Center for Community Development. It is the first in-depth analysis of the Diamond District in 20 years.

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