History of the NYC Diamond District

New York is one of the world’s premier diamond centers, along with London, Mumbai, Johannesburg, Rumat Gan, and Antwerp.  The “Diamond District,” as it’s called, can be traced back to the 1800’s when diamond merchants staked claim to Maiden Lane and Canal Street, located in downtown Manhattan. Brides-to-be demanded their engagement diamonds come from Maiden Lane, and high society began to purchase all their jewelry from the shops in lower Manhattan as well.

Several times, jewelers tried to make the move to midtown but everyone wanted to be able to say they bought their diamonds on Maiden Lane, so they kept coming back. 

In the early 1900’s, financial institutions began to show interest in moving to the downtown area, and rents began to rise.  Eventually, jewelers could no longer afford to remain downtown and looked to make the move once again.  Over the next 15 years or so, buildings were erected specifically to entice jewelers to move to 47th street, and by 1925, the present day new NYC Diamond District had been born.

Today, there are over 2600 independent jewelers in the District, who sell all sorts of precious stones and precious metals and are no longer just in the diamond business.

Manhattan Gold and Silver is proud to be headquartered at 45 W 47th Street, in the heart of the Diamond District, since 1985.  Visit us to refine all your gold and precious metals, and leave with money you can invest in anything you want…even a diamond!  We are a wholesale precious metals firm serving businesses throughout North America.

Types of Assay – How Precious Metals are Tested for Purity

Assays are an important part of being a jeweler or metal refiner. An assay is a test used to analyze the purity of a metal object. There are several types of assays that can be performed and used to determine the value of all kinds of metal objects – from jewelry to bullion bars. Types of assays include:

Stone assay (hand test) – This is the simplest assay to perform and has been in use since ancient times. The central tool in a stone assay is a touchstone (hence the name), which is usually a dark, hard stone with a finely grained surface. When soft metals like gold are drawn across it, they leave a visible line. The color of the line varies with the purity of the gold. The touchstone is also typically treated with chemicals that will only react with certain purities of gold. By observing the color of the line and whether or not a chemical reaction occurs, you can tell the purity the gold.

X-ray fluorescence – Also known as XRF, this type of assay is much more complex than a stone assay. XRF assays are known for being fast and accurate tests that do not damage the metal being tested. Essentially, a metal sample is bathed in X-rays. The metal then emits light (fluorescence) at an energy level specific to its atomic structure. This energy level is measured by the XRF machine and purity of the metal is determined. An XRF is so thorough it can also measure the percentage of impurities at the same time.

Fire Assay – This complex assay is widely considered to be the most accurate way to test for gold purity. However, it’s usually reserved for large lots or bullion because of how destructive it is. First, the sample is mixed with lead oxide and a few control substances are melted together at about 1650 F. The lead in the mixture binds with the gold in the sample. This mixture is poured into a mold and cooled. Because the lead is so dense, it sinks to the bottom of the mold, where it is chipped off and placed into a cupel (a small container made of bone ash) and reheated. The cupel absorbs the lead, leaving only precious metal behind. This is measured against the size of the rest of the sample being to tested to determine its purity.

Manhattan Gold & Silver commonly uses hand testing, XRF, and fire assays to test precious metals. These precision assays are what allow us to make such quick and accurate payouts for our customers.


Silver – The Miracle Metal

Silver is perhaps the most amazing metal in the world due to its many unique characteristics. Its plasticity is second only to gold, it has the highest thermal conductivity of any metal, it has antimicrobial properties, and it is the most electrically conductive of all the periodic elements. Of course, such a fantastic metal has several applications.

Jewelry is perhaps the most popular use for silver. Its brilliant polish and low price point (when compared to gold) make it an accessible, yet fashionable metal. Often, pieces are crafted in sterling silver, which is an alloy of 92.5% pure silver, with the rest being copper and sometimes other metals. Sterling silver is remarkably durable, and has been considered as quite fashionable for hundreds of years. To this day, common items are made with silver to denote elegance and higher class. Items such as silver flatware, cups, pens, letter openers, bottles, grooming kits, and more add sophistication to whatever setting they’re used in, such as the office or dining room.

Silver is also a component in many industrial applications. Silver is extremely conductive, so it is the metal of choice for certain wiring applications. It can also be found in batteries, like in silver-oxide batteries (which are commonly used in watches and hearing aids). It’s also highly reflective, so it is employed in optics applications and is a key component in solar reflectors.

There are also medicinal uses for silver. For reasons that are still a mystery to doctors and scientists, silver is quite toxic to bacteria and viruses, but not to humans (do not ingest silver). Even in ancient times, people stored wine, vinegar, milk, and other liquids in silver containers to preserve freshness. Before the advent of antibiotics, silver compounds were widely used to treat and prevent infections. Today, silver is still used in topical gels and as a component in medical equipment to prevent bacterial growth and the spread of infection.

And then of course silver is also a precious metal. Like gold, it is very ductile and malleable, which made it easy to hammer into coins for early forms of currency. It may not be worth as much as gold, but it’s still valuable. Visit our London Fixing page to see what the price of silver is today.